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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed author Joseph J. Ellis penned the National Book Award-winning American Sphinx and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Founding Brothers, a fixture on The New York Times best seller list for an entire year, and one of the most popular history books of all time. Now this master historian turns his attention to the most exalted American hero, Founding Father and first President George Washington.

Washington has always been a larger-than-life enigmatic figure. On the day he was given command of the continental army, he recorded only the temperature and where he ate dinner in his journal. But recently, his papers were catalogued at the University of Virginia. Ellis had primary access to the 90-volume papers, allowing him to paint a thorough and fascinating portrait.

From the French and Indian War to Mount Vernon, from the American Revolution to the presidency, Ellis delivers what will stand the test of time as the definitive biography of the greatest American icon.

©2004 Joseph J. Ellis (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

  • Audie Award Finalist, Non-Fiction (unabridged), 2005
  • 2005 Quill Award Nominee

"Ellis offers a magisterial account of the life and times of George Washington [that] leaves readers with a deeper sense of the man's humanity." (Publishers Weekly) "Mr. Ellis gives us a succinct character study while drawing on his extensive knowledge of Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary history to strip away the accretions of myth and contemporary extemporizing that have grown up around his subject....An incisive portrait of the man." (The New York Times)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Gerard
  • Overland Park, KS, USA
  • 01-15-05

Distracted By Narrator

I found the book to be well-written and informative. However, after listening to more than 50 books this is the first time I have been distracted by the clearly audible sound of the narrator inhaling between sentences. I found that to be surprising and disappointing since it is an issue that can be addressed through voice training or, as a last resort, editing during the production of the audio book.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good book, not a great book

This is a good book, not a great book, about the "founding generation." Ellis does an excellent job reviewing Washington's life & career but does not bring to light much of an original nature. Ellis seeks to bring Washington "to life" in a way that more political history treatments supposedly do not. However, he does not succeed in this goal, in part perhaps because the combination of documentary evidence & Washington's own self-imposed flatness prohibits that from happening. The book flows well, is well organized, and is very well narrated. My interest never flagged even though I did not find much of new material. Ellis is a very good writer ... that alone should recommend this book-on-tape to other listeners, since many history volumes of this nature are very hard to follow on tape.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


If you are fan of David McCullough, you will probably be underwhelmed by this book. It is not as well written, entertaining, or fact filled. The narrator is a bit boring and there were several times I had to 'go back' and relisten to a section because I realized I had 'drifted away' and wasn't paying attention.

The book attempted to give a picture of 'George Washington the man' but I don't feel that I knew much more about him after listening to the book. The one exception is the discussion of Washington's view of slavery and how he tried to personally deal with it.

If you are a history buff, you probably should read it and will get some enjoyment out of it - just don't expect too much.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Book!

I loved His Excellency and would gladly recommend it to others. I don't know what the other reviewers were complaining about, I thought the narration was fine and kept me engaged. Washington truly was a man for the ages. He won two major battles out of the whole revolutionary war and went on to lead the country as a "national hero" that even Jefferson dared not defame until later in his career. I found the book evenhanded and quite thurough. I am a conservative and had no issues with Ellis' take on the President and recommend it to history buffs like me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Horrible narration

The book offers an interesting insight into George Washington's life. But the narrator's long breaths, loud swallowing and stomach gurgling made for a total distraction. It's obvious that the producers of this audiobook were asleep at the switch. The swallowing and breaths could have easily been edited out electronically. As for the gaseous gurgling, they should have told the narrator to just read the line over.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Charles E.

Fine insight into the character, make up and triumph of the father of our country. The strenghts and complexities of an honorable man along with his opponants and errors. So complex that it became a bit
lengthy at times. Very enjoyable listening.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

His Excellency

The most in-depth analysis of George Washington?s life from the French and Indian War through his death I have ever read. Ellis?s book is not written for general audiences and in order completely comprehend this title you will need much background in the founding of America. Nevertheless, it will answer multiple questions you may have about this majestic man and leave you with a highly sophisticated knowledge of his life.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not what I expected

After listening to founding brothers,(highly recommended),I expected more out of this book. It seemed to take Washington and tell us all the reasons why the listener shouldn't think of him as in any way great, and all the while dismissing to quickly the very reasons that we do. This seems to stray from Ellis's earlier assessment of the same man. This book also seemed to be more in line with a book meant for classroom discussion than the entertaining and informative book I had expected after listening to his last. I would rather recommend "John Adams" or the afore mentioned Ellis book instead.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This book was incredibly enjoyable. One of my favorite audio books because of the objective approach and interesting aspects of Washington that are presented. It's very detailed but not overly so. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this man. I had never known much about the "primus inter pares" of the revolution before but now I see why so many people were willing to follow him. The author does a great job in his writing and Washington seems like such an interesting subject in his hands that you can't help but enjoy the ride.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Davis
  • San Pedro, CA, United States
  • 06-02-06

An excellent introduction

I enjoyed His Excellency very much. It was a fine introduction to the life of GW. It was more analytical than narrative, which was to my liking. I came away with much more of an understanding of Washington than I had previously. Although the pacing of the reader was a little on the slow side, that did not bother me, and for material of this type, worked just fine.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful