HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Douglas Brinkley

Award-Winning Historian and Best-Selling Author


  • Hurricane Katrina and Its Historical Impact
  • The Presidency of Ronald Reagan
  • New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina
  • President Jimmy Carter After the White House
  • An Evening with Douglas Brinkley
  • The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and Space
  • Highs and Lows of the American Presidency: Past, Present and Future
  • The Business Innovators: Henry Ford to Jeff Bezos



Dr. Douglas Brinkley has been hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “America’s new past master,” and the late Stephen E. Ambrose called him “the best of the new generation of American historians.” He is the author of a number of award-winning and best-selling books, including The Great Deluge, Tour of Duty, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, Parish Priest, and, he edited the number one New York Times best-seller The Reagan Diaries, the personal diaries kept by Ronald Reagan during his time in the White House. Award-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “Historians will treasure Douglas Brinkley’s superbly edited version of President Reagan’s diaries for generations to come. In one remarkable entry after another, the president’s compelling voice, strength of character and sunny personality comes vividly to life." His latest book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, was an instant New York Times best-seller and won a National Outdoor Book Award in the History-Biography category. The National Outdoor Book Award is the outdoor world's largest and most prestigious book award program.

Brinkley's Theodore Roosevelt portrayed in The Wilderness Warrior was a conservationist visionary -- aware of the unforeseeable pitfalls of hyper-industrialization, and fearful that speed-logging, over-grazing, reckless hunting, population growth, and all types of pollution would leave the planet in biological peril. In an age when industrialism and corporatism ran rampant, the famous Wall Street trust buster thrust after the "unintelligent butchers" of his day with a ferocity unheard of from an American President -- then or since. Never before have Roosevelt's aims resonated more strongly than in today's environmental crisis. As forces of globalization and industrialization run amok -- at a time when growing concerns over global warming, overpopulation, and sustainable land management dominate our headlines -- Roosevelt's stout resoluteness to protect our environment is a strong reminder of our national heritage, as well as an increasingly urgent call to arms.

In the New York Times best-seller The Great Deluge:Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Brinkley provides an eye-opening account of the natural and human disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. As a long time resident of New Orleans, he was a firsthand witness to the storm and its aftermath. Looking on from what he thought was a safe haven in a condominium on New Orleans’ East Bank, he watched as the Mississippi rushed in the opposite direction, northward, as the city braced against the fierceness of nature. He was among those that personally experienced the destruction of New Orleans as the city’s infrastructure crumbled under the pressure. As an accomplished writer and historian, Brinkley found an outlet and a cause in piecing together the story that developed that day and in the ensuing weeks as the city and the region attempted to rebound.

In the forthcoming book, Rightful Heritage (Harper), Brinkley turns to the unrecognized legacy of Franklin Roosevelt as the founder of the Civilian Conservation Corps and ambassador for the preservation of the American land. Rightful Heritage is an epic chronicle that is both an irresistible portrait of FDR’s unrivaled passion and drive, and an indispensable analysis that skillfully illuminates the tension between business and nature—exploiting our natural resources and conserving them. Within the narrative are brilliant capsule biographies of such environmental warriors as Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, and Rosalie Edge. Rightful Heritage is essential reading for everyone seeking to preserve our treasured landscapes as an American birthright.

Four of his biographies have been selected as New York Times “Notable Books of the Year”: Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years (1992), Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, with Townsend Hoopes (1992), The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House (1998), and Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress (2003). His five most recent publications have become New York Times best-sellers: The Reagan Diaries, The Great Deluge, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, Ronald Reagan, D-Day and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, and Parish Priest: Father McGivney and American Catholicism.

Brinkley is a Professor of History and Baker Institute Fellow at Rice University. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year at both the U.S. Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. While a professor at Hofstra University, Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course, in which he took students on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met seminal figures in politics and literature. Brinkley's 1994 book, The Magic Bus: An American Odyssey chronicled his first experience teaching this innovative on-the-road class which became the progenitor of C-SPAN's Yellow School Bus.

Before coming to Rice, he was the Clark professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University. Prior to that, he served as Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. He is contributing editor for Vanity Fair and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Century Club.

He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Anne and two children Benton and Johnny.


