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Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

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Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Now with a new introduction by the author, Mornings on Horseback is reprinted as a Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Now with a new introduction by the author, Mornings on Horseback is reprinted as a Simon & Schuster Classic Edition. Mornings on Horseback is about the world of the young Theodore Roosevelt. It is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and nearly fatal attacks of asthma, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household (and rarefied social world) in which he was raised. His father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, "Greatheart," a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. His mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, Teddy Roosevelt's first love. And while such disparate figures as Abraham Lincoln, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, and Senator Roscoe Conkling play a part, it is this diverse and intensely human assemblage of Roosevelts, all brought to vivid life, which gives the book its remarkable power. The book spans seventeen years � from 1869 when little "Teedie" is ten, to 1886 when, as a hardened "real life cowboy," he returns from the West to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and begin anew, a grown man, whole in body and spirit. The story does for Teddy Roosevelt what Sunrise at Campobello did for FDR � reveals the inner man through his battle against dreadful odds. Like David McCullough's The Great Bridge, also set in New York, this is at once an enthralling story, with all the elements of a great novel, and a penetrating character study. It is brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship, which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. For the first time, for example, Roosevelt's asthma is examined closely, drawing on information gleaned from private Roosevelt family papers and in light of present-day knowledge of the disease and its psychosomatic aspects. At heart it is a book about life intensely lived...about family love and family loyalty...about courtship and childbirth and death, fathers and sons...about winter on the Nile in the grand manner and Harvard College...about gutter politics in washrooms and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884...about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and "blessed" mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands. "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough," Roosevelt once wrote. It is the key to his life and to much that is so memorable in this magnificent book.


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Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Now with a new introduction by the author, Mornings on Horseback is reprinted as a Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. Now with a new introduction by the author, Mornings on Horseback is reprinted as a Simon & Schuster Classic Edition. Mornings on Horseback is about the world of the young Theodore Roosevelt. It is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and nearly fatal attacks of asthma, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household (and rarefied social world) in which he was raised. His father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, "Greatheart," a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. His mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, Teddy Roosevelt's first love. And while such disparate figures as Abraham Lincoln, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, and Senator Roscoe Conkling play a part, it is this diverse and intensely human assemblage of Roosevelts, all brought to vivid life, which gives the book its remarkable power. The book spans seventeen years � from 1869 when little "Teedie" is ten, to 1886 when, as a hardened "real life cowboy," he returns from the West to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and begin anew, a grown man, whole in body and spirit. The story does for Teddy Roosevelt what Sunrise at Campobello did for FDR � reveals the inner man through his battle against dreadful odds. Like David McCullough's The Great Bridge, also set in New York, this is at once an enthralling story, with all the elements of a great novel, and a penetrating character study. It is brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship, which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. For the first time, for example, Roosevelt's asthma is examined closely, drawing on information gleaned from private Roosevelt family papers and in light of present-day knowledge of the disease and its psychosomatic aspects. At heart it is a book about life intensely lived...about family love and family loyalty...about courtship and childbirth and death, fathers and sons...about winter on the Nile in the grand manner and Harvard College...about gutter politics in washrooms and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884...about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and "blessed" mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands. "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough," Roosevelt once wrote. It is the key to his life and to much that is so memorable in this magnificent book.

