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Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author, historian, and frequent commentator on The Jim Lehrer News Hour, is a popular fixture in today's historical community. An excellent writer and keen observer, Goodwin was personally chosen by Lyndon B. Johnson to care for the ailing president in his waning years at the ranch and to pen his memoirs. The result, Lyndon B. Johnson and the American Dream, is a compelling psychological portrait of the Vietnam president and Great Society architect. In this work, which made her name, Goodwin carefully (and, occasionally, the truth be told, a little dubiously) links Lyndon's presidential traits with events in his early emotional life. The result reveals the nuances of a man who, in the manner of the great tragedies of old, was undone by the very traits that had brought him success.

Doris Goodwin has written a number of excellent texts since LBJ, including a biography of Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy. Her most recent work, No Ordinary Time, chronicles the unique relationship of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in depression and war. Throughout, Goodwin does a superlative job of recounting the nuances of their partnership as lovers, teammates, colleagues, and ideologues. She has illuminated the private sides of our most public figures.

Update: Like her late colleague Stephen Ambrose, who also successfully straddled the gulf between the academy and popular culture, Goodwin has been accused of plagiarism. Obviously, the gravity of such malfeasance tempers my enthusiasm for her work.

More good stuff by Goodwin.

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