Friday 9 October 2015

Theodore Roosevelt Devoured Books Like a Hungry Lion

"Theodore Roosevelt devoured books like a hungry lion feasting on a fresh kill." (Brett McKay)

While Theodore Roosevelt was known as a hunter, as a rough rider, as a statesman and as the man for whom the Teddy Bear is named, he is not known for his intellect.  Yet the 26th President, with an IQ of 149, was one of the most well read presidents.  It is estimated he read tens of thousands of books in his lifetime.

As a child, Theodore suffered from vicious asthma attacks.  While he recuperated in bed, he would read voraciously.  "He devoured books like a hungry lion feasting on a fresh kill."  At an early age, he developped a lifelong passion for knowledge.  (  

Once in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt liked to read a book every morning before breakfast.  He went about his presidential duties during the day.  In the evening, he would read two or three more books.  Not only did he read the books, but he could recall minutes details about what he read. Three factors worked to Theodore's advantage:  firstly, he had a photographic memory; secondly, he knew how to speed read; thirdly, he had keen concentration powers.  As one biographer wrote, "his occupation for the moment was to the exclusion of everything else; if he were reading, the house might fall about his head, he could not be diverted." (

Theodore's love of reading not only helped him to acquire knowledge, but also helped him to connect with others, a skill which came in handy as a politician.  "Whether the subject of the moment was political economy, Greek drama, tropical fauna or flora, the Irish sagas, protective coloration in nature, metaphysics, the technique of football, or post futuristic painting, he was equally at home with the experts and drew out the best that was in them." (

The avid reader became an avid writer, penning more than 35 books in his lifetime, including The Naval War of 1812, helping to establish him as an historian.  

For a list of books that Theodore Roosevelt read, some more than once, visit:

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