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Publisher's Summary

An instant New York Times best seller

An NPR Concierge Best Book of the Year

“In her form-shattering and myth-crushing book…Coe examines myths with mirth, and writes history with humor…. [You Never Forget Your First] is an accessible look at a president who always finishes in the first ranks of our leaders.” (Boston Globe)

Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first - and finds he is not quite the man we remember.

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, caused an international incident, and never backed down - even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle. But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won.

After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War cast him as the nation's hero, he was desperate to retire, but the founders pressured him into the presidency - twice. When he retired years later, no one talked him out of it. He left the highest office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.

Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty must confront his greatest hypocrisy - what to do with the men, women, and children he owns - before he succumbs to death.

With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have listeners - including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads - inhaling every word.

©2020 Alexis Coe (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"An important achievement. [Coe] has cleverly disguised a historiographical intervention in the form of a sometimes cheeky presidential biography." (The New York Times Book Review)

“In this breezy yet fact-filled revisionist biography, historian and podcast host Coe (Alice + Freda Forever) takes George Washington’s previous - predominantly male - biographers to task...Readers who like their history with a dose of wry humor will savor this accessible account.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Evenhanded and engaging, this biography brings fresh insight to one of America's most written-about leaders.” (Kirkus Reviews)   

What listeners say about You Never Forget Your First

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You Never Forget Your Worst

I was largely disappointed with this new biography of George Washington. The author asserts that this book was needed, because there are very few biographies of Washington that were authored by a woman, and she claims that the most recent one of note was written more than 40 years ago. She claims that her work is important because it approaches the topic from a female perspective, rather than a male one. What she does, however, is prove the gender of the author is not as important as the accuracy of the work, which in this case, has at least a couple of glaring errors. (Example: There were plans to entomb Washington’s body under the Capitol Building, not the Washington Monument as stated by the author. Construction of the Washington Monument did not even begin until almost 50 years after his death.)

The author suggests that her version of Washington’s life will reveal things that are absent from other important works on his life, in no small part because now the topic is being handled by a woman rather than a man. She falls far short of this goal. Her book contains no revelation of the man’s life, and at times reads like a middle-school child’s bed-time story. The author criticizes the work of other biographers for drawing conclusions from small pieces of evidence, and then proceeds to engage in the same tactic herself.

She chose a silly title for her work, “You Always Remember Your First”. But the book would have more accurately been titled, “Washington’s Slaves”, because the work is obsessed with the fact that he indeed did own slaves. It is clear that her measure of the quality of the man is made through the lens of modern times, and modern values, rather than the cultural norms and standards of his time. This seems to be a standard (and abhorrent, in my opinion) practice of some biographers today. It is a practice that marginalizes many historic figures who were once considered great (and should be, still). Any person who is evaluated by the standards of another time is likely to fall short of greatness.

For many people, this may be the only work on Washington they ever read. Such an unfortunate truth! If you want to read about George Washington, apply your money and time toward much better works, such as: “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph J. Ellis; “1776” by David McCullough; “George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots” by Dave Richard Palmer; Or even “Washington: The Indispensable Man” by James Thomas Flexner.

58 people found this helpful

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Why so rough on George?

The author Alexis Coe seems hell bent on making George Washington look bad, he as a slave owner (we heard that a million times), he was under educated, He was sterile, etc., The bottom line is that he dedicated his adult life to the service of our country, over and over he was called upon and he answered every single time and always to his personal expense.

He was a good husband, a good step father, a hard working man who like most of us was always looking to get ahead. Yes, he was a slave owner but it wasn't like he was the only one, he didn't initiate slave ownership and he was raised in a family who already owned slaves, it was part of what he knew. If George had lived to an age of enlightenment or if he had been successful in selling some of his land (as he tried to do), he may have emancipated his slaves, we will never know.

However, what we do know is that as an average Joe, he bravely answered the many calls for duty and he was an amazing First President of the United States.

36 people found this helpful

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Not what I was expecting

Too many passive aggressive blows at the "white male". I want to read an interesting bio on George Washington without the author's underlying opinion. Her entire intro/preface criticizes past biographers of doing just what she does. Also, the narrator's voice sounds too sarcastic and opinionated as well. Calm down. Do not recommend if you just want a biography with facts. Too bad because many parts were well done.

26 people found this helpful

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GW didn't have to be perfect to achieve greatness

As the Audible History editor, I have a bias toward lively historical narrative, especially when it's richly detailed, and this audio fits the bill. Drawing on her skills as a researcher, Alexis Coe unearthed the minutiae of George Washington's daily life (his aches, his pains, his likes and dislikes); her irreverent yet evenhanded prose brings him to life. (So does Brittany Pressley's narration of the meat of the audio!) Alexis Coe is the Snopes of general history, in my opinion, as she approaches her subject from the angle of: what do we believe and is it true? (Spoiler alert: he lost more battles than he won.) She knows which facts to curate to make listeners feel the heft of reality, too -- check out the recipe for hoecakes and consider how much (enslaved) labor George Washington's favorite breakfast required. I hope listeners embrace this audio, not just as a trove of gem-like detail, but also as a way of looking at the totality of America's origin story. In the quest for a more perfect Union, it's History to the rescue...again!

14 people found this helpful

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  • BC
  • 05-03-20

Great perspective

I read Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, before listening to this. Together with this book, it creates a complicated picture of George Washington.
As Alexis Coe spells it out, this was a man who saw no inconsistency in fighting for principles of freedom and owning people.
While enjoyed the book, I was disappointed by the performance, particularly with the reading of the lists at the start of some chapters. I found the cadence of the reading didn’t really illuminate the writing.

5 people found this helpful

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EXCELLENT BOOK FOR PRESIDENTS' DAY

Interesting and entertaining. An accurate and thorough insight into a wide range of attributes of a notable life.

5 people found this helpful

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  • LK
  • 12-07-20

Trash

Recommended by Ben Shapiro for some reason that is beyond me. This author clearly had a goal in mind and it wasn’t to give you a clear sense of the reality of the history and the way in which people perceived their world at that point in history. Feminists are some of the biggest hypocrites amongst the woke virtue signaling crowd. I do not recommend this book.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

An overdue perspective on an American icon.

A refreshing, thorough and modern interpretation of the first president, told in a lively, engaging voice.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent and rich in detail.

What a rich in detail bio of a beloved President. His human imperfections a must know to remove the fantasy from fact. Thank you for a most wonderful REAL read.

3 people found this helpful

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George Washington!

This is by far the best biography on George Washington! It put many many things in the timeline in a most accurate light. Very enjoyable!

3 people found this helpful