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Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero (Eminent Lives)
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Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero (Eminent Lives)

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  188 ratings  ·  41 reviews

One of the first two volumes in Harper's Eminent Lives series, Korda brings his acclaimed storytelling talents to the life of Ulysses S. Grant – a man who managed to end the Civil War on a note of grace, serve two terms as president, write one of the most successful military memoirs in American literature, and is today remembered as a brilliant general but a failed preside

Hardcover, 161 pages
Published 2004 by HarperCollins
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National hero though he may be, it turns out it wasn’t all that easy being Ulysses S. Grant. Michael Korda’s brief biography captures the ups and downs of Grant the man, the general and the president in enjoyable and pithy prose.

Young Ulysses was quite the animal lover. He had a knack for “horse whispering,” and disliked meat- refusing to eat it unless charred beyond recognition. The problem was, Papa Grant was a tanner, meaning the crux of the family trade involved the bloody process of skinni
Anthony Cimitile
What made me pick this book, was that, I read a similar book like this, but it was about George Washington. When I saw this book, I wanted to read it because I had enjoyed reading the George Washington book which gave me more insight into the presidents life before and after his presidentcy. That is also what I had learned once I had finished reading the book on Ulysses S. Grant. I learned more about this mans life. From when he went into wars, and when he left the presidents seat.

One thing that
A quick, breezy read of one of those well-known names who's famous-but-not-famous nowadays.

With such a short bio that isn't terribly exhaustively researched, it's hard for an average reader like me to know if his conclusions hold water. He makes some wide-ranging comparisons to Napoleon, Churchhill and Eisenhower which are interesting.

Awfully sympathetic to the subject, which isn't altogether bad considering most people can only tell you two things about Grant beyond the war: (a) he was a drunk
Nov 06, 2008 Marky rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone of military interest
Recommended to Marky by: N/A
Ulysses S. Grant wasn't the ordinary military general. In fact, no one would've guessed that Grant would become one of the best generals in United States history. His massive military knowledge helped unite the Union and the Confederacy through the civil war. As Grant grew up, he was a shy individual. But although shy, he was always serious with a lack of sense of humor. His military career was shaped at the West Point academy.
In my opinion, if we had a general like Ulysses S. Grant commanding
Erez Davidi
I admit to being rather ignorant of Grant’s life aside from a few anecdotes I read about him in a few Civil War history books. For some unexplained reason I was never very interested in reading about him. Therefore, I am no position to comment on the accuracy of this short biography, which from what I read, is oftentimes inaccurate, although chiefly on small and somewhat less important details.

I managed to learn quite a bit about Grant. Grant lived a most interesting life filled with failures bu
This was a very short biography, but very readable and enjoyable. I have not read any other biographies of Grant yet and this one was a great place to start. I think that Korda did a nice job of piecing together parts of Grant's life to give us a nice picture of who he was, what he was driven by and to a small extent, how things ended up as they did in Grant's life. And while the asides to current times or the comparisons so other presidents don't add to the story of Grant, they do make it more ...more
I absolutely loved this book. I read it back to back with Paul Johnson’s bio on George Washington, and this was such a vast improvement over that. While that book felt rushed and incomplete, I think that Michael Korda was more adept at working in a short format, and made it feel more like a solid work in itself. I also think he demonstrated better scholarship by adding some reference markers throughout to a Bibliographic End Notes section.

How many biographies about a 19th century General would
Jerald Belofsky
While a good introduction to Grant Korda has to skim over or condense episodes during the Civil War that if you have read more in-depth books you know are somewhat inaccurate. For example on page 92 Korda writes that "Grant committed the classic error of dividing his forces." Yet in books lauding Robert E. Lee most authors praise him time and again for dividing his army of Northern Virginia to win battle after battle.

What I liked about the book was learning about Grant after he left Washington D
This is a small, short book, and part of the Eminent Lives Series, which I'm glad to learn about. These are all biographies written by currently successful authors. (Bill Bryson writes the one on Shakespeare...that I would like to read.) If they are all like this book, they are non-intimidating reads that are just the right amount of fact and annecdote. Grant was one of our country's greatest generals, but he was a failure at everything he touched until he met a battlefield. He drank, was insecu ...more
False Millennium
I've never read in depth about the Civil War, nor have I read Grant's infamous memoirs, but I plan on doing more, based on this book. Grant said he never read memoirs or biographies, "I read but few lives of great men because biographers do not, as a rule, tell enough about the formative period of life. What I want to know is what a man did as a boy."

Well. Grant's boyhood? Miserable. A totally indifference, to the nth sociopathic degree, of a mother and a hardworking father, too busy for childre
Mike W
Like the other volumes in the Eminent Lives series I've read, this is a very good and concise biography. It depicts Grant as a man generally ignored all his life, or dismissed as a failure, before the Civil War. He did poorly at Westpoint, got into trouble over a missing sum of money, and, in despair, resigned from the army to become a farmer. And, despite his hard work, Grant did poorly as a farmer too.

