Essential Books on George H. W. Bush
There are countless books on George H. W. Bush, and it comes with good reason, after being elected America’s forty-first President, he brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to direct them toward making the United States “a kinder and gentler nation” in the face of a dramatically changing world.
“A new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of history’s most consequential figures to the height of political power, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on George H. W. Bush.
Destiny and Power by John Meacham
Drawing on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family, Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times.
From the Oval Office to Camp David, from his study in the private quarters of the White House to Air Force One, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the first Gulf War to the end of Communism, Destiny and Power charts the thoughts, decisions, and emotions of a modern president who may have been the last of his kind. This is the human story of a man who was, like the nation he led, at once noble and flawed.
41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
Forty-six men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words.
A unique and intimate biography, the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.
The book shines new light on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family. In addition, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his own life, from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father, and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.
The Quiet Man by John Sununu
In this major reassessment of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, his former Chief of Staff offers a long overdue appreciation of the man and his universally underrated and misunderstood presidency. Though George H. W. Bush is remembered for orchestrating one of the largest and most successful military campaigns in history – the Gulf War – Sununu argues that conventional wisdom misses many of Bush’s other great achievements.
During his presidency, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. Bush’s calm and capable leadership during this dramatic time helped shape a world in which the United States emerged as the lone superpower. Sununu reminds us that President Bush’s domestic achievements were equally impressive, including strengthening civil rights, enacting environmental protections, and securing passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1990 agreement which generated budget surpluses and a decade of economic growth.
When the World Seemed New by Jeffrey A. Engel
The end of the Cold War was the greatest shock to international affairs since World War II. In that perilous moment, Saddam Hussein chose to invade Kuwait, China cracked down on its own pro-democracy protesters, and regimes throughout Eastern Europe teetered between democratic change and new authoritarians. Not since FDR in 1945 had a U.S. president faced such opportunities and challenges.
As the presidential historian Jeffrey Engel reveals in this page-turning history, behind closed doors from the Oval Office to the Kremlin, George H. W. Bush rose to the occasion brilliantly. Distrusted by such key allies as Margaret Thatcher and dismissed as too cautious by the press, Bush had the experience and the wisdom to use personal, one-on-one diplomacy with world leaders.
Bush knew when it was essential to rally a coalition to push Iraq out of Kuwait. He managed to help unify Germany while strengthening NATO. Based on unprecedented access to previously classified documents and interviews with all of the principals, When the World Seemed New is a riveting, fly-on-the-wall account of a president with his hand on the tiller, guiding the nation through a pivotal time and setting the stage for the twenty-first century.
The Man I Knew by Jean Becker
As chief of staff, Jean Becker had a ringside seat to the never-boring story of George Herbert Walker Bush’s life post-presidency, including being at his side when he died and subsequently facing the challenge – and great honor – of being in charge of his state funeral. Full of heart and wisdom, The Man I Knew is a vibrant behind-the-scenes look into the ups and downs of heading up the office of a former president by one of the people who knew him best.
This book tells the story of how, after his devastating loss to Bill Clinton in 1992, President George H.W. Bush rebuilt his life, found a way to make a difference, and how, by the time he died in November 2018, was revered by his country and the world.
Bush’s post-presidency journey was filled with determination, courage, love, hope, humor, fun, and big ideas. He became best friends with the man who defeated him; developed the odd habit of jumping out of airplanes; and learned how to adjust to life in a wheelchair, after having lived most of his life as a high-energy athlete. He joyously saw two sons become governors of their states, one of whom would go on to become President of the United States.
“Who knew that beneath George Bush’s buttoned-up propriety pulsed the warm heart of a prolific and occasionally poetic writer with a wacky sense of humor?” (People) Though reticent in public, George Bush openly shared his private thoughts in correspondence throughout his life. This collection of letters, diary entries, and memos is the closest we’ll ever get to his autobiography.
Organized chronologically, readers will gain insights into Bush’s career highlights the oil business, his two terms in Congress, his ambassadorship to the UN, his service as an envoy to China, his tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency, and of course, the vice presidency, the presidency, and the post-presidency.
