Podcast #414: Theodore Roosevelt, Writer and Reader

If you’ve been following The Art of Manliness for awhile, you know we’re big fans of Theodore Roosevelt. The man embodied the Strenuous Life. He was a rancher, a soldier, a hunter, a statesman, and a practitioner of boxing and judo. But what many people don’t know about Roosevelt was that he was also an accomplished man of letters. He wrote over forty books himself and read thousands of others over the course of his lifetime. And as my guests on the show point out, TR’s literary life was tightly interwoven with his mighty deeds. 

Today on the show, historians (and husband and wife team) Thomas Bailey and Katherine Joslin discuss their book Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life. We discuss how Roosevelt began the writing habit as a 7-year-old boy and how he wrote one of America’s greatest military histories when he was just 24 years old. We then discuss TR’s greatest literary successes, including The Rough Riders, The Winning of the West, and African Game Trails. Thomas and Katherine share how Roosevelt’s penchant for action influenced his writing and how his writing inspired him to take action, and how John Wayne and Western movies wouldn’t exist without TR’s literary work.

We then get into Roosevelt’s reading habits, including his opinion of compiling lists of must-read books.

You’re going to gain new insights about one of America’s larger-than-life characters listening to this show.

Show Highlights

  • Why TR is overlooked as one of the great American writers
  • When did he start showing a penchant for writing?
  • How TR’s reading as a child influenced his Romantic outlook 
  • What was his guiding ethos with his writing?
  • Roosevelt’s relationship with language and his writing process 
  • Did Roosevelt have an influence on the literary scene in America?
  • Why Roosevelt paved the way for John Wayne 
  • TR’s most famous book and how much he actually made for his writing 
  • Roosevelt’s voracious reading life 
  • A few books Roosevelt didn’t like (which wasn’t many) 
  • What Roosevelt thought about education and autodidactic, lifelong learning
  • How his reading as an adult influenced his policy ideas and political decisions

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