By Jeff Labrecque
September 29, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Washington: A Life


Ever since Mason L. Weems canonized our first president in 1800’s The Life of Washington, writers have struggled to bring him back down to earth. The capital may bear Washington’s name, but Jefferson’s genius and Franklin’s wit eventually overshadowed his stoic heroism in the history books. Just as he resuscitated Alexander Hamilton in a heralded 2004 biography, Ron Chernow now resurrects Washington in Washington: A Life. Relying on new research from the University of Virginia (which has been organizing Washington’s papers), he makes excellent use of Washington’s own voice — the man’s angry letters are like thunderbolts — and turns constitutional debates and bureaucratic infighting into riveting reading. It turns out Washington didn’t really hover above the fray, and in Chernow’s remarkable book, readers can finally look him in the eye. A?

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