30 review for Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook: FABULOUS AUDIOBOOK!!! There was so much I didn't know about Teddy Roosevelt until this book. I had no idea the obstacles he had go through to be the 'Roosevelt' people would remember--given the accomplished man his 'father' was. By the time I came to the end --my love for TR was tenfold. His childhood was challenging with asthma.... with horrible medications at the time. His early adulthood was marked by tragedy. As a political figure he's a man that change the world. I loved Teddy Roo Audiobook: FABULOUS AUDIOBOOK!!! There was so much I didn't know about Teddy Roosevelt until this book. I had no idea the obstacles he had go through to be the 'Roosevelt' people would remember--given the accomplished man his 'father' was. By the time I came to the end --my love for TR was tenfold. His childhood was challenging with asthma.... with horrible medications at the time. His early adulthood was marked by tragedy. As a political figure he's a man that change the world. I loved Teddy Roosevelts *Teddy-ness* with children. He had as much fun playing with groups of kids as much as the kids did with him. David McCullough can tell a story…with the focus being on Roosevelt's early life and his family. Engaging - fascinating- heartfelt - inspiring!!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A satisfying and well written portrait of Roosevelt’s youth. It’s up to the reader to make the linkages between his origins and him as President. That’s the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars. For what McCullough intends, it was very satisfying to me: My intention was not to write a biography of him. What intrigued me was how he came to be. … There were pieces of the puzzle that fascinated me—his childhood battle with asthma, for example, his beautiful southern mother, the adoration he had for A satisfying and well written portrait of Roosevelt’s youth. It’s up to the reader to make the linkages between his origins and him as President. That’s the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars. For what McCullough intends, it was very satisfying to me: My intention was not to write a biography of him. What intrigued me was how he came to be. … There were pieces of the puzzle that fascinated me—his childhood battle with asthma, for example, his beautiful southern mother, the adoration he had for his father. What, who, were involved in the forming of all that energy and persistence? How much of him was playacting or a composite of borrowing from others who were important to him? … The book would end when I thought he was formed as a person, at whatever age that happened, when I felt I could say, when the reader could say, there he is.San Juan Hill, the White House, the Canal, the trust-busting and Big Stick wielding, the Bull Moose with his “hat in the ring,” would all be after the fact, another story, so far as my interests. A lot of attention is paid to his parents and the domestic scene of his childhood in one of the richest families in New York City in the late 19th century, the “Age of Innocence” as termed by Edith Wharton’s novel (who was a friend of the family). They didn’t make their money as robber barons, but through commerce in glass, real estate, and investment banking. The father, Theodore Senior, came off as very likable and public spirited. His philanthropy and “good works” included reform of mental hospitals and orphanages, the founding of a hospital, and development and construction of the Museum of Natural History. Teddie’s mother was a plantation belle from Georgia and, along with many family members who fought with the Confederacy, the source of many adventurous stories that fired the imagination of young “Tee Dee” (his childhood name). The Roosevelt family, which included two sisters and a brother, made use of their wealth to provide an idyllic childhood for Teddie, with summers at their estate at Oyster Bay, Long Island, and long trips in Europe and the Middle East. His father imbued in Teddie the philosophy of a physically active life as a key to health and pathway away from the indolence of idleness. Teddie’s lifelong interest in nature, hiking, and horseback riding are well accounted for. A thoughtful chapter on Teddie’s debilitating asthma provides insight into its physiological and psychosomatic components, leaving it open whether it was physical activity or psychological aspects that allowed Teddie to largely surmount it as a handicap in his life. The war with the disease as an antecedent to his drive for success and self-confidence is nicely summed up in this paragraph: For a child as acutely sensitive and intelligent as he, the impact of asthma could not have been anything but profound, affecting personality, outlook, self-regard, the whole course of his young life, in marked fashion. The asthmatic child knows he is an oddity; that somehow, for some reason no one can explain, he is a defective, different. But he also knows also that his particular abnormality lends a kind of power. He knows, in ways a normal child can scarcely imagine, what it is to be the absolute center of attention. When he arrived at Harvard, we see his struggle to gain respect and social acceptance: At seventeen the boy was as tall as he would grow, five foot eight inches, and he weighed at most 125 pounds. His voice was thin and piping, almost comical. The blue-gray eyes squinted and blinked behind thick spectacles, which when he laughed or bobbed his head about, kept sliding down his nose. The sound of his laugh was described by his mother as an “ungreased squeak.” While he became involved in every club imaginable, he made no close friends and surprisingly showed little sign of being destined for greatness. One acquaintance noted: “Most of his classmates simply did not like him.” McCullough is surprised that his scientific interests were not fulfilled: He never found any real intellectual excitement there, for all his good grades. He was never inspired to reach or push himself academically. At no point did he churn with intellectual curiosity or excitement. What he did fulfill was having a good time and falling in love with future wife17-year old Alice. The imagine of him riding his horse or horsecart the six miles to her home in Chestnut Hill to woo her was fun to imagine. After college and marriage, he began to get interested in politics, with a focus on reform of corruption. We won a seat in the State Assembly at age 23 and began to make a mark for himself. Why a Brahmin would dirty his hands with such an avocation is summed up by McCullough: It was a chance at last to do battle. , good against evil, in New York itself and in what he liked to call “the full light of the press,” light he very obviously loved. He relished the publicity and he relished the battle itself. He loved a fight, even more than his father had. It was possibly the chief reason he love politics, needed politics. McCullough also finds that politics fulfilled his drive to do something of lasting significance: Theodore said later it was a combination of curiosity and “plain duty” that led him into politics, and that “I intended to be one of the governing class,” which may be taken as another way of saying he wanted power. In the novel “The Bostonians” (1896), Henry James would portray a leading character as “full of purpose to live … and with high success; to become great in order not to become obscure, and powerful not to be useless.” The description would apply perfectly to Theodore. Obscurity, one imagines, would have snuffed him out like a candle.” Another major shaping event on his life is the death of both his mother Mittie and Alice in a single day (to typhoid and chronic nephritis, respectively). Alice had just given birth to a child. Afterward, he threw himself in work and repressed his grief so much that in an autobiography much later in his life, he barely even mentions either of them. McCullough tries to capture the impact of the losses on his character: The sole, overwhelming lesson was the awful brevity of life, the sense that the precipice awaited not just somewhere off down the road, but at any moment. An asthmatic childhood had shown that life could be stifled, cut off, unless one fought back, and all Papa’s admonitions to get action, to seize the moment, had the implicit message that there was not much time after all. Father had died at forty-six; Mittie had only been forty-eight; Alice, all of twenty-two, her life barely begun. Nothing lasts. Winter waits. His foray on the national stage came with his role at the Republican Convention in leading coalition efforts to try to stop the nomination of Blaine as the nominee for Presidential candidate: He was still all of twenty-five; it was his first national convention. Yet from the first day he had proved himself a force to reckon with, by friend or foe, and the attraction he had for newspaper attention was the kind every politician dreams of. He was a natural politician. He had a born genius for the limelight, for all the gestures and theatrics for politics. In his undersized, overdressed way he had presence. Unquestionably, he had nerve. An interesting irony in light of the current scene in politics was that his wealthy background was considered a disadvantage in politics by some: The Chicago Times … made the point that he had to get where he was in politics despite his background. “The advantage of being a self-made man was denied him. An unkind fortune hampered him with an old and wealthy family.” At this point, his political career takes a hiatus as Teddie becomes captured by the dream of the frontier of the American West. He sinks a lot of resources in a huge cattle ranch in the Bad Lands Dakota Territory and for three years throws himself into the endeavor. Though the image he projects as a “manly man” by posing in an expensive outfit suggests a laughable dilettantism, he truly pushed himself in the physical work of ranching and gained the respect of many of the locals. In his books based on his experience, a linkage with the values of his father is pointed out by McCullough: He wrote of their courage, their phenomenal physical endurance. He liked their humor, admired their unwritten code that ruled the cow camp. “Meanness, cowardice, and dishonesty are not tolerated,” he observed. “There is a high regard for truthfulness and keeping one’s word, intense contempt for any kind of hypocrisy, and a hearty dislike for any man who shirks his work.” It was, of course, exactly the code he had been raised on. … The cowboy was bold, cared about his work; he was self-reliant and self-confident. Perhaps most importantly of all, the cowboy seemed to know how to deal with death, death in a dozen different forms being an everyday part of his life. The book ends with a return to New York and his failed attempt at the mayoral election. Whether or not the book achieves originality as history, it is a well written window into the character of an important figure in the transition of the U.S. to a global power and of New York City into the modern metropolis it became. Published in 1981, it is an early book in McCullough’s career. The negative views about his book production “factory”, as covered in this Salon piece may not applicable to this book. Becoming a 'manly man': Teddie in fancy frontiersman garb.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    Theodore Roosevelt--pioneering naturalist, Rough Rider, hero of San Juan Hill, populist reformer, trust buster, champion of the National Park system, the President with his "big stick", the Bull Moose--he seems like a force of nature, something unstoppable. But how did it happen? How did a sickly, asthmatic child who was not expected to live become this towering wave of pure human energy? Both nature, nurture and self-will shaped the boy and the man and McCullough does a masterful job discoverin Theodore Roosevelt--pioneering naturalist, Rough Rider, hero of San Juan Hill, populist reformer, trust buster, champion of the National Park system, the President with his "big stick", the Bull Moose--he seems like a force of nature, something unstoppable. But how did it happen? How did a sickly, asthmatic child who was not expected to live become this towering wave of pure human energy? Both nature, nurture and self-will shaped the boy and the man and McCullough does a masterful job discovering how the one became the other. It starts, of course, with his family. Mornings on Horseback is as much a story of the Roosevelt family and the times as it is of Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy, or Teedie, as the family called him, was born into one of New York's wealthiest and respected old Dutch families. His grandfather, Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, was among the founders of Chemical Bank (later Chase) and was a model of probity, respectability and solid citizenship. C.V.S. Roosevelt's mansion on 13th Street and Union Square was the gathering place for a growing clan of children and grandchildren. The family story told in David McCullough's history spans three generations and several pivotal moments in American history. One of them is captured here as President Lincoln's funeral cortege marches slowly past the Roosevelt manor towards Union Square. From the second floor window you can catch a glimpse of two children leaning out: they are thought to be Teddy, age seven, and his younger brother, Elliot, age five. The Civil War looms large in the Roosevelt history because there was another improbable branch to the family tree. In 1853 Cornelius Roosevelt's youngest son, the businessman and philanthropist Theodore met and married beautiful Martha 'Mittie' Bulloch, daughter of a prominent Georgia plantation owner. The Bulloch's owned some 80 slaves; two of the house slaves are pictured here. If the Roosevelts seldom produced anyone with a sense of adventure or even a whiff of impropriety, the Bullock's were something else again. Teddy, who clearly inherited his father Theodore's sense of honor and dedication to the those less fortunate, also listened enthralled to his mother's tales of the Bullochs. Among those the children most admired were Mittie's brothers who served in the Confederate navy; few stories were more thrilling than the one about how uncle Irvine got a dangerously fast new ship built in England and smuggled it away to sail against the Union. McCullough makes a good case that Teddy's adventurous side was a trait learned from his spirited mother and her Bulloch relatives. Even through the strains of the Civil War, Theodore and Mittie's marriage would endure, the family prospered and the two would bequeath their very different gifts but complementary gifts to their their children. I loved the story of the Roosevelt brood growing up. In particular, the chapter on Teddy's childhood asthma was sensitively and beautifully researched and, as a (now cured) asthma sufferer, I was struck by how well McCullough captured the terror of those nighttime attacks and how brilliantly he dissects the psychological aspects of the disease. I felt like cheering as Teddy emerges from those early shadows as a budding and enthusiastic naturalist, skilled taxidermist and contributor of specimens to one of his father's projects, New York's Museum of Natural History. It was not easy being a Roosevelt child: the standards were high and never was selfishness, cruelty, dishonesty or idleness tolerated. Mittie and "Thee" were whirlwinds of energy and activity--they had money and, boy, did they now how to use it to the fullest! Few 21st century Americans could match the non-stop pace and intense focus of the Roosevelts and their entourage whether on a grand tour of Europe, or in New York working 18 or more hours a day to better the lot of the thousands of homeless children through the Newsboys Lodging House or helping crippled children through a new orthopedic hospital. The second half of Mornings on Horseback covers Teddy's education at Harvard, his early forays into politics, his first marriage and the tragic death of his wife and Mittie on the same day. Then comes a wonderful section on Teddy's adventures in the North Dakota Badlands. The story gets a little disconnected towards the end as McCullough tries to follow not just young Teddy's career, but also the stories of his brother, Elliot and two sisters, Anna ('Bamie') and Corrine. The book delves into pivotal moments in Teddy's early political career and closes with Teddy's second marriage and failed run for mayor of New York City. I'm looking forward to learning more about TR with two books from Edmund Morris: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    OK. Here's my definition of fanatic. After just finishing a wonderful extended look at Teddy Roosevelt post-presidency ("Colonel Roosevelt" - reviewed here and given 5 Stars last month); I went back and re-read David McCullough's excellent biography of Teddy's family history and his early years. Don't let anyone convince you that "nurture" isn't a powerful contributor to who we are. Not the exclusive contributor -- Teddy's own brother Elliot bears witness to that -- but powerful, nonetheless. Tw OK. Here's my definition of fanatic. After just finishing a wonderful extended look at Teddy Roosevelt post-presidency ("Colonel Roosevelt" - reviewed here and given 5 Stars last month); I went back and re-read David McCullough's excellent biography of Teddy's family history and his early years. Don't let anyone convince you that "nurture" isn't a powerful contributor to who we are. Not the exclusive contributor -- Teddy's own brother Elliot bears witness to that -- but powerful, nonetheless. Two tidbits I was reminded of here: the strong influence Teddy's Southern mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, had on his view of the world. And the indefatigable ball of energy Roosevelt willed himself to become. He wasn't necessarily stronger or more right then his opponents, it's just that his stamina was unmatched. Reminded me of a family story where one child was coaching another: "you just have to keep asking, because you never know when they'll say yes!" In many ways, that is the most transparent and childlike characteristic of this rough rider.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I love David McCullough. He writes books about things you did not know that you needed to know. “Mornings on Horseback” is yet another example of a book about a subject matter I thought I would have no interest in, but I was very wrong. This text is about Teddy Roosevelt’s immediate family and his upbringing. It ends in the mid-1880s right after his second marriage. He is all of 28 years old, and the more “famous” aspects of his life are not even addressed. Moreover, it is utterly absorbing readi I love David McCullough. He writes books about things you did not know that you needed to know. “Mornings on Horseback” is yet another example of a book about a subject matter I thought I would have no interest in, but I was very wrong. This text is about Teddy Roosevelt’s immediate family and his upbringing. It ends in the mid-1880s right after his second marriage. He is all of 28 years old, and the more “famous” aspects of his life are not even addressed. Moreover, it is utterly absorbing reading. It is also a bit of a social history on American Victorian life and is endlessly insightful on that subject. McCullough makes it very clear that our immediate family are some of the biggest influences on who we are to become and Teddy’s parents and siblings are a fascinating and very accomplished family. You will fall in love with Teddy’s daddy (Theodore Roosevelt senior) who was an extraordinary man. His death in the text will deflate the reader for a bit. And it sneaks up on you, as do many aspects of the book. In this manner, the writer remains true to the spirit of life. Things just happen; no preparation for them is given. The insight you get into the man Teddy became is clearly apparent the more you learn about his amazing father and mother. Among many highlights of the book are pages 349/350, which contain a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave at a 4th of July celebration in the Dakotas in 1886. Gems like that are scattered throughout the text. “Mornings on Horseback” is a short book, by McCullough’s standards, but it is a delight through and through.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    A biography covering the early life of Theodore Roosevelt, from his childhood through his years as a Dakota rancher, this book is also a fascinating account of the entire colorful Roosevelt family and the times in which they lived. I could hardly put it down. I especially loved the way the author was able to draw such vivid pictures of this dynamic man -- Roosevelt reading Anna Karenina while guarding thieves at gunpoint...in horseback and dressed in full "dude" outfit, telling his cowboys to "h A biography covering the early life of Theodore Roosevelt, from his childhood through his years as a Dakota rancher, this book is also a fascinating account of the entire colorful Roosevelt family and the times in which they lived. I could hardly put it down. I especially loved the way the author was able to draw such vivid pictures of this dynamic man -- Roosevelt reading Anna Karenina while guarding thieves at gunpoint...in horseback and dressed in full "dude" outfit, telling his cowboys to "hasten forward, quickly there!"... back east, in top hat and proper coat, entering his house at full speed and bounding halfway up the staircase before the front door slams shut behind him. I found myself inspired by Roosevelt's passionate curiosity and commitment to "the strenuous life."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arminius

