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You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
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You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,372 ratings  ·  211 reviews
In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our firstand finds he's not quite the man we remember

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, chased rich young women, caused an international incident, and never backed downeven when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Viking
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Alexis Coe Thanks for your question! I think it depends on the young reader. A big historical society recently invited me to speak to their various middle school…moreThanks for your question! I think it depends on the young reader. A big historical society recently invited me to speak to their various middle school programs, and the kids seemed really into it! They had signed up for special history programs, though, even coming to a lecture on the weekend...(less)

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Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
"He is a complete gentleman . . . He is sensible, amiable, virtuous, modest and brave." -- Massachusettes delegate Thomas Cushing, regarding Washington commanding the new Continental Army, in 1775

When's the last time you read a biography on George Washington? If you're like me, it was possibly way back in elementary or primary school - with a book listing the usual wooden teeth and chopping a cherry tree fabrications - which then dovetailed with a segment that would focus on Abraham Lincoln.
Jasmine Guillory
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an engaging, fascinating, funny, educational book! I wish more history was written like this entertaining, accessible, and deeply researched all at the same time. I learned so much about George Washington (who I wasnt particularly interested in; turns out he had a fascinating life!) and I particularly appreciated the level of detail the author put into discussing the people he enslaved. Highly recommend to any history buff or just anyone who wants to know more about how and why America ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it

I picked this up on a whim after I was looking at a list of recent releases. I've always had a vague interest in reading presidential biographies, and I loved the way that this one was framed. I was not disappointed.

Why you may not like this book: It is a breeze of a biography that skips over chunks of Washington's life, specifically the details of the Revolution. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, this may leave you feeling wanting. The degree to which this will feel like "I'm not
The Colonial
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
George Washington stands near the beginning in a line that features a continuous number of biographies on famous and infamous historical figures, though his latest chronicle from historian Alexis Coe perhaps may be the most unique and divisive to date. With a stirring and comical opening that mocks a few misconceptions on His Excellency, Coe sheds light on what she calls his greatest hitsnoting his likes, dislikes, frenemies, beverages of choice, a fascinating look at the diseases he survived ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Won this in a goodreads giveaway. Wonderful book! Extremely interesting and shows how old history books need to be rewritten
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I never thought I'd answer the question "So what are you reading?" with "A biography of George Washington." But I did, and am so glad I picked this one up! I was first drawn to it because of the title, the hilarious cover and the fact that it is written by a woman. It's hard to find historical non-fiction written by women, especially when it comes to Colonial/Revolutionary history (though there are some amazing female authors out there!).

And as I started reading, Coe did not disappoint. This
Diane S ☔
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
3.5 thought soon.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. By the end, however, I was regretting the money Id spent on the e-book. Theres $13.99 I will never get back.

It probably didnt help that the author starts off by insulting anyone who has ever read and enjoyed the more academic and thoroughly researched presidential biographies on Washington, including Ron Chernows Washington: A Life. She derisively dismisses them as thousand-page books that will always appear as if they are for men of a certain age, intended to be
I think of myself as someone who likes reading historical stuff, but Im also too impatient to read biographical tomes of historical figures. So I usually stick to articles or any relevant items I come across during some other endeavor. So this book would ideally not even be on my radar, but I stumbled upon it when I saw that the first biography of GW by a woman historian in a long time is being criticized a lot, and I really wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I also really enjoyed ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Biography is generally not my favorite nonfiction genre, but this is the best book EVER.

If, like me, you love Revolutionary War and founding fathers stuff but could really do without hundreds of pages of battle strategy and lionization of imperfect men, then this is the Washington bio for you.

Coes honest, unsentimental account of the life of our first President is fun, funny, and fascinating, dense without being dry and respectful without being either naive or hit with a case of the
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Did I need a George Washington biography in my life? No. But did I need one written by a woman? Yes. I learned about Alexis Coe via No Man's Land, the podcast by The Wing. I learned Alexis is a woman American historian, of which there are few. This book is great. It's like having your smartest friend tell you about our first President. Whatever you've heard or learned about Washington, you've undoubtedly heard it from a male perspective. Trust me, you want to hear a woman's recounting.
Alexis Coe's You Never Forget Your First is a fresh examination of what is a myth and what is a truth about our first president. I have to admit just knowing that someone would actually critically look at Washington the man rather than the "humble, military genius" that most authors take really excited me. This book did not disappoint.

Coe explores Washington's ambitious and often tunnel vision style approach to getting what he wanted while also maintaining the reputation a social climber
Jennifer Schultz
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read if you: Want a fresh look at Washington and/or want to read a biography of Washington, but are intimidated by the many enormous biographies of our first president.

In 2012, I began a "presidential biography" reading plan, in which I read a biography of every president (including Obama).. I finished this project in 2015. Biographies of presidents has always been an interest of mine--going back to childhood--but after that undertaking, there has to be something unique about a president's
Jason Diamond
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! Teach this book in schools. It's one of the most engaging and honest biographies on a founding father I've read maybe ever.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Alexis Coe's new biography of our country's first president had me wishing that more women could take a stab at rewriting history. In the first 50 pages of this book, Coe dives into some solid rhetorical criticism about how Washington and his family have been portrayed by men in previous biographies written about them. I was SO there for that kind of dish and was really captivated by her writing.

