The First of Men: A Life of George Washington by John E. Ferling

January 25, 2012
You might notice that the title says “A Life of George Washington,” instead of “the life.” This book is not the retelling of this great man’s life like countless others have been- it is the exploration of an entirely new side of the figure we thought we knew. Yes, he was honest, brave, virtuous, etc., but he could be impetuous, irascible, and vain. Drawing upon extensive correspondence between Washington, his contemporaries, and his observers, Ferling retraces the pivotal moments of his life- the French and Indian War, the Revolution, the Presidency-, examining the underlying nature of Washington that ultimately influenced many life-or-death situations and decisions. In effect, this narrative gives him a more human side that we can all relate to, and makes Washington’s rise to his god-like status even more awe-inspiring. While the story is very engrossing, the title suggests that this is not a typical biography, and is much more complex. I would not recommend it to somebody looking for a general overview of Washington’s life, or just starting out learning about him. The book is dense, and not a “light read,” per se. Rather, if you are looking for a challenging and enlightening narrative, be sure to check this out!

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