    This is another great book by one of history’s greatest story tellers. David McCullough describes the childhood of our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt in “Mornings on Horseback” with little known details of how Teddy Roosevelt became a great man. He begins with Theodore’s grandfather whom started the wealthy Roosevelt family. His name was Cornelius and he started a glass manufacturing company which was the sole glass making company in New York City in the 1800’s. He used this money to buy rea This is another great book by one of history’s greatest story tellers. David McCullough describes the childhood of our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt in “Mornings on Horseback” with little known details of how Teddy Roosevelt became a great man. He begins with Theodore’s grandfather whom started the wealthy Roosevelt family. His name was Cornelius and he started a glass manufacturing company which was the sole glass making company in New York City in the 1800’s. He used this money to buy real estate and eventually opened up a bank named Chemical Bank. CVS, as Cornelius was referred to as, preached to always make the best out of every situation. CVS was the grandfather and his son Theodore Sr. was the future president’s father. Theodore Sr. married a southern lady by the name of Martha Bullock who was referred to as Mittie. He was a hard worker in the glass manufacturing family and seemed like a wonderfully attentive father and husband. She was also a very lovely doting mother and wife. They schooled their four children Elliot, Theodore, Anna (referred to as Bamie) and Corrine with tutors and they were taught a variety of subjects including foreign languages. Theodore took the family on a year long vacation where they visited European countries as well as Egypt. Elliot was the older more promising son. He was smart and strong. Theodore suffered from asthma. McCullough describes this terrible condition that the young Theodore had to endure vividly. Asthma occurs when a person’s bronchial tubes constrict making exhaling very difficult. It is described as a brutally painful experience where you feel like you are suffocating. What is fascinating is that it was discovered that is brought on by psychological factors. Theodore would experience it every Sunday when his father was not around. Missing his father caused his asthma. Theodore Sr. ran a very successful business becoming one of the wealthiest business men in New York. His dedication, honesty and wealth soon had the New York politicians swooning for his attention. He would join what was known as “The Half Breeds” of the Republican Party attempting to reform the New York customs house’s abuse of power. But there was a very powerful and entrenched political class running the custom house which became known as the Republican Party’s “Stalwarts.” The Stalwarts were led by New York’s charismatic intelligent Senator Roscoe Conkling. Conkling was described as political savvy good looking man who exercised regular producing an attractive figure. He would be Theodore Sr.’s number one enemy. Theodore Sr. was invited to the Republican nominating convention along with other “Half Breeds.” They managed to get a sympathetic-to-their-cause Rutherford Hayes nominated as the Republican’s nominee for President. However, they failed to produce any meaningful customs’ house reform at the convention. Rutherford Hayes would succeed at this as President of the United States in the near future though. As Theodore Sr. muddled through New York politics, Theodore Jr. was sent to Harvard. At Harvard Theodore Jr. exhumed all knowledge thrown on him. He and a buddy would take 30 mile hikes where Theodore Jr. would catalog different animal species. But after two years at Harvard, the family would be devastated by Theodore Sr.’s unexpected illness. He had stomach cancer and died shortly after discovering it. While at Harvard Theodore wrote his first book “The Naval War of 1812.” Theodore graduated from Harvard and became attracted to politics. He ran for a state house seat in New York’s state assembly. He became a work horse representative. He took on a lot of issues and became very respected by his colleagues. He then met the love of his life Alice Lee. They married and had a beautiful baby daughter also named Alice. Two days after baby Alice was born tragedy hit the young Roosevelt family. Theodore came home from work at the state assembly and found both his mother and wife sick. His mother w succumbed that evening to typhoid fever. But shockingly his wife Alice also died the same day, a victim of Bright’s disease. Theodore continued his whirlwind political career in New York’s assembly. In 1884 he became a representative from NY in the Republicans nomination convention. He fought bitterly against the party’s support of James Blaine for President of the United States. Blaine won the nomination none-the-less. So Theodore retired and headed to the Dakota’s where he owned land. He became a rancher in the Badlands of Dakota off and on for three years. In the 1880’s this part of the west was legitimately called the “wild west.” He met interesting characters and even rounded up criminals. One such character was the Marquis de Mores. The Marquis was the dominant presence in the Badlands ranching. He was a former member of the French cavalry, he was a superb horse handler and expert shot. He was rumored to have killed two men in duels while in France. He carried a walking stick filled with lead. He would raise the stick with one hand, extend and hold it straight out. This was done to build strength in his arms. Theodore was the other “big” presence in the badlands. Theodore worked long, hard hours and when he finished he would write letters and work on his book entitled “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman.” After three years Theodore abandoned his ranch for good. He sold it off and moved back to NYC. He surprised the family a short time later by announcing his engagement to Edith Carow. They married and had 5 children later. He also was willingly conjured up into running for the Mayorship of NYC by his influential acquaintances. He lost the election but esteem for his skills still rose. This is where David McCullough ended his book. In an Afterword chapter he expanded on what happened later to Theodore, his brother and two sisters. Of course, Theodore rose to the Vice Presidency and became President of the United States himself. McCullough lists the achievements of his presidency – settling of the 1902 coal strike, brokering peace in the Russo –Japanese War and the construction of the Panama Canal et al. His sister Bamie married at the age of 40 after raising Theodore’s daughter and had her own baby at the age of 43. His brother Eliot fell victim to alcoholism and died at the young age of 34. His youngest sister Corrine married and lived long enough to see a cousin elected to the Presidency in 1933.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    My 4th book on Teddy Roosevelt. I just can't quit this guy! This book was okay but probably could have been called "White Privilege: The Book" instead. It does give the reader a good idea about Teddy's upbringing and his family. He definitely had some tragedies in his life: His first wife and his mother died within hours of each other. He also struggled with asthma as a child. But most of his early life was that of a filthy rich little kid getting to go on outrageous adventures. It's no wonder h My 4th book on Teddy Roosevelt. I just can't quit this guy! This book was okay but probably could have been called "White Privilege: The Book" instead. It does give the reader a good idea about Teddy's upbringing and his family. He definitely had some tragedies in his life: His first wife and his mother died within hours of each other. He also struggled with asthma as a child. But most of his early life was that of a filthy rich little kid getting to go on outrageous adventures. It's no wonder he turned out the way he did after traveling literally around the world as a young boy. Very little political here, but I don't think that's what McCullough was going for. Much like his work on "Truman", McCullough left me a bit cold.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    I recently finished River of Doubt, the saga of Roosevelt and company exploring a tributary of the Amazon. He did this after his presidency and after his unsuccessful attempt to regain that presidency in 1912. I had to read more. What was Roosevelt like as a child? What formed him? What was his family like? I got my questions answered. This book more than fit the bill. I did listen to most on an abridged audio read by Edward Hermann. His voice is mellifluous. I am lucky his voice did not put me to I recently finished River of Doubt, the saga of Roosevelt and company exploring a tributary of the Amazon. He did this after his presidency and after his unsuccessful attempt to regain that presidency in 1912. I had to read more. What was Roosevelt like as a child? What formed him? What was his family like? I got my questions answered. This book more than fit the bill. I did listen to most on an abridged audio read by Edward Hermann. His voice is mellifluous. I am lucky his voice did not put me to sleep as I drove and listened. 5 stars (that David McCullough sure knows how to write!!)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lin

