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Alexander Hamilton, American

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  652 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Alexander Hamilton is one of the least understood, most important, and most impassioned and inspiring of the founding fathers. At last Hamilton has found a modern biographer who can bring him to full-blooded life; Richard Brookhiser. In these pages, Alexander Hamilton sheds his skewed image as the "bastard brat of a Scotch peddler," sex scandal survivor, and notoriously do ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Free Press (first published 1999)
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Jamie Collins
This brief overview of Hamilton’s life and philosophies is readable, if a little dry and sometimes vague. I thought the introduction was the best part of the book. The first chapter on his youth was nearly incoherent, and the last chapter about his infamous duel was unsatisfying - but then the book is more concerned with describing Hamilton’s passions and his hopes for his adopted country. Don’t expect a lot of details about his personal life.

I chose this as an alternative to the weighty but acc
Mar 03, 2014 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've looked at other reviews and I understand the objections, but this was exactly what I wanted--under 300 pages with solid analysis. Brookhiser does a great job of explaining what was great about Hamilton, and what was not so great. He's also very good with the duel with Aaron Burr--the whole thing was stupid . . . what a waste. If you want an exhaustive biography of Hamilton, this isn't it. If you're looking to expand your high school knowledge, then this is it.
Dec 18, 2015 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I could tackle the tome by Chernow, but now I wish I had - I chose this biography because it was shorter, but should have considered that it would mean it didn't deeply explore things I actually wanted to know more about! So I will probably still Chernow in the future. This book was well written, but just lacked the depth I wanted.
Feb 22, 2017 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with several comments already posted. Mr Brookheiser has written a very good biography. Good painting of the issues and passions surrounding Founding Father's times. Good portrayals of the characters of Adams, Jefferson and Madison as well as Hamilton himself - especially enjoyed the observation on Virginia "squires" which raises the question as to who were the real aristocrats vs men of the people here. (The more I read of this period, the less I admire Jefferson overall.) Too bad Burr ...more
Larry Hostetler
Apr 11, 2014 Larry Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I learned a lot about Alexander Hamilton, but then there was much I didn't know. Having read a biography of Aaron Burr not too long ago I was struck by several differences between the authors.

The Burr biography was extensive, and while it seemed to portray Burr in a fair light, I never got a feel for the character of the man as I did with this biography of Hamilton. Burr seemed a bit sanitized, while Brookhiser gives an idea of both the foibles and the talents of this key founder. I knew from r
Jan 17, 2015 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is a terrific biography that refuses to be merely a chronicling of Hamilton's life, but dissects and explains many of the issues, and analyzes the protagonist's strengths and weaknesses.

That is quite an achievement in 217 pages.

It was moving along for me at 3.5-4 pace until the 7th chapter: "Words." In the final 50 pages, Brookhiser explains so much about Hamilton and the nature of argument and differing approaches of various Founders, that I was spellbound. I don't necessarily agree with s
The book was a quick read, and although I didn't find it boring, it was infused with the author's own opinions (not necessarily a bad thing). It's funny that when I read a biography of John and Abigail Adams by Joseph Ellis and then David McCullough's long bio about Adams, I suddenly found myself greatly admiring Adams as a Founding Father and as a person. At times, throughout both of those books, Hamilton was often portrayed as the "bad guy," working behind-the-scenes of the Adams presidency in ...more
May 03, 2010 Thomas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A short and not particularly great biography of a man about whom I didn't know all that much. Hamilton is a fascinating character, yet Brookhiser manages to make him almost uninteresting.

Brookhiser shows brief flashes of good writing: he's at his best when summing up Hamilton's place in the early years of our Republic. But when delving into the details of Hamilton's life, he's less than thrilling. Often the writing is murky and hard to gain any understanding from. It's as if Brookhiser, having p
I actually liked the other Hamilton book I read better because it made the characters more alive. This book was more about facts, but I still learned interesting information about Hamilton. I learned about what was happening before Hanilton's plan, and how not being able to tax the states led the federal government to be unable to support their countries, and pay of debt that they owe to the other countries due to the revoluntionary war. I always thought that Hamilton, had the most experience ou ...more
Oct 24, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rebecca by: Glenda
A charming, highly readable and very informative little book about one of the previously least-known Founding Father. I say previously because I'm not sure how many people are now running around singing ditties from Hamilton! and (hopefully) reading the Ron Chernow book it was based on. Thoughtfully organized to group topics while still being largely chronological, this would be an excellent text book while still being a quick and compelling pleasure read. Whether you're a history buff or just d ...more
Kirk Bower
Jul 29, 2011 Kirk Bower rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great read by Brookhiser. I must admit that Hamilton is one of the founder fathers I tend to overlook. Realized he was an aid to GW during the war, youngest delegate at the Constitutional convention, national bank, etc. but never really read much about him. Maybe he was like Mike Mussina of his time. Mussina will have to wait for the Hall, but will have to contend with the Schillings, Johnsons, Maddox, etc. Hamilton may be a great figure, but over shadowed by the likes of Jefferson, GW, ...more
Jun 22, 2016 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a brief biography of Alexander Hamilton, this book will give you some satisfaction. You will gain some insight into his public persona but not much into his private life. There is very little mention of his wife and children but a considerable amount about his affair. (The affair became public knowledge while his family life stayed, apparently, pretty private.)

