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Friday Reads: President's Day

On Monday, February 19th we celebrate President’s Day. Did you know that President’s Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president? Four chief executives—George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were born in February, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents’ Day, which is always celebrated on the third Monday of the month since 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act: “an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers…” It’s a great occasion to learn something new by reading the following acclaimed adult and children’s nonfiction: 

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  The Speeches & Writings of Abraham Lincoln by Abraham LincolnTHE SPEECHES & WRITINGS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (The Library of America Collection) Edited by the late historian Don E. Fehrenbacher, these two books include all Lincoln’s significant works from the entirety of his public life, including both sides of the complete Lincoln-Douglas debates, dozens of speeches, hundreds of personal and political letters, communications to the generals in the field, presidential messages and proclamations, poems, and private reflections on democracy, slavery, and the meaning of the Civil War’s immense suffering. This is the definitive Lincoln for the general reader, “a momentous and thrilling addition to any private library” in the words of the great literary critic Alfred Kazin.   Friends Divided by Gordon S. WoodFRIENDS DIVIDED: JOHN ADAMS AND THOMAS JEFFERSON by Gordon S. Wood A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017 From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America’s most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.   Grant by Ron ChernowGRANT by Ron Chernow America’s greatest biographer, brings to life a moving portrait of one of our finest, most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant’s life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.   Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel PhilbrickVALIANT AMBITION: GEORGE WASHINGTON, BENEDICT ARNOLD, AND THE FATE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Nathaniel Philbrick From the New York Times bestselling historian comes a surprising account of the messy middle years of the Revolution and the tragic relationship of George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation.   FOR YOUNGER READERS   Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMontWEIRD BUT TRUE KNOW-IT-ALL: U.S. PRESIDENTS by Brianna DuMont What’s so weird about U.S. presidents? Plenty! Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a great wrestler? That Ulysses S. Grant got a speeding ticket riding his horse – twice! Or that Benjamin Harrison was afraid of electricity? And let’s not forget that President McKinley had a pet parrot that whistled “Yankee Doodle Dandy” duets with him! In this new single-subject Weird But True book, you’ll have a blast learning that there’s a lot of substance – and weirdness – in every president’s past.   The Presidents Visual Encyclopedia by DKTHE PRESIDENTS VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA (DK Children) From George Washington to Donald Trump, this visual reference guide presents a unique insight into life in the White House. More than 150 easy-to-read entries cover the presidents, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Louisiana Purchase, the Gettysburg Address, and more, and over 200 fascinating photographs add to kids’ knowledge of these leaders and the key moments that defined their time in office.   George Washington's Spies (Totally True Adventures) by Claudia FriddellGEORGE WASHINGTON'S SPIES (Totally True Adventures) by Claudia Friddell During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington (AKA “Agent 711”) was the leader of a ring of spies! The group—called the Culper Ring—used secret names, codes, invisible ink, and more to spy on the British and pass along information. Nobody knew about it at the time (and few do so today), but those sneaky heroes risked their lives to help win the American Revolution! Illustrated throughout in black and white, with an appendix that includes photographs, bonus content, and links to primary source materials.   Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken BurnsGROVER CLEVELAND, AGAIN! A TREASURY OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTS by Ken Burns, Gerald Kelley This special treasury from America’s beloved documentarian Ken Burns brings the presidents to life for our nation’s children. Each president is given a lushly illustrated spread with curated stories and information to give readers of all ages a comprehensive view of the varied and fascinating characters who have led our nation (with the exception of Grover Cleveland—the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms—who gets two spreads!).   For more on these and related titles visit: PRESIDENTS’ DAY  

Chernow, Farrell, Klagsbrun and Sebestyen Nominated for 2018 Plutarch Award

Biographers International Organization (BIO) has nominated ten books as semi-finalists for its 2018 Plutarch Award, the only international literary prize for biography that is chosen by fellow biographers.   Four of the nominees are published by Penguin Random House imprints: 

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  GRANT by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press) RICHARD NIXON: The Life by John Farrell (Doubleday) LIONESS: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel by Francine Klagsbrun (Schocken) LENIN: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen (Pantheon) View the complete list of nominees here. The Plutarch Award Committee will announce four finalists the week of February 5.   All BIO members will then vote for the winning book, which will be revealed on May 19 at the Ninth Annual BIO Conference in New York.