Book Review: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris

The great thing about reading Edmund Morris is two-fold: he presents extremely thorough research with a enjoyable reading style that makes one feel like they are reading fiction. As a friend put it, it’s like reading a novel, not a biography. It doesn’t hurt that Theodore Roosevelt lived a life that makes easy picking for any biographer.

The first in Edmund Morris’ three part biography of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt lived a life full to the brim. Born sickly, he had overcome physical ailments and “built courage by ‘sheer dint of practicing fearlessness.'” Indeed, his life reads in a crescendo that leaves other men wanting:

  • Published author at 18, of “The Naval War of 1812,” a classic that would go on to find a place in the textbooks for both US and British naval academies.
  • Married at 22, father and widower at 25, husband again at 28.
  • Acclaimed historian and New York Assemblyman at 25.
  • North Dakota ranchman at 26
  • Candidate for New York City Mayor at 27
  • Civil Service Commissioner of the United States at 30
  • Police Commissioner of New York City at 36
  • Assistant Secretary of the Navy at 38 (and author of the plan that defeated the Spanish in Manila under Admiral Dewey)
  • Colonel of the First U.S. Cavalry, the “Rough Riders”  and a war hero at 39 (yes, he left a near cabinet level position to ride in the cavalry)
  • Governor of New York two weeks short of his 40th birthday
  • Vice President at 42…

And that’s just in the first book. Making his living as a working writer, Roosevelt read over 20,000 books and writing fifteen of his own, not to mention speaking French and German, developing and maintaining relationships with numerous leaders in fields scientific, intellectual, and philosophical. His mind was a steel trap and his life steam engine, gaining speed and momentum.

He was a man who was a lifelong learner, knew no bounds to his interests or abilities, and never stopped trying to reach further. Although born to priviledge, Theodore took nothing for granted, and he took every advantage he could to work, read, exercise, challenge himself, and expand his reach. It’s an example that inspires me, and it’s one we could all use.

In a day where people talk a lot and actually do less, Roosevelt reminds us of the power of action, of doing, and that it is those who do that make a difference.

If you’re looking for a readable biography of one of our most colorful presidents, before he was president, pick up Edmund Morris’ “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.”

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3 responses to “Book Review: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris

  1. I really enjoyed Morris’s series. I think the first is the best. But Roosevelt himself is fascinating at all stages of his life. I can’t remember whether it was in Morris or not, but I read a story about how TR would take his children on walks through the White House grounds, the only rule being they had to continue in a straight line — if there was a tree, you climbed it. If there was a river, you swam it. You surmounted every obstacle that stood between you and your destination. The man was remarkable in every respect.

    If you like Morris, you need to read William Manchester’s biography of Churchill (in two volumes so far — rumored to have the third finished by another author this year). It is outstanding.

  2. im doing a modern america under graduate module in the university of westminster in london. i have a 3000 word essay to do on the progressive era & I have the 3 volume biography of TR. is there any particular part that i should read as i have not got enough time to read all 3 before submission? i have heard edmund morris on youtube too which i enjoyed & found useful. thank you & regards

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