In the international arena, the first American President to swing a big stick, nearly a century ago, was Theodore Roosevelt. In 700-plus fact-packed pages about the 26th President's White House years, Morris (who made himself a piñata of controversy by injecting a fictional character into Dutch, his 1999 Ronald Reagan biography) drowns in minutiae, right down to the exact times trains arrived.
Morris plunges into both the signature projects (building the Panama Canal, demolishing corporate trusts) and the moments when TR spoke softly: In 1902 he bluffed Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm out of a naval move that could have caused a world war. TR's bustling greatness stands out at such times, but Rex is ultimately too detailed for its own good. (Random House, $35)