Monday, August 17, 2015


The historian Joseph Ellis writes about American history and concentrates on the founding fathers (and an occasional mother) and the time and events in which they rose to prominence. Ellis’ work is highlighted by his tremendous research and a sense of immediacy that places readers into historic moments. 

The title Founding Brothers puts a spin on the more frequently used phrase and  reveals Adams, Burr, Franklin, Hamilton,  Jefferson, Madison and Washington to be dedicated to the formation of the United States, but each with his their own independent ideas and personality.  The book is unusual in that it is not a chronological history, but one that highlights 6 great developments, including how the nation’s capital was chosen.

With so many pages, including his own, devoted to fathers, Ellis succeeds in delivering a full-bodied biographical and political look at a founding mother in First Family: Abigail and John Adams. The accent here is on their shared partnership of ideas and affection.

The Quartet is the most recent Ellis book. Once again the author succeeds in presenting the founders as real people and not just stereotypical cardboard cutouts that can be hauled out in any discussion of American history and patriotism. This book is all about Washington, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay and how their leadership and compromises at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 resulted in a document that reflects a united and forever changing nation. 

Joseph Ellis writes history for curious readers. Find his books at the Monrovia Public Library.

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