Skip to content

Book Review: 41 A Portrait Of My Father

January 27, 2020

Some people are famous enough that they only have one name.


But, there are people even more famous, more well known than the one name people. Those are people known by a number.


These are the only ones still alive. It’s shorthand for presidents. Tump is number 45. He’s the 45th person (so far all men) elected president of the United States of America.

I’m not sure when it started. Did they call President Lincoln 16? Did they call President Washington 1?

There have been several presidents who shared the same last name. We had

President Andrew Johnson 17
President Lyndon Johnson 36

President Theodore Roosevelt 26
President Franklin Roosevelt 32

President John Adams 2
President John Quincy Adams 6

President George H.W. Bush 41
President George W. Bush 43

Presidents Johnson were only distantly related through the 1st Earl of Somerset who lived back in the 15th century. Presidents Roosevelt were 5th cousins.

The Presidents Adams and Presidents Bush had three things in common. First both presidents had the same name John in the first case and George in the second. The second thing they had in common was that the first Adams/Bush served a single term. The third was that they were both fathers and sons.

Famed historian David McCullough who wrote what many consider the definitive history on President Adams 2, lamented that President Adams 6 never wrote anything concerning his father. It’s a unique perspective. Who knows better than a son, the issues the father dealt with as a chief executive? Who better than a son who followed his father in the loneliest job in the world?

George W Bush decided he was not going to let history repeat itself. The book 41 is George W Bush’s reflections on his father’s life.

I read President George W Bush’s book, Decision Points. It’s a fairly typical presidential memoire. It’s literally full of points during his presidency when he had to make a decision, the results of which had world-wide impact.

This book, 41, isn’t like that. It’s well written. And the younger Bush’s folksy Texas voice that we heard so much of during his presidency, comes through loud and clear. But, where his previous book was a reflection on policies, this book can best be described as a love letter to his father.

George W. Bush clearly loves and admires his father. That is evident throughout the book. He loves the man and wants us to love him too. And, given his relationship and the shared job experience they both had, he, of perhaps anyone in the world, is uniquely qualified to tell his father’s story.

What I Liked

The book is a joy to read. I’ve followed politics closely for years. The events that George Bush recounts his father going through are events that I also lived through. I watched the elder Bush during his time in office. The first presidential ballot I ever cast was for President Reagan and Vice President George HW Bush.

George Junior gives us stories of world events (his father throwing up on the Japanese prime minister’s shoes, the events of the first Gulf War, and many more.) He also gives us a personal look behind the headlines. The stories of what it was like to grow up in the household of a man who became president.

What I Didn’t

The book’s strength is also its greatest weakness. This is not like watching a major motion picture. This is a series of home movies. . .if your home happens to be the White House.

At times George W. Bush gives up specificity for a good story. He also glosses over less flattering details. For example, when discussing his father’s Supreme Court appointees (David Souter and Clarence Thomas) Bush talks about his own appointments (John Roberts and Samuel Alito.) Bush Jr talks about the process necessary to select a nominee. He conveniently omits the fact that one of his appointments was White House counsel Harriet Miers. Miers was not qualified and Bush, clearly embarrassed, quietly withdrew her nomination and replaced her with Samuel Alito.

This is not a “Mommy Dearest” tell-all. No salacious tidbits are forthcoming about the man known as 41. As I said, this is more of a love story than a policy debate.

What It Means For You

If you are a fan of George H W Bush or his son, you will enjoy this book. If you are a fan of biographies, you will also enjoy hearing about multiple generations of people who helped shape our country over the past century. If you were unhappy with George W Bush as president, you will no doubt find this book simplistic and unauthentic. If you think the Gulf Wars were trading blood for oil, that Bush Senior was intent on instilling a New World Order, or that his son lied to justify a war of revenge in Iraq, I would be surprised if you enjoyed this book.

My Rating

Two out of four stars

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

From → Book Reviews

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply