You Never Forget Your First
If the cheeky title of historian Alexis Coe's biography of George Washington suggests anything, it should be this: You Never Forget Your First is not the typical, dry, academic biography of a Founding Father. On the contrary, Coe's work is at once entertaining and insightful, offering a fresh perspective on one of the most famous figures of American history--and one of the most mythologized.
Coe (Alice + Freda Forever) calls her work on Washington an "addition to a crowded bookshelf," and while that may be true, hers stands out as one of the few volumes written by a woman. It is also one of the more balanced biographies available, recognizing Washington's successes while also calling him out for his oft-overlooked failings: his seeming inability to respond to his mother's letters in a timely manner, for instance, or the far more egregious "deep-seated hypocrisy" of a man advocating for American freedom while refusing to free the hundreds of people he kept enslaved across his many properties. Coe also spends less time focusing on Washington's military prowess (or lack thereof) in favor of his skill as a strategist. Her account highlights his "ability to manage large-scale combat while also running spy rings and shadow and propaganda campaigns in enemy-occupied areas" during the Revolution, as well as the precedent-setting era of his presidency.
Weighing in around 300 pages, You Never Forget Your First is an accessible history of one of the most influential political figures in the U.S.--one as likely to appeal to die-hard history buffs as it is to more casual readers of narrative nonfiction. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm