“The trial of the century” applies to approximately twenty different trials of the 20th century, but in Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense, we get a brand new trial of the century: one starring a former U.S. president.

Dan Abrams and David Fisher return after the success that was Lincoln’s Last Trial with Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy. Teddy Roosevelt was a big deal. His legacy lives on in American society, but this is a lesser known facet of his life at the center of this book. If you like politics and courtroom drama and legalese about the media, you’re going to devour this book. Even if you just like history, you’ll still learn quite a bit from this deep dive into one moment in history.

In May 1915, Roosevelt, retired from public office, headed up to Syracuse, New York to defend his name against charges of libel. Roosevelt himself takes the stand, defends calling a certain Republican political leader “corrupt” and exposes some deep political chasms and concerns about political mechanization in D.C. Also, a lot of other characters, like a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, long before becoming president, make appearances as witnesses and side characters, which makes it a politico’s dream.

This book is deeply rooted in historical accuracy. Sure, it was a hundred years ago, but it was a trial that involved a former president, so it was well recorded. It’s based highly on court transcripts, news reporting, and first-hand accounts. While the prose makes this feel like you’re reading a hot-off-the-presses novel, you’re actually learning and hearing the words right out of Roosevelt’s mouth.

I like history, but often find history books a little…dull. Abrams and Fisher do great work with telling a compelling historical story that feels present, engaging, and doesn’t make you want to take a nap. The basis of this book is a little less interesting than the murder trial Lincoln was a lawyer in, but it’s an interesting look at a president I realize I didn’t know much about. I highly recommend it if you want to read more interesting history books.

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member