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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brookhiser knows how to give you a most valuable perspective
I read this after reading Brookhiser's book on Alexander Hamilton, which I also enjoyed immensely. I do not find many books that I am uncritical about, but this is one of them. First, it must be understood, in light of other reviews, that Brookhiser disclaims up front that this is NOT a biography on George Washington. It does not go into detail about any portion of his...
Published on December 7, 1999 by Tony Quain

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't really shed any new light on Washington.
It is hard to tell what the object of this book really is. Is it to give a good introduction to the layman about George Washington and why he was so indispensable to the success of the young republic? Or is it to add something new and valuable to the history of George Washington?
If the objective was the former, I believe it is a good introduction to the man...
Published on June 2, 1998 by Rafael R. Costas Jr.


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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brookhiser knows how to give you a most valuable perspective, December 7, 1999
I read this after reading Brookhiser's book on Alexander Hamilton, which I also enjoyed immensely. I do not find many books that I am uncritical about, but this is one of them. First, it must be understood, in light of other reviews, that Brookhiser disclaims up front that this is NOT a biography on George Washington. It does not go into detail about any portion of his life. Rather, it is a terrific examination of Washington's life contribution, and our historical understanding of it, from a particular perspective. As with Alexander Hamilton, Brookhiser isolates this perspective with incredible acumen, and then presents it to the reader with great eloquence and sparkling prose. While the first and second parts of the work are at times seemingly rambled and undirected, the patient reader will be rewarded in the end when this skillful author pulls all his points together and presents a wonderful close that fills you with a profound admiration, both for our own fathers and for the father of our country.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting biography, a valuable perspective, August 21, 2004
This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
"Founding Father" is not a long biography (199 pages), but it is an interesting piece of writing. It is split into 3 areas - about one-half of the book is straight biography, about one-third is an analysis of the character of our first president and the balance is an analysis of what it means to be a founding father, how Washington measures up to that ideal and what kind of "father" he was.

The biography section is great - straightforward and written in an engaging and lively style. The character portion bogs down quite a bit and the founding father section is interesting (it asserts that he was the kind of father who was most concerned with preparing his children for life outside of his home - life on their own. He encourage other people to step into leadership roles to fill the vacuum that would be there when he walked away from the national spotlight.)

One quote, above all, highlights the best parts of Washington. It comes from Napoleon, who comments in a moment of self-pity after Waterloo, "They wanted me to be another Washington." Think of it - Washington was handed the power to be a dictator and he turned it down. In fact, this book mentions that in all of Washington's letters, he only gets truly angry at one man, and immediately writes a rough letter to a colleague who suggests that Washington make himself king when the Articles of Confederation government begins to founder.

Brookhiser makes an interesting observation about Washington's impact on American politics by pointing out the length of time he was nationally prominent in comparison with other American leaders. For example, FDR was president for 12 years, Reagan was only politically important for the 8 years of his presidency, Eisenhower was important for the 8 years of his presidency plus his time as a general in WWII (12 years total). Lincoln - 7 years if you count from the time of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. Washington, in comparison was a national figure for 24 years - 17 of them as the leader of the country (you've got to count him as de facto leader of the country while he was leading the Continental Army since everybody knew that if he failed the whole Revolution would fail).

Brookhiser focuses on Washington and slavery in the character portion of the biography and, while Washington does not live up to modern standards on this issue, he was remarkably progressive for his time. He refused to sell any of his slaves since that would tear apart families. He is the only American president who freed his slaves upon his death. Washington seems to have dealt with the contadictions of "All men are created equal..." and slavery by mostly ignoring it.

So, to sum up, there are 3 sections to the book and I found the middle section to be a bit tedious.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brookhiser Hits a New Level, May 13, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
Brookhiser has done two things here. First, he has contributed to our understanding of our first president, who for so many has become just a face on a quarter, or a hairdo on a one dollar bill. George Washington was so big, that his legacy can handle many more books. This book serves as an incisive thematic essay, grounded in the perspective of fathering, and fathering a whole country. The fact that Washington never fathered any of his own children makes this more interesting.
Second, we have here a new, more serious Brookhiser, shown by his subsequent biography of Alexander Hamilton. Brookhiser cut his teeth writing for National Review, and wrote some incredibly perceptive essays on the Republican primary contestants in 1980. The good news is that he has deepened as a writer, and now shows that he can also research back in time.
This book reads fast, but sinks deep. Buy it, read it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best if you already know a bit about the subject., May 23, 1999
By A Customer
I don't profess to be an expert on George Washington, but I have read some (Flexner, Angel in a Whirlwind) and, though I thoroughly enjoyed this rather thin book, would not recommend it to someone who didn't already have some familiarity with GW. The book includes a number of thought provoking commentaries, but I think assumes that the reader is fairly well-versed in the basic life and times of its subject. In reading this book (and other biographies), you can't help but admire the man and marvel at our good fortune in having men of his character when we needed them most. (You also can't help but cringe (or weep) when comparing him to the latest gentleman to hold the office.)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Biography, February 8, 2003
By 
Dennis (Raleigh, NC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
This is more a collection of essays following a thesis that Brookhiser lays out and follows. I liked the retelling of things I already knew, and really enjoyed the themes and bits that I didn't know already. Washington is in sore need of rediscovery and this book meets those challenges by keeping the chosen topics to the point and brief enough to finish.
I would read this after reading a biography of Washington, as I can imagine a person with no knowledge of him may find the necessary jumping of time to follow the themes confusing.
It's one of the top 3 books on Washington in it's readability.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very fine character study of our first President, August 22, 2004
This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
Richard Brookhiser specializes in concise character studies of our founding fathers. He did a fine job with Alexander Hamilton which followed this very nice biography of George Washington. The book justly identifies George Washington as the central Founding Father and goes on to explain how his character was essential to holding the revolution together and the enduring example he set as our first President.