The outbreak of the Civil War revived his career, and he attracted the attention of Presiden
Joshua Booher
This book served its intended purpose by giving me a basic understanding of Grant. It was a quick and easy read. However, there were two things that got in the way: 1) the author used a lot of superlatives, which became comical and 2) the author liked to use Latin phrases and historical quotes with minimal context or explanation. These quotes/phrases were unnecessary and detracted from the biography. All in all though, it was good in that it was a short biography that enhanced my understanding o ...more
This is a very short overview of US Grant’s life his early life, time at West Point, service during the Mexican War, unsuccessful career after in the Army, his unsuccessful year in private life and then his rise thru the ranks in the Civil War and his Presidency and post Presidency career. Covered in the briefest of terms not an in depth analysis of his life.
"Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero" is a great biography on America's 18th president (Republican 2-terms 1869-1877). He was one of the great generals. Unlike George Washington, Grant never retreated. Grant pulled himself up from his boot strings. He helped end slavery but felt blacks were inferior to the white race. His weakness was whiskey and the propensity to align himself with those who were prone to public scandals. He was indeed an unlikely hero, but he was a hero nevertheless. In the en ...more
Jerry Gause
A good, concise rendition (175 pages) of Grant's life from a lad to victorious 4-star General to 2 term President and back to a modest life. Grant's own "Personal Memoirs" is 700 pages which is next on my list - thanks to Korda's book which has served as an introduction.
Ulysses Grant was, from all accounts, a mild mannered and decent guy. This book was fairly short, mostly because there just was not that much to say about him.
Excellent book about a complicated man. I like how Korda gives us context to how Grant was challenged in parts of his life emotionally and politically. Korda shows the saviness of Grant during the civil war and at the end of his life.

Grant was flawed, a failure in business, an alcoholic, but incredibly driven to end the Civil War. Also after being diagnosed with throat cancer, his relentless pursuit to complete his biography is amazing. I love learning about flawed characters who find redemptio
David Bales
This was a very brief biography of Grant, giving a very limited account of his Civil War generalship and presidency, but gives the reader a sense of his relentlessness and bad business sense. As a professional soldier he was successful, but as a civilian, (even president) he mostly failed miserably. The most interesting parts were about his experiences as a young officer in Texas and during the Mexican War, (1845-1848) and his round-the-world trip in 1877-'79. I need to read a real biography of ...more
For someone only generally familiar with Grant's life, this was a well-written, concise coverage of the essentials. From harness shop clerk in 1960 to 4 Star General & then President by '64 & '68, is a pretty amazing rising to the occasion. Korda's prose is generally excellent. My only criticism is that his sense of self-importance shows through from time to time. But that's a minor quibble. (I have read one other Korda effort - about owning a 'country house' in the Hudson Valley. My rea ...more
Cathy C
This was an overview of Grant's life. Very readable and accessible. I became interested in learning more about Grant after I read an biography of Lincoln last year. Most interesting was how he exceeded in combat situation in ways he was terribly unable to do in his civilian life. To read about how popular his memoirs were was amazing. This series isn't intended to give in depth insights into the subject's life but it did pique my interest in potentially reading more about him. Particularly his f ...more
A brief and colloquial book, with a charm as opinionated, ironic, and humorous as a good magazine article, with a prose that is highly readable, never bogs down, and paces itself with the occasional dwelling on important controversies in Grant's life. What makes the book for me is the author's breadth of knowledge concerning other generals (Wellington, Napoleon) and presidents (Ike, Roosevelt) in comparison to Grant. It was a fabulous book to spin through.
I really like history so to me this book was pretty good. I liked the beginning because it talked about Grants tomb and I have been there a lot of times so i could picture the setting in my head very well. As the book was describing his early life it was kind of boring but once it got to the Mexican American war and the Civil war, it became really interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes American history or the Civil war
Donna Peake
I learned a bit about Grant that I never knew before.

His book was a best seller

Wanted to annex Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)Wanted to send the Freed Slaves there.

He was asked by Lincoln to attend Ford's Theater with them the night Lincoln was killed.

When he was elected President he knew nothing about economics.

People built him houses and furnished them because he was a hero.
Daniel Kukwa
Astonishingly brief yet informative, I didn't think a work so concise could relate such a compelling story. I was contemplating picking up H. W. Brands's massive new work on Grant, but this fell into my lap and certainly whet my appetite. I especially enjoyed the epilogue, relating Grant to Ike and other modern generals -- the lessons of history, both learned & ignored.
James Kubecki
Decent short bio of a man grossly underrated in our day. At times Korda slips in his own contemporary political views, which is distracting, but not overbearing. Also, not sure if it's the text or just the Kindle edition, but at times there are sloppy errors (such as one section where he repeatedly refers to George McClellan as "McClennan," but later refers to him correctly).
This is really good bio! Biographies can be a bit long winded if you only have a passing interest in the person. This short Bio is perfect, I always wanted to know more about Grant and this book does the job. At the start of the Civil War he was an ex-army man working for his father and ended the war accepting Lee's surrender and then went on to become a two term president.
Dana Kraft
A nice, compact history of Grant that I read in a day. I definitely had only heard of Grant's Tomb and the stories of drunkenness. A great example of how a person can be very well suited for one job and completely unsuited for another. Favorite fact was that joining the military in the mid 1800's often meant that you couldn't make a living on your own.
This brief biography focuses on Grant's military career slightly more than the rest of his life. Korda is British and makes frequent comparisons to European generals and civic leaders. There are some good personal stores concerning Grant's life here. The author also uses the biography as an excuse to indirectly critique American foreign policy in 2003.
Nov 20, 2008 Larry rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs who want a slightly different aproach to US Grant
Recommended to Larry by: Kurt Haag
This is a readable outline of the life and career of the General who won the American Civil War. A good introduction to the maan with details of his early life, family life and referenced comments on his personality that are usually ablent form his biographies. A quick,interesting and informative read.
Though it was a summarized biography of the life of Ulysses S. Grant, it was a great read!! I was unfamiliar with the life of Grant, except for his duty in the Civil War. Thanks to this book, I'm considering to read a full, concise biography of Grant, for from what I read, his life is worth studying.
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