Monday, March 11, 2013

Five of the best books on influential presidential advisers

David Roll is a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and founder of Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, a public interest organization that provides pro bono legal services to social entrepreneurs around the world. He was awarded the Purpose Prize Fellowship by Civic Ventures in 2009.

His new book is The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler.

One of Roll's five best books on the most influential presidential advisers, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Present at the Creation
by Dean Acheson (1969)

In 1964, Dean Acheson vowed not to write about his career as Truman's secretary of state, for fear that "the element of self-justification could not be excluded." Casual readers and scholars alike should be ever grateful that Acheson broke his promise. As autobiography, "Present at the Creation" lacks detachment. Nevertheless, it is an enthralling, eloquent and indispensable year-by-year account of how a supremely confident secretary of state guided an inexperienced yet decisive president through the hottest fires of the Cold War. Nourished on the classics, Acheson is a profoundly articulate writer, with the gift of wit and anecdote, an eye for character, and a wide-ranging knowledge of history. His vivid descriptions of Winston Churchill—his art, his artifices, his courage, along with hilarious stories such as the tale of how the prime minister "puffed hard on his cigar and fought back" when his paintings were criticized by Acheson's wife—are especially apt.
Read about the other books on Roll's list.

Present at the Creation is one of Evan Thomas's five best books on statesmen.

--Marshal Zeringue