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Chapter 5 - His Excellency: George Washington


February at the beach is always a great time. We have our winter people (northerners, midwesterners, and way-northerners) in town and Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day which usually means long weekends for visitors. Also I am getting ready for the Savannah Book Festival in mid-February which I always love.

As you know my reading life is varied, I read history, fiction, memoirs, biography, classics and plan to incorporate some additional spirituality into my reading this year. Some of my favorite biographies, though, are about the presidents. They were a collection of interesting and very human men. So while I still haven't tackled Robert A. Caro's four (soon to be five) volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, here are some presidential books which I have enjoyed.

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis - If you think we are living in troubled times, a glimpse into the past will remind you that it was ever so. Washington who, as President, dismissed the title of "His Highness Mr. President" that many, including John Adams, wished to bestow upon him has become the American model for how the presidents should be. As a general, Washington had worked with many in the Continental Congress who ended up in his cabinet. It was a cabinet of partisan bickering and dysfunction at a time this new nation was being born. This book captures the era well.

John Adams by David McCullough - This book is huge at over 700 pages but it is packed with great information about Adams. It details his life from early days in the defense of British soldiers during the Boston Massacre to his calls for American independence to his ongoing feud in later years with Thomas Jefferson. Underlying all was his love for his wife Abigail and his absolute belief in America. This is a must for any history fan.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin - How do you take a group of political rivals and develop them into a team that works? Lincoln was a genius in bringing his opponents together to create the most unusual cabinet in history, and ultimately used their talents to preserve the Union.

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes - Coolidge was a peacetime president serving from 1923 to 1929. He became president upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding and decide not to run for re-election in 1928. During his time in office, he restored dignity to the White House which was riddled with scandals during Harding's tenure. Shlaes' book is a terrific summation of the progress made during Coolidge's time.

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963 by Robert Dallek - Today Kennedy would be considered a moderate. In his time he was a progressive, young war hero who was going to lead his generation to a greatness never experienced before. As we know, John F. Kennedy, although certainly flawed, was a president who left a enduring mark on America and his generation.

Do you have any favorite books of the presidents? Let me know!

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