It took me MONTHS to listen to, but 818 pages (that’s almost 36 hours at 1x speed), the lengthy Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is worth the read/listen. Scott Brick did a fabulous job with the narration and I learned so much about one of my favorite founding fathers. This is a can’t miss for history nerds and fans of the musical.

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The summary, from Amazon:

The #1 New York Times bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

“Grand-scale biography at its best—thorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written…A genuinely great book.” —David McCullough

“A robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.” – Joseph Ellis

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.

Buy Alexander Hamilton here.

Did this book take me MONTHS to listen to? Yes, but I was fully engaged each time I pressed play. The reader will gain insight to so much of not just Hamilton’s life, but the lives of his friends, family, and political rivals. The founding fathers were not as united as many might think, and each had their own opinions about how America should be formed. At times I found myself heartily agreeing with Hamilton, and at other times I definitely did not agree, but his wisdom and ability to think towards the future is undeniable.

Hamilton has always been one of my favorite founding fathers, and for much of his book I was pulled back to my APUSH days in 2006-2007. There were so many anecdotes and little parts of his life that I had once known and completely forgot about. I also learned a lot about the area I grew up in and where I live now. For instance, I had no idea Hamilton was involved in the founding of Snug Harbor or that Aaron Burr died on Staten Island, both locations in walking (or maybe not walking now, but perhaps I would have attempted in the 1800’s) distance from my apartment.

Fans of the musical will appreciate hearing lyrics in the letters and quotations of Hamilton and Burr. I teared up listening to quotations from Hamilton’s final letter to his wife, written before he headed to the infamous duel that ended his life along with Burr’s political career.

Again, while this book is lengthy, it is a must-read for history buffs and fans of the musical Hamilton who are interested in learning more about the man behind the story. This was such an engaging listen. Often with audiobooks there are passages where I tune out and either have to rewind or just shrug it off and acknowledge that I’ll have missed out on a few minutes, but with this one, I never found my thoughts drifting too far from the story being told. This was a 5 star listen for me with important, interesting, relevant information and expert narration. I listened on 1x because the speed and cadence was perfect.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book took me months to listen to, but every time I started playing the audiobook, I was immediately engaged. This book shows how NOT united the founding fathers were and gives plenty of insight not only into the life of Alexander Hamilton, but the lives of his friends, family, and political rivals. Fans of the musical will love hearing lyrics they are familiar with in letters and quotations from historical figures. This is a very lengthy read or listen, but so worth it, and the narration in the audiobook is very well done. I listened to it at 1x – the speed and rhythm was perfect.

View all my review

Book Club Questions

  1. For musical fans, was there anything in the musical that drifted from what actually happened? Why do you think things were changed? Discuss.
  2. What did you know about Alexander Hamilton before reading this, and how did you feel about him? Did this book change your opinions in any way?
  3. What actions led to the duel between Burr and Hamilton? Was Hamilton really the block in Burr’s career, and if so, how did this echo beyond his death?
  4. Do you agree with Chernow’s assertion that Hamilton, despite never being president, had more of an impact than many presidents did?
  5. Discuss the relationship between Hamilton and James Madison, two individuals who wrote The Federalist Papers together before becoming political enemies.
  6. For musical fans, did you notice any lyrics reflected in the quotations and letters in this text? Share.

Interested? Buy Alexander Hamilton.
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P.S. I listened to this book on Audible. Try Audible and get two free audiobooks!

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