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The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt | [T. J. Stiles]

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

In The First Tycoon, Stiles offers the first complete, authoritative biography of this titan, and the first comprehensive account of the Commodore's personal life. It is a sweeping, fast-moving epic, and a complex portrait of the great man. Vanderbilt, Stiles shows, embraced the philosophy of the Jacksonian Democrats and withstood attacks by his conservative enemies for being too competitive. He was a visionary who pioneered business models.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2010

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2009

A gripping, groundbreaking biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism.

Founder of a dynasty, builder of the original Grand Central, creator of an impossibly vast fortune, Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt is an American icon. Humbly born on Staten Island during George Washington's presidency, he rose from boatman to builder of the nation's largest fleet of steamships to lord of a railroad empire. Lincoln consulted him on steamship strategy during the Civil War; Jay Gould was first his uneasy ally and then sworn enemy; and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, was his spiritual counselor. We see Vanderbilt help to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation - in fact, as T. J. Stiles elegantly argues, Vanderbilt did more than perhaps any other individual to create the economic world we live in today.

In The First Tycoon, Stiles offers the first complete, authoritative biography of this titan, and the first comprehensive account of the Commodore's personal life. It is a sweeping, fast-moving epic, and a complex portrait of the great man. Vanderbilt, Stiles shows, embraced the philosophy of the Jacksonian Democrats and withstood attacks by his conservative enemies for being too competitive. He was a visionary who pioneered business models. He was an unschooled fistfighter who came to command the respect of New York's social elite. And he was a father who struggled with a gambling-addicted son, a husband who was loving yet abusive, and, finally, an old man who was obsessed with contacting the dead.

The First Tycoon is the exhilarating story of a man and a nation maturing together: the powerful account of a man whose life was as epic and complex as American history itself.

©2009 T.J. Stiles; (P)2009 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Rousing . . . An exemplary biography." (Kirkus)

"For all its complexity, T.J. Stiles's appreciative account of Vanderbilt's derring-do is a model of clarity, briskness and brio, and Mark Deakins's unhurried, pleasantly grave delivery serves it well." (Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (353 )
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4.1 (244 )
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4.2 (247 )
5 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-12-14
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-12-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A great piece of history often missed"

    We rarely hear much of Vanderbilt today, but this well written work show the vast array of unique historical actions he touched… I found Cornelius Vanderbilt on the short list of historical actors who impressed me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dane SAN RAFAEL, CA, United States 03-30-14
    Dane SAN RAFAEL, CA, United States 03-30-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "A Delightful Experience"
    Any additional comments?

    The biography is interesting. But my highest compliments go to the author and reader of the book. I enjoyed listening to the authors point of view and interpretation of the facts and the reading was excellent.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    martha locust grove, ga, United States 12-15-13
    martha locust grove, ga, United States 12-15-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    14
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    Story
    "A Boring Recital of Facts"
    What would have made The First Tycoon better?

    More anecdote interwoven with facts. Listening to this is like listening to an entire semester of lecture in one very long session.


    What was most disappointing about T. J. Stiles’s story?

    Nothing brought the real man to light. Stiles should have read Brand's "Titan" before he wrote this.


    What three words best describe Mark Deakins’s performance?

    100 percent average.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The First Tycoon?

    None. I do not believe in abridging, even in a boring book.


    Any additional comments?

    VERY disappointed. I like long, factual biographies but only when the person becomes a person not just a vehicle for facts.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris 10-18-13
    chris 10-18-13
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    "Epic account of an American business legend"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. It is historically accurate and presents both personal and business views of the character which allows the listener to fully develop an understanding of the persona of the first Vanderbilt. Like his type or not, remember he did business in a different time and the results often created wealth and livelihood for many. Besides the account of his life, this book describes well the times in which he lived.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Story did not drift from the chronological events that made up the life of the character. It is just the facts. ma'am.


    What about Mark Deakins’s performance did you like?

    Characterizations


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Vanderbilt's favoritism of one child over others


    Any additional comments?

    Long but worth the listen especially for business historians

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. E. Dench Louisville, KY 06-27-13
    K. E. Dench Louisville, KY 06-27-13 Listener Since 2009

    Ked

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Too Dry"
    What disappointed you about The First Tycoon?

    Too detailed business information. Not enough of personal history.


    Would you ever listen to anything by T. J. Stiles again?

    No


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Delivered in very monotone, but would be hard not to with the material provided.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Momo San Francisco 02-12-13
    Momo San Francisco 02-12-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    3
    3
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    Performance
    Story
    "History that reads like a great novel!"
    Where does The First Tycoon rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Very high - probAbly number one for historical works


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The commodore of course. Rags to riches with cunning and a concern for integrity


    What about Mark Deakins’s performance did you like?

    Strong, clear voice


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I knew I couldn't listen to it in one setting as it it long but I was always eager to return to it.The story and characters so engrossing , I never felt lost when I began again.


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale Sebastopol, CA, United States 09-19-11
    Dale Sebastopol, CA, United States 09-19-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    "Extremely Boring"

    This book is one long history of Vanderbilt's business deals. Deal after deal, pulling himself up each rung of the economic ladder, happily defrauding anyone who gets in his way.
    According to this book, he has no personal life, no friends, nothing but business.
    I tried to get into this book for the historical time, but after a few tries, it just felt like a waste of time

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Warren Cary, NC, United States 12-17-11
    Warren Cary, NC, United States 12-17-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Too Much C.V."
    Would you try another book from T. J. Stiles and/or Mark Deakins?

    Interesting reading in the beggining, but filled with detials, details and more details with no story line except details on C.V.


    Would you ever listen to anything by T. J. Stiles again?

    Unlikely


    What didn’t you like about Mark Deakins’s performance?

    Voice rose and fell with excitment


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Would make a good historical reference


    Any additional comments?

    I used two credits that I can never get back.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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