Customer Reviews for

Washington: A Life

Average Rating 3.5
( 275 )
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(113)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

34 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

The kind of history book I love

"Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow is an encompassing biography of George Washington. This marvelous book breaks the wooden image of Washington and brings out the character of the man we all learned about with all his charm and personality.

"Washington: A Life" is...
"Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow is an encompassing biography of George Washington. This marvelous book breaks the wooden image of Washington and brings out the character of the man we all learned about with all his charm and personality.

"Washington: A Life" is divided into six parts, look for my review on my blog for more details as the B&N space is limited.

The Frontiersman:

The Planter:

The General:

The Statesman:

The President:

The Legend:


This is the kind of history book I love. Mr. Chernow tells of little known anecdotes about George Washington which not only tell of of his character, but even relevant to this day. Some of the stories the author relates are laugh-out funny, the type that no-one can make up, the type that if you read them in a fictional book you'd hiss and throw the book at the wall - yet they are true.

The self criticism of Washington literally leaps out of this book, that is the major difference I found between this biography and "His Excellency" (book review). Washington always internalized new things he learns and is able to change even though it goes against everything he knew to be true. One can see how over a lifetime of slave ownership his views towards this practice have changed from one end to the other.

Ron Chernow is not only a wonderful historian, but also a masterful story teller. In this book Chernow painted George Washington in a relatable, unforgettable realism while keeping the story is vivid, flowing and compelling. Why, it's almost like you're reading fiction instead of a biography.
Then again, I always maintained that no fiction story can be as good as history, otherwise it would almost be laughable.
"Who makes up this stuff", we would cry to the heavens.

Which author in their right mind would invent a character like Mary Ball Washington, George's mother. Poor George couldn't earn a word of praise from his emotionally numb mother, not as a loyal son, general, president or benefactor. Not only that, Mrs. Washington petitioned the Virginia legislature for a pension. and she was rich!
Laughable - if in fiction.

On an off shoot, while the book is about George Washington, I loved how Mr. Chernow peppered the narrative with a few sharp witted quotes from John Adams (review of "John Adams" by David McCullough) - funny today as they were when written.

I have read many history books, several about Washington and I must put this one on the top of the list, the extraordinary quality of the writing and the psychological insights are worth the price of admission by themselves.

For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com

posted by Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com on November 5, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

54 out of 142 people found this review helpful.

WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!

Penguin is hawking another e-book for twenty bucks, a dollar less than the hard back. I would encourage e-book readers to not buy Penguin products. If the cost of e-books gets to be essentially the same as hardbacks, I'm tossing my Nook in the garbage.

posted by OldMarine on October 1, 2010

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  • Posted November 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The kind of history book I love

    "Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow is an encompassing biography of George Washington. This marvelous book breaks the wooden image of Washington and brings out the character of the man we all learned about with all his charm and personality.

    "Washington: A Life" is divided into six parts, look for my review on my blog for more details as the B&N space is limited.

    The Frontiersman:

    The Planter:

    The General:

    The Statesman:

    The President:

    The Legend:


    This is the kind of history book I love. Mr. Chernow tells of little known anecdotes about George Washington which not only tell of of his character, but even relevant to this day. Some of the stories the author relates are laugh-out funny, the type that no-one can make up, the type that if you read them in a fictional book you'd hiss and throw the book at the wall - yet they are true.

    The self criticism of Washington literally leaps out of this book, that is the major difference I found between this biography and "His Excellency" (book review). Washington always internalized new things he learns and is able to change even though it goes against everything he knew to be true. One can see how over a lifetime of slave ownership his views towards this practice have changed from one end to the other.

    Ron Chernow is not only a wonderful historian, but also a masterful story teller. In this book Chernow painted George Washington in a relatable, unforgettable realism while keeping the story is vivid, flowing and compelling. Why, it's almost like you're reading fiction instead of a biography.
    Then again, I always maintained that no fiction story can be as good as history, otherwise it would almost be laughable.
    "Who makes up this stuff", we would cry to the heavens.

    Which author in their right mind would invent a character like Mary Ball Washington, George's mother. Poor George couldn't earn a word of praise from his emotionally numb mother, not as a loyal son, general, president or benefactor. Not only that, Mrs. Washington petitioned the Virginia legislature for a pension. and she was rich!
    Laughable - if in fiction.

    On an off shoot, while the book is about George Washington, I loved how Mr. Chernow peppered the narrative with a few sharp witted quotes from John Adams (review of "John Adams" by David McCullough) - funny today as they were when written.

