Long commute = Lots of time for audiobooks
Oh, how I love Scott Brick as a narrator. There's nothing more I can say, really. His pace, tone, and expression capture nonfiction pieces perfectly.
I discovered this book after reading Chernow's "Washington: A Life," and realizing that I was finding myself more and more fascinated by Washington's devoted and talented young protege, Alexander Hamilton. Imagine my delight when I found that Chernow had authored a biography on Hamilton as well.
All of America's founding fathers were brilliant, courageous, enterprising, and thoroughly flawed men. Chernow captures this balance perfectly in writing about both Washington and Hamilton.
Hamilton has become my favorite founder (because yes, as a history nerd, I do have a favorite). He was one of the only truly self-made men of the founders, and as an immigrant and illegitimate child, perfectly embodies what I believe has always been the American dream (however romantic and idealized the notion may be): the ability to come to this land and discover one's own greatness, regardless of one's humble beginnings. There is so much more to Hamilton's story besides his well-known duel with Aaron Burr, and Chernow captures every detail and paints the clearest picture of a man whose legacy lives on in so many parts of our lives today.
Excellently written, articulate, objective,thorough to a fault; this vast work brings life to a truly remarkable man and an extraordinary period of time. Scott Brick's narration is perfect for the piece.
I have always admired A.H., and empathized with him most closely of all the founding farthers. This is a well read and terrifically written biography. The perspective is very generous to him, and a little malicious on his rivals; however, balance is still maintained and the flawed but brilliant patriot shines through.
As an aside, my respect for the leadership capabilities of George Washington (often underated) are increased from this book. Once his leadership is missing the collective brillance of his team seems to wayne.
This is a breathtaking biography. Despite its length, my interest never flagged. The author keeps the pace going & the interest attracted to the various stories. He is very even-handed in his evaluation of Hamilton ... you see his great qualities & his weak ones, and their consequences. I liked the fact that the book did not tumble into psycho-biography, which might have been easy to do.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
"I heal all wounds but those which love hath made."
- Inscription on an envelope to Eliza Hamilton from her husband Alexander.
I have read many political biographies in my 41 years, but few better. Chernow is able to walk that narrow, tricky trail between scholarship and narrative storytelling without tripping over hagiography. He presents the largeness and improbableness of Alexander Hamilton without leaving out Hamilton's excesses and flights of paranoia and inflexibility. I think Chernow gets it right that "If Washington was the father of the country and Madison the father of the Constitution, then Alexander Hamilton was surely the father of the American government." He was a man who was infused with genius and energy, but also often tone-deaf to the political realities of his time. He was a man who knew government but was often ungovernable himself.
His talents built the frameworks that would later create both our nation's economic, government and military capacity as well as the Federalist party, however, those same skills would also help to tear down the Federalist party because of Hamilton's inability to bend or just shut up. Like those prophets that seem to gain strength and honor as the world shifts and slides into alignment with their oracle-like vision, the modern world seems able to identify and honor Hamilton because in many ways HE made it.
Chernow's biography paints the details of Hamilton's life with a vision of just how incredible a figure Hamilton was, and how his talents often unsettled those around him. Chernow also frames Hamilton around those important founding fathers that contributed to Hamilton's rise (Washington), fall (Jefferson, Madison, Adams), and death (Burr) while also showing how Alexander Hamilton also contributed to his own rise, fall, and death.
One of my favorite easter eggs from this tome was a remark Burr once made after shooting Alexander Hamilton. Chernow relates that "Only once did Burr betray any misgivings about killing Hamilton. While reading the scene in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy [an amazing book, which I recommend everyone read, btw] in which the tenderhearted Uncle Toby picks up a fly and delicately places it outside the window instead of killing it, Burr is said to have remarked, "Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me."
Anyway, an amazing man is never really captured, but this biography comes pretty close.
To be honest, I have never had much respect for Alexander Hamilton. I sympathize with the anti-federalist Jefferson camp. I read this book to educate my ignorant bias. I did. I am still an anti-federalist but I have new respect for Hamilton. He is the true example of the american dream. He came from humble beginnings and worked his butt off.
Alexander Hamilton seemed a strange and sort of periphery figure in so many stories surrounding the revolution. After listening to McCullough's John Adams and hearing Hamilton constantly mentioned as a behind the scenes foil, or as the brains behind so many plots, I wondered why I didn't know anything about him. I mean, I knew he died in a duel with Aaron Burr, but that's about all.
After 37 plus hours of just the most interesting life imaginable I realized only 5 days had passed. This guy really didn't leave the tri-state area after he came to New York when he was 16 and he still managed to be in the center of nearly every major moment in American History from 1776 to 1800. He became a Captain at 19 and a Lieutenant Colonel by 21, he was a key figure in convincing the New York public to go to war while he was still in college. Without him, there is a very good chance the constitution wouldn't have been ratified and, without his financial system, our debt would've probably crushed our little country before it even got going. I thought George Washington was the first President, turns out Hamilton pretty much ran things. Then, the guy dies in a duel with the Vice President! This was 37 hours well spent, I'll have to come back to this next year when my heart stops beating so damn fast.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I had no idea how incredible Hamilton's life was. This story has pretty much everything: illegitimate birth, extramarital affairs, bitter career rivalries, brilliant political discourses, passionate pursuit of causes, military adventures. I don't necessarily support everything Hamilton worked for, but he argued persuasively for his point of view. In an era where opinions and sound bites seem to suffice for rational debate for so many people, you have to appreciate someone who worked out detailed rational supporting arguments on paper for his ideas. I'm referring primarily to the Federalist Papers, but there was a good deal more than that. The Founding Fathers aren't remembered as being especially savvy, but Hamilton rose to the challenge and was able to conceive a financial system that pretty much rescued the fledgling republic from disaster. Unmentioned in my school history days is that Hamilton was at Washington's side as his aide-de-camp all through the Revolutionary War. This country owes so much to Hamilton and it's a shame that all most people remember is that stupid duel with Aaron Burr.
Lover of good ideas
If you want to understand a great statesman and intellectual giant in American history and also learn about the early history of our country and the men and woman who were a significant part of our country's history you will want to read Alexander Hamilton. You learn a lot of facts about the man and the period but more important, you come to understand the personalities and motivations of these great men and woman.
Make the time to listen to this masterpiece of literature.
This book is 36 hours long and worth every minute. Hamilton's fascinating life intersected with nearly everything in early American history, making this biography an excellent way of understanding that time period. He is portrayed admiringly, but his faults are acknowledged. And the book is filled with interesting events and people, not minute details. And the book is very much targeted at the modern, general reader; there are no "stuffy historian" pretenses. I recommend this title more highly than any other history book I've read or listened to.