Edmund Morris’ Pulitzer Prize winning The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is a fast and fascinating read from beginning to end. First published in 1979 Morris interviewed many who knew Teddy well, including two daughters and a son, to paint a vivid picture of the man. The Rise starts with the birth of Theodore to a wealthy New York family, descendents of some of the first Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam. The book follows Teddy through his sickly but precocious childhood, his years at Harvard, his first and second marriages, his entrance into politics as a state assemblyman, his years out west as a cowboy and rancher, his return to politics as a federal civil service reform commissioner, his return to New York as a reform police commissioner, back to Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, his bravery as the colonel leading the regiment of “Rough Riders” to victory in Cuba, his election as Governor of New York, and finally his election as Vice-President of the United States. All accomplished before the age of forty-five.
Theodore Roosevelt was an extraordinarly brilliant, accomplished, moral and driven man. He came to embody and articulate what truly distinguished America from the rest of the world at the time. Morris tells Teddy’s story with such depth and color that you can’t help but be inspired by his life and values. In particular I loved reading about the behind-the-scenes political machinations at all levels of party politics. Roosevelt supremely manipulated the political machine for his own, and the country’s, benefit over and over again and managed to do so without compromising his values and ethics. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is the first in a three part series by Edmund Morris on the life of Roosevelt. The second book, Theodore Rex (reviewed here) studies Roosevelt’s life as president. Although Theodore Rex is equally as well written, The Rise covers more colorful years of Roosevelt’s life resulting in an even more interesting read.