General George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army and also an avid reader. He had over 900 books at his Mt. Vernon estate and credits much of his leadership and wisdom to self directed reading.
One interesting note of history is that contemporaries such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson did not view him as well of a reader. This may be because General Washington lacked a formal education, but his practical reading more than made up for any educational deficiencies. He was a lifelong practical reader and focused on topics that could provide a direct impact to his work of building an Army, fighting an Army and building a Nation.
Why is Reading Important for our new Nation?
Reading is critical because it is one of the primary ways to develop your mind after one leaves primary school. Just like a muscle your mind needs to be introduced to new ideas, thoughts and stimulus. Well developed minds need to have a constant stream of new concepts that allow them to think through and struggle with in search of the truth.
General Washington’s Favorite books.
- Treatise of Military Discipline: This was a hand book for me which helped lay down the principles of the Continental Army and the relationships and expectations that we demand from our officers and soldiers.
- Don Quixote: An amazing story of chivalry, romance and adventure, this is one of my goto books as I spent the cold winter sitting by the fire at Valley Forge.
- Platos Republic: How does a society define justice? And can we create a society to do the right thing? Plato’s discussions of these issues were instrumental to me and our first continental congress as we put together the Constitution in the summer of 1774.
- Meditations: This must be one of my top favorite books of all time. Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of Rome during 161 and was also known as the “last good emperor”. His book “Meditations” is essentially his personal journal of his struggles, successes, and practical ways to deal with those struggles. Nearly 2000 years later I am still able to use his advice nearly daily.