With masterful storytelling skills, Chernow presents the whole sweep of Hamilton's turbulent life: his exotic, brutal upbringing; his brilliant military, legal, and financial exploits; his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Monroe; his illicit romances; and his famous death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.
Alexander Hamilton was one of the seminal figures in our history. His richly dramatic saga, rendered in Chernow's vivid prose, is nothing less than a riveting account of America's founding, from the Revolutionary War to the rise of the first federal government.
©2004 Ron Chernow; (P)2004 Penguin Audio
"Comprehensive and superbly written." (Booklist)
"This is a fine work that captures Hamilton's life with judiciousness and verve." (Publishers Weekly)
"Literate and full of engaging historical asides. By far the best of the many lives of Hamilton now in print." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Scott Brick delivers a highly professional, straightforward narration that holds one's interest throughout. Straight narrative can become boring, and Brick is never that. Nor does he become lazy in the course of 36 hours. His voice and evident interest are fresh throughout." (AudioFile)
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
I've read biographies of all of the most important founders of our republic including an earlier Hamilton biography. This book is the best. Having Scott Brick narrate it adds to the worthiness of this Hamilton biography.
Hamilton was a poor immigrant in his teens when he arrived in New York. He was born out of wedlock, abandoned by his father, watched his mother die while in his very early teens. He became well educated including becoming a lawyer. He was a colonel at age 20 and aide to General Washington during much of the war of American independence. He was short and slight of build, but his intellect was staggering in capability and diversity of knowledge. He learned each new task quickly and thoroughly. He did not write the US Constitution although he was key in its drafting and he deserves more credit than any other person for get it ratified by the states. His language, writing, and verbal communicating skills were at least as great as any other person who ever lived. He is personally responsible for our banking and monetary system. Among the founders there are likely 10 men who played the most important roles in the foundation; in my view Hamilton even more than Washington was the person played the most important role. He had the vision, the capabilities and the drive, and the honor, to do the many varied tasks that were critical.
Hamilton suffered from health issues that did little to slow him down. He was a proud man who did not take criticism well. He had a hot temper and often was intemperate in criticizing others, he was prone to depression, and when he made mistakes they were whoppers. Author Ron Chernow discusses three such huge errors. He started an affair with Mrs. Reynolds when his wife was pregnant with their fifth child and allowed himself to be blackmailed by her husband while a was our first Treasury Secretary. At age 49 in 1804 he had a duel with US VP Arron Burr that cost him his life and cost the US its leading intellectual and most capable leader and politician.
Hamilton left a huge amount of notes, letters, and other writings behind. His wife, Elizabeth (Liza) Schyler Hamilton, was the mother of their 8 children (their oldest child Philip died in a duel at age 19 two years before Hamilton's death). Liza outlived her husband by 50 years. She spent much of that time assuring that her husband's legacy did not die.
Alexander Hamilton is an excellent audiobook. At 36 hours it is rather long, but it was never boring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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