A year ago, coming into the election year, I made a shocking self-discovery. I know next to nothing about the American presidents. Sure, I know about Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the Adamses. Then there were some guys, then Lincoln, then some more guys then Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama who have been president since I’ve been alive. But I really want to learn about “those guys” in the middle. Who are they? And what did they do as president that was so great. Or not.
So I came up with the great plan. Over the course of 2016, I was going to read one (or more) books about a different president each week, in chronological order, then by November I’d be ready to cast an informed vote for our next president. So I made my reading list and checked out the first couple for Washington and the first Adams.
The first book I chose to start with was Washington by Ron Chernow. I wasn’t really excited to read about Washington, but you have to start at the very beginning because it is a very good place to start. I thought I’d have no trouble knocking out a book a week about the presidents. I read way more than that on a regular basis, but what I didn’t consider was that books like Chernow’s are long…and very thorough. And 817 pages of size 8 font. Instead of taking me a week to read, this one took me a whole year. Which as you might imagine kind of screwed up my grand plan.
The good news is that the book was very informative and I enjoyed it once I got into it. It didn’t really change my opinion of the man. While I do have immense respect for the founding father of our country, I don’t think we would have been the greatest of friends. He just has some personality quirks that would have bugged me.
If Chernow’s name sounds familiar, you may have heard of him in connection with the Broadway juggernaut that is Hamilton. It was his book, called Alexander Hamilton, that Lin-Manuel Miranda read while on vacation that inspired his hit musical. Chernow also won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Washington. I look forward to reading some of his other works when I can squeeze them into my reading list.
I’m not giving up on my presidential reading dream, I just think it’s going to take me a little longer than I originally estimated. I’m glad that I started with Chernow, but I’m looking forward to reading about someone other than Washington. 2017 just might be the year for John Adams.