    This might be embarrassing to admit, but whatever. This book has a twist, since it starts off talking about a young Theodore Roosevelt. It took me maybe 25% of the book to realize that the Theodore Roosevelt that was being discussed at length was President Theodore Roosevelt's father. I think listening to this in audio format definitely made this 'reveal' more effective, since "Teddy", as his parents called him was pronounced "TEE-DEE". 30 min into the book: wait. I thought he married some woman This might be embarrassing to admit, but whatever. This book has a twist, since it starts off talking about a young Theodore Roosevelt. It took me maybe 25% of the book to realize that the Theodore Roosevelt that was being discussed at length was President Theodore Roosevelt's father. I think listening to this in audio format definitely made this 'reveal' more effective, since "Teddy", as his parents called him was pronounced "TEE-DEE". 30 min into the book: wait. I thought he married some woman named Edith. 4 hours through the book: "oh shit, all this time we've been talking about his dad". Our future president is the sickly kid with asthma. I really liked that this focused on Teddy Roosevelt's childhood, from his health issues to his insecurities about ever being able to live up to his father's legacy. You really get a sense of the privilege he comes from, as well as what it took for him to become the version of Theodore Roosevelt that has lived on in legend. There was actually very little written about mornings on horseback, and I feel like an idiot because I spent the first 4 hours of this audiobook mixing him up with his dad. Still, super interesting view into the early years of one of our most popular presidents.

