Monday, February 15, 2010

Closing Thoughts: Founding Brothers

All right, finally, Founding Brothers.

Pages: 248
Total pages: 5929
Total books: 17
Avg pages/book: 348.765

Average pages at almost 350? Thanks, The Stand!

Founding Brothers is really a fantastic book. I'll easily recommend it to anybody with a passing interest in American history, especially of the Revolutionary generation. Joseph Ellis is a fantastic writer who really takes these historical persons and weaves their story into an engaging read. The progression of themes and ideas was never dry nor boring. The insights to what these men thought, what they believed, how those beliefs shaped their actions, and how their actions effectively shaped over a hundred years of American history were fantastic. I began to see some of these characters--especially those I knew relatively little about, such as James Madison and John Adams--as dynamic individuals, as heroes and villains, as friends, coworkers, and bitter enemies in a way I hadn't taken the time or effort to consider.

It's easy to see why this book was the Pulitzer winner. Non-fiction has always been an area I've shied away from, the image of a dusty old textbooks sitting on a library shelf has always sprung to my mind when I consider the genre as a whole. And to be sure, I struggled through this book, most likely because I've been really, really tired when I've had time to read, and this book requires an intellectual engagement that most things I've read recently have not demanded, but I thoroughly enjoyed every step on this journey, even if it did involve multiple recheckings.

My pace has really slowed down since Christmas. Honestly, it feels like I've become sluggish in a lot of things since 2010 started. Hopefully I'll carry the momentum from getting through this one into the coming months.

Sorry if this is sort of a vague and uninteresting review; I feel kind of unqualified to give a detailed recap of a historical book. I will say the highlight of the book, from my perspective, was the recounting of personal correspondences between these juggernauts of American thought and theory. Letter-writing is truly a lost art form, and these exchanges from the late 18th century may have proved its finest hour. Definitely worth a read if for no other reason than to catch a glimpse of the way great minds used to exchange ideas. And, really, it should be a quick read for any serious reader.

I want to thank whoever it was who suggested this book for me. (I think it was old college chum Lee) I do plan to pick up more of Ellis' works in the near future.

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