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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow sows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.

Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and, despite distinguished service in the Mexican War, he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant's military fame translated into a two-term presidency but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.

More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him "the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race". After his presidency he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.

With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as "nothing heroic...and yet the greatest hero". Chernow's probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant, is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.

©2017 Ron Chernow (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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Excellent Book (BUT WHERE IS THE PDF FILES)????

I really enjoyed this book. The only thing that would make this book better would be the PDF file like some of the other books. Second book, I have bought without a PDF lately. Please give us readers PDF files to see maps, and other important information such as dates and names spelling etc.

195 of 200 people found this review helpful

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Ron Chernow should be writing for our schools

I want to first give the Narrator, Mark Bramhall, much credit. He did such a great job creating voices for all characters - it made it super easy for me to follow along (at work...shh...don't tell anyone...) & very enjoyable (I am not a major 'books on tape' fan - I like to hold an actual book). I found myself searching all books he narrated and purchasing them.
Ron Chernow did such an amazing detailed job in the life of Grant - that I feel like I know him. There are so many small accounts noted in his life, that it makes you like him & respect him even more. I appreciate the first 6 hours into it talking more in depth of his life, his family, his in-laws, how he felt, etc. I wanted to 'know' Grant more than the Civil War General and President.
During my recent trip to DC, Virginia & Gettysburg = I was told many personal stories (and seen the artifacts) by the staff at each destination of many persons in regards to this war. My mouth was open most of this trip due to all the details I was learning about everything and everyone - I was shocked. I was obsessed with the Civil War, WWII and Vietnam in school and thought I knew much....Nope! This book is the sort of thing I believe we all need to learn in History classes. It brings that time era, the circumstances, and one man's journey thru this all to life.
I truly hope he writes a book on Robert E. Lee next

60 of 61 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 02-11-18

Raise a glass to Grant

"When did [Grant] ever turn back? He was not that sort; he could no more turn back than time!"
- Walt Whitman, quoted in Ron Chernow, Grant

Ron Chernow delights in writing about complicated American Icons and money men. It might seem odd that Chernow would chose Grant after writing about Washinton, Hamilton, John D. Rockefeller, the Morgans and the Warburgs, but Chernow also loves rehabilitative writing. Just look at what his biography of Hamilton did (helped out mightily by Lin-Manuel Miranda). Grant is a great subject to write about. He is a complicated man, with an interesting story, surrounded by a slew of fascinating characters. Chernow is also one of my favorite US biographers. He isn't quite as high up the biographer Olympus as Caro (who is really?), but is consistently better IMHO than McCullough, Meacham, and Ellis (among the Costco-selling blockbuster biographers). Perhaps, the proper place for Chernow is next to Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Herbert Donald, and Edmund Morris.

This year has seen two massive Grant biographies. I'm planning on reading Ronald C. White's 864 page biography sometime in the last 1/3 of 2018. This summer, I will also attempt to read Grant's own Memoirs this summer. So, I might have to come back and revise my review after reading White and Grant. For now, let me just say that Grant should probably be viewed as a great American (top 10), and mediocre president (25-30). It is, however, difficult to imagine any president emerging out of the post Civil War/Reconstruction/Johnson years with any huge levels of success. The hostilities of the South to Reconstruction, and black engagement in the economic and political spheres practically divided the nation again, post Civil War. Northern Republicans also seemed exhauted by the horrors of Reconstruction, and largely abandoned blacks. But Grant, despite his failings in many spheres, bravely fought for the legal and voting rights of the newly freed slaves longer than almost any of his peers during that time would have. But Grant was complicated. His blind trust and reliance on old friends, and lack of experience in politics and business, bit him hard and lead to several large scandals during both terms and after his presidency.

Chernow avoids turning this book into a hagiography, but only just. Clearly Chernow thinks Grant's reputation gets hammered too hard for his scandals and drinking and not enough time is spent on his successes (foreign policy, fighting the KKK, etc). My other mild criticism of Chernow, besides a clear resurrectionist bent, is skimming quickly over the financial and economic implications related to the gold standard debate (see Mehrsa Bahadaran's review) and subsequent Long Depression of 1873–79. I find it fascinating that a writer (Chernow) with a background in heavy in financial writing and thinking (he was once the director of financial policy studies with the Twentieth Century Fund), tends to bore easily with the major financial issues of Grant's tenure.

But overall, I loved the book. I loved the sections on Reconstruction and was surprised to learn details about Longstreet, Lee, and Sherman that I didn't know before. I was happy to devote a week to reading it.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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I had no idea!

