American Caesars, By Nigel Hamilton

Click to follow

These brisk studies of the 12 US Presidents from "empathetic", "prescient" Franklin D Roosevelt to "bullying, snide" George W Bush combine deft concision, sharp judgements and tremendous readability.

It is, of course, the foibles of the most powerful men on earth that linger in the mind. We learn that Kennedy's famous sexual proclivities ("The more Jackie dressed, the more, it seemed, JFK undressed") were shared by his successor. LBJ claimed that he had "more women by accident than Kennedy had on purpose".

Hamilton's analysis is astute and unstuffy. He bluntly describes Nixon's administration as "genocidal". Carter "transformed the lives of countless people around the globe" but was "a failure as an American Emperor."