Praise for Douglas Brinkley:

"Douglas Brinkley is an outstanding speaker who engages with his audience in a personal way. He is articulate, humorous and extremely knowledgeable."
--Adrian Alexander, Dean of McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa

"Brinkley is a brilliant,captivating and high energy speaker. The audience loved him. His book, Wilderness Warrior, was perfect for our Wildlife Refuge Centennial event and Theodore Roosevelt as a topic has broad appeal to a variety of audiences. He was accommodating and a good sport with his fans and is easy to host."
--Poppy Benson, Public Programs Supervisor, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

"Doug is a natural teacher with a command of history that causes you to see relationships that you had never considered. Made me wish for a couple of semesters at Rice!"
--Merritt Belisle, Chairman of the Board, High End Systems, Lighting Worldwide

Praise for The Wilderness Warrior:

"A vast, inspiring, and enormously entertaining book...The Wilderness Warrior has Rooseveltian energy. It is large-hearted, full of the vitality of its subject, and a palpable love for the landscapes it describes." -- Jonathan Rosen, the New York Times Book Review (front cover)

"Although Roosevelt's presidency ended 100 years ago, Mr. Brinkley finds ways to make his presidential portrait a timely one...The Wilderness Warrior describes a vigorously hands-on president, eager to fight more than one battle at a time...Brinkley's fervent enthusiasm for his material eventually prevails... He conveys the great vigor with which Roosevelt approached his conservation mission." -- Janet Maslin, the New York Times

"It is a testament to the unparalleled hugeness of his life that a nearly thousand-page biography of Theodore Roosevelt is still capable of breaking new ground...Eschewing the familiar biographical notes (the Panama Canal rates barely a passing mention), Brinkley shows us how T.R.'s youthful obsession with birds, hunting and Darwinian science joined forces with his unique form of masculine patriotism to result in a very 'rare instance of constructive hyper-Americanism.'" -- Time

"Gifted and versatile historian Brinkley foregrounds Roosevelt's profound passion for nature in a biography as expansive and radiant as the glorious landscapes Roosevelt zealously preserved. As environmental concerns intensify, Roosevelt's battles to preserve forests, grasslands, mountains, and the habitats of birds, fish, and diverse animal species, so lucidly chronicled here, provide crucial guidance." -- Booklist (starred review)

"What a grand tale of the nexus of political intrigue and natural preservation...The Wilderness Warrior does justice to the magnitude of the man and his environmental legacy...Mr. Brinkley is at the top of his game...Brinkley's love of natural history coupled with a nuanced understanding of presidential power makes this a unique take on TR's years as president."
-- the Washington Times

"A compelling rendition of a grand American life."
-- the New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Brinkley gives us the most insightful account yet of Roosevelt's evolution from sickly, bird-nest-collecting schoolboy to the biggest, baddest conservationist of the 20th century...Readers will close this book with a better appreciation for Roosevelt's forward-thinking genius -- and, just as satisfying, the history of the American conservationism movement in its formative years."
-- Outside magazine

"A magnificent and magisterial biography...Between 1901 and 1909 Roosevelt set aside 234 million acres of Wild America for posterity, creating hundreds of federal bird reservations, national game preserves, forests, parks and monuments. Brinkley demonstrates these actions should secure Roosevelt's reputation as one of the greatest presidents in American history...Roosevelt deserves the appellation Brinkley bestows on him in this splendid biography."
-- the Baltimore Sun

"Brinkley turns a bright light on a facet of Roosevelt's nine-year presidency that was arguably his greatest contribution to the country...Brinkley's full, rounded warts-and-all portrait of Roosevelt is sure to interest history buffs and environmentalists."
-- Publisher's Weekly

"Magisterial and timely, given the manifold environmental crises facing the current administration...An appropriately vigorous and larger-than-life -- but also detailed and carefully documented -- biography of the visionary president who put so much land. . . . Brinkley makes an important contribution to our understanding of Theodore Roosevelt as conservationist and preservationist by providing both a personal and an intellectual genealogy."
-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"To understand America, you need to appreciate Teddy Roosevelt. Doug Brinkley brilliantly uses the lens of Roosevelt's love of nature to show why he is so influential, fascinating, and relevant to our own times. This wonderful book is as vibrant as he was. History at its finest."
-- Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein

"What an absolutely perfect match between subject and writer. Douglas Brinkley brings to this magnificent story of Theodore Roosevelt's crusade on behalf of America's national parks the same qualities that made TR so fascinating a figure -- an astonishing range of knowledge, a superb narrative skill, a wonderfully vivid writing style and an inexhaustible energy. This is a major contribution to our understanding not only of Roosevelt but of the historic movement to save our wilderness."
-- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

