In A Nutshell:
In 2013 I started reading a biography of every US president in chronological order, and I created this site to chronicle my irreverent observations, quests for historical truth, and personal insights along the way. In 2020, I started a podcast with my wife to dig into some of my favorite stories.
|I plod through with a little help from my action figure friends.
(They don’t always get along.)
In A Much Larger Nutshell:
Welcome to my About page! This is exactly where you’re supposed to be right now, so relax. Take off your shoes. Unbutton that top pants button. Breathe.
Let’s get to know each other, shall we? I’ll go first. My name is Howard, which just so happens to be the middle name of the president with the biggest middle. (I’m talkin’ ’bout Taft.)
What’s your name? Is it Dave? Did you know there haven’t been any presidents named David? Not one. Well, actually, it was Eisenhower’s first name until he changed it to his mid– I said just the top button! What are you doing, Dave!?
|Me and my First Lady/Editor-in-Chief, holding up Mount Vernon.|
Maybe we should get back to me. Though I plod through the annals of American history by night, by day I plod through a cubicle as a project manager. I live in Los Angeles with my incredible wife/co-host and our perfectly cheeky 7-year-old daughter and adorably maniacal 2-year-old, and I was raised amid the cornfields of Minooka, Illinois.
My young summers were spent swimming in our family pond or trekking through weeds with my trusty mutt, Spirit, and the rest of the year was devoted to watching as much TV as humanly possible. I’m of the generation that still remembers turning separate VHF and UHF knobs to watch reruns of The Benny Hill Show but now finds it hard to use the bathroom without an iPhone.
In fact, I probably know more about the history of The Golden Girls and classic Doctor Who than I do about actual history. So I decided to change that—starting with American history.
I chose to read a biography of every president in chronological order because I find it easier to identify with stories of individuals and their journeys, and because I hope it might make me a better leader and father. So far I’m really enjoying the Rashomon I’m getting of major events like the American Revolution, seeing it through the very different perspectives of the first seven presidents.
Ideally I’d like to read the best biography I can find of each president, but that’s pretty subjective. How do I determine which books to read? It’s a complex formula in my head that looks something like this:
(Amazon reviews + other bloggers’ reviews) / length
x availability as an eBook = BESTINESS.
I started this site to chronicle my often irreverent and sometimes personal insights along the way, and I’m excited to share the behind the scenes stories of the chief executives, separating the fact from the fiction and humanizing them in the process.
I was thrilled to have my blog mentioned in The Washington Post, among other folks on a presidential biography journey. Though I’m not the only one on this quest, I may be the slowest – hence the “plodding” through the presidents – and I’m the only one I know of crafting historical and personal essays illustrated by a growing collection of presidential action figures.
Soon after I got the first figure, a George Washington G.I. Joe, my wife woke up in the middle of the night to find me tucking his stripped down body into a little bed. Inside she might have feared for her future, but her words were inspiring. She said, “Aww…he sleeps in the same position as you.”
And that’s really what this site is about – it’s about realizing that deep down, George Washington sleeps in the same position as all of us. Even you, Dave. 
This site, like its author, is constantly evolving. In 2020 I started a well-received Plodding Through The Presidents podcast with Jess, and I’m sharing content every day on the Plodding Facebook page. The plodding through each presidential biography is still a goal, but I’m having much more fun digging into stories of the nation’s first 50 years and their relationship to today.
Feel free to explore and reach out on Facebook or Twitter to say hello or if you have any questions!
Thank you for plodding!
You might also like:
John Adams and Hamilton’s Superabundance of Secretions
Andrew Jackson Was A Real-Life Horror Movie Monster
10 Things George Washington Loved
8 Things John Adams Loved
10 Things Thomas Jefferson Loved
You are one engaging writer! I think you really do understand the STORY part of history. A lot of very fine (and sometimes readable) historians can make a Sousa band sound like a lullaby!Feather Schwartz Fosterwww.featherfoster.wordpress.com
Thank you so much! That means a great deal coming from you, as I truly admire your blog and the stunning collection of presidential books you've amassed! I especially enjoy your focus on the women beside these men. It's funny how much more endearing John Adams is to me simply because Abigail loved him.I'm a big fan of the story part of history. I think humans are hard-wired to respond to stories and relating them is the best way to share knowledge. And Sousa should never sound like a lullaby — my goal is to make his marches as exciting and wonderfully absurd as Monty Python did when they used his "Liberty March" as their theme song.
What a fabulous piece of writing. Can't wait to dive into the rest of the blog. I was directed here by way of Steve Floyd's blog and the WaPo article you both appeared in. I'm on the same journey (and was at a good pace until Team of Rivals, now I'm plodding). Glad I've found this gem!
Thank you so much. I'm a huge fan of Steve Floyd's blog and his biographical recommendations, and it was an honor to be mentioned in the WaPo article with folks like him. Congrats on making it through 16 presidents so far, and thanks for your kind words! Please feel free to share your thoughts on other posts, I welcome the discussion!
Howard,Just got through the posts about Washington, and the one about the Oxford English Dictionary. Immediately googled definition of Wind F**ker. Thanks a lot.
I always hoped my writing would inspire people to action.
My name is not Dave. In fact you could never guess my name. However, I enjoy reading your blogs and love plodding through your site. And I have a question for you. How can you trust stuff written in one book about our past Presidents. I cannot trust even material written about our current and the last President.Fullofhimself
Hi Dave, thanks for plodding through the site! That's a great question.First off, even though I'm only reading one full biography of each president (so far), I end up reading parts of other books as well as primary sources for the articles I write, so I get multiple perspectives. Sometimes I find that I can't fully trust an author, like in the case of my recent post "The Hypocritical Hagiographies of Harlow Giles Unger" where the author seems to be so biased in favor of his subjects that he exaggerates their accomplishments. A lot.I try to find authors who have good critical reviews and are respected by historians, and in the cases of controversial claims (like Jefferson's paternity of Sally Hemings's children) I try to look at the evidence and general consensus so I can be confident about what I'm writing.The truth is even diary entries are biased, and most authors choose specific narrative threads to focus on, so reading about history (like reading the news today) requires critical thinking. That makes some people want to give up and say "you can't believe anything!" but I strongly disagree. I defer to John Adams here, who repeated the old maxim that "facts are stubborn things" and added, "Whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
Comment from: rainmanmmxi (https://iamrainman.wordpress.com/) This is the first time I've visited your "about" page, although I've been following you on Facebook for quite some time. I just found out we've had a president Steve!! Well, technically two of them (at least–I'm in the middle of my personal plodding). As in, Stephen Grover Cleveland. I myself am a Jeff, and while there haven't been any president Jeffs that I know of, I can comfortably attach myself to the one Jefferson (two if you count Bill).Note from Admin: I accidentally hit “Delete” instead of “Publish” on this comment, so I’m pasting it from my email.—Howard