But within a few chapters, the book settled into a pretty standard biography (albeit a great one at
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very readable, lighthearted, with plenty of detail look at George Washingtons life (also full of fun and interesting facts like the names of all his animals!). It looks unflinchingly at the figure of Washington- his strengths and weaknesses and most of all hypocrisy (especially when it comes to owning slaves and not freeing them until his death). This is a look at the man behind the legend and I ended up liking him as a real person who made mistakes and got angry but seemed to try hard and who ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ill give this 3-1/2 stars

Alexis Coe approaches George Washingtons life and accomplishments from a decidedly twenty-first century perspective. Using primary sources from George Washingtons writings (journals, letters, and accounts) and those of his contemporaries, Coe weaves together a biography of our first President. In the introduction, Coe states that shes the first female biographer of Washington who writes on the man himself.

I learned a few things about Washingtons life before the American
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was so delightful. It's not a doorstopper of a biography, so you can forget it if you want to know about every single movement Geo. Wash. made during the Revolutionary War.

But if you want a broad, realistic, modern view of our first president, this is just the ticket. It's also slightly irreverent, which is just my speed. (If you couldn't tell by the title and/or cover illustration lol.)

I feel like I should listen to the author's podcast now....
Jane Rousseau
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why is it that those like Coe who were so offended by men like Washington arent moved to equally be offended by those who were so much worse? Ive long been curious why modern history texts never delve into the bolshevik revolution of 1917, how the communist revolution financed by bankers Baruch, Schiff of NY, Rothschilds of London, Paris etc... which killed 60 million Russian and Ukrainian Christian civilians, men, women and children within 17 years time, the communist Maoist revolution that ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am a little surprised to find myself writing a rave review of a biography of George Washington and wanting to describe it as both funny and timely, but it's 2020 and I guess weirder things are happening. This is not my usual genre, but I do love a clever title and that + the description of the book as also being for "those who think presidential biographies are just for dads" (yup) prompted me to pick up a copy. Just Coe's preface and introduction are well worth a read- she takes aim at the ...more
I shall rely therefore, confidently, on that Providence which has heretofore preservd, & been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall.

I'm not generally a huge biography buff, but I quite enjoyed this. Alexis Coe took a fairly comprehensive look at Washington the man, beyond the many myths surrounding him (his dentures were definitely not made of wood). She wasn't afraid to point out the mistakes and hypocrisies, while also examining his strengths as a
John Teneyck
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Won this on one of the giveaways, really enjoyed this book, Fairly easy read. This is the first book Ive actually read in its entirety in over 20 years. ...more
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Great biography on Washington. The author tries to deal with issues previously not dealt with in other biographies that might have caused us to see Washington more as a godlike figure. A very nice read on Washington's life.
David Dunlap
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If only more biographies were like this one! -- In clear, direct prose (with lots of footnotes, demonstrating the author's mastery of her sources), the life of George Washington is laid out in all of its important details. (Ms. Coe suggests. BTW, that she may well be the first female historian to write about the Father of our Country in 100 years: most females write of Martha, or the family, or life at Mount Vernon. The author puckishly refers to the male historian-biographers of Washington as ...more
Mary M
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
There needs to be no zero options. As a far leftist who is more than a bit of a misandrist against white males, especially those like our founders of the US, Alexis Coe sought to denigrate George Washington using the sort of unsubstantiated smears she counts on being swallowed and regurgitated by the increasingly mindless left, who are too intellectually lazy to research facts for themselves, ask hard questions and expect honest answers backed up with cited sources. Was Washington a perfect ...more
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
My 2 reading goals this year are to explore the genres of "history" and "humor." This book sort of incorporates both. Maybe this isn't humorous in pure definition, but it does have a lighthearted air
that made the information easy to digest.

I was surprised the author starts the book by criticizing the men who have written Washington bios before her - and she points out proudly that she is the first woman to write a Washington bio. It was an interesting description of how history is gathered and
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was fun! Actually I think it was fun because it used a whole lot of bullet pointed lists, and then a brief look at the man George Washington. It's short, but gives a clear enough picture of who he was. And there are some interesting details about him that are focused here that would have been kind of lost in an information glut in another 700 page biography.

I get her point about size actually. It's why the book worked for me. Once upon a time, I wanted to read biographies of all presidents
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title is, unfortunately, far more enticing than the text.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so when I do, it has to have a quirky or unusual premise.

That's why I picked this up - a short book about our nation's Founding Father, offering new details about a man mythologized and idolized in our country and in our history books.

I enjoyed the author's honest take on George Washington, and the title: You Never Forget Your First really jumps out at you and grabs your attention.

I appreciated the author's take on previous biographers' approach to Washington
Jessica Klahr
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was concise and informative and I liked that it took similar biographies by men to task, especially with their chosen scope. The formatting was interesting with fast facts and timelines woven into the prose. I listened to the audiobook and would find myself zoning out sometimes, which is probably true for most of the audiobooks I listen to, but whenever I zoned back I was pulled right back in to whatever was being discussed. I would recommended this to anyone with even a passing ...more
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Alexis Coe is the author of YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST and ALICE+FREDA FOREVER, a host of PRESIDENTS ARE PEOPLE TOO and NO MAN'S LAND. She's a producer on Doris Kearns Goodwin's forthcoming Washington series on the History Channel and a consultant on the adaptation of her first book. She has frequently appeared on CNN and the History Channel, and has written for the New York Times, the New ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Historian Alexis Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, arrived in U.S. bookstores in February. Coe i...
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“The next time he would join them on the battlefield, it would be to destroy them.” 2 likes
“When France experienced its own, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, he did not step down from power, but rather declared himself emperor. Years later, he would say, “They wanted me to be another Washington.”13 But he couldn’t be. No one could.” 1 likes
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