  11. 4 out of 5

    CLM

    This was absolutely fascinating and full of information that I immediately wanted to discuss with others (which they did not always appreciate!).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    Author David McCullough introduces this biography of Teddy Roosevelt by saying that his first encounter with "the president" was when his brother was playing him in a school production of "Arsenic and Old Lace." Because of that, I'm not ashamed to admit that an entertainment venue sparked my interest in this book also: the American Film Company is planning a movie called "Born in the Badlands" about Teddy Roosevelt's cowboy years in the Dakotas (coinciding with Laura and Almanzo's first four, in Author David McCullough introduces this biography of Teddy Roosevelt by saying that his first encounter with "the president" was when his brother was playing him in a school production of "Arsenic and Old Lace." Because of that, I'm not ashamed to admit that an entertainment venue sparked my interest in this book also: the American Film Company is planning a movie called "Born in the Badlands" about Teddy Roosevelt's cowboy years in the Dakotas (coinciding with Laura and Almanzo's first four, incidentally). This book covers the Badlands period, the return to the East, and plenty that happened beforehand. In other words, it's a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt's early life from his childhood to his mid-20's. Judging by the cover, the book seemed rather daunting - 375 pages plus notes and an index - but it turned out to be highly readable because it focuses on the personalities, and not just Theodore's, but his family's. Theodore Roosevelt Senior was an especially admirable man, and Teddy's oldest sister Bamie turns out to be the real woman behind the man, more so than his mother or wife. (She was the woman behind Eleanor, too.) The two factors that shaped Teddy's childhood most, though, were a positive and a negative: his family's wealth and his asthma. Both of these are explored extensively. I think any parent of an asthma sufferer will be fascinated by what was known of the disease in the 1860's and 1870's and what treatments Teddy was put through. Because he dared to criticize the Czar after the Kishinev pogrom, I already had a favorable opinion of Teddy Roosevelt going into this book, though it was marred slightly by Sarah Vowell's comment in Unfamiliar Fishes that he approached American expansion the way some people talk about building additions onto their homes. Now that I've read this book, I think TR was the greatest president the United States ever had, save for Lincoln, whom Teddy himself probably would have named #1. Though this is not a complete biography as it does not delve into his presidency and only summarizes it in an afterword at the end, the book is so thorough about his early life, I feel quite satisfied for now. I'm definitely looking forward to the movie. I want Daniel Radcliffe as TR.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trudy

    This book took me months to wade through, while I put it down to read another, went back to it, put it down again to read another, etc. Often it would put me to sleep. In short, I am not sure why everyone likes David McCullough's writing, though I shouldn't say that without reading one or two of his others. What I didn't like about the book: 1. It wasn't written in a linear timeline; he jumped around or wasn't clear on when things he covered occurred. 2. He dropped all kinds of names of New York This book took me months to wade through, while I put it down to read another, went back to it, put it down again to read another, etc. Often it would put me to sleep. In short, I am not sure why everyone likes David McCullough's writing, though I shouldn't say that without reading one or two of his others. What I didn't like about the book: 1. It wasn't written in a linear timeline; he jumped around or wasn't clear on when things he covered occurred. 2. He dropped all kinds of names of New York politicians in the late 1800's and early 1900's, as well as important New York families of the time. I didn't know who any of them were, nor did I care, but it seemed to me that since he mentioned them, they were significant for some reason. He should have told us why. 3. The book ends when Teddy Roosevelt is 29 years old, I guess because the rest of his life is easily researched in other works. But it seemed to me a weird and abrupt ending. What I liked about the book: I liked learning things about Teddy R. that I never would have otherwise known. He was a complex man, and from his beginings, a scrawny, sickly kid who I think no one would have thought would amount to much else than being the son of a rich man. He is a great example of working hard to overcome limitations. Summary: I thought my interest in history would be well-served by reading books by McCullough, who as a popular history writer should be right up my alley, since I think I would be bored by academic history coverage. While the book had a lot of interesting information, I found that McCullough's style didn't fit my needs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barnabas Piper

