Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Washington: A Life (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Ron Chernow

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,122377,332 (4.36)54
Title:Washington: A Life
Authors:Ron Chernow
Info:Penguin Press HC, The (2010), Hardcover, 904 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:History - American

Work details

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (2010)

  1. 00
    Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence by Jack Kelly (mattries37315)
    mattries37315: A short, yet informative book about the general officers under Washington during the American Revolution.
  2. 00
    Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (mattries37315)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 54 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
My favorite biography of George Washington. Very detailed and really brought the historical figure to life. ( )
  jpb355 | Nov 2, 2015 |
The life of George Washington is not the stoic, myth-laden journey most people have fixed in their minds. As revealed in Ron Chernow’s excellent biography, the stoic man in paintings hid an emotional complex man who went from being a loyal British subject for the first two-thirds of his life to the individual who brought a new nation into being over nearly a quarter century.

Chernow beings by putting Washington not only into the context of his times, colonial Virginia, but also into the family dynamic he grew up and developed in. The first son of his father’s second marriage, Washington’s father died young like many of his forbearers leaving a void in his life that he filled with his oldest half-brother Lawrence. It was his brother’s service in the Royal Naval that would direct Washington to desire military success when he was a young man. However, Washington would lose his brother at an early age in a string of emotionally sting but ultimately fortuitous deaths that shaped his life.

Beginning with his brother Lawrence, Washington had the good fortune of finding and befriending influential people throughout his life. Learning early on, in trial and error, to be willing to service while not appearing to strive for service, Washington was able to climb into more influential circles than it had been thought possible at his birth. Even as he cherished getting military glory, Washington quickly took advantage of business opportunities throughout his life but especially land speculation and purchases.

Chernow faithfully follows the course of Washington’s life, but instead of just going from one high or low point to the next he fills in the details thanks to the massive amount of material he researched through Washington’s papers. Beginning in the French and Indian War, that he essentially started, Washington never truly found the glorious military moment he aspired to but the lessons he learned in his first war would be put to good use in the Revolution as he kept his ever rotating army together through one hardship after another.

Throughout all of his public life, Washington was plantation owner of a vast estate and holder of numerous slaves. Throughout his time in the Continental army, the Constitutional Convention, and as President, Washington thought of Mount Vernon and how it was run. At first attempting the try and true Virginia crop of tobacco, Washington switched to other crops and aimed to be a scientific innovative farmer to make his farms profitable but wasn’t able to establish his dream due to his public life. Chernow did not shy away from Washington’s slavery record; instead it was a major recurring theme throughout the book that was returned to numerous times including the lead up to Washington’s final days.

In examining Washington’s last quarter century, Chernow showed how Washington’s dissatisfaction with Great Britain being with little things but eventually grew into his becoming a leader in Virginia against British taxes. Chernow took Washington’s time leading the Continental Army to not only show his military decisions, but also his interactions with Congress which would shape his political outlook not only during but after the war for a strong central government. Finally, Chernow proved a look into Washington’s creation of the Presidency in relation to Congress and the Judiciary, to foreign and domestic affairs based on his experiences throughout the war and afterwards.

After finishing the book, the reader sees how Washington was uniquely qualified for the times he lived in and also a normal human being. Chernow gives the reader not a waxwork life, but a moving one that shows it was only Washington who could have done what was needed during the last quarter of the 18th century. If you want to find out who George Washington was beyond that he “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen” then this is the book you need to read. ( )
  mattries37315 | Jun 6, 2015 |
Having read Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, I looked forward to his biography of George Washington with anticipation, and he did not disappoint. His biography may be too detailed for the casual reader, but since I have read other shorter biographies of Washington, I enjoyed the depth of this one. ( )
  proflinton | Apr 6, 2015 |
A better appreciation for the whole man but often a tedious read. ( )
  ibkennedy | Feb 2, 2015 |
"Washington - A Life" by Ron Chernow is a Pulitzer prize winner. It's very interesting and informative, and long, very long. 817 pages. I felt it was certainly worth the investment in time, but I also felt it easily could have been pared by at least 100 pages. More on that later. Fortunately, Chernow's writing is very relaxed and extremely readable, laced with well placed anecdotes and excellent analysis. Coming into this book, I knew very little about our first President besides some 4th grade history instruction and a number of visits to nearby Mount Vernon.

