Saturday, July 29, 2006

Biographies and Disillusionment

I have this crazy idea that, starting with the original GW, I'd like to read a biography on every president. So I hit my local library this morning, and after grabbing some CDs and gardening books, headed for the bio section. George . . . George . . . where are you. Oh, Washington - right. Washington the president, not the peanut farmer. Aha, here we are.

I'd say there were at least 15 books on old George. How in the world do I pick one? I started reading the flyleaf overviews and quickly became discouraged. Apparently the goal of many of these biographers seemed to be to dispel the myth that George Washington was a great man, and instead point out the inconsistencies and weaknesses in his character.

Needless to say, I left empty handed. While I don't doubt that our founding fathers had weaknesses, that wasn't what I wanted to read. I mean, we all have weaknesses, for pity's sake, but I wouldn't want a book written about mine. Ugh. But for some reason, for the better part of two hundred years, most Americans acknowledged that George Washington was a great man who did great things for our country. Now we must abandon all the good we've acknowledged and held in esteem as shining examples? I think not. Of course we know those men were just as human as we are, with faults and shortcomings and inconsistencies. But is it wrong to hold up their victories and strength of character as examples to the rest of us? This systematic rewriting of our country's history saddens me.

Nevertheless, I'm not abandoning my quest to find and read some good biographies. So I'm open to recommendations, and I'm sure I'll hit B&N eventually. (I can't say for certain that none of those books would suffice, but neither do I have the time to digest a 600 page tome on each of these esteemed men or I'll be an octogenarian before I accomplish my mission!)


Antique Mommy said...

Biography is absolutely my favorite genre, specifically on First Ladies. You might look for an anthology. I found a book that had a 3-4 page biography on each First Lady and it made the "task" of reading about each one seem more manageable. Then you can go back and spend more time on Washington and Lincoln and maybe less on Arthur (Who? We had a President Arthur?)and Filmore.

Just an idea.

Jennifer said...

Please report when you find ones that really are good reads. I also love a well-written biography, and one which doesn't include too much bias either way. Hard to find.

You might check out reviews at amazon. I find that reading what people said about the books really helps find what I'm looking for.

Stacy said...

I'm by no means an expert, but this is a genre of books I hope to migrate towards one day soon. Towards that effort, I bought the book "1776" by David McCullough, but I have not read it. I know he has written several about Presidents, including Adams and Truman, I think. I would also look at Amazon or B&N, I enjoy reading comments and reviews there on books.

Sorry, I'm no help, but if you find one you like, be sure to share with us! :)