    The subject carried this book. It’s not one of the author’s best - felt like a research essay more than a full manuscript. That said, Roosevelt’s background is fascinating. Such a unique figure.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2015/... “Mornings on Horseback” is David McCullough’s 1981 biography covering Theodore Roosevelt’s childhood and was the 1982 Pulitzer finalist in the biography category. McCullough is a well-regarded author and historian best known for his biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman. His latest book “The Wright Brothers” will be published this May. Covering the first twenty-eight years of Roosevelt’s life, McCullough’s narrative provides a fascinating perspective o http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2015/... “Mornings on Horseback” is David McCullough’s 1981 biography covering Theodore Roosevelt’s childhood and was the 1982 Pulitzer finalist in the biography category. McCullough is a well-regarded author and historian best known for his biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman. His latest book “The Wright Brothers” will be published this May. Covering the first twenty-eight years of Roosevelt’s life, McCullough’s narrative provides a fascinating perspective on Theodore’s childhood and early adulthood. But it also reveals far more than that – it offers a unique and engaging look at the life of a privileged New York family during the late nineteenth century. As a consequence of McCullough’s focus, the reader misses the majority of Theodore’s political career (and the accompanying theatrics) including his time as Civil Service Commissioner, NYC Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy…and his presidency. But the lives of his parents and siblings (and his relationships with each) are captured brilliantly and provide valuable historical insight. “Mornings on Horseback” is also well researched and often extremely detailed. And while not quite McCullough at his very best (his two Pulitzer prizes came about a decade later) it proves a wonderfully-told and endlessly entertaining story. One of the most familiar and celebrated features of his more recent narratives is on full display – his masterful ability to describe a scene in a way that dazzles and captivates the reader. Particularly interesting chapters include those on his father’s nomination by President Hayes to be Collector of the Port of New York and TR’s adventures in the Dakota Badlands following the unexpected death of his first wife. And while the topic did not quite fill an entire chapter, you might not get as complete or rewarding a history of the earliest days of Harvard University if you were skip the book and take the campus tour. But McCullough’s approach possesses several shortcomings. Most importantly for the ardent Teddy Roosevelt fan, the book never fully penetrates his mind or his soul. Although his actions are well-described and his family life revealed in colorful detail, the reader never gets really gets to know the future president or understand how his childhood experiences shaped his later career. And although McCullough consistently demonstrates his prowess at scene-setting, he often fails to inform the reader why a particular setting is important to the story. Because so many of the book’s transitions from one scene to another are anything but seamless, the reader is often left to digest two or three pages before understanding the significance of a new topic to the storyline. Also, McCullough’s attention and focus proves surprisingly uneven. Important topics sometimes secure an entire chapter (a detailed discussion of asthma, for example) while in other instances they hardly earn more than a page or two. Roosevelt’s campaign for mayor of New York City and the circumstances surrounding his second marriage, combined, were worth just over four pages. The two most frequent complaints about McCullough’s book, however, are that it ends too soon…and ends too abruptly. The first grievance, of course, is really a compliment. But the second complaint has far deeper roots. Other than a helpful “Afterward” which in brief form follows Roosevelt and his siblings to the end of their lives, the book ends suddenly and without warning. Overall, David McCullough’s “Mornings on Horseback” is entertaining and offers a unique perspective on Roosevelt’s early life. But it proves far more descriptive than interpretive. Readers seeking to understand TR thoroughly will come away disappointed, and Edmund Morris’s “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” may prove more rewarding. But for those hoping to view the young Theodore Roosevelt through the lens of his family’s daily life, there can be no better choice. Overall rating: 3¾ stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Hakala

    I read this in two and a half days (hey, I was on vacation). I had no particular interest in TR going in, but once I got into this book, I kept missing bits of conversations because I was sneaking in a few more paragraphs about the Roosevelts' nineteenth-century rich-people escapades. McCullough packs in a lot of historical background here, and he got me to think twice about things like philanthropy in a time apparently without liberal guilt (with our vast wealth we'll give generously to many ch I read this in two and a half days (hey, I was on vacation). I had no particular interest in TR going in, but once I got into this book, I kept missing bits of conversations because I was sneaking in a few more paragraphs about the Roosevelts' nineteenth-century rich-people escapades. McCullough packs in a lot of historical background here, and he got me to think twice about things like philanthropy in a time apparently without liberal guilt (with our vast wealth we'll give generously to many charities, and also let's get new livery for the servants and build a stupendously huge new house!), Republicanism among a generation that had known Lincoln, and, of course, the kind of fascination with nature that consists in shooting things all day long. Also, asthma, which McCullough researched at impressive length for this book. The book lasts a little longer than I thought it needed to but still ends rather abruptly; and since I've never looked into the Roosevelts before I now have an extremely lopsided familiarity with TR's biography; but it's an excellent study of all those things in the subtitle.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marsha B

    The author did a fantastic job of telling a story based on historical accounts, journals, and letters written by family and those closest to them. Honestly, I expected bias and that the story would be told seeing Theodore Roosevelt through rose colored glasses, and maybe that was the case in some instances, but overall this was not so. I saw goodness and fault throughout, and felt like I was truly able imagine the lives of this family, beginning with the courtship of President Roosevelt’s parent The author did a fantastic job of telling a story based on historical accounts, journals, and letters written by family and those closest to them. Honestly, I expected bias and that the story would be told seeing Theodore Roosevelt through rose colored glasses, and maybe that was the case in some instances, but overall this was not so. I saw goodness and fault throughout, and felt like I was truly able imagine the lives of this family, beginning with the courtship of President Roosevelt’s parents and ending with just prior to his election as President. I could go on, but my hope is that others enjoy meeting this family as much as I did.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Having just finished a book about the Spanish American War and the U.S. military occupation of the Philippines, I decided to proceed to a biography of one of those responsible for all that unneeded misery: Theodore Roosevelt. Having recently read his 1776 with enjoyment, I selected McCullough's Mornings of Horseback. It wasn't quite what I expected, being a biography of the man and his family going only up to his unsuccessful race for the mayoralty of New York, but perhaps it served as an antidot Having just finished a book about the Spanish American War and the U.S. military occupation of the Philippines, I decided to proceed to a biography of one of those responsible for all that unneeded misery: Theodore Roosevelt. Having recently read his 1776 with enjoyment, I selected McCullough's Mornings of Horseback. It wasn't quite what I expected, being a biography of the man and his family going only up to his unsuccessful race for the mayoralty of New York, but perhaps it served as an antidote for my sanctimoniousness. Although very wealthy on all sides of the family, the Roosevelts were not, as McCullough portrays them, moral monsters. Indeed, by their lights, a number of them were selfless philanthropists and public servants. They certainly could have been worse. McCullough is an exceptionally good writer, capable of engaging the emotions of his readers. Several times he had me chuckling, several times he had me tearing up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    I love David McCullough and think he is a national treasure. "Truman" is my favorite biography of all time, I loved Mr McCullough's narration of "The Civil War," and he is from Pittsburgh to boot. I liked "Mornings on Horseback" a lot. It left me wanting to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt and visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the "Bad Lands" of both Dakotas. I now smile when I see video clips of "TR" and strive to be more like him (and his father) in some ways. For me, though, what I love David McCullough and think he is a national treasure. "Truman" is my favorite biography of all time, I loved Mr McCullough's narration of "The Civil War," and he is from Pittsburgh to boot. I liked "Mornings on Horseback" a lot. It left me wanting to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt and visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the "Bad Lands" of both Dakotas. I now smile when I see video clips of "TR" and strive to be more like him (and his father) in some ways. For me, though, what kept "Mornings on Horseback" from being a masterpiece is that it sometimes got bogged down in minutiae that was largely irrelevant to the story. In some cases, less would have been more. Still, a great (but not perfect) book by a great author about a great (but not perfect) man.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I LOVED this book. It is brilliant. To understand Theodore Roosevelt you have to understand his family background. His father paid a substitute to fight for him in the Civil War, but was actively involved in social work and in trying to improve society. His mother came from a family in Georgia which was actively involved in the civil war. You also need to understand Theodore's place in the family and his parents attitudes toward raising children. Lots on information on Roosevelt's first marriage I LOVED this book. It is brilliant. To understand Theodore Roosevelt you have to understand his family background. His father paid a substitute to fight for him in the Civil War, but was actively involved in social work and in trying to improve society. His mother came from a family in Georgia which was actively involved in the civil war. You also need to understand Theodore's place in the family and his parents attitudes toward raising children. Lots on information on Roosevelt's first marriage and the tragic day in which he lost everything. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Examining Roosevelt's early years makes the rest of his life easily understandable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    gabi

