3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency: George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis

His Excellency

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 275

Read: Jan. 24-30, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Paperbackswap

Blurb: To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric rose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. And here is the general who lost more battles than he won, and the reluctant president to tried to float above the partisan feuding to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.

Review: With this book I embark on my presidential reading challenge!

I chose this book to start with because it appeared to be a short, all-encompassing biography. I figured it would give me a good decent background before I really got started into the meat of George Washington’s life. And for the most part, this book definitely fulfilled that. But it definitely left me wanting more. There were a lot of places that I really wanted more information on, but I realize that it’s not feasible to put every single thing about his entire life into one small volume such as this.

The writing itself in this book was extremely good. There were some dry parts, but those usually occurred when there was discussion of battle details and strategy – those topics just don’t interest me all that much. Overall I found this one easy to read and it kept my interest throughout.

The overall picture that Mr. Ellis paints of George Washington is interesting to me. What I personally came away from it was that he seemed to be a man who wanted everything he did. He claimed to not want to do this or that, namely the presidency, yet he kept coming back. He could have stepped away had he truly wanted to. Yet he was needed. And I think it was that need that kept driving him. His earlier years, he came across as extremely arrogant and not very likable to be honest. But it was his later years that you could definitely see him mature and realize that what he was living was something a lot bigger than anyone at the time could even imagine. His eye never seemed to be on the present, it always seemed to be on the future – I suppose that’s why he edited a lot of his earlier writings…. he wasn’t really writing for his immediate audience; he was writing for future audiences.

Overall, I’m very pleased that this is where I started my presidential reading challenge at. I found it to be a wonderful overview of Washington. It is an easy read, one that will most certainly appeal to casual readers. It also made me realize that my knowledge of the history of the American Revolution is severely lacking (!).

I do believe that going forward from here, when I begin a new president, I will start with something similar to this – a brief, all-encompassing volume that will give me a good starting place. This will be especially helpful with those presidents that I am truly unfamiliar with.


Presidential Reading Challenge

Thinking Ahead to My Presidential Reading Challenge

Ok, so back on Tuesday I had mentioned in one of my bookish resolutions/goals that I wanted to start on a presidential reading challenge of some kind. Well here I am today starting the planning process of this challenge. 😀

If you’re curious … this is not some new and exciting idea. I’m not even entirely sure where I first heard about this idea … I’m sure it was some blog post I ran across at some point in time. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who to ultimately credit for this. Either way, there’s a lot of lists out there if you google “presidential reading challenge” It will bring up numerous blog posts about this. The Washington Post even did a profile on some of the various people in the blogosphere who are doing this challenge.

Regardless of where I first heard about this idea ….. there’s one blog in particular that has truly caught my eye. This dude is my true inspiration for this challenge.. He has undertaken the challenge to read more than one book on each president (because how can you really be all-encompassing by just choosing one book per president?) And part of me wants to read every single book he mentions …. the other part of me realizes that this probably won’t be a very realistic goal for me. But one can hope, right? He’s been at this for a little over 5 years and is just now starting out on Richard Nixon.

So. I am embarking on my own Presidential Reading Challenge. The verdict is still out on how many books I will read per president. But it will likely be more than 1 … considering I already have 2 George Washington books and I’m hovering my mouse over that “place order” button on my powells.com cart holding 4 more Washington books (the James Thomas Flexner 4 volume set) Let’s be honest, it would be hard to choose just one book on the big ones – Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, and the like …. and yet there’s that pretty decent stretch where I’m sure one book would suffice (presidents 8-15 … I’m looking at you guys).

I’m going to be reading in order, because my OCD wouldn’t let me do this any other way. And there’s no time line to this. This isn’t something I can finish in a year. This will span multiple years. I’m still unsure how things will go down. I may just totally run out of steam and give up before I ever really get started. But this is something that I’ve been toying with in my head for about the past year. Now is the time to put it in motion!!

I’m still trying to figure out if this is something I want to incorporate here or start a separate blog for. Non-fiction/presidential biographies are not my normal reading, so I’m not sure the audience that this blog has would really be interested in seeing my progress with this challenge. On the other hand, the idea of keeping a separate blog is a little daunting – it’s hard enough to keep this one up sometimes.

So there’s still a lot of kinks to work out in my grand plan (ha!) but in the mean time I’m going to have lots of fun planning out what I’ll read (I love lists!) as well as obtaining the first few I for sure decide on.

P.S. – I totally just purchased the above mentioned 4 books 😀