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Book Review: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into The Presidency

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I don’t celebrate Presidents Day with a Presidential Tree and the handing out of gifts, but I do have to admit I’m a fiend for presidential trivia and history. Toss out the more partisan political aspects of it, though – I don’t really look at it all from a right or left angle, but from the broader, historical angles. What does it take for a man to be president? What does the president say about the times he leads? There’ve been only 43 men in the history of this country who’ve made it to the top rung of the ladder, so to speak — who are they are, what are their stories? Call me a geek, but I find that stuff fascinating.

I’ve read a shelf full of presidential biographies and compendiums, so I picked up Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into The Presidency with a little trepidation. Would it be the same old collection of anecdotes I’ve read a dozen times before?

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. This was my first exposure to the best-selling Uncle John’s line, which I haven’t checked into before. I admit the “Bathroom Reader” part of the titles has always turned me off a bit – me, I like to read in bed – but that aside, I found the Presidency volume is a surprisingly well-done addition to my presidential library. It’s nicely organized, featuring profiles of the chiefs as well as several cocktail parties’ worth of gossip, trivia and tidbits from Washington to Bush the second.

Being the kind of geek who can tell you off the top of his head who served the briefest presidency (William Henry Harrison, 1840) and who had the most children (John Tyler, 15), I enjoyed finding some new facts in Presidency to rattle off. Who knew that George Washington was a spelunker, for instance? Presidency has short, readable chapters, quizzes and even a crossword puzzle or two. It’s perfect for bite-size reading –– um, wherever you chose to do so.

I do wish the book had included some artwork, at least pictures of the presidents to go with their profiles. Other than that, though, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into The Presidency makes a fine little Presidents Day gift for the White House-phile on your shopping list. Wrap it and put it under their Presidential Tree.

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