6 Presidents Who Wrote Books Before Being Elected

Businessman Penned Numerous Bestsellers Before Going to the White House

Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, a realty-television star and wealthy real-estate developer who claims to be worth as much as $10 billion. He is also an author of more than a dozen books about business, including the 1987 book The Art of the Deal and the 2004 book The Way to the Top.

Trump was not the first president to write a book before entering the White House. He was also not the only candidate in the 2016 election to have written a book. Former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published two autobiographies as she laid the groundwork for a run for president in 2016. The latter work was titled Hard Choices and attempted to deflect criticism from several of the controversies she endured during her work in President Barack Obama's administration.

Clinton's book was notable in that it was portrayed as a thinly veiled opened statement to a presidential campaign that was certain to come under attack by her frequent opponents, those on the far right on the Republican Party. Clinton devotes an entire chapter of the book to a full-court press in defense of her handling of the terrorist attack on a U.S. Consulate in the north African city of Benghazi on Sept. 11 and 12, 2012.

Here's a look at six presidents who were published authors before they were elected to the White House.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Iowa in July 2015. Scott Olson/Getty Images News

Trump has written at least 15 books about business and golf. The most widely read and successful of his books is The Art of the Deal, published in 1987 by Random House. Trump receives annual royalties valued between $15,001 and $50,000 from sales of the book, according to federal records. He also receives $50,000 and $100,000 in income a year from sales of Time to Get Tough, published in 2011 by Regnery Publishing.

Trump's other books include:

  • Trump: Surviving at the Top, published in 1990 by Random House
  • The Art of the Comeback, published in 1997 by Random House
  • The America We Deserve, published in 2000 by Renaissance Books
  • How to Get Rich, published in 2004 by Random House
  • Think Like a Billionaire, published in 2004 by Random House
  • The Way to the Top, published in 2004 by Bill Adler Books
  • The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received, published in 2005 by Thomas Nelson Inc. 
  • The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received, published in 2005 by Random House
  • Think Big and Kick Ass, published in 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers
  • Trump 101: The Way to Success, published in 2007 by John Wiley & Sons
  • Why We Want You to Be Rich, published in 2008 by Plata Publishing
  • Never Give Up, published in 2008 by John Wiley & Sons
  • Think Like a Champion, published in 2009 by Vanguard Press

  More »

02
of 06

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Barack Obama wrote Dreams from My Father about his childhood. Getty Images News

Barack Obama published Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance in 1995 after his graduation form law school and at the beginning of what would quickly become a high-profile political career.

The memoir has been republished and is considered one of the most elegant autobiographies by a political in modern history. Obama was first elected president in 2008 and won a second term in 2012.

03
of 06

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, photo Getty Images
Jimmy Carter authored a book title Why Not the Best? to make himself known among voters. Getty Images

Jimmy Carter's autobiography Why Not the Best? was published in 1975. The book was considered a book-length advertisement for his successful run for president in the 1976 election. 

The Jimmy Carter Library & Museum described the book as a "means of letting voters know who he was and his sense of values." The title came from a question posed to Carter following his graduation from the Naval Academy.

"Did you do your best?"

Carter initially answered "Yes, sir" but later amended his answer to, "No, sir, I didn't always do my best."

Carter reminisced that he was never able to answer the follow-up question to his answer.

"Why not?"

04
of 06

John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy. United States Congress

John F. Kennedy wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage in 1954, while he was a U.S. senate but on leave of absence from Congress to recover from back surgery. In the book, Kennedy writes about eight Senators whom he describes as showing "great courage under enormous pressure from their parties and their constituents," in the words of Kennedy's presidential library and museum.

Kennedy was elected in the 1960 election, and his book is still considered one of the seminal works on political leadership in the United States.

05
of 06

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt published The Rough Riders before being elected president. Hulton Archive

Theodore Roosevelt published The Rough Riders, a first-person account of his U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment during the Spanish-American War, in 1899. Roosevelt became president after the assassination of President McKinley 1901 and was elected in 1904.

 

06
of 06

George Washington

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President George Washington authored a book titled Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation before being elected president. Hulton Archive

George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation wasn't actually published in book form until 1888, decades after his presidency concluded. But the nation's first president handwrote the 110 rules, likely copying them for handwriting practice from a list of maxims compiled by French Jesuits centuries earlier, before the age of 16, according to his presidential estate.

Washington was elected president in 1789. His Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation remains in circulation.