The Founding Fathers series includes:George Washington by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn. In this thoughtful and incisive biography, Burns and Dunn dissect the strengths and weaknesses of Washington's presidential leadership, from his lasting foreign and economic policies to his polarizing denunciation of political parties and his public silence about slavery.John Adams by John Patrick Diggins. Perhaps no U.S. president was less suited for the practice of politics than John Adams. A gifted philosopher who helped lead the movement for American independence from its inception, Adams was unprepared for the realities of party politics that had already begun to dominate the new country before Washington left office. But in this program, historian John Patrick Diggins reveals a John Adams whose reputation for snobbery and failure are wholly undeserved, and whose prescient modernism still holds valuable lessons for us.Thomas Jefferson by Joyce Appleby. Few presidents embody the American spirit as fully as Thomas Jefferson. His vision and unrivaled political imagination account for the almost utopian zeal of his two administrations. However, contradictions in his populism make Jefferson the most controversial of presidents. Jefferson described his election to the presidency as a second American Revolution. For the first time, historian Joyce Appleby rigorously explores this claim. James Madison by Gary Wills. The eternal conundrum about James Madison - a key framer of the U.S. Constitution, a formidable political figure, and a man of tremendous intellect and foresight - is why, when he became chief executive, did he steer the ship of state with such an unsteady hand? Why was this man so lackluster and ineffectual in his tenure as president? Renowned historian Garry Wills outlines the confluence of unfortunate circumstance, misplaced temperament, and outright poor judgment that bogged down Madison's presidency.More
"A publishing milestone...Schlesinger, a master craftsman, is imposing his high standards on these books. Hail to the chief. It's a wonderful series." (Chicago Sun Times)
"This excellent series of biographies, each written by an eminent historian, is a rich and rewarding listening experience." (AudioFile)
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A well presented short series
If you liked Founding Brothers by Ellis, or maybe 1776 by McCullough, this provides more background into the cast of characters without being a 200-hour commitment. There's enough humanity to keep things interesting to anyone who wants to know more while remaining, under Schlesinger's name, Real History. At not quite twenty-three hours, it moves along at a fairly good clip.
As a work of Real History, it works to steer clear of the modern inclination towards the "WWGWD" (what would George Washington do?) political commentaries disguised as histories, largely by having a different biographer for of each of these men (and having none of them Glenn Beck clones). While none of the biographies are going to be called "the definitive work" on their respective topics, they provide a nice history aimed at the many of us in between high-interest stuff like Founding Brothers and the hardcover biographies most often given as gifts and used only as bookshelf decorations.
Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin comes to mind, though the unabridged version is actually longer than these four biographies combined.....as the biographies are relatively short, you shouldn't expect the kind of in-depth detail found in a stand-alone single biography.
While not dry and dusty, appropriately professorial for the subject matter.
Uhh....it's not really that kind of book.
- Hal VT
A good listen