Essential Books by Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter and books simply go hand in hand, whether speaking of those written by or about him, after all, he did serve as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.
“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something,” he once said. “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
It goes without saying, reading has played a profound role in shaping President Jimmy Carter as a person, and furthermore, this favorite educational activity of his must have had something to do with the spirited – and rewarding for that matter – approach he takes to life.
Therefore, in order to get to the bottom of what inspired a modest peanut farmer to the heights of societal contribution, we’ve compiled a list of 10 inspirational books that Jimmy Carter wrote with his very own pen.
A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety
At ninety, Jimmy Carter reflects on his public and private life with a frankness that is disarming. He adds detail and emotion about his youth in rural Georgia that he described in his magnificent An Hour Before Daylight. He writes about racism and the isolation of the Carters. He describes the brutality of the hazing regimen at Annapolis, and how he nearly lost his life twice serving on submarines and his amazing interview with Admiral Rickover. He describes the profound influence his mother had on him, and how he admired his father even though he didn’t emulate him. He admits that he decided to quit the Navy and later enter politics without consulting his wife, Rosalynn, and how appalled he is in retrospect.
In his “warm and detailed memoir” (Los Angeles Times), Carter tells what he is proud of and what he might do differently. He discusses his regret at losing his re-election, but how he and Rosalynn pushed on and made a new life and second and third rewarding careers. He is frank about the presidents who have succeeded him, world leaders, and his passions for the causes he cares most about, particularly the condition of women and the deprived people of the developing world.
Faith: A Journey For All
All his life, President Jimmy Carter has been a courageous exemplar of faith. Now he shares the lessons he learned. He writes, “The issue of faith arises in almost every area of human existence, so it is important to understand its multiple meanings. In this book, my primary goal is to explore the broader meaning of faith, its far-reaching effect on our lives, and its relationship to past, present, and future events in America and around the world. The religious aspects of faith are also covered, since this is how the word is most often used, and I have included a description of the ways my faith has guided and sustained me, as well as how it has challenged and driven me to seek a closer and better relationship with people and with God.”
As President Carter examines faith’s many meanings, he describes how to accept it, live it, how to doubt and find faith again. A serious and moving reflection from one of America’s most admired and respected citizens.
An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood
President Carter writes about the powerful rhythms of countryside and community in a sharecropping economy, offering an unforgettable portrait of his father, a brilliant farmer and a strict segregationist who treated black workers with respect and fairness; his strong-willed and well-read mother; and the five other people who shaped his early life, three of whom were black.
Carter’s clean and eloquent prose evokes a time when the cycles of life were predictable and simple and the rules were heartbreaking and complex. In his singular voice and with a novelist’s gift for detail, he creates a sensitive portrait of an era that shaped the nation and recounts a classic, American story of enduring importance.
A Remarkable Mother
A registered nurse, pecan grower, university housemother, Peace Corps volunteer, public speaker, and renowned raconteur, Miss Lillian ignored the mores and prejudices of the racially segregated South of the Great Depression years. She was an avid supporter of the Brooklyn Dodgers (because she happened to attend the first major league baseball game in which Jackie Robinson, from Cairo, Georgia, played), was a favored guest on television talk shows (usually able to “steal the microphone” from hosts such as Johnny Carson and Walter Cronkite), and an important role model for the nation.
Jimmy Carter’s mother emerges from this portrait as redoubtable, generous, and forward-looking. He ascribes to her the inspiration for his own life’s work of commitment and faith.
Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis
In Our Endangered Values, Jimmy Carter offers a personal consideration of “moral values” as they relate to the important issues of the day. He puts forward a passionate defense of separation of church and state, and a strong warning about where the country is heading as the lines between politics and rigid religious fundamentalism are blurred.
Sustained by his lifelong faith, he assesses the following matters in a balanced and courageous way: preemptive war, women’s rights, terrorism, civil liberties, homosexuality, abortion, the death penalty, science and religion, environmental degradation, nuclear arsenals, America’s global image, fundamentalism, and the melding of religion and politics.
The Virtues of Aging
The approach to old age was not an easy one for President Carter. At fifty-six, having lost a presidential election, he found himself involuntarily retired from a job he loved and facing a large debt on his farm and warehouse business. President Carter writes movingly here of how he and Rosalynn overcame their despair and disappointment as together they met the challenges ahead.
As the book unfolds, President Carter delves into issues he and millions of others confront in planning for retirement, undertaking new diet and exercise regimens, coping with age prejudice, and sorting out key political questions. On a more intimate level, Carter paints a glowing portrait of his happy marriage to Rosalynn, a relationship that deepened when they became grandparents. Here too are fascinating sketches of world leaders, Nobel laureates, and great thinkers President Carter has been privileged to know – and the valuable lessons on aging he learned from them.
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
President Carter was encouraged to write this book by a wide coalition of leaders of all faiths. Women are deprived of equal opportunity in wealthier nations and “owned” by men in others, forced to suffer servitude, child marriage, and genital cutting. The most vulnerable and their children are trapped in war and violence.
A Call to Action addresses the suffering inflicted upon women by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare. Key verses are often omitted or quoted out of context by male religious leaders to exalt the status of men and exclude women. And in nations that accept or even glorify violence, this perceived inequality becomes the basis for abuse.
Carter draws upon his own experiences and the testimony of courageous women from all regions and all major religions to demonstrate that women around the world, more than half of all human beings, are being denied equal rights. This is an informed and passionate charge about a devastating effect on economic prosperity and unconscionable human suffering. It affects us all.
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
In this book, President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.
The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key UN resolutions, official American policy, and the international “road map” for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians.
The Hornet’s Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War
In this first work of fiction by a President of the United States, Jimmy Carter brings to life the Revolutionary War as it was fought in the Deep South; it is a saga that will change the way we think about the conflict. He reminds us that much of the fight for independence took place in that region and that it was a struggle of both great and small battles and of terrible brutality, with neighbor turned against neighbor, the Indians’ support sought by both sides, and no quarter asked or given. The Hornet’s Nest follows a cast of characters and their loved ones on both sides of this violent conflict – including some who are based on the author’s ancestors.
Sharing Good Times
In this gem among books by Jimmy Carter, the former President writes about the things that matter most, the simple relaxed days and nights that he has enjoyed with family and friends through the years and across the generations.
Here are lively, witty accounts of exploring the outdoors with his father; making furniture; painting; pursuing new adventures and going places with children, grandchildren, and friends; and sharing life with his wife, Rosalynn. Sharing Good Times is an inspirational guide for anyone desiring to stretch mind and heart and to combine work and pleasure.
If you enjoyed this guide to 10 essential books by Jimmy Carter, be sure to check out our list of The 10 Best Books on President Franklin D. Roosevelt!