Presidents and Their Books: What They Read and What They Wrote



Some of us are born collectors and others seem to pick it up later in life after careful nurturing through their formative years. I’m the former, and while I hoped to pass this gene along to my sons, they never picked up the mantle. But as I watched my grandchildren Natalie and Spencer Flaxman grow, I knew I had willing participants as I guided them through puzzles and games featuring U.S. presidents. As they matured, that interest evolved, culminating in this exhibition of Presidents and Their Books: What They Read & What They Wrote. Collecting books is always about a connection to the past with an eye to the future, and nowhere has that connection been so clear to me as in assembling these books owned or inscribed by our nation’s leaders. Sharing this experience with my grandchildren amplified and deepened our excitement as we visited presidential homes and other historical sites. The books on display here are a part of our shared history—both as a country and as a family. I’m proud of Natalie and Spencer, who were willing to pick up the gauntlet to join the next generation of collectors.

Susan Jaffe Tane


When I was growing up, we would recite the names of presidents around the family dinner table, which sparked my interest in learning about them. In addition, I loved learning about our country’s history during history class. I had known that my grandmother collected books, and I enjoyed going through her library in her New York City apartment and viewing them. I also knew that she had previously completed exhibitions. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I was very curious to find out. So, when my grandmother first discussed the idea of this exhibition with my brother and me, I was very enthusiastic. I have found joy in working alongside my grandmother and getting to bond with her on something we both are passionate about. I’m eager to display this collection to my friends and family, and I’m very proud of the hard work my brother and grandmother and I all put into it. Seeing the steps come together reminds me of how quickly this project went by. It feels like just yesterday when my brother and I received our first book in the collection (My Life by Bill Clinton). I hope you enjoy the exhibition!

Natalie Flaxman

Starting when we were young, my Nana would always play president games with my sister and me. We tried to memorize the presidents in order using cards. I’ve always enjoyed learning about history, especially American history. I watched YouTube videos and was engaged at school. But more recently, I became a sports fanatic, and sports was all I watched. Around two years ago, my Nana brought my sister and me back to my old liking and suggested that we put together an exhibition about all the presidents and the books in their libraries. My memories came rushing back, and I was pleased about this opportunity. After many meetings and hard work, we put it all together. I am very grateful for working alongside many supportive people to help me make this the best project possible. I hope to keep the book collecting gene alive from my Nana, and I hope you enjoy this exhibition.

Spencer Flaxman