The Library of Congress lists more than 7,200 books on American presidents, but according to one librarian, there may be a quarter of a million more not in the library’s catalogs.
The number of credible books on particular presidents is wildly disproportionate. Works about Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and Rutherford B. Hayes don’t take up much space on library shelves, while nearly all of the best books have been written about a relative handful of presidents.
Literature on George Washington is, of course, voluminous, probably because of the saintly image cast on Washington by his first biographer, Parson Weems, in the early 1800s—he invented the “I cannot tell a lie” and the saintly prayer at Valley Forge—when most 19th century biographers were afraid to tackle such a larger-than-life subject. Most of the best books on Washington have appeared in the last half century.