They will also observe a devoted husband, father, and American. Ranging from a love letter to Barbara and a letter to his mother about missing his daughter, Robin, after her death from leukemia to a letter to his children written just before the beginning of Desert Storm, this collection is remarkable for Bush’s candor, humor, and poignancy.
I Call Him “Mr. President” by Ken Raynor
Ken Raynor – head professional at Cape Arundel Golf Club for thirty-eight years – tells the story of how the President befriended him during Bush’s annual summer sabbatical to seaside Kennebunkport, Maine. Raynor’s personal relationship with Bush led him to experience everything from fishing trips to the wilds of Newfoundland to countless outings on the golf course, including Bush’s last as commander-in-chief.
Along the way, Raynor assisted Bush, a WWII veteran, in welcoming world leaders, former presidents, celebrities, and PGA Tour stars to the quaint Cape Arundel Golf Club and saw the excitement in their eyes during the outings. But he most cherishes his time after the rounds, in the Bush family home on nearby Walker’s Point or in a tiny fishing boat, when the president would put his feet up, stare out at the Atlantic, and recount the days’ events.
In this gem among books on George H. W. Bush, Raynor reflects on the life lessons he gained from a friendship born outdoors that has continued to develop over decades, during golf outings that have ranged from Maine to Augusta National to the White House putting green, international fishing trips, retreats at Camp David, flying in Marine One, and many other unforgettable experiences. Raynor has likely played more rounds with a POTUS than any PGA professional in history.
Texas Titans by Charles Denyer
The friendship between George H.W. Bush and James A. Baker, III began over fifty years ago on the tennis courts of the Houston Country Club when they found themselves paired as a doubles team, winning back-to-back championships in 1966 and 1967. While both men were admittedly weak servers, Bush was the net-and-volley guy, with Baker holding down the baseline with his groundstroke skills. That same approach of complementary skill sets and teamwork spilled over into their political careers for decades to come.
As Bush’s exploits are more commonly known, for those unaware, Baker served as undersecretary of commerce, secretary of the treasury, secretary of state, and White House chief of staff – twice, while also chairing or playing a lead role in five successive presidential elections for three different candidates from 1976 to 1992.
Texas Titans is a story about two of America’s most consequential statesmen of the past fifty years. Two men from opposite areas of the country who found friendship on the tennis courts at the Houston Country Club. Two men who helped transform a world during an era of immense challenges and change. Two men who became – and still are – Texas titans.
A World Transformed by George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft
Within these pages, the former President and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, provide a fascinating account of an administration faced with unprecedented obstacles and unrivaled opportunities as they forged a foreign policy at the end of the Cold War. Solidarity comes to power in Poland. East and West Germans dance on the wall that separated them for half a century. And on Christmas Day, 1991, the hammer-and-sickle flag descends from the Kremlin for the last time.
Being Poppy by Richard Ben Cramer
The forty-first president of the United States and the patriarch of America’s most powerful political dynasty never wrote a memoir. But bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Richard Ben Cramer took the full measure of President Bush in his thousand-page epic. The book traces how seminal moments in President Bush’s life formed his character and foretold his legacy. The result is a loving portrait that remains as fresh, relevant, and insightful as the day it was first published.
George and Barbara Bush by Ellie LeBlond Sosa
“To begin with I was in love and I am in love so that’s not hard,” Barbara Bush told her granddaughter Ellie LeBlond Sosa on her porch in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Sosa had asked for the secret to her and President George H. W. Bush’s 77-year love affair that withstood World War II separation, a leap of faith into the oil fields of West Texas, the painful loss of a child, a political climb to the highest office, and after the White House, the transition back to a “normal” life.
Through a lifetime’s worth of letters, photographs, and stories, Sosa and coauthor Kelly Anne Chase paint the portrait of the enduring relationship of George and Barbara Bush. Sharing intimate interviews with the Bushes and family friends, this is a never-before-seen look into the private life of a very public couple.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on George H. W. Bush, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on President Ronald Reagan!