I liked both of these but I really liked Grant’s memoirs. After reading Grant by Ron Chernow, I found myself fascinated by another underrated American Hero. Underrated because his good name has been besmirched by the Lost Cause and the drivel it spews for 150 years. The memoirs of Grant are highly regarded. He originally did not plan to write them but after losing most of his money in a bad investment, one in which he was deceived – his greatest shortcoming was his willingness to trust far too easily, he wanted to ensure that his wife Juila and his family had enough to take care of themselves upon his death. You see, he was dying of throat cancer at the time. The memoirs were purchased in advance by a new publishing house, started by one Mark Twain, who idolized Grant as a young man. The writing within the memoirs is so good that many believe Twain ghost wrote them on Grant’s behalf but there is no proof at all that happened and scholars reject that claim. The only flaw of the memoir is that Grant never seems to defend himself, or address at all for that matter, the allegations of alcohol misconduct of which is so commonly attributed to him. Instead he focuses only on his time in the Army. Grant readily offers praise for men who deserve it and gracefully addresses those who do not. He takes blame and gives credit. All in all, it was so good that I intend to seek out and purchase a physical copy for myself.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is also quite good but was less captivating to me. I read it on the recommendation of a friend who suggested it. I regularly forget that Franklin is a generation older than the other Founding Fathers and so much of the book takes place long before the Revolution. I learned that Franklin was a vegetarian, though in times of need would consume fish. I knew he read voraciously but he talks at length about his schedule. In fact, the last third of the book is much more a self-help guide than a true autobiography. He recommends ways of doing things that he found successful. It’s almost as if he were writing Poor Richard’s Almanac but for productivity. It was a good read and quite a fast read.