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Book Review: Dead Presidents

Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's LeadersDead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders by Brady Carlson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not to be confused with the 90s film by the Hughes Brothers, this is literally the dead heads of state. It’s seemingly obvious that this book wouldn’t exist without Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation. Carlson makes the trip to see the gravesite of every past President and commentary about them. I have recently rekindled an idea that I want to visit every Presidential home myself (I am at 11, I believe), so this just got me even more excited to do that.
So this book means Road Trip, but also a lot of fun trivia. It starts with Washington and the issue facing the country of how do you fete the former leader. From there, he groups up Presidents by similarity not chronologically, which probably creates a better read.

Worthwhile trivia includes:
- The John Adams/Thomas Jefferson deaths on July 4
- Millard Fillmore is in the same cemetery as Rick James
- The Taft stuck in a bathtub story was probably made up
- Rutherford Hayes started the idea of Presidential libraries, also huge in Paraguay
- Presidential libraries have escalated things over the years, such as animatronic LBJ
- How do you deal with Watergate when you’re the Nixon library
- How do you deal with Sally Hemmings when you’re the Jefferson estate
- The Mt McKinley naming controversy
- Presidential offspring with special appreciation for Alice Roosevelt Longsworth
- What happens when you are a former President who dies and no likes you because you ended up being a Confederate sympathizer (Pierce) or were unpopular at or very soon after your death (Buchanan, Harding)
- The sport of Hooverball
- How Dallas has struggled with the JFK legacy
- The annual reunion of Presidential descendants in Missouri
All of this and I am surely leaving stuff out. This is the kind of stuff I eat up, so if you like that too, it is well recommended. It’s a light read, quick and fairly short. Sarah Vowell, obviously comes to mind, but the tone for the book is probably more in line with Confederates in the Attic than Vowell’s work.

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