The subtitle of the book is "rediscovering Washington". I like this approach a great deal because Washington is one of those names that everyone has an image of and thinks they know. However, when you probe that surface picture you begin to realize how little real knowledge and understanding is there. This book hits the important points of essential nature of Washington to our founding, his life, his character, and how he relates to our country today.

The book is not exhaustive and there is much about Washington to search out after you have read this book. However, it is short enough for everyone to enjoy and yet offers enough depth of insight to satisfy those with prior knowledge of Washington.

Fine job!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Founding Father, June 26, 2002
This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
It is unfortunate that Washington has been reduced to an unsmiling portrait on a one dollar bill, the story that he had wooden teeth, and a fable about him fessing up to chopping down a cherry tree. Here was THE founding father of our country. In an era of great patriots: Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Henry, they chose him to be their leader. It is not unreasonable to state that if it were not for Washington there would be no United States today. Brookhiser successfully examines Washington the icon and gives us insight into Washington the man. Washington's accomplishments are staggering to consider. He had the sagacity to defeat the most powerful military force in his time AND launched a new nation that would endure throughout the ages. This book should be read by every American. In a sense he is a father to us all. I wish the book was larger in scope.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick, concise read., August 18, 2004
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This review is from: Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Paperback)
Richard Brookhiser does an admirable, if Spartan job, of keeping the memory of our Founding Father alive.

I bought this book because it occured to me that with all the titles available these days on Jefferson and Franklin, I hadn't seen much proffered on Washington. I suspected, and still do, that the reason is that liberal academians prefer to write about those Founders more dear to their hearts.

Brookhiser spends very little time on the intimate details of Washington's life. Martha, his wife, is barely mentioned. This book dwells on the highlights of Washington's careers in service to this country. It makes for a good primer to more in depth biography that I plan to pursue down the road. It could serve that purpose for you too.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First in war, first in peace and hopefully first in a series, June 1, 2000
By 
John B. Maggiore (Buffalo, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was so enraptured with Richard Brookhiser's brief biography, "Alexander Hamilton, American," that upon finishing I immediately launched into "Founding Father." "Founding Father" is actually the earlier of the two books, and is somewhat less well developed, but is very enjoyable nonetheless. If we are lucky, it will turn out to be the first in a series of brief biographies Mr. Brookhiser writes about the founders.
Brookhiser describes "Founding Father" as a "moral biography." The book is more an extended essay on Washington's character than a chronicle of his life. Brookhiser's book on Hamilton manages to serve both purposes for that founder in roughly the same brief space, and for that reason is more satisfying. But the examination of Washington's character is satisfying in another way - he comes off as a very worthy father for our country.
Fatherhood is very much the theme of this book. Parallel themes of Washington's career and character converge when Brookhiser reflects on the meaning of the term "father of his country." He concludes that Washington was the type of father who knew when his progeny was ready to move on without his parenting. For Brookhiser, Washington's greatest contribution was his knowing when to quit. He did not quit in defeat, but exactly at the point when he could have become something like a king (both when he stepped down as Commander in Chief after the war and after he declined to run for a third term). Brookhiser makes the point compellingly - Washington's leadership was to give the work back to the people and to cast dynastic succession out of the American tradition (the other George W should pay attention!)
Since the book is short, it isn't a large investment of time to read. It works as a nice, refreshing reminder about a genuine hero from history. If it were much longer, it would have needed some other purpose to work. As it is it works well as a study in character and leadership. I eagerly await Mr. Brookhiser's next installment.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GW For Dummies, December 13, 1999
By A Customer
My review title is not meant to be perjorative, but to give you a sense of what this book is and is not. It will give you the highlights of Washington's accomplishments and comments about his personality and character. It is certainly NOT a full length bio., which is fine - there are plenty out there. Hopefully, more Americans will read this book so they don't make the ignorant comment made by a ninth grader (quoted in the book) about how unimportant Washington's presidency was. This is a fresh, uncontroversial look at our first president and makes interesting insights into what made GW the greatest of Americans...
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Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser (Paperback - February 22, 1997)
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