    I have read many history books, several about Washington and I must put this one on the top of the list, the extraordinary quality of the writing and the psychological insights are worth the price of admission by themselves.

    For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com

    34 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 14, 2010

    Uplifting and Thorough

    Late in life I finally got around to reading about the Founding Fathers and the history of the creation of the United States. We all think we know them and it from our grade school history classes, but I was astonished on all I did NOT know. This book is a valuable addition to the effort to learn beyond the charactertures that we all "know." Exhaustive in detail, sometimes turgid in reading, but well worth the time. GW was truly an incredible man...perhaps the ONLY man who could have led the military resistance to Britain and then lead as the first President. I am constantly amazed at the things he accomplished, and the way in which he accomplished them. Highly recommend this book, along with "His Excellency: GW" by Joseph Ellis (which I found a better read, but maybe because I read it first).

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2010

    Chernow is a talented historical researcher

    The Washington of school books is brought into the spotlight of history and Chernow reflects his every bump and defect as well as his goodness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Martha Custis Washington is also given a new and refreshing look other then a dowdy rich widow who sponsored another white man's success according to today's political correctness advocates. The book should be utilized by history courses in high school and college.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recomend this book !1

    Mr Chernow's latest biography Washington, A Life is an excellent accout of our first president and the times with which he lived. The author provides a thourough boigoraqhy of our first president. We see a young Washington burden with adult responsiblities because of the death of hsi father. As a young man Washington is drivent to improve himself and better his situation. We see how he has no qualms in ingratiuating himself to with social superiors and representatives of Great Briatain to reach his goals.

    At an early age the young Virginia plnater had dreams of aa military career.His utlimtate goal was a commission in the British regular army. Mr Chernow talks about how the expanding British coolonial empire came into conflict with the expanding French colonail empire. Wahsington played an importan war in the start of the French and Indian War.

    Washington became a hero throughout the colonies. He eventually commanded the Virginia militia. He was an enthusiastitc supporter of the crown and the British Empire. Yet Great Britian treated their coloinal subjects shabiiikly. He was with Braddock and proved to hbe a vbery brave and capable officer. Yet the Britishish looked down on colonials and refused to grant him a comjmission. Washington took this as a personal reublke and sparked a growing disalussionment with the colonial system.

    We see how his marriage to Martha Custis, a very rwalthy Virginia widow propelled Washingtoon to the tops of Virginia Society. He became a very wealth planter after the French and inidan War. Mr Chernow writes that he was not an aloof overseer. but managed his estates. He kept careful notes about the conditions of his land and strove to learn s much as possible about agricluture. We learn that his experience has a pl/anter and his relationsion to factors in England only caused greater disalussionment.

    I thought Mr Chernow gave an excellent accout of Wahsington. I learned what motived the aristocratic planter to become a revbolutionary. Mr Chernow also gives a fasinating account of the times with which he lived. We learned why WAshingtong who had petionsions of being a British aristocrat came to support the revoltion. Mr Chernow's book not only is an excellent biography but it is also an excellent accoutn of the colonial period, Revboltion, and early republic.

    This book deservies a five star rating.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 17, 2010

    Very Interesting - Biography of Early America as well as Washington

    This book is the first installment towards my goal to read a biography of every US President. Through the telling of Washington's story, this book also gives a great picture of the birth of our Nation, and some of the personalities, hardships, and politics that were happening at that time. While Washington is the focus of the book, the relationships with Knox, Hamilton, Jefferson, the global events in England and France are given a significant role, and peaked my interesting in reading about these specific people and events in order to enhance the perspective.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Toast to Reading

    Oh my! What a fine piece of work. Mr Chernow, thank you sir. This book is loaded. If you are considering this book as your next, step up and begin. Please take your time because it's impossible to rush through it. There is just so much to enjoy. Hands down, Chernow's effort here should take 1st place in "all" categories of books considered in competition for biography. His research is astounding yielding a comfortable flow of Washington's history from beginning to end displaying well placed nuances supporting atmospheres the subject passed through. I most certainly feel I know Washington now. He was one emboldened man. The times required one such as himself. Buy this in hardback. My copy is filled with marked references I made throughout the reading connected to page footnotes on the books last two blank pages. Perhaps sometime in the future a grand or greatgrandchild will read it as well. I gained an anewed perspective of the periods principal players. I have in hand a Chernow printing of Alexander Hamilton. And so, I am in store for more better learning about our revolutionary history. Read this book when you can. With no failing you will understand America better.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2011

    Worth your time and well written

    If you would like to learn what this man struggled with and went through for all of us to enjoy this country, this is the volume to read. I have read other volumes and this one captures his true personality better that all others and also exposes the full truth sometimes glossed over in other volumes, of how his other co-patriots treated him. I feel Jefferson drops down a few notches in my esteem. based on his dishonorable conduct in this volume towards Mr. Washington. Having recently read "American Spinx" by Joeseph Ellis, I have changed my feelings for Jefferson and Madison based on this book.
    I read "His Excellency, George Washington" By Joeseph Ellis and this book leaves it in the dust. Well worth the 815 pages, they flew by.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    E-book prices....

