About My Books . . .
Our Country's Presidents
Summing it up—Jacket copy
[ back to top ]
Behind the scenes—election 2000
I wrote the original edition of Our Country's Presidents during the election year of 2000. It was a perfect time to study U.S. Presidents, elections from years past, and American history. This book was a collaborative project with the National Geographic Society. As hard as I worked on the text, others worked just as hard finding the photos, designing the fit of text and images, and editing everything into a well-timed, inviting book.
None of us expected our book about history to be caught up in history, but that's exactly what happened thanks to the events of Election 2000. When we went to bed the night of Election Day, all of us planned to wake up and put the finishing touches on a book that featured the newest U.S. President. We had parallel pages about President Al Gore and about President George W. Bush for everything from the front cover to the index, from an introduction by the newest President to an introductory essay about him. The rest of our book, from George Washington to Bill Clinton, was ready and waiting to be printed.
So much for best-laid plans. Instead we woke up to five weeks of uncertainty, revision, substitution (it's Gore, no, it's Bush, no Gore. . .), and delay. Instead of recording history, we were living through it. What a thrill—and a challenge. I followed news accounts, trying to keep my facts and rewrites up-to-date. Our photo editor found new images about the controversial election that replaced less timely ones. Our designer and my editor patiently substituted one change after another after another into the layouts. Staff members at National Geographic juggled revised printing schedules, creating "what if" dates that would work if only the election results would become final.
Those "what ifs" came to pass after the Supreme Court ended vote counting on December 12, 2000, and Al Gore conceded the race. We polished up our final changes in time for a late-December print run that actually put Our Country's Presidents into the bookstores the same week that George W. Bush took the oath of office to become our nation's 43rd President.
[ back to top ]
About the latest edition
During 2008 I collaborated for the second time with the National Geographic Society on revising Our Country's Presidents in light of an upcoming election. As we had done in 2004, we developed parallel editions reflecting the two possible election outcomes: President John McCain or President Barack Obama. I wrote up profiles of each candidate as if he had become President, and we developed dual sets of pages for each candidate's edition of the book—from the title page, to the table of contents, to the index. By Election Day we had two completed versions of the book, and we turned to the voters to see which one we would send to press.
Unlike the election of 2000—or even 2004 when the outcome wasn't settled until the day after votes had been cast—there was no uncertainty about the victor of the 2008 race. By Tuesday night we knew we needed to add last-minute updates to our Obama edition, and within days of the election our finished book had been released to the printer for publication.
The third edition of Our Country's Presidents is 24 pages longer than the original book that was published in 2001. Some of those new pages were required to provide additional information about President George W. Bush (who started out with two pages of material at first but now has four pages allocated for his Presidency) and about President Barack Obama. But we've added many additional thematic spreads to the book, too, including ones about White House traditions, the Vice Presidents, presidential landmarks, the Presidents and the Supreme Court, Presidents at war, the role of pollsters and polling in the political process, presidential security, and what Presidents do after retiring from office.
Of course there are always facts that need to be updated, too—when a former President dies, for example—so the story of our country's Presidents remains an ever-changing work in process. I hope you will enjoy this latest edition of history and will stay-tuned as we watch current events unfold toward the making of yet another edition of Our Country's Presidents.
[ back to top ]
On the stage
Author program. Follow this link to find out about an author program related to this book. The program is called "Nothing but the Facts: A Not-so-trivial Look at Our Country's Presidents and First Ladies."
[ back to top ]
Awards and recognition
2006 Books for the Teen Age
2002 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
"This attractive volume, originally published in 2001, has been revised and expanded to include the 2004 election. . . .The short profiles provide essential information for report writers.
Related links and resources"The American Presidency—A Glorious Burden"
Smithsonian National Museum of American History online exhibition