Past presidents and soon-to-be presidents have long written for Book Review – Herbert Hoover, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy. The first to do so, however, was Theodore Roosevelt on October 13, 1918. It was apparently quite a coup for book review, which was more than two decades old, persuading the former president to review “Jungle Peace”. A new volume by explorer and naturalist William Beebe about the jungles of Guyana.
To say that Roosevelt loved the book is an understatement. “Mr. Beebe’s volume is one of the rare books that represents a positive addition to the sum total of real literature,” he wrote. “It contains records of extraordinary scientific interest, in language that has all the charm of Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay. Huh. He tells about birds and animals and plants and insects. … everything he touches turns into a gold of truth that is correctly interpreted and clearly put forward – as witness to his extraordinary account of the sleeping parlor of some gorgeous tropical butterflies. ”
The “Jungle Peace” review appeared in Book Review’s annual Fall Preview issue. According to an editor’s note, paper shortages and “since the war, the great change of publishers’ output” forced book reviews to sharply cut back on the number of featured titles – the customary to 300 or 500. instead of only 100. Such a premium in the issue that even the former president was apparently given a word count; His review ended on the front page instead of continuing inside, as might be expected.
Roosevelt wrote somewhat hastily, “If I had the space, I would like to give a summary of the entire book.” “Anyway I only recommend everyone who loves good books, very good books, get this book by Mr Beebe at once.”
Tina Jordan is the deputy editor of Book Review and co-author of “The New York Times Book Review: 125 Years of Literary History,” which will be published November 2.