"No president has been a greater champion of our natural world -- especially its wildlife -- than Theodore Roosevelt. Now that extraordinary force of nature has his own champion in Douglas Brinkley's stirring account of the man who turned our attention to conservation and the many glories of our American landscape."
-- Ken Burns, co-author of The War

"Our greatest conservation president, Roosevelt lived much of his life in, around, and for nature -- a fact that biographers have tended to ignore until Brinkley stepped forth. This new portrait of TR is one of the best we have. It is a grand portrait of a man and his era, rich in detail and infectious in enthusiasm."
-- Donald Worster, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

"Douglas Brinkley has brought us an important, deeply researched, compellingly readable and inspiring story -- how Theodore Roosevelt's poignant childhood love of nature grew into a fierce Presidential commitment to preserve our national environment. No earlier historian and biographer has done such a splendid job of showing how much we all owe to T.R.'s activism as wilderness warrior. Exactly a century after his Presidency, there could not be a better time to revisit and celebrate T.R.'s unfinished environmental legacy."
-- Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage

Praise for Tour of Duty:

"Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty reminds me of PT-109. This book is a vivid chronicle of the horrors of war and a young man's extraordinary experience in coming to terms with it. The story of John Kerry's journey from brave Swift Boat Commander in Vietnam to leading anti-war activist is a must read. It captures the essence of a true profile in courage who changed America for the better, and who can do so again."
-- Ted Kennedy

"The experience of war does a great deal more than make men out of boys. All wars, be they just and necessary or not, are epic calamities and their devastation and inhumanity will cause moments of doubt in the mind of the most ardent soldier and trouble all but the meanest conscience. In Tour of Duty, an account of my friend John Kerry's experiences and great courage in Vietnam, and his role in our national debate over that lost cause, Doug Brinkley does a masterful job of showing how war, with its unique mix of sacrifice and malice, courage and trepidation, both burdens and strengthens the heart of the combatant, who learns in equal measure how cruel and how noble human beings can be."
-- John McCain

Praise for The Great Deluge:

"The Great Deluge, captures the human toll of Katrina as graphically as the most vivid newspaper and television accounts"
-- New York Times Book Review

"Far from being a screed against indifferent or ill-prepared or incompetent government officials, The Great Deluge is largely filled with the heroic and inspiring actions of first responders...Brinkley not only talks the talk in this regard, he walked the walk. After riding out the storm with a vertical evacuation at One River Place, he toured the devastated city and helped to aid in rescue efforts."
-- the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Praise for Rightful Heritage:
"Douglas Brinkley is America’s most distinguished student of our nation’s environmental history. Rightful Heritage is a landmark achievement. The fullest and most compelling study of FDR’s extraordinary role in perpetuating our natural treasures, it is a must read for anyone interested in the environment."
--Robert Dallek

"A marvelous book; one of Brinkley’s very best. FDR’s conservation achievements helped preserve the nation’s natural bounty and made it accessible to citizens as never before. By telling this grand story so well, Brinkley provokes readers to appreciate how the national government can perform wonders of its own."
--Sean Wilentz

"Following his definitive look at Teddy Roosevelt’s passion for wilderness conservation, Brinkley now brings us a colorful, exciting narrative of how his cousin FDR carried on the cause. Brinkley gives us a wonderful, timely new perspective on FDR; his wife, Eleanor; and the dedicated environmentalists around them."
--Walter Isaacson

"With this engaging book, Brinkley recovers one of FDR’s long-overlooked legacies: stewardship of America’s natural resources. This is a vivid history of an important subject. We are lucky that Brinkley has turned his attention to the Roosevelt we do not generally associate with the preservation of our environment."
--Jon Meacham

"Stunningly researched and compellingly written, Rightful Heritage tells the story of FDR’s love affair with the American wilderness. In our search for compassionate and clear-headed leaders to guide us through the environmental crisis, Brinkley’s vividly detailed account of Roosevelt’s pioneering preservationism serves as a much-needed beacon and bible."
--Megan Marshall

"Rightful Heritage is an irresistibly powerful and beautiful tale of America’s fraught love affair with its land, told by one of our most gifted historians. Brinkley follows FDR on an astonishing journey that, despite war, depression, and political infighting, somehow preserved what is most precious to us."
--Candice Millard