Hello Book Friends!
This coming week marks a big event for us here in northern Virginia--namely, Washington’s Birthday! Our first president made his home just a silver dollar’s throw down the road at Mount Vernon, and of course that city across the river bears his name (though it wasn’t yet built when he was president; he governed from Philadelphia and New York). Old Town isn’t without its washington lore either: he owned several properties in town, as my fellow plaque-readers will know; he spent many a Sunday at Christ Church over on Cameron street; he’s memorialized at the Masonic Memorial that dominates our skyline; and every February we have the cherry challenge at our local restaurants and a parade on President’s Day to honor his legacy. So, naturally, here at Old Town Books, we’re celebrating the father of our country as well! We’ve got a great selection of books about Washington in stock, ranging from the classic to the unexpected.
If you’re interested in learning about some sides of Washington with which you might not be familiar, one book to check out is Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners. While much has been written about Washington’s public life as a surveyor, soldier, and president, and understandably so, this book touches on his less-seen private life at Mount Vernon. Wulf expertly captures Washington (and some of his contemporaries, like Thomas Jefferson) in his daily life as farmer and gardener, in the process describing how some of our greatest statesmen also defined the role and practice of agriculture in the early republic. Another book about a less-seen side of Washington is Peter Stark’s Young Washington, which gives insight into how the young man’s experiences in the French & Indian War shaped him into the leader he would become. Continuing on that theme, Colin G. Calloway’s The Indian World of George Washington is an insightful look into our first president’s career through the prism of his interactions with Native Americans. Calloway makes sure to give the Native leaders their due, making them as human and complex on the page as Washington.
If, however, you’re interested in learning more about Washington as Revolutionary General, we have just the books for that, too! Brad Meltzer’s The First Conspiracy details a plot to assassinate Washington while he and the Continental Army were stationed in New York City in the earliest days of the war. It’s a rarely-told story and one that in Meltzer’s hands unfolds thrillingly, as the plan was only narrowly foiled; needless to say, the fate of the revolution hung in the balance. Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin captures a more well-known defining moment in the revolution, putting the reader in the frostbitten footsteps of Washington and his men at their bitterly cold encampment for the winter of 1776-7. Likewise, In the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick brings to life in its pages the story of Yorktown and the naval struggles which ensured Washington’s siege of Cornwallis’ army would succeed. Philbrick is one of the world’s preeminent naval historians, and he makes this 230-plus-year-old conflict as fresh and relevant as if it were happening now. Lastly but certainly not least, if there’s a young person in your life who loves learning about the presidents, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager have adapted their New York Times best-selling book George Washington’s Secret Six for middle-grade readers. It’s a fascinating story of the spies that helped Washington win the revolution, available for the first time for young readers, and it would make a perfect gift for any budding historian (I’d have asked for it for my birthday back then!).
So there you have it: in time for our national holiday celebrating his birthday, an exceptional septet of books about George Washington, all of which are sure to be first in war, first in peace, and first on your TBR shelf. Happy reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!