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Alexander Hamilton

Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 35 hrs and 58 mins
5 out of 5 stars (16,469 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton! In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America.

According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time.

“To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

©2004 Ron Chernow (P)2004 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

  • George Washington Book Prize Winner, 2005

"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)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kevin
  • Big Sandy, TN, USA
  • 03-04-05

An Outstanding & Riveting Book!

I rarely review any book but was so enthralled & overwhelmed by the quality of this work that I just have to tell you all. This book is very well written and narrated. I have never been so moved by a book or a person's life as I have by this compelling, rich story. I am a truck driver and I was somewhat embarrassed driving down the road at the end of this book when I had to bite my hand to hold back tears. Bravo to the Author & Reader of this book! I was deeply moved by Hamilton's life and this book opened my eyes to a whole new thinking of America's founding days. The Author must have spent countless hours in research and is an ABSOLUTE master in his field!

166 of 172 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • San Francisco, CA, USA
  • 08-01-05

I had no idea I was interested in American history

I don't think of myself as a fan of history or of biographies -- I can't explain, really, what made me decide to listen to this book. But I'm SO glad I did! Well-researched, well-written and extremely well-read, Hamilton came to life in this book: By the end, I felt like I knew him personally, and felt truly privileged to know him, warts and all. I was especially impressed by how the author managed to weave such an engaging and coherent story entirely on the basis of letters and contemporary documents -- to his credit, it was Hamilton himself, not the author, who came through. Despite its daunting length, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the birth of this country, and in the intelligence, vision and idealism of those who founded it.

141 of 147 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Captivating & Fluid Bio Unique American immigrant

Four +++ Stars. Ron Chernow provides thorough insight into the life and times of Hamilton. Hamilton's difficult childhood, his prodigious intellectual writings and incredible accomplishments, and all his many shortcomings are fluidly described in 35 hours of captivating audio. Chernow demonstrates how Hamilton, particularly in partnership with Washington, is father to many of the institutions practices and ideals that make our country great and how Hamilton's temperament held him back from accomplishing more. Eliza Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, and Adams loom large in this book. Though I was grateful for the faster listening speed of my 4G iPod, I think that opting for the abridged version would not be wise. Chernow himself said that the abridged version is a very different book. Chernow did not fall into the trap of lionizing his biography's subject, treating Hamilton with well-balanced affection and honesty.

Try Washington's Crossing and Samuel Adams, other audible titles that round out understading these founding fathers.

82 of 90 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Exhausting but worth it

I subscribe to the comments of another reviewer that this just may be the perfect biography. This epic (and I do not use the word lightly) tome is less about Hamilton than it is about the era in which he lived. Chernow's talent is to place his character in context. I learned more about the revolutionary period than I ever expected. In the end, I was conflicted about the subject. Hamilton, at least as chronicled here, was not a particularly admirable character. In some ways I was content to say that I would rather have lived with my own preconceived notions. But at the same time, Chernow recreates a vanished world that is uncomfortably familiar; perhaps too much so. Like many of the principles in Hamilton's own life, I was left with a profound combination of pity and admiration for the man. But in retrospect, the most amazing thing about this story is that Hamilton did all that he did and yet is a relatively obscure character in American history. Although Chernow amply explains all of the reasons Hamilton is not lionized today, one is still left with a sense of personal guilt that we have not done more to recognize the contradictory brilliance of Alexander Hamilton.
I agree that this piece reads like a novel. It is a classic "page-turner". But the rages and torments of Hamilton's life eventually began to wear me down. Perhaps that was Chernow's plan? By the closing chapters of the book I found myself more than ready to see Hamilton's demise. His self-destructive antics could not lead to anything else.
In the end, this is a tragedy; and a damn fine one at that. Ron Chernow may just be responsible for rewriting a big chunk of American history. The test of the influence of this biography will be if we see the construction of a Hamilton Monument in Washingtton, D.C. If anyone is going to jumpstart that long-overdue kudo, it is Chernow and this amazing piece of literature.

79 of 87 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eunice
  • Harrodsburg, KY, United States
  • 06-03-08

Unexpectedly Fascinating!

I bought this book because it was on sale and would give a good long listen for the money. A well written history of about anything is a treat, so Hamilton went into my shopping cart. It sat in my library until I decided something a little meaty was in listening order, so A.H. moved into my ipod. A few weeks later, I decided to bite the bullet and listen to 40 hours of the life of Alexander Hamilton.

From the first sentence, I was hooked! What a story...Hamilton was a fascinating man!!! Chernow does a great job of entwining personal tidbits about Hamilton and others of his era with weightier discussion of monetary and constitutional foundations. He balances personalities and ideas extremely well, never allowing the biography to become tedious or boring.

The narrator also was excellent.

Do yourself a favor...get to know Alexander Hamilton. Your life will be the richer for it!

53 of 59 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 03-11-05

Perfect Biography

This is an excellent biography of a fascinating character, with wonderful narration, and beautiful writing. It is also the perfect length. I only wish all biographies were as enjoyable as this. The story is detailed without ever becoming dry or boring. There is a theme running through the story, but the author demonstrates the theme, as opposed to coercing the reader into alignment. I have listened to many of the American historical biographies available on Audible, and this is the best so far.

73 of 82 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Daniel
  • Ithaca, NY, USA
  • 02-24-05

A fascinating man and a well-told story

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The detailed story of Hamilton's brilliance is very well told. So much so, that his self-destructive nature and political gaffes seem particulary tragic. Despite knowing the fate that awaited him at his meeting with Burr, I couldn't help but feel terribly sad as the book described the duel and his death. While one could argue that Hamilton was already politically marginalized at the time of his death, this book's discussion of his life and accomplishments can't help but leave you speculating how different the country might have been today if he had lived 20-30 years longer.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 08-04-15

A World Wide Enough for Hamilton and WE

"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.

53 of 61 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Better than the Musical

In truth, I prefer more rapping, but for straight facts and story telling about a life forgotten, this book is epic in both its depth and breadth. Narration is a bit robotic, but the content delivers. A+

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • Roseville, CA, United States
  • 04-17-09

A.H. One of the Greatest Founding Fathers

First point: A.H. is perfectly produced. This review tries hard to mention only major themes without spoiling actual details. Many (even who liked history class) are vaguely unimpressed by Hamilton often portrayed as a dandy concerned with money, big cities, and big government. (*WARNING* skip the end review if you want EVERY last fact to be a surprise.) MANY also think of Jefferson as "that cool country oriented founding father", the "down-to-earth homespun guy" (which was apparently a carefully crafted image, 'homespun' was early spin!) and, of course, author of the D.o.I. Chernow describes Hamilton as a fervent worker, superior to Jefferson in many ways. (You won't dislike Jefferson, just learn much more respect for Hamilton.) HAMILTON was one who TRULY lived "the American dream" of rags to riches. Also he was no hypocrite about slaves. Hamilton's huge part in writing the remarkably persuasive "Federalist Papers", convinced bigger states (who saw NO reason at all to cede ANY power to anyone) feel the NEED to join a central government. Read, too, about one of the first sex scandals in America, how insults were REALLY dealt in those times (was it always pistols at dawn?). Finally, it is very pertinent today that Chernow explains how deeply our founding fathers feared "factions", they called them, would develop. They were right to fear deeply entrenched political parties that now block laws that might serve the greater good. This is a MUST read for any lover of history. A. H. was a young genius and did much to help bind our divided states into a unified America. He was the top lawyer for N.Y and worked for George. Washington! Alexander Hamilton rightly deserves to be a top "founding father" and not disrespected by history as the hot-headed lawyer obsessed with money.

30 of 36 people found this review helpful