Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington” as Want to Read:
You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  7,822 ratings  ·  1,217 reviews
In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first—and 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 down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his sadd
Hardcover, 261 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Viking
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about You Never Forget Your First, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sarah Weeks-Jones The book doesn't go into the minutiae of Washington's life. It's more a brief overview of the major events and his role in the establishment of the US…moreThe book doesn't go into the minutiae of Washington's life. It's more a brief overview of the major events and his role in the establishment of the US. There isn't one specific chapter about slavery but the author does not gloss over Washington's role as a slave owner. She addresses his treatment of his slaves and his pursuit of those slaves who escaped. Coe also addresses Washington's legacy, pointing out that his freeing his slaves in his will was a much more convoluted affair than modern audiences are taught. Any flippancy towards slavery that I noticed was used more as a method to highlight the hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers rather than an accurate representation of the author's views.(less)
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)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,822 ratings  ·  1,217 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
If only history class was this much fun! This is the first biography of George Washington written by a woman. It’s a rigorously researched yet witty exploration of his life.

Fun facts and trivia are included, often in list form. Myths of Washington are dispelled. For instance, he did not have wooden teeth (although what he did have was unsavory). There was no cherry tree, nor did he say “I cannot tell a lie”.

Most people are a mixture of good and bad, and Washington was no exception. Despite his
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. By the end, however, I was regretting the money I’d spent on the e-book. There’s $13.99 I will never get back.

It probably didn’t 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 Chernow’s “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
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 wasn’t 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 c ...more
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
"What is history, but a fable agreed upon?" ~Napoleon Bonaparte

I'll admit it. I'm not a fan of early US history. It bored me in school.... though that has a lot to do with it having just been a bunch of names and dates to memorize rather than a deeper discussion. 

Perhaps disliking it in school left a bad taste in my mouth. But it just seems like a bunch of wars fought by a gang of slave-owning white dudes who were overly full of themselves. 

This is the first biography I've read of George Washing
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. (An
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
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Slate
This may be the only presidential biography I will ever read. As the author rightly noted, who has the time for 1,000-page tomes written by white men about white presidents? This book is only, mercifully, 300 pages. I liked some of it - the length (dah!), the format (lists, etc.), the fact that it tried to dispel some myths about George Washington, especially slavery-related. But even being so short, this biography had way too much battle info, and ultimately wasn't cohesive and deep for me to u ...more
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I couldn’t understand why the BLM protesters toppled the statue of George Washington in Portland, Oregon. Didn’t they know that he was the only President to free his slaves upon his death? That he is reputed to have treated his slaves humanely during his lifetime? That the fact he was a slave-owner was due to the times in which he lived?

Well---Coe points out that there is more to the story. George did not always treat his slaves kindly. He only freed one slave upon his death, the rest were to be
The Colonial
Mar 02, 2020 rated it 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 hits—noting his likes, dislikes, frenemies, beverages of choice, a fascinating look at the diseases he survived ...more
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
The first biography of George Washington written by a female historian in...damn near forever, Alexis Coe seeks to accomplish three things:

1. Break down the myths and reverence surrounding and clouding our first president
2. Bring Washington's life to life in a way that shows him as a dude, some of us
3. Write a biography of the first president that can't be successfully used as either a doorstop or a bludgeon

...and she mostly succeeds.

Things I Liked

I felt like the irreverent tone was mo
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 ac
Jul 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Never Forget Your First. More like. You never forget you're interspersed. For better or worse, this is a highly episodic biography of George Washington. The upside is that if you're not in it for the thousand plus page tome treatment, this little ditty will get you there in just under three hundred. The downside is that you really breeze through events, jumping in at high water marks.

Of course, a lot of the received history of George Washington is apocryphal and exaggerated folklore, and Alexis
Rachel Reads Ravenously
3.5 stars

Addressing the many misconceptions about George Washington that have developed over the years, this book is a refreshing one to read. But, as it is a biography, it still delves into facts that most historians find fascinating that I feel the common reader does not find fascinating. There were many things grazed over that I would have liked to know more about, and something that I found myself skipping past while listening to the audio version of this book.

I do hope we get more biograp
A Feminist take on the life of America's first President?

Alexis Coe's biography of George Washington is the first adult biography written by a trained female historian in the last 40 years. It is a lively, irreverent examination of the life of a legendary hero. While Coe admires his strengths, her goal in this short, 204-page biography is to debunk the myths surrounding Washington and thereby humanize his legacy.