Not much time was spent on GW's early years, and very soon we learn of George's adventures as a very young officer in the militia, teamed with England in the French and Indian War. As revolution began to simmer in the colonies, Washington's role was primarily military, and the events that unfolded during those years dealing with the Declaration and Constitution were mainly left to others. Though Washington attended the initial Congressional sessions and expressed his viewpoints, he was never a confident orator and his lack of education led many of his founding brothers to pay him less attention. So Chernow's focus during those years deals more with the eight years (yes, EIGHT years) that he led his rag tag army against the British; in the background we are given snippets of events in Philadelphia. And maybe rag-tag is too kind a descriptor. This was an army that was not only poorly clothed but ill-fed as well. Often local farmers sold their produce and livestock to the better financed British. Then there was the issue of many American troops returning to their families every December 31 as annual commitments expired. Washington's "army" would shrink to a few thousand. Washington lost a number of battles - he was not surrounded by an experienced military-educated team of officers and staff, but he kept the army together. Eventually the Brits made the Big Mistake at Yorktown, and with the very timely help of the French, the Revolutionary War was over. My major disappointment with this portion of the book was that Chernow elected not to use maps. There were several battles described in some detail which would have been much easier to visualize with a single map.

Five years later Washington was our first President. He was unopposed, and his intention was to serve one term, perhaps less if possible. He yearned to retire to Mt. Vernon but did not have that opportunity for another eight years. There were two interesting learnings for me in this section of the book. The first is that Washington as President was now in a position to set precedent since not every detail of governing was clearly defined in the founding documents. Many of those issues dealt with the specific duties o the Executive and Legislative branches. The second was the birth o political parties, each with different viewpoints on the kind of country America was to become. For example, while Washington (and Hamilton) believed in a strong executive role, others felt it would be too easy for the United States to morph into a monarchy-like government too reminiscent of the British royatly from whom we had just separated.. This section of the book made clear that while many of our forefathers may have been "founding brothers" they did not always get along all that well and at various points in our early history, relationships broke off and were never repaired. It is interesting to see so many parallels with governing the US in 2015.

In addition to the War years and the first Presidency years, the book covers a lot of other ground central to Washington's life. All of it is very important and I would not want any of the subjects deleted. But I think most could have been abbreviated. These include the ongoing changes at Mount Vernon over the years from crop selection to building additions to draperies, the relationship with George's mother, his dental problems, all of the portraits he sat for, slavery, George's eye for the ladies, and his delightful relationship with Lafayette. The material dealing with slavery alone could have yielded a separate book. As a matter of fact, I think a book dealing with the issue of slavery and American presidents from Washington to Lincoln could be a winner.

Nevertheless, five stars all the way. Highly recommended. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jan 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
At 900-odd densely packed pages, “Washington” can be arid at times. But it’s also deeply rewarding as a whole, and it does genuinely amplify and recast our perceptions of Washington’s importance.

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ron Chernowprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Simple truth is his best, his greatest eulogy.
- Abigail Adams, speaking of George Washington after his death
To Valerie, in memoriam
First words
(Prelude) In March 1793 Gilbert Stuart crossed the North Atlantic for the express purpose of painting President George Washington, the supreme prize of the age for any ambitious portrait artist.
The crowded career of George Washington afforded him little leisure to indulge his vanity or gratify his curiosity by conducting genealogical research into his family.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

In "Washington : a Life" celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation, dashing forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man, and revealing an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
297 wanted2 pay8 pay

Popular covers


Average: (4.36)
2 3
2.5 1
3 8
3.5 4
4 63
4.5 22
5 68


2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 100,949,553 books! | Top bar: Always visible