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Washington: A Life (Thorndike Nonfiction) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Ron Chernow
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Oct 2010 Thorndike Nonfiction

The celebrated Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of America. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life, he carries the reader through Washington's troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian Wars, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention and his magnificent performance as America's first president.

Despite the reverence his name inspires Washington remains a waxwork to many readers, worthy but dull, a laconic man of remarkable self-control. But in this groundbreaking work Chernow revises forever the uninspiring stereotype. He portrays Washington as a strapping, celebrated horseman, elegant dancer and tireless hunter, who guarded his emotional life with intriguing ferocity. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, he orchestrated their actions to help realise his vision for the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency.

Ron Chernow takes us on a page-turning journey through all the formative events of America's founding. This is a magisterial work from one of America's foremost writers and historians.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 1473 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg Una edition (15 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410431177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410431172
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 5.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,021,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Truly magnificent... [a] well-researched, well-written and absolutely definitive biography" -Andrew Roberts, "The Wall Street Journal" "Superb... the best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written. [Chernow's] understanding of human nature is extraordinary and that is what makes his biography so powerful." -Gordon S. Wood, "The New York Review of Books" "Chernow displays a breadth of knowledge about Washington that is nothing short of phenomenal... never before has Washington been rendered so tangibly in such a smart, tenaciously researched volume as Chernow's opus... a riveting read..." -Douglas Brinkley, "The Los Angeles Times" "Until recently, I'd never believed that there could be such a thing as a truly gripping biography of George Washington...Well, I was wrong. Ron Chernow's huge (900 pages) "Washington: A Life", which I've just finished, does all that and more. I can't recommend it highly enough--as history, as epic, and, not least, as entertainment. It's as luxuriantly pleasurable as one of those great big sprawling, sweeping Victorian novels." -Hendrik Hertzberg, "The New Yorker" "[Ron Chernow] has done justice to the solid flesh, the human frailty and the dental miseries of his subject--and also to his immense historical importance... This is a magnificently fair, full-scale biography." -"The Economist" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ron Chernow is the prize-winning author of five previous books. His first, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award. His two most recent books, Alexander Hamilton and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, were both nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography. Chernow lives in Brooklyn, New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely first rate popular bio 27 Nov 2010
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Chernow has done it again. Though many pundits complain that America lacks "public intellectuals", Chernow offers a wonderful reading experience that is both academically rigorous and yet popular biography.

Washington has always seemed to me like an Olympian who rules from the mountain rather than a general, a rough and tumble pol, or even a businessman. He has certainly never appeared very human in my schoolbooks. We Americans have been brought up on so many ridiculous myths - I remember modeling my behavior on the cannot-tell-a-lie story about the chopped cherrie tree - but he is also seen as a neutral presider over the innumerable factions of bickering revolutionaries, i.e. the ultimate honest broker (I have never met one!). This wonderful biography truly penetrates the cloud around him to reveal the man.

Alongside his career and times, Chernow investigates Washington's motivations, emotional life, and methods. Washington was ambitious, shrewd, and incredibly self-disciplined. But, in contrast to his popular image, he was also passionate, complete with a fiery temper that he learned to keep in check with great difficulty. And he made plenty of mistakes.

As the book unfolds, we see that Washington learned certain lessons from experience rather than books, shaping his attitudes in a uniquely pragmatic and practical way. Though born to a plantation family, he was not the prime heir, so had to make his way more or less on his own; to his great regret, he had very little formal education.

After working as a surveyor, he began his career under the British military. In this way, he was schooled directly on how to fight on American soil, which was unlike the European theatres and served him well in his tactics when he later fought the British.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations." -- Genesis 17:5 (NKJV)

This is the best Washington biography I've read.

We are fortunate to live in a time when more can be known about George Washington than during most of the last 200 years as large quantities of his papers have been recently published. This book makes good use of these documents.

If you find it hard to perceive a human being within the patriotic stories about George Washington, Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life will add lots of human perspective for you. Unlike many biographies of the founders of the United States, this one attempts to portray the warts along with the sources of praise. I especially liked the way that Mr. Chernow carefully described Washington's private views and actions, publicly expressed opinions, and inactions to show inconsistencies in his thinking and life concerning slavery and Native Americans.

Many biographies tend to describe a fixed character, while we all know that people often change and mature in unexpected ways. Mr. Chernow describes an extremely ambitious young man who aggressively sought advantage . . . and was concerned about making a good impression. As a result, Washington learned to restrain himself in public in ways that made his leadership more acceptable, including not giving away his inner thoughts. Having perceived that he was rarely a quick study, he worked hard to find good solutions and learned the patience of taking the time to do so. In the process, he developed a maturity in decision making that put him ahead of his peers. Above all, he was a patient man who stayed focused on the right goals in serving others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good, thorough read. 14 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ron Chernow planned to write "as detailed a one book account of Washington as you can" when he wrote this book, and he's succeeded with that goal I think.

This book covers all his life, from his birth and early life in Virginia, to his death after 2 terms as President. As an Englishman, I'll admit that I don't know much about Washington, but I'm reasonably well read about the subject, and this book answered all the questions, and misunderstandings I had about Washington.

The one thing that this book didn't disabuse me of was my wariness of Thomas Jefferson. This wariness has developed through a bunch of books I've read about the "founding fathers," and this book didn't affect my view of him. That said, it's till a good book.

In short, if you want to read one book about Washington, this is probably as good a book as you'll find.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
George Washington may well be the most famous American in history. Practically everyone in America sees his face every day - on walls, in books, on TV, in movies, on the one-dollar bill. Everyone knows the stories - the wooden teeth, the cherry tree, 'I cannot tell a lie', Valley Forge, the crossing of the Delaware. George Washington looms over American history like a monument - literally. He's inescapable, as much man as myth.

And yet there is very little life to his myth. Most of the legends that have grown up around him are patently untrue - the aforementioned cherry tree and the wooden dentures just two examples. George Washington is as massive and ever-present as his monument in the city that bears his name and about as human. There is no personality to his myth. He stares out from his portraits as impassive and inscrutable as stone. So tackling a biography of George Washington is no mean feat. Many have tried - he is, after all, the Father of his nation, the Founding Father of Founding Fathers, the one without whom perhaps none of it, not the Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the War, the Constitution, the Presidency, would have happened.

Happily this biography by Ron Chernow more than does him justice.
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