Brookhiser has written books on George Washington, my guess is that these are better. Whenever Hamilton's story ru
Sep 11, 2010 Zac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief look into the short life of an important Founder. Found the beginning to be full of great material, useful in understanding the Hamilton's heritage. Hoped for more information about Hamilton's relationship with Burr, as neither this work nor Nancy Isenberg's work on Burr gave me quite what I was looking for. The abstract chapters seemed to detract from the overall work, would have suited the work better if they had been included the bulk of the book as necessary.
Jul 09, 2016 Betsy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Was quite glad to finally have finished this book. I saw it on sale so bought it. I love history and the play Hamilton is such a big hit so wanted to lean more about this famous statesman. The good part is that I did learn (a little) from it. The bad part is that it was so dry and for the most part uninteresting. I found myself skimming through some of the pages. So if you are looking for a book on Hamilton, I would suggest looking into more than just this one.
For those who do not want to read Ron Chernow's 800 page biography of Hamilton this 220 page version by Brookheiser will fit the bill. A brief history of Hamilton's extraordinary life is broken down into short chapters and covers the highlights of Hamilton's life. It doesn't go into great detail in any aspect but is a nice overview of Hamilton's life. For anyone wanting the full details of Hamilton's life they should read the above mentioned biography by Chernow.
Jan 09, 2009 JJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
Alexander Hamilton, founding father, but not even born and raised in the United States.

The book gives an account of Hamilton's childhood years in the Virgin Islands, excelling as a boy with not father or mother in his life. After making it to the mainland, he overcomes any feelings of inferiority due to his background and rises to be one of the central voices and idea men behind our nation's founding.

The book gives a good account of his strengths as well as his weaknesses.
Mar 08, 2008 goddess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, own
Intriguing book. Hamilton is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of the Founding Fathers, and he is quite fascinating.

The book was a pretty good read; dry in some spots and lost focus in others. But overall the flow was nice, and the facts and background on one of the most brilliant minds in history was rather interesting.
Aug 16, 2008 Caroline rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Interesting, because of its interesting subject. However, it could have been better written, especially the opening chapters. Hamilton was a man of ideas and words, and these are not coherently portrayed until late in the work. Ultimately, though, it is of great interest, with particularized, insightful portraits of Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Monroe and others.
Jeanne Young
May 26, 2012 Jeanne Young rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed and well researched book. It is a balanced analysis of Hamilton, his genius and foibles. The banking system was the subject of a research paper I wrote way back in college. I realize I am more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian not quite trusting too much democracy and preferring a bit of central control. We owe Hamilton a great debt for the Federalist papers to financing government.
Nov 03, 2016 Quinn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Overall, a good biography for what it is. Personally, I prefer biographies that are longer and more detailed, but as far as short biographies goes this is a good one. The book gives you a good idea as to the character of the man and his major accomplishments. I am likely to read another biography of Hamilton in the future, that will be more to my tastes in regard to length and detail.
Aug 23, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty decent biography of a lesser-known, misunderstood founder. I think is definitely approachable for people who are not historians which makes it a decent starting point for learning about Hamilton.
Jul 08, 2009 Tari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not finish this book, I only got about half way through so I cannot give it a fair review. There was a lot of lawmaking which went over my head and I lost interest. However, I did learn a lot, so nothing was lost.
Brookhiser paints and interesting portrait of Alexander Hamilton, this novel mainly gives a brief biography and focuses on Hamilton as a lawyer, and how he later transforms government and the economy.
Susan Miller
Sep 16, 2016 Susan Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Enjoyed this book. A short read. Well written with enough details for a beginning history enthusiast, but not so detailed that you are bogged down. If you want to know just a little bit more than you currently know, but not read a long book, then this is a good book for you.
Kathy  Petersen
I know Hamilton least of all our founding fathers (and mothers), and Brookhiser gave me a good introduction to him.
Michael Taylor
A readable biography, but does not deal with Hamilton's writings and political theory in a significant way.
Jul 10, 2011 Ses rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a little uncertain if this was the Hamilton book I read. I am pretty sure it is. I did not like the way it was written.
Brookhiser, of National Review fame, present a slim and survey look at Hamilton. Good quick read, at times comes across as necessarily academic.
Ezra Hood
This is a quick read about Alexander Hamilton's life and thought. Brookhiser doesn't try to be objective, but interesting and informed. He succeeds.
very readable biography which i devoured years ago... don't remember much to critically review it other than i liked it. and flew through it.
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Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father (Free Press 1996), is a senior editor at National Review and a columnist for The New York Observer.
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