“Hail to the Chief”: US Presidents in Fiction and Film

Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, Presidents Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.

Here are some novels and movies about real and fictional presidents, their spouses, their personal and political lives, including some imaginative alternative histories, all available to check out in book, ebook or DVD format, with your Livingston Library card.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

 An irreverent biography of Lincoln that makes for a fun read. Everyone knows that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the country from disunion, but very few were privy to the fact that Honest Abe was an honest-to-goodness vampire hunter; that is, until Grahame-Smith unearthed Lincoln’s secret journal, an intimate document detailing the lifelong battle he waged against the undead. Motivated by the vampire-initiated death of his mother, 11-year-old Abe vowed to kill every vampire in America.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

The story of Alice Blackwell (nee Lindgren), a “polite” young woman from Wisconsin who marries a Republican scion from a well-known, wealthy political family — a man who becomes President of the United States. By the author’s own admission, Alice is a fictionalized version of Laura Bush, making her husband George W. But not all is well in the White House. Sittenfeld explores an interesting tension, when Laura/Alice is privately at odds with much of her husband’s conservative politics.

The Armageddon File by Stephen Coonts

After one of the most contentious and divisive elections in American history, the new president is finally settling into the West Wing. But when his chief of staff discovers evidence that voting machines in key counties in swing states were tampered with, the whole administration is in danger of unraveling. Did someone steal the election? Are America’s enemies involved? Were the tampered-with machines actually rigged to swing the election the other way — and if so and the plot failed, what is the conspirators’ backup plan?

Crooked by Austin Grossman

 Grossman reimagines the Cold War as an epic battle against the occult waged by the ultimate American antihero: Richard Nixon. Here for the first time is the tale told in his own words: the terrifying supernatural secret he stumbled upon as a young man, the truth behind the Cold War, and the truth behind the Watergate cover-up. What if the man we call the nation’s worst president was actually a pivotal figure caught in a desperate struggle between ordinary life and horrors from another reality? What if he was, in truth, our greatest?

Eighteen Acres by Nicole Wallace

From a former Communications Director for the White House comes a suspenseful and smart commercial novel about the first female president of the United States, Charlotte Kramer, and all the dramas and deceptions she faces both in politics and in love.

Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

While Jack Ryan, who assumed the U.S. presidency after the shocking deaths of the president and many congresspeople, attends to affairs of state, selecting a new Cabinet and arranging for special Congressional elections, enemies far and near continue to create nefarious plots against the United States. Political enemies prove themselves equally relentless, attacking the very legitimacy of Ryan’s presidential role.

Finale by Thomas Mallon

Mallon brings to life the tumultuous administration of the most consequential and enigmatic president in modern times. He captures the crusading ideologies, blunders, and glamour of the still-hotly-debated Reagan years, taking readers to the political gridiron of Washington, the wealthiest enclaves of Southern California, and the volcanic landscape of Iceland, where the president engages in two almost apocalyptic days of negotiation with Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

This fascinating novel imagines a world where Lincoln did not die, and instead lived to face the consequences of the Civil War…namely, an impeachment trial for a breach of executive powers. When one of Lincoln’s lawyers is murdered, a young black woman working for his defense team must unravel the mystery.

Landfall by Thomas Mallon

Set during the tumultuous middle of the George W. Bush years–amid the twin catastrophes of the Iraq insurgency and Hurricane Katrina.  The president at the novel’s center possesses a personality whose high-speed alternations between charm and petulance, resoluteness and self-pity, continually energize and mystify the panoply of characters around him.  A gallery of political and media figures, from the widowed Nancy Reagan to the philandering John Edwards to the brilliantly contrarian Christopher Hitchens, bring the novel and the era to life.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

This haunting novel centers around the true story of Lincoln’s son, who died during his Presidency. While President Lincoln visits the gravesite of his son, the ghosts who have clung to life narrate a deeply moving, complex thread of tales.

