I gave up doing New Year’s Resolutions a loooooong time ago because after thirty some odd years of living I finally knew that I would never do them. Ya girl knows herself.
If you are one of those people who make it to December 31st and have lost the pounds, or run that 10K, or finished those Duolingo lessons and know how to speak French, good for you honey, I really mean it! I am not one of God’s chosen in this regard.
I guess I fell into a resolution this year but does it count if I know it’s going to actually take more than a year? Anyhoo, I was listening to one of my favorite reading podcasts and the guest was talking about how her New Year challenge was to do the President’s challenge- read a biography on every US president in order, starting with George. I thought that was so interesting because if I’ve heard “ohhhh what our forefathers would think of this country today,” I’ve heard it a million times. Every time I’ve heard it, I have always thought, “well, what what would they think?”
So I decided I would do that for the new year (along with my Goodreads challenge of 65 books, which may or may not get changed depending on if this year goes to hell in a hand basket just like the last two). I did some research (i.e. a quick Google search) and found this Washington Post article with what looks like a great list and decided to let it be my starting point.
My first book was His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis. I finished it in January.
First of all, what if I tell you that one of the chapters is called “Destiny’s Child?” That is both true and should be a big reason why you should read it. Second and more serious, this book was incredibly informative without being too pretentious or academic that I didn’t want to stop reading it. I got that Ellis really got to know George and not just that his teeth were bad or that he cut down a cherry tree (fyi, he didn’t).
Interesting things I learned about George:
- His hips didn’t lie- he was thicker in the hips but told his tailor he was of average size so his suits never fit correctly.
- He was very concerned with what people of the future would think of him. Martha even destroyed their letters to and from each other after he died, which I assume means they were spicy.
- He believed in a bigger federal/central government and it stemmed from seeing his men starving with tattered clothing during the Revolutionary War with no one to help them.
- He was very reluctant to become president, even more to take a 2nd term. He just wanted to retire. Same, George, same.
- He became a gentry Virginian gentlemen, but refused to go broke as those around him. He would look at every penny going in and out of Mt. Vernon.
As I don’t have Bill & Ted’ s phone booth, I can’t say for sure what George would think of our country today. He might be more concerned with our phones, cars and planes first before he even got to the sate of our country. I think he definitely would tell us to fight to keep the country together. He was big on the “United” part in this big experiment (sometimes at the determinant of its people).
I do believe I know George better by reading this book and through him, our country.
Ellis brought him down to earth and showed him as the human that he was, which is what George wanted as well (when many wanted him to be closer to a dictator or king).
I give “His Excellency” 4.75 out of 5 stars…
or 4.75 out of 5 of George’s teeth….sorry I had to.
I didn’t give it a full 5 because there were words I had to look up and sentences I had to reread because it’s been a minute since I took a history or political science class. Yes that is *my* ignorance but this is also *my* rating system.
My next book on my Presidential challenge will most likely be “John Adams” by David McCullough. I will read it in February.
Also, if you love history and want to make yourself feel young, I highly recommend this history timeline game here.
My name is Laura. I am a librarian and will be reviewing books on The Alabama Take. You can follow me at bamareads on Instagram, where I just started, but I also plan on talking about books. I just like talking about books 🤷🏻♀️. It’s nice to be here 🙂