    Amazing. I did not know that Theodore Roosevelt had such an incredible and interesting story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Reagan

    Though this book could not be classified as a regular biography, as the story of Teddy Roosevelt ended in this volume before the famous parts even began, it was still a joy to read. David McCullough is easily one of my favorite authors. I’ve read over half of the books he’s written, and he always writes in a style that appeals to me. He often makes his nonfiction works read with the energy of great fiction. Though I would not label this volume my favorite of his books that I’ve read, I still enj Though this book could not be classified as a regular biography, as the story of Teddy Roosevelt ended in this volume before the famous parts even began, it was still a joy to read. David McCullough is easily one of my favorite authors. I’ve read over half of the books he’s written, and he always writes in a style that appeals to me. He often makes his nonfiction works read with the energy of great fiction. Though I would not label this volume my favorite of his books that I’ve read, I still enjoyed it. He painted a vivid portrait of all the foundational elements of Teddy Roosevelt’s life. Teddy Roosevelt was not really cut from the same cloth as other men who held the office before him. His family was filthy rich. The hardships of the average citizen he could only see vaguely from a distance. I almost find it surprising that he became the rugged man he was with a high society background in New York City as he had. A few things stand out from this early period of his life. His family adored him. For some reason, everyone in the family decided he was the most important person in their family from a young age. He faced horrific asthmatic attacks, and there was doubt on many occasions that he would even live to adulthood. That desire to live “the strenuous life” flamed up early, even before he had the health to really carry it out. He was able to see much of the world including Europe and the holy land, which was unknown to most Americans in those days. He revered his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. His father was a kind family man. He really didn’t have to work in the family business as he inherited his fortune, but he was often involved in major philanthropic efforts. He invested time in his family. Teddy Roosevelt’s deep respect of his father at times stressed him as he sought to live out the highest expectations that would please his father. While Teddy was at Harvard, his father died. He suffered greatly with stomach cancer and Teddy was grief stricken that he could not do more to help his father. Still, his father was a moral man and stressed morals to Teddy. To a great degree, Teddy held to those morals. His father also exposed him to Christianity, took him to church, and taught him the Bible. I could not tell from reading this book if Teddy had a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but it certainly impacted the man that he was. Teddy met and married a beautiful young lady. While he served in the New York State house, his wife became sick in what was expected to be a routine delivery of their first baby. At the same time, his mother became sick. They were all in the same house while Teddy was away. Teddy rushed back, but both died just a couple days apart. As is often the case, tragedy molds a person and makes them more fit for greatness. I look forward to reading a full biography of Teddy Roosevelt somewhere down the line, but this book is still a worthy read for either presidential biography lovers or McCullough fans. The book ended after Teddy put his life back together after some ranching in North Dakota and married his second wife. I finished the book thinking why didn’t McCullough just finish it. Had he done so, the book would’ve likely have been as great as “John Adams” or “Truman”. All in all, it is still an outstanding volume.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Foremost historian David McCullough won several awards for this biography of Theodore Roosevelt's early life. McCullough was able to piece together the various personalities and events through personal correspondence, family records and news stories of the day. His goal was to uncover the events and people that helped shaped the future president's personality, drive and ambitions. In this he succeeded admirably. Yet still, there was something about this work that didn't quite hold the same attrac Foremost historian David McCullough won several awards for this biography of Theodore Roosevelt's early life. McCullough was able to piece together the various personalities and events through personal correspondence, family records and news stories of the day. His goal was to uncover the events and people that helped shaped the future president's personality, drive and ambitions. In this he succeeded admirably. Yet still, there was something about this work that didn't quite hold the same attraction for me as other books penned by McCullough. I found myself interested in certain sections - his childhood asthma, interest in nature and the death of his wife, than other areas. I am reading another work of non-fiction at the same time - The House of Morgan, and I did find the stock market crash of 1873 and it's subsequent depression vastly interesting. In the Chernow book, from a larger standpoint of the causes and attempts to correct the situation, and in McCullough's book, how it affected the Roosevelt family. As a native North Dakotan, you'd think Roosevelt's adventures in my state would have held my interest, but McCullough shared mostly straight historical facts. In fact, of the countless interesting stories of TR's life on the plains, he shared only one. I think perhaps this book would have worked better as a work of narrative fiction, since McCullough wanted to examine personalities. I know I may take some flak for saying that - it is the great David McCullough after all and this was a National Book Award Winner and Pulitzer Prize Nominee. But still, it could have been better. 3 1/2 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Combination biography of Teddy Roosevelt’s early years and historical portrait of a time and class. This is a book which emphasizes letters, much to my pleasure. McCullough writes good history in the way that he can pick just the right details to give you as complete a picture of people as possible without droning on for pages about, oh just for an example, what George Washington ate for breakfast on each successive day of the week. The portrait of aristocratic life in New York in the last decad Combination biography of Teddy Roosevelt’s early years and historical portrait of a time and class. This is a book which emphasizes letters, much to my pleasure. McCullough writes good history in the way that he can pick just the right details to give you as complete a picture of people as possible without droning on for pages about, oh just for an example, what George Washington ate for breakfast on each successive day of the week. The portrait of aristocratic life in New York in the last decades of the nineteenth century is vivid in its privilege. Teddy’s story, when it slowly emerges from the background detail, is irritating in the way that he is a man who succeeded given every possible advantage and opportunity to do so. This should not, but does, lessen the impact of his expansive personality and intellect. I really don’t like this sort of reverse classism in myself or others, but I did eventually stop mentally deconstructing it when I got to the part about Teddy, the great outdoorsman, going out west with a bowie knife made by Tiffany’s. Because some things you’ve just got to laugh at. Still, this is an intriguing portrait of the family and Teddy’s early years, particularly the impact of his childhood battles with asthma and prolonged illness.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    It should be a crime to write a biography this good and end the biography halfway through the figure's life without writing any sequel to finish it out. I'm going to need to find another biographer to finish the job that McCullough left off here... All that aside, this was truly excellent. It gave a rather full picture of Roosevelt's early life, and I found the politics of the late 19th century to be quite fascinating. A Republican party that's being corrupted by lust for power and choosing to el It should be a crime to write a biography this good and end the biography halfway through the figure's life without writing any sequel to finish it out. I'm going to need to find another biographer to finish the job that McCullough left off here... All that aside, this was truly excellent. It gave a rather full picture of Roosevelt's early life, and I found the politics of the late 19th century to be quite fascinating. A Republican party that's being corrupted by lust for power and choosing to elect a nominee who's rather corrupt but is known for being a great "fighter" against the opposition? Wonder where we've seen that... The comparisons I drew between the Republican party then and now were interesting--and I also found great interest in how Roosevelt sought to navigate those challenges himself. All-in-all, I was left with a clear impressions of Roosevelt's courage and moral resolve, as well as the complexities of compromise in difficult political situations, all in the context of a boy who learned to make himself something and become like his father. Just wish the biography didn't end right when things were getting interesting! Rating: 4.5 Stars (Excellent).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Reads Ravenously

