Jacki: Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson, by John Milton Cooper, Jr.

So my friends have a Corgi named Woodrow. He’s the cutest dog in the world. You guys, this was about the extent of my exposure to Woodrow Wilson. I kind of knew around when he was president, but other than that, I was totally in the dark.

Here is the super crazy thing: Woodrow Wilson is the only president to ever have a PhD. He was just an academic. He was president of Princeton. Then he was governor. And then he was President. Of the United States. He just has one of these weird quick-rise-to-Presidency stories that just totally blows my mind. Wha?!

I really love that WW just jumped into office and made about 10 huge checks on his list. Dude got some stuff DONE. He was taking names. He just made a lot of domestic changes and people started to take notice. He wasn’t messing around. But here’s what is sad: he just never quite “made it”… this is why even despite his big moves he just isn’t that well known, and when people reference him, they are most likely talking about this idea of being about to think your way out of problems- the notion of an idealist being President is just kind of off-putting for what ever reason.

In fact, for most of his life this lack of action, this longing for goodwill and “happiness” kind of tainted his efforts. Which is sad. Part of me wishes he had just become a professor, taught kids, walked around Princeton like he straight owned the place and had a nice, relaxing life. Meh.

We need “men of action”— and eventually WW was forced into motion. WWI started on his clock, after all, but most Americans wanted in way earlier and this didn’t look great on WW and tainted his legacy considerably.

I thought this bio was great. It really was. Here’s the problem: my attention span is crazy, crazy short. I mean… It’s bad. So anyway, it took me ALLLLLL month to read this. I just squeaked in under the line. I think the author was totally into it- he was obviously well informed and I feel like he painted a good picture of Wilson as a man. There was a lot of info on family and his personal life as well as politics.

I would recommend this, but I kind of wish that I had read something a little shorter.

Kristen: George Washington

His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph Ellis

Joseph Ellis did a great job of telling the story of George Washington’s life. I’m amazed by how much I had forgotten (or never learned?!) about one of our most important Founding Fathers. Although there were parts that dragged on for me—mostly the battles—I still learned a lot about GW. I was especially interested in the politics of the day and the inner-workings and backstabbing that went on within his own cabinet. I also never realized the complexity of the relationships between some of the most famous players of the day (Thomas Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, etc). History sort of glosses over those relationships (at least the way I learned about it in school!)

I would have liked a little more information on his early years and how he was raised but I think I read somewhere that there’s not much information available. I also would have liked a little more insight into his personal life with Martha, but since GW was very conscious of how future generations would be viewing him, most of his most telling correspondences were burned. Overall, I think this was a great book to start the challenge with and I’m excited to learn about John Adams as I continue the challenge!

Original Review