Coe begins by discrediting the myths many Americans learn in childhood, like the
Diane S ☔
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
3.5 thought soon.
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. ...more
I think of myself as someone who likes reading historical stuff, but I’m 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 readi ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yes, it is rather strange reviewing not one but two presidential biographies on Election Night USA, but we live in strange times.

This was a rather breezy biography of Washington, informative where it wanted to be, accessible in prose, and conscious of what it wanted to do. There is tons of Washington biographies out there and Coe knew that doing another doorstopper of a book on the man would not add much. Instead she, rather wisely I think, decided to concentrate on underexplored aspects of his
This book opens up with a chart listing all the things that the public consciousness "knows" about George Washington, right next to facts debunking those myths. Which is what they are: myths. As one of America's Founding Fathers, the man who led the country in the Revolutionary War, and the first President of the United States, he has become more a mythologized figure than an actual person for most people. And as Coe points out in her introduction, even the most rigorous historian and scholar ha ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
You may not think you need to read a washington bio--I certainly was not looking to! But you should read this just for the commentary on how the other biographers have treated their subject. Coe is not out to write a hagiography nor is she writing a critique. It's a balanced bio of a man. The best elements are when she talks about certain ways the other biographers (she calls them "thigh men" because of their obsession with Washington's things!) have covered certain "unmanly" parts of his life-- ...more
Mar 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a fun, though somewhat choppy account of George Washington's life and career. It's a good place to start, but the author's bias is fairly blatant and at times it felt quite repetitive. I did like that it showed Washington as a admirable yet flawed man, instead of a faultless being who walked on water, the way he sometimes seems to be portrayed. All in all, an entertaining read.

Find my book reviews and more at
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.

Coe’s 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 anachroni
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 strive
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 t
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title is, unfortunately, far more enticing than the text.
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved the writing style of this, especially the little boxes of information.
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the introduction to her book, Coe suggests that the Washington biography business is due for a shakeup. There hasn’t been a biography of Washington written by a woman in 40 years. She says “For nearly two and a half centuries, most of the stories Americans have told themselves about their country’s past have been about men, by men, for men.”

She talks about how male authors - particularly Ron Chernow - tend to mythologize Washington, and that it was time to bring him down to earth, and how Wa
Annalise Nakoneczny
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
I don't know much about Washington besides the fact that every man over 40 who I know thinks he is the personification of freedom. Coe provides a clear-eyed, fascinating, often funny biography that removes Washington from his legendary pedestal and paints a different picture-- that of a flawed, complicated stoic with (apparently) frickin good thighs. She treats his story with respect and a critical eye, reminding the reader of his failures. She pulls the women in his life into the narrative, sho ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

This is a short, accessible and entertaining biography of George Washington—a household name about whom, as it turns out, most of us don’t know much. It’s only a little over 200 pages, written in an engaging style, and with a bunch of charts and lists. Not knowing much about Washington the person myself, it was enlightening to read about his life and career. (Apparently he left the presidency embittered by infighting.) The author does a solid job of hitting the highlights and lowlights,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Mt. Lebanon Publi...: You Never Forget Your First 1 5 Jun 09, 2020 12:37PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1
  • Olive, Again (Olive Kitteridge, #2)
  • Us Conductors
  • Here I Am
  • One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying, #2)
  • The Christmas Pact
  • This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
  • The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo, #4)
  • Password to Larkspur Lane (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, #10)
  • The Dark Enquiry (Lady Julia Grey, #5)
  • Acid for the Children
  • How Could She
  • Snow Country
  • The Detective Wins The Witch (Nocturne Falls, #10)
  • Now You See Them (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #5)
  • The Clue of the Broken Locket (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, #11)
  • A Brush with Shadows (Lady Darby Mystery, #6)
  • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims
See similar books…
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 Yorker ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Every December, as we wrap up our annual Goodreads Reading Challenge, we ask our book-loving colleagues a simple yet incredibly tough...
180 likes · 322 comments
“The next time he would join them on the battlefield, it would be to destroy them.” 2 likes
“Political partisanship, Washington predicted, would reduce the government to a crowd of bickering representatives who were very good at thwarting each other but got very little accomplished for their constituents. And for all his talk of unity, he had come to see people as for or against his administration and had little patience for criticism. Unbridled partisanship was his greatest fear, and his greatest failure was that he became increasingly partisan.” 2 likes
More quotes…