    DNF (audiobook) I listened to the audio version of this book. Back in the day I was a history major, so I was trying to get back in the swing of things. Theodore Roosevelt is one of the more interesting presidents IMO. But after 3 discs of listening to random things about his uncle's cousins stepsons wife's kid, I became extremely bored and the book lost me. It was hard to keep track of who was who. When I pick up a book about Teddy Roosevelt, I want to hear about him. Not about everyone in the f DNF (audiobook) I listened to the audio version of this book. Back in the day I was a history major, so I was trying to get back in the swing of things. Theodore Roosevelt is one of the more interesting presidents IMO. But after 3 discs of listening to random things about his uncle's cousins stepsons wife's kid, I became extremely bored and the book lost me. It was hard to keep track of who was who. When I pick up a book about Teddy Roosevelt, I want to hear about him. Not about everyone in the family BUT him.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sue Shipley

    An extensively researched book about the Roosevelt family from ancestors up through Theodore and his family. Many quotes from newspapers, letters, diaries and journals are presented. The first 195 pages take the reader up to the time Theodore goes to Harvard. The family was very wealthy and traveled extensively. Due to Theodore's ill health he was sent to many places in an effort to help his asthma and other conditions. Theodore owned a ranch in North Dakota. Much was written about his adventures t An extensively researched book about the Roosevelt family from ancestors up through Theodore and his family. Many quotes from newspapers, letters, diaries and journals are presented. The first 195 pages take the reader up to the time Theodore goes to Harvard. The family was very wealthy and traveled extensively. Due to Theodore's ill health he was sent to many places in an effort to help his asthma and other conditions. Theodore owned a ranch in North Dakota. Much was written about his adventures there. In reality he spent less than a year in the territory.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Salerno

    Mornings on Horseback is the first book I've read by renowned historian David McCullough (hopefully the first of several more). Meticulously researched and crammed with information and fascinating anecdotes, Mornings on Horseback serves as a kind of origin story of Theodore Roosevelt. McCullough answers the question of how the frail, asthmatic, awkward child called "Teedie" became "T.R.", as he is known in the popular American consciousness. While I certainly enjoyed reading Mornings on Horsebac Mornings on Horseback is the first book I've read by renowned historian David McCullough (hopefully the first of several more). Meticulously researched and crammed with information and fascinating anecdotes, Mornings on Horseback serves as a kind of origin story of Theodore Roosevelt. McCullough answers the question of how the frail, asthmatic, awkward child called "Teedie" became "T.R.", as he is known in the popular American consciousness. While I certainly enjoyed reading Mornings on Horseback, it is in many ways a very different book from what I was expecting. The first several chapters are as much about T.R.'s parents, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and Martha "Mittie" Bulloch Roosevelt as they are about T.R. himself. An entire chapter is devoted to a discussion of little Teedie's battle with asthma. While T.R.'s family history and childhood health struggles provide important insight and context for how he was later to become the character in history we all know, I found myself somewhat disinterested in these sections. The chapters concerning Theodore's early forays into politics in the New York State Assembly and at the 1884 Republican National Convention really bogged down the narrative for me. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with Mornings on Horseback is that the years of T.R.'s life that I was most interested in reading more about, his time as a rancher in the Bad Lands of the Dakota Territory, comprise very little of the book. In fact these years are crammed into the penultimate chapter. I had purchased Mornings on Horseback under the impression that it would largely be about these wilderness years, and was sorely let down when I discovered that was not the case. Of course, viewed objectively, this is the fault of my own expectations, rather than the book itself. Overall, if you are as fascinated by Theodore Roosevelt as I am, Mornings on Horseback is still a biography that is worth your time. It provides intriguing insight into the life and times of one of the most singular figures in American history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Teddy was a man of vigor and action. But rather than thrusting us headlong into the travail and adventure of his youth, McCullough lacks commitment, perhaps even desiring to keep a distance. Maybe this is just a byproduct of constraints. There is so much to cover, and in a book of only three hundred and some pages the writer is forced to jump quickly from one scene to the next. Still, I sensed a true reluctance from McCullough. He seems content to remain a detached observer, and it leaves us as Teddy was a man of vigor and action. But rather than thrusting us headlong into the travail and adventure of his youth, McCullough lacks commitment, perhaps even desiring to keep a distance. Maybe this is just a byproduct of constraints. There is so much to cover, and in a book of only three hundred and some pages the writer is forced to jump quickly from one scene to the next. Still, I sensed a true reluctance from McCullough. He seems content to remain a detached observer, and it leaves us as readers unable to fully immerse in the life of the subject. This is purely speculative, but it’s almost as if McCullough thought, ‘this will be fun,’ and then began his study and decided he didn’t care much for Teddy’s personality or politics but was too invested at that point to abandon the project. So he instead shifts focus to the supporting cast, Teddy’s family members, as a means to get through. What we’re left with is a book subtly flavored by distaste—an author not wanting to eat the meal yet out of a sense of proper manners, dutifully finishes the plate.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Excellent. I very much enjoyed learning about the childhood and family of President Theodore Roosevelt, as well as his adult life prior to becoming president. As is no doubt true of many people, I only knew a couple of things about him - that he was a Rough Rider, sort of a cowboy type, who had led a cavalry charge during a war with Cuba, and that he was a President of the United States. This book opens his life, his childhood, his family, his marriage(s), his exploits, his character, and all the Excellent. I very much enjoyed learning about the childhood and family of President Theodore Roosevelt, as well as his adult life prior to becoming president. As is no doubt true of many people, I only knew a couple of things about him - that he was a Rough Rider, sort of a cowboy type, who had led a cavalry charge during a war with Cuba, and that he was a President of the United States. This book opens his life, his childhood, his family, his marriage(s), his exploits, his character, and all the things that came together to make him who he was. I laughed and cried, and was amazed at and inspired by all the things accomplished by the Roosevelt family, both his immediate family and families of origin. I listened to this as an audio book and the readers were wonderfully easy to listen to. I listen during my commute and was never bored - this fascinating book kept me interested and I even started it over to listen to the first part again. Highly recommended. I am ready to read more of David McCullough's writings.

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