Wow! I had no idea that U. S. Grant was this important to civil rights let alone U.S. history! This was an amazing listen, and I can't recommend it strongly enough.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Tremendous biography of Grant

This is a very thorough, comprehensive, and balanced biography of Ulysses Grant. In my opinion, this is now the high bar against which all other biographies of Grant are to be measured.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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AWESOME BIOGRAPHY!

I thoroughly enjoyed all 1,047 pages and wished there were more. What a labor of love by Mr Chernow. His voluminous research included newspaper clippings, diaries from various people including Julia Grant, journals, war correspondence and actual quotes from Grant's friends, Union and Confederate soldiers, Congressional hearings, and former and future Presidents. I learned so much about this remarkable man, through his many miseries and joys, that I have a better understanding that his whole life was truly a trial.

Mr Mark Branhall's narration was spot on. He tirelessly read the story, with perfect inflections...To Me. Several times I felt myself in the room with Grant, his wife and children and his colleagues. I laughed and cried with them. I heard the cannons roaring on early mornings in Vicksburg. I felt the spring air as it drifted by Grant and myself as we walked to the White House.

This is definitely a book that you will live through. Please don't miss the experience.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Magnificent Chernow

I have now listened to the last three biographies by Ron Chernow, and he has cemented his place as my favorite biographer, in both style and substance. Grant was, admittedly, a bit lower on my list of biographies to get to...until I found out Chernow had one coming out. I raced through it in 5 days of listening at 2-2.5x and urge all lovers of comprehensive biographies to consider this book. Partially due to the subjects, expect it to more closely relate to Washington: A Life, than to Hamilton.

The narrator does a very good job, my only complaint being that I don't like accents performed during quotes of non-fiction books. He was very clear through 2.5x

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • Derek
  • Pasadena, CA, United States
  • 10-15-17

The Ultimate Grant Biography by the Ultimate Biographer - Chernow’s Best Yet!

I thought I knew about U.S. Grant before reading this biography and I was wrong! The arch of Grant’s life story is well known, but there are many gaps in other biographies. Ron Chernow masterfully fills in the missing details from many sources to create a rich story that captures the human side of a man referred to by both his friends and enemies as a sphinx. This is his best biography yet!

I walked away feeling as if I personally knew Grant, his challenges, decisions, successes and failures. I feel a new respect and admiration for his courage and quest to do what is right. The author emphasizes the General’s good faith efforts to help the downtrodden that are so often overlooked. He was victorious in many battles, but his honorable approach to freed slaves, Native Americans and people in distress make him worthy of being called a hero. Grant is truly the most misunderstood president!

The narration is solid despite the fact that a lot of things can go awry in 50 hours. I get irritated when narrators botch names and places as it messes up the flow of the story. I was impressed that Mark Bramhall was able to get the pronunciations correct unlike the majority of narrators of Civil War titles on Audible.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Bringing Grant to life.

I am not a military person but I often wondered why politicians and others think they know how to fight a war better than a trained military person. I also wondered why wars were always fought by tradition. Grant understood how to fight a war. It isn't pretty and there isn't really a half way to fight one. How a man can work and live in an environment of jealousy that Grant did for years is a true mark as to his personal metal.

The civil war started out being about one thing then grew into something much larger. From the start it was to stop the secession then it grew into emancipation of the slaves. That was a giant step for a lot of people north and south. Grant may have understood this and was able to handle it much better than most of the people including the ones who initiated it. What emancipation did to influence the work force and economy was a staggering issue that few had thought out. Grant may have had his finger on the issue from day one. The way he tried to incorporate the freed slaves into useful work was really a huge step in the emancipation process. He understood it wasn't enough to free the slaves but how are they going to survive without jobs or places to live.

The way Grant had to fight the politicians as well as the confederate army's would drive anyone to drink. The profiteers may have been the worse thing about the civil war. They wrecked the south for generations. The war fought between solders but the profiteers took advantage of the general population. Grant understood this and seemed to do his very level best to fight it.

I had always heard that Grant was a terrible president, really by whose standards? He was the only president to serve two full terms between Jackson and Wilson. That says something right there. They said his presidency was riddled with scandals. Ok which presidents isn't? I know we elect presidents all the time who seem be inept. After listening to Chernow's Grant I got the feeling that Grant's only real problem was that he trusted people and looked tor the good in them even when they took advantage of him at every turn.

Really a fine read every bit as good as Hamilton.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Ranks at the top of best biographies

I learned so much from this book. Impeccable research and writing. Superb, exquisite narration. Highly recommend!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful