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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: Mr. President by Harlow Giles Unger

Mr President
Mr. President: George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office
by Harlow Giles Unger
Unabridged, 6 hr. 57 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc
Dean Robertson (Narrator)
October 29, 2013

Genre: Non-Fiction, Presidential Biography

Source: Received for Review from Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program

“Although the framers gave the president little authority, Washington knew whatever he did would set precedents for generations of his successors. To ensure their ability to defend the nation, he simply ignored the Constitution when he thought it necessary and reshaped the presidency into what James Madison called a "monarchical presidency." Modern scholars call it the "imperial presidency." A revealing look at the birth of American government, "Mr. President" describes George Washington's assumption of office in a time of continual crisis, as riots, rebellion, internecine warfare, and attacks by foreign enemies threatened to destroy the new nation.”

Unlike the prior books I have read on President George Washington, this book focuses primarily on the issues of the presidency, rather than on his personal life – almost to the point of ignoring his personal life entirely. While it was nice to focus on the intricacies of the developing role of the presidency, it left something to be desired because it was much more difficult to connect with the person being presented; a little cold and distant if you will.

The development of the presidency was presented in terms of the “pillars of power” – war, finance, law enforcement, and foreign affairs – that Washington assumed for the President. These “pillars” guided the progression of the book and kept it narrative rather organized. The book was rather short – just under 7 hours of narration (equivalent of approximately 288 pages). Despite the short format, I feel like the author presented enough information about the evolution of the role of the president to make a cohesive narration. If the book was any longer, I actually think it might have felt too dense to read because of how much information was packed within those few pages.

This book is a tightly focused history where Washington the man is less of a focal point and the politics of the day are highlighted.



The audiobook narration was nothing spectacular. It didn’t make the material any less dry or any more exciting. Rather standard.

Author Harlow Giles Unger also has written The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness, John Quincy Adams, Lafayette, Lion of Liberty: The Life and Times of Patrick Henry, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution, John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot, Noah Webster: The Life and Times of an American Patriot, and Improbable Patriot: The Secret History of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, the French Playwright Who Saved the American Revolution. You can visit Unger’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can watch a video of Harlow Unger speaking at a Book TV segment about Mr. President at the following link.

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Hello! I'm a new follower through several of your social media. I found you through HFVBT. I love history, although British history is my passionate genre.
    Annette @ http://impressionsinink.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Annette! Thanks for stopping by and glad you found my little part of the world! Hope you enjoy it!

  2. Glad the book was short enough for you to like the book. I don't think this book is my cup of tea. I don't listen to audiobooks, I prefer seeing and reading the story instead of hearing it.

    1. I find that some audiobooks are better that others in there production. A great production can make or break a story for sure. I spend 2 hours a day commuting to work (and sometimes at work I need to block out the noise of my co-workers) so I use audiobooks to fill up the time. Get a lot of extra reading done that way!

  3. Hi Heather - i just discovered your blog. You have some great posts up including this one.

    This book sounds like it is right up my alley as this period is my number one historical interest. I saw Unger speaking about this on Book TV and it really sounds good.

    Last year I read Unger's biography on Lafayette.I liked it and found it mostly fair, but I thought that he was a little too in love with Lafayette.

    1. Your comment reminded me that I needed to actually watch that Book TV segment - I have it bookmarked somewhere. I will probably update this post with it.

      Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! I haven't read anything on Lafayette yet - I have mixed opinions on him - I like him during the American Rev. but not the French Rev.


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