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Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father
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Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  65 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
In a time when America is desperately searching for leadership comes this inspiring story of James Madison’s coming of age, providing incisive and original insight into the Founding Father who did the most but is known the least.
Michael Signer takes a fresh look at the life of our fourth president. His focus is on Madison before he turned thirty-six, the years in which he
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by PublicAffairs
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Apr 15, 2015 Clare rated it it was amazing
Signer's Becoming Madison excels by focusing in on this oft-forgotten founding father as a young man. Filled with both his greatest personal struggles and most lasting political accomplishments, this time period in Madison's life seems overdue for this kind of book and Signer certainly does it justice. The narrative style is compelling and makes for a much faster and more gripping read than one might expect from a historical biography. I was also impressed by how seamlessly legal and political ...more
Bill F.

James Madison was the last surviving Founding Father, dying nearly 60 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was undoubtedly the Father of the Constitution and - one could reasonably argue - the United States government would bear no resemblance whatsoever to what it has been these last 226 years since George Washington's first inauguration without James Madison. And yet, as author Michael Signer points out, it was not until 1857 that James Madison finally got a monument
Oct 28, 2016 Kimbrely rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed learning more about one of my early American legal favorites. Enjoyable to read. Such interesting details.
James Henderson
Oct 09, 2016 James Henderson rated it liked it
Singer sets out to examine the early life of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution. He does a good job of setting up Madison's early life, how he felt the most home while studying at Princeton, how he eventually became a statesman (all while battling severe anxiety attacks). The author does a great job of discussing Madison's involvement in writing some of the Federalist Papers (with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay), and culminating in the battle to spearhead the Constitution as ...more
Jim Clinton Slusher
Jun 20, 2016 Jim Clinton Slusher rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the founding of America and the U.S. Constitution.
The author doesn't say so in so many words, and I'm not astute enough to know whether it was his intent or not, but it's next to impossible not to read Becoming Madison / The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father as a reflection on the conflict between government and the equivalent of the modern-day Tea Party. Any reading of American political history quickly identifies the theme that has connected the epochs of our history from the very beginning - the battle between state ...more
Jim Gallen
Feb 07, 2016 Jim Gallen rated it really liked it
“Becoming Madison” focuses on John Madison’s young life, primarily up to age 35. For an introduction to Madison personally, it deals with his education, his relationship with his father and his early romantic endeavors. Madison’s early political career lacked a measure of both desire on his part and success.

Much of the book deals with Madison’s efforts to bring about the Constitution. More than an introduction to Madison himself, this book provides an insight into Virginia politics of his youth
This wasn't so bad, but also not amazing. It did seem to give me a better image of what Madison was like as a person (as opposed to a mythical figure) and what his personal struggles were. It was also interesting to learn about his struggles against Patrick Henry (about whom I knew nothing beyond the liberty and death speech before this book).

I didn't particularly care for the repetition of Madison's "method" in many places in the book, which was a harmless but irritating quirk. I also did get t
"Becoming Madison" is a little different. Somewhat like Glenn Beck's Being George Washington, the author attempts to make Madison more personal and adding scenes that are probable but not necessarily as well documented as they seem in this book. In this case I think the author is judicious, but there is an ongoing theme, a sort of mantra that the author rattles off as if Madison is actually reciting it to himself. The first couple of times was OK, but it became tedious after that.

Thus, I was con
May 07, 2015 Brett rated it it was ok
My first biography of James Madison was highly disappointing. The writing style left a lot to be desired and flowed more like historical fiction. A lot of "he must have felt" and "he probably thought" type phrases by the author; trying to re-imagine Madison's thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I wish there were more extensive use of quotes from letters rather than relying on flowery fiction-type narratives. There were also a lot of parts that felt incomplete; sections where I wanted more ...more
Aug 10, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
This book about our fourth president, covers his life from his youth to the Virginia Ratification Convention in 1788, leaving off his time as a congressman, secretary of state, president, and husband to (the more famous today) Dolly Madison. Madison's contribution to the creation of the United States, through the creation of new forms of government, culminating in the US Constitution, is often overlooked because of the bad feelings left on his presidency due to the War of 1812, and his lack of ...more
David Golden
May 16, 2015 David Golden rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Unexpectedly human look at a major historical figure

I learned more about Madison in the opening pages of this book than I ever did in years of school and university. Which is sort of the point of the book. Madison is easily the last well known and least appreciated Founding Father.

I liked best how the intricate historical details and psychological examination of Madison's early life made him both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. While clearly driven in a way few of his generation wer
May 24, 2016 Darren rated it liked it
Pretty decent look at the early part of Madison's life up through ratification of the Constitution. My most notable complaint is that the author spends significant time with background and life story details on tangential figures that impacted Madison's life. Much of this background was irrelevant to the story at hand and took away from focusing on Madison. By the end of the book, the reader has been given about three or four detailed biographical accounts and for me, the details get jumbled ...more
In this detailed account of Madison's life before he became president, Signer paints a portrait of the brilliant, disciplined, yet often insecure and hypochondriacal, Founding Father. The sections on Madison's youth and the Virginia conventions to ratify the Constitution are especially strong.

Unfortunately, the book veers into a dramatic style more appropriate for a novel, purporting to know what Madison saw, felt, smelled, and heard without any documentary support for these projections. While
Dec 18, 2015 Mysteryfan rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biographies
This book covers Madison’s early years and his influences. It’s written in a lighter style than Madison’s Gift. John Witherspoon was his professor at what later became Princeton and had a very strong influence in forming Madison’s thoughts. Patrick Henry was a major antagonist for much of Madison’s early career. Their disagreements culminated at the Virginia Convention to ratify the Constitution. I had no idea Henry opposed it so strongly. Much of the book focuses on what Signer calls Madison’s ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Laura rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook of this one, and I have one question: did Signer repeat Madison's "Method" in its entirety a dozen or more times for some kind of dramatic effect? Because listening to that not-exactly-pithy list over and over again dragged down an otherwise good story.
Signer does an amazing job of not only telling the story of one of our more under appreciated Founding Fathers, but also does a masterful job of applying his life to our contemporary politics. A must-read for any fan of American history or today's politics.
Aug 04, 2015 Jim rated it liked it
It's fairly well written, and I like that he's bringing attention to someone who gets passed over, but he kinda veers into hagiography and the way he tries to brush past Madison's slave ownership is just offensive.
Massanutten Regional Library
Tabetha, Main patron, July 2015, 4 stars:

It was a fun read about James Madison and I learned a lot about his role in America's early years.
Jennifer Mitchell
Mar 31, 2016 Jennifer Mitchell rated it liked it
Actually, I have not finished this book. It was good, but I lost interest because it is often more difficult for me to read non-fiction.
Drew Lumpkin
Drew Lumpkin rated it really liked it
Jul 10, 2016
Corey Pudhorodsky
Corey Pudhorodsky rated it really liked it
Sep 04, 2016
Angela rated it liked it
Jun 22, 2015
Andy McPhee
Andy McPhee rated it really liked it
Nov 16, 2016
Vicki rated it liked it
Nov 22, 2015
Krista rated it really liked it
Aug 10, 2016
Anne Kersch
Anne Kersch rated it really liked it
Jun 20, 2016
Nov 11, 2015 Sam rated it really liked it
Very interesting! Extremely well-written and insightful.
Diane rated it liked it
May 21, 2016
Clifford rated it it was amazing
Mar 23, 2016
Dillon Broadwell
Dillon Broadwell rated it really liked it
Oct 07, 2015
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Uncharismatic leadership? 1 1 Apr 15, 2015 07:11AM  
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