I classify this audiobook as both history and historical fiction. I also classify it as both humor and horror. And it’s one of the best reads I’ve had so far this year.
According to the introduction, the author Daniel O’Brien was told by a college professor that no one in his class would ever be president. Challenge accepted. O’Brien learned all that was knowable about presidents in the attempt to learn the common threads that made them into the political machines he knew them to be. He came away from his studies with the knowledge that he would never be president, and the common thread was being a psychopath, because “you have to be crazy to want this job.”
With that in mind, the average American will want to be better than a psychopath, and that means knowing how to beat them if you ever come across them. This book is the instruction manual on just how to do that. O’Brien works through every single president from George Washington to Ronald Reagan (curiously omitting Jimmy Carter), giving you the tell of the tape on these men. You’ll learn who they were, what they’re known for, what their strengths are (because they’ll use those against you in a cage match fight), and most importantly, what their weaknesses are so you can defeat them properly in single combat. For example, this is quite literally how the book begins after the introduction:
“There are two kinds of people in this world: people who don’t actively enjoy being shot at, and George Washington. Most of you are probably in that first group, and that’s why no one will ever write a book about how to fight you.”
Yes, you read that correctly. George Washington enjoys being a target. He welcomes you to the fight. Come at him, bro.
For those of you who are on the prudish side, and you know who you are, this book is quite vulgar in its manly attempts to prepare you to take on the presidential badasses. The reader will also likely notice quickly that the audience is assumed to be men. If you think about it, this is logical because only men would feel the need to cage match these sorts of fights, and we all know women will simply use brains and the traditional tools at their disposal: poison, daggers, and poison daggers. So if the stereotypes in play offend, just remember, stereotypes come from somewhere, and females are scientifically proven to be the deadliest of the species across the board in the whole of nature. Simply put, women don’t need this book because they have nothing to prove to the presidents. The author also drops in plenty of pop culture references to make things relatable for modern audiences, and a surprising amount of actual historical trivia. For those of you fearing the Trump administration, the chapter on Martin Van Buren may offer some insight as I’m fairly convinced at this point that Trump is Van Buren reincarnated.
As a bonus chapter, because you aren’t going to be demoralized enough in your ability to fight Theodore Roosevelt, the book’s grand finale is how to fight zombie Theodore Roosevelt. As one notable politician once said, “Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight.” Exactly how does Roosevelt become a zombie? And, more importantly, how do you kill him when he’s already dead, knowing that he’ll overcome all of the standard zombie killing rules just as he did everything he faced in life? No spoilers. You’ll have to find out the old fashioned way.
One more bonus: if you get the audio version as I did, narrator Richard McGonagle will kick the macho factor up a notch. Seriously, the only way this book could be cooler is to sound cooler. Best reason ever to buy an audiobook.
EDIT: I am informed that Carter is not included in this book because he’s still living at the time of publications, which is also why it stops at Reagan. See this article for more details. Makes complete and total sense when you actually stop to think about it… which I didn’t because I was laughing too hard.