In Swanson’s book, we see Roosevelt’s face bloodied, blinded in one eye and overheated in pursuit of the strenuous life. It’s the sort of heartening journey that will make one want to shout 'Go, Teddy! Go!' each time he surmounts another hurdle ... It’s less Roosevelt’s athletic prowess—he was often middling—and more his unrelenting grit that’s so inspiring. Here we find a president who is strong not because he brags about his might but because he publicly embraces his vulnerabilities ... There were moments when I could have done with fewer interjections by the author. Swanson’s conversational tone makes clear that he doesn’t intend for this to be a typical Roosevelt read. This is an engaging book you can hold with one hand while doing light bicep curls with the other ... At times, Swanson falls prey to the trap of mixing Roosevelt myths with facts ... Swanson succeeds in telling stories that will be entertaining for readers without any previous knowledge of Roosevelt, as well as those who don’t closely follow sports, like me. What’s most invigorating about Swanson’s book is watching T.R.’s struggle. Everyone wants to cheer for the bespectacled underdog with the high-pitched voice and the toothy grin, even if it’s the same man who ran a successful two-term administration and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Showing how Roosevelt’s presidency intersected with societal changes that vaulted sports to the forefront of American life, Swanson details numerous events ... Swanson’s affectionate, free-flowing narrative is at its liveliest when he focuses on memorable anecdotes ... While it works best as a portrait of Roosevelt and his athletic peccadilloes, The Strenuous Life is a lighthearted, enlightening look at how Americans became crazy about the sporting life, as seen through the eyes of their most sporting president.
The author is Ryan Swanson, a history professor at the University of New Mexico, one of those enterprising academics who have perfected slicing American history into ever finer layers and then subjecting the results to ever more detailed scrutiny of less and less ... Much of Mr. Swanson’s recounting of these developments is tedious padding, but Roosevelt is such a compelling figure that the book snaps awake when he’s in action.