Charlie “Tremendous” Jones has a well known phrase I’ve taken to heart, “You’ll be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Every year I try to find books to improve my knowledge and skills. Here are a few highlights on the books I found most useful.
The Founding Father’s
Throughout the year I read a variety of books on various Founding Fathers by several different authors. I gained a unique perspective to the early period of our Nation, seeing the same time through different eyes.
The Art of Power
Written by Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, is literally a Pulitzer Prize winner. A methodical and well written book. The author takes a methodical view of Jefferson’s life, placing emphasis on the moments that taught Jefferson political power.
We see Jefferson as a philosopher, agrarian, diplomat, and political genius. Throughout his career he was a man of contradictions, balancing the ideal and the realistic.
There are endless lessons one can learn from the biographies of great men, particularly from lives as full as Jefferson’s. We learn of a man lead by a vision, who lived with surprising contradictions.
The lesson I took away was the use of subtly. Jefferson disliked direct confrontation, and was apt to use his powers of private conversation to persuade rather than oratory or debate. Even those few who hated Jefferson couldn’t help but be charmed by him personally. He learned to be friends to all.
The American Wizard
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson was an incredible book on the life of America’s oldest Founding Father and a gentleman involved in every important document in the formation of America, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution itself.
Franklin was a master of public relations and public image, the original inventor of the “American persona.” These were useful weapons during his time as an ambassador, first in England, then France.
My takeaway from Franklin was his application of work. Raised by a Puritan father, he learned diligence. The Proverbs say that the diligent will stand before kings. Franklin noted in his later life that he had stood before three kings and supped with two.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow was a shift for the author from the economics and business realm of writing to the American-political. Hamilton was among the youngest of the Founders, providing an interesting contrast to Franklin’s story.
Chernow provides a view of Hamilton in the shadow of his fate, contrasting the similarities and differences with his eventual killer Aaron Burr.
Most interestingly it gives a back door look into the formation of the Federal Government as it was, particularly the Treasury Department, which was Hamilton’s brainchild.
I wrote an article comparing the political styles of Hamilton and Jefferson earlier in the year. Here’s a link.
There were of course, other books with other lessons I learned: John Adams by David McCullough, Washington: a Life by Ron Chernow, The Big Con by David Maurer, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw, etc, etc.
Each book has lessons to be learned. What books did you read through the year? What lessons did you learn from them?