41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush

As I’ve mentioned before, I read books from both sides of the political spectrum and everywhere in-between. It doesn’t matter if the book is about Republicans or Democrats, if the book is about presidential history, I’m interested. So it was only natural that I would gravitate towards a book about our 41st president, especially because it was written by our 43rd president, a unique position to be in.

“Forty-three men have served as President of the United States. Countless books have been written about them. But never before has a President told the story of his father, another President, through his own eyes and in his own words. A unique and intimate biography, the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.  The book shines new light on both the accomplished statesman and the warm, decent man known best by his family. In addition, George W. Bush discusses his father’s influence on him throughout his own life, from his childhood in West Texas to his early campaign trips with his father, and from his decision to go into politics to his own two-term Presidency.”

If only John Quincy Adams had written a book about his father! That’s the only way you could even come close to comparing 41: A Portrait of My Father (Amazon) with any other presidential memoir. George W. Bush is only the second man to be the son of a president and a president himself, which gives him a unique perspective. And from the get-go, you know that this is a love story of a son who clearly adores his father. The book is a very personal portrait of a man who was president during some pretty eventful years in world history.

I listened to the audiobook of this book, narrated by George W. Bush. And it felt like a conversation with an old friend. Bush the younger narrates the book in his familiar speaking style, which can be heard as folksy or down home style. The hours flew by at work while I listened to this book. It was very easy to listen to.

The 1988 election was the first one where my interest in politics heightened, and I openly debated with friends over the candidates. I was in high school at the time and couldn’t vote, but I cared deeply about some of the issues brought up during the campaign like funding for education. While I grew up with Reagan in the White House, it was when George H.W. Bush was in office that I grew up and paid attention to the actions of the president.

It was interesting to learn of the genesis of the book. George W. Bush was talking to historian David McCullough’s daughter and she mentioned that his greatest regret when writing his Pulizer Prize winning biography of John Adams was that John Quincy never wrote about his father or his presidency, which is a shame. She suggested that Bush write about his father because of the unique position he held. While I’m not always a fan of presidential autobiographies because the man writing it is trying to shape his legacy, a book about a father who happened to be president is something else entirely. However, I felt at times like the younger Bush was trying to justify some of his decisions during his presidency by some of the choices his father made 15 years before.

I may not have always agreed with some of the decisions the Bushes made while in office, but I still think they are good men who had to make difficult decisions that I certainly would not have liked to face. George H.W. Bush was always regarded as a warm and likeable man who cared deeply about the people. When reading about men of power, I always look for the personal side. How was this person as a spouse and parent? There can be no doubt that 41 was a good father and husband as this glowing tribute shows him in a different light that other presidential biographies. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in United States history or just wants a feel-good memoir.

This is the 36th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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