7 Presidents Who Wrote Books Before They Were Elected

A woman looks at a book in front of a display showing books by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

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

Trump was not the first president to write a book before entering the White House. Here's a look at seven presidents who were published authors before they were elected to the White House.

of 07

Joe Biden

Joe Biden sitting in a chair in front of a blue background, with a stack of books next to him

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Joe Biden published two books prior to his victory in the 2020 presidential election. In 2007, he published Promises to Keep, a memoir of his early life, his personal losses, and his career in the Senate.

Ten years later, in 2017, Biden publised his second book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. The memoir focused on a single year, beginning in late 2014, during which Biden worked on a number of demanding political projects, all while his son, Beau, was suffering from a malignant brain tumor with an uncertain prognosis.

of 07

Donald Trump

Donald Trump signs books at an event

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Donald 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
  • Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster
of 07

Barack Obama

Barack Obama greets a man at a book signing for "The Audacity of Hope"

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Barack Obama published Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance in 1995 after his graduation from 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 politician in modern history. Obama was first elected president in 2008 and won a second term in 2012.

In 2020, Obama published the first of a planned two-part memoir. Titled A Promised Land, the book describes his political journey from his grassroots beginnings to the Senate and, eventually, to the White House. It includes personal anecdotes and reflections on several high-profile moments in his presidency, mixed with observations of the political world up to today.

of 07

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter greets guests at a book-signing event

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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?"

of 07

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy speaking at an event

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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.

of 07

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt reading documents at his desk

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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.

of 07

George Washington

Portrait of George Washington
Public Domain

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. 

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Murse, Tom. "7 Presidents Who Wrote Books Before They Were Elected." ThoughtCo, Dec. 16, 2020, thoughtco.com/presidents-who-wrote-books-3368122. Murse, Tom. (2020, December 16). 7 Presidents Who Wrote Books Before They Were Elected. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/presidents-who-wrote-books-3368122 Murse, Tom. "7 Presidents Who Wrote Books Before They Were Elected." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/presidents-who-wrote-books-3368122 (accessed June 7, 2023).