    Hello Everyone:
    Even though this e-book price hovers around $20.00 it still is a bargain! If you were to purchase this book elsewhere, other than online, you would be still paying the full retail price of $40.00 for the hardcover version. Also, even discount stores such as Costco, Sam's, or Walmart would still charge well over 24.00 for this same book.

    The E-book price is literally half the price of the suggested retail cover price and still a bargain! You purchased a nook to be able to read your literature in a convenient form and weight rather than carrying around a huge heavy paper book.

    Everyone that owns a nook or similar e-book reader, should EMBRACE the wonderful technological advances in portable, convenient reading device, and not complain about the prices of the E-books, which is considerably less than a hardback, and more portable. Also, if you really look at prices of E-books, especially very RARE, books hard to find in Hardcover they still range over $200.00! The hardback version would be well over the price of the e-book price by as much as 3 or 4 times that price! It is still a bargain!

    wordsmithe75

    3 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    A Masterpiece

    You can't appreciate where the United States is now, if you don't know why we got here. G. Washington was the primary reason why our democracy works as it does. He's not known to most of us, except as a engraving on a dollar bill. We should have known the younger and vigorous commander of his "band of brothers."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    Excellent biography by a first-rate historian

    A supremely well-written and researched book. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about the most pivitol person in US history. Do to the United States' unmistakable role in world history, Washington could be seen as one of the most important leaders in recorded history.

    This is third book I've read by Mr. Chernow and I will no doubt dive into another one of his works in the future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    very long, very good and very recommended

    At 1000 pages+, this is a book to remember. Chernow writes in such easy style that I felt like I was with a comfortable, old companion as the story would from Washington's early life through his experiences in the French and Indian War, and on through the Revolution and his presidency. Washington was much more than what we have come to know through the years, and in Chernow's extremely capable hands, I learned every bit of it. Don't be dismayed by the length of the book - it reads very well and is packed with insight and stories of Washington the man as I haven't encountered before. A treuly great book and highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2010

    Super History and Story

    Totally worth the price on the Nook.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2014

    Eye-opening read

    Everything I never learned in school. Great read.

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  • Posted May 7, 2014

    Great book. But why does the NOOK book cost more than the paperb

    Great book. But why does the NOOK book cost more than the paperback?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Possibly the best biography I've read

    A true deep dive into Washington's entire life. The author gathers information from multiple sources and draws conclusions from them. As with any biography it focuses on the subject with other events, even momentous ones, being secondary.

    The treatment is balanced and well written, I found myself not wanting to put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Loved it

    My only regret is that the book ended.

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    Great book. I highly recommend.

    It covers so much history. A well written book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Good

    Cool

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  • Posted January 31, 2013

    At age 70, I remain an avid student of history. After years of C

    At age 70, I remain an avid student of history. After years of Civil War reading, I have turned to the creation and early days of the Republic by reading biographies of the Founders. I started with Jefferson and Adams -- largley because of their off-and-on friendship and livlely and long-term correspondence. I have turned to President Washington and could not, I believe, have found a better staring point than Mr. Chernow's "Washington-A Life." Well-written, concise, interesting and obviously thoroughly researched, the book has given me an outstanding view and a new and comprehensive understanding of a very complex man in the context of his time. Even more importantly, Mr. Chernow deftly displays why Mr. Washington was the right man at the right time in our nation's history. Mr. Chernow paints a complete portrait of our very complex first President, including his way of delaying tough decisions after researching the questions. I now understand better Washington's position(s) on slavery, his loyalty to Alexander Hamilton, and his bitterness over what he perceived as Thomas Jefferson's disloyalty. Mr. Chernow is loyal to Mr. Washington, but not blind. Not bad for a single volume biography. And there is more, much more. Buy the book, read it at your leisure, enjoy its smooth flow through Washington's life and, perhaps like me, mourn when you finish and close the last page of Mr. Cnernow's excellent volume. Next? Mr. Chernow's biography of Mr. Hamilton.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Great

    Wonderfull and engrossing. You feel like you are living and breathing with Washington through out the entire book. Chernow is amazing.

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