Lucy by Ellen Feldman

A novel detailing the love affair between Franklin Roosevelt and his wife’s secretary, Lucy Mercer Rutherford. Told from Rutherford’s viewpoint, the story traces their affair from when she is initially hired as Eleanor’s personal secretary in the days before World War I and ends on Rutherford’s deathbed in 1948. The affair, which terminates when his advisors fear that his wished-for divorce could ruin his presidential aspirations, is renewed 20 years later during FDR’s presidency, when he seeks Lucy’s companionship to relieve the stresses of World War II.

Madam President by Nicole Wallace

Charlotte Kramer, the forty-fifth President of the United States, has done the unprecedented in allowing a network news team to document a day in her life–and that of her most senior staff. But while twenty news cameras are embedded with the president, the unthinkable happens: five major attacks are leveled on US soil. Her secretary of defense, Melanie, and her press secretary, Dale, must instantly jump to action in supporting the president and reassuring the country that the safety they treasure is in capable hands.  With all eyes on them and America’s stability on the line, all three women are hiding personal and professional secrets that could rock the West Wing to its very foundations…and change the lives of the people they love most.

Make Russia Great Again: a novel by Christopher Buckley

Herb Nutterman, a long-time Trump Organization employee, unexpectedly becomes President Trump’s White House chief of staff and finds himself entangled in Russian intrigue and leading the president’s reelection campaign.

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

An alternative history where FDR loses the 1940 election to isolationist Charles Lindbergh…who strikes a deal with Hitler to stay out of his way. But tensions rise, along with anti-Semintism, and the consequences are seen through the eyes of one boy.

The President is Missing: a novel by Bill Clinton & James Patterson

Bill Clinton teamed up with James Patterson to write a political thriller about what happens when a President vanishes without a trace.

Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings by Stephen O’ Connor

The decades-long relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman.  Using traditional narrative, dream sequences, reimaginings, and excerpts from memoirs and Jefferson’s writings, it moves beyond historical fiction to demonstrate the bitter, long-lasting aftereffects of Jefferson’s moral hypocrisy.

The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington by Charles Rosenberg

A thought-provoking novel that imagines what would have happened if the British had succeeded in kidnapping General George Washington.

Watergate  by Thomas Mallon

Mallon conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency through the urgent perspectives of seven characters we only thought we knew before now, moving readers from the private cabins of Camp David to the klieg lights of the Senate Caucus Room, from the District of Columbia jail to the Dupont Circle mansion of Theodore Roosevelt’s sharp-tongued ninety-year-old daughter (“The clock is dick-dick-dicking”), and into the hive of the Watergate complex itself, home not only to the Democratic National Committee but also to the president’s attorney general, his recklessly loyal secretary, and the shadowy man from Mississippi who pays out hush money to the burglars.

US Presidents in Films

All the President’s Men 

True story of the Watergate break-in that led to the political scandal of the decade, based on the best-seller by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. 

All the Way

Bryan Cranston stars in a riveting dramatization of the formidable challenges and demons faced by President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) in his tumultuous first year in office, from his accidental ascension to the presidency in November 1963, to his relentless fight to win passage of a landmark Civil Rights Bill with the election of 1964 looming.

Angel Has Fallen 

When there is an assassination attempt on US President Allan Trumbull, his trusted confidant, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, is wrongfully accused and taken into custody. After escaping from capture, he becomes a man on the run and must evade his own agency and outsmart the FBI in order to find the real threat to the president. Desperate to uncover the truth, Banning turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name, keep his family from harm, and save the country from imminent danger.

Dave 

Kevin Kline stars as an off-the-wall, temporary replacement for the missing president. His unusual style of governing and decision making tip off the opposition that something is definitely “out-of-order” in Washington.

The Front Runner 

A real-life story of U.S. Senator Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign that ended when his extramarital affair became known to the public.

Graves- Season one

A former President of the United States tries to acknowledge and correct the mistakes of his administration twenty-five years after leaving the office.

LBJ

The story of Lyndon Baines Johnson, as he was thrust into office after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Lincoln

A revealing drama that focuses on the 16th president’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country, and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.

The Roosevelts: an intimate history

Narrated by Peter Coyote; Paul Giamatti as Theodore Roosevelt; Edward Herrmann as Franklin Roosevelt; Meryl Streep as Eleanor Roosevelt.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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