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Alexander Hamilton

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  27,045 Ratings  ·  1,454 Reviews
A 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.

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting stor
Paperback, 818 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published April 26th 2004)
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Alena Friedrich Listened to the entire soundtrack- seeing the musical in March. I got really interested Hamilton's life and the political details and started reading…moreListened to the entire soundtrack- seeing the musical in March. I got really interested Hamilton's life and the political details and started reading the book. Within 3 days I had read 200 pages. It's excellent.(less)
Sutifed Absolutely! I read the book when it first came out. I remember having the same concern about its length, but it is so well written that that fear was…moreAbsolutely! I read the book when it first came out. I remember having the same concern about its length, but it is so well written that that fear was quickly squelched. I didn't want the book to end.(less)
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Oct 12, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it
It had a lot less hip-hop than I was expecting, but I still really liked it.
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

aka I am Hamiltrash
Nov 29, 2015 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2015
"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 i
Aimee Meester
Feb 06, 2016 Aimee Meester rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feelssss, nonfiction, 2016
At what point do you realize that you're in too deep because right now I'm crying actual tears over A. Ham and gosh dang it this is powerful you guys.


Yes, the Broadway musical Hamilton lead me here. I can't say I'd have such a rabid interest in all things Alexander Hamilton/founding fathers if not for that weird collection of hip-hop musical numbers. But the more I read this the more I loved it for itself and the story it tells. Dang, but I need to read more
May 11, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
I have now read the Hamiltome. (I know that's what people call the book Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote about the musical, but seriously, this thing could stop bullets.) I wouldn't have picked this book up if it weren't for the musical, and it wasn't exactly light reading, but I'm glad that I did. Before I did, I was kinda sure that Hamilton was the guy who was shot by Aaron Burr, and pretty sure he'd never been president, and if I thought for a second I'd remember that he was on the $10 bill.

Now I kn
Mike Mcfarland
Nov 19, 2007 Mike Mcfarland rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the early days of the Republic.
Alexander Hamilton will make you feel bad about yourself. When he was about 19 years old, he had not only graduated from Columbia University, he was also George Washington's aide-de-camp. When he was about 30, he was already one of the most successful lawyers in New York, he was responsible for writing the U.S. Constitution, and was in the process of building the U.S. Treasury Department from nothing. He was a genuinely brilliant and astonishing man.

But, he was also a very difficult man, and tha
Jun 20, 2007 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Students of History who want to learn the truth
I don't know that I have ever read a single book that so changed my perception of history. The Author is able to truly show the brilliance and importance of Hamilton's contribution to our government.
I have always had the mistaken perception that Hamilton was a hinderance to free Government and that it was Jefferson and Monroe that were the true authors. I learned that I could not have been more mistaken. Hamilton was a man of sheer genius. Raising from obscurity to being the founder of the basic
Jason Koivu
Feb 13, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Hamilton's ability to rise above a bastard's upbringing and his unsure beginnings to one of the highest offices of the US is one of those "American dream" stories that our forefathers built the cliche upon.

Chernow handles the material, lived-out so many years ago, with a deft hand, keeping my interest even through the parts I would normally find boring, such as the country's financial structuring which Hamilton masterminded. Of course, it is Hamilton's battle of wits with Thomas Jefferson (and
Apr 10, 2008 Chab rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all patriots.
Shelves: history, biography
As I have grown older, -I must confess.- my opinion of Thomas Jefferson has changed radically. I still grant him enormous credit as an architect, inventor, and prose stylist; however, I have become more and more estranged from his politics and methods. And I must confess again that this most excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton has only served to harden my revised opinion of Jefferson and the political Jeffersonians.

I approached this book knowing only the current mythological cant concernin
Mar 30, 2016 Sesana rated it it was amazing
There's no point in me pretending that I read this lengthy biography for any other reason than my current obsession with the musical Hamilton. As a Hamilton fan, I was pleased to see that Miranda had stuck fairly closely to historical fact, with a compressed chronology. And somewhat more sympathy afforded to Jefferson and Burr than Chernow has, interestingly enough. So if you're reading solely from a place of love for the musical, you won't be disappointed.

But as a work of history? I'm really qu
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
"Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there's a million things I haven't done, but just you wait, just you waaaaaaaaait."

First things first: if you haven't listened to Hamilton, do yourself a favour and go listen to Hamilton. Because it's a freaking masterpiece.

Anyway. On with the book review.

I obviously read this because I'm Hamiltrash, as is the case with so many other reviewers. And what struck me about this were two things in particular:
1. It's an excellent biography of
Jan 28, 2009 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
This is an exhaustive work that took me quite a while to complete. I knew very little about Alexander Hamilton when I visited Nevis a few years ago and saw signs to his birthplace. Nevis is quite proud of this fact, as they should be. His birthplace is basically in ruins, a stone shack overrun with chickens and goats. Nothing more. Just a sign. The circumstances of his birth, his early life, his mother's imprisonment for alleged adultery, his father's descent into alcoholism and his ultimate ab ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Renata rated it it was amazing
Best Bestsellers bonus episode:

Is this getting a bonus star because of inspiring Hamilton the musical? YES PROBABLY my reviews are all subject to personal WHIMSY.

Anyway, I never would have picked this up if it weren't for Hamilton the musical. But Hamilton the musical wouldn't exist if it weren't for this book!

Chernow does a great job of fleshing out Hamilton as a smart, scrappy, irritating human being (with an A++++ wife, also a human being) as opposed t
This is the first biography that I've read all the way through--foreword, introduction, afterword, footnotes, and all--which is a big deal for me because I'm not a big nonfiction reader. So giving it the full 5-star rating is an even bigger deal. It feels like a book worthy of the highest rating because so much work went into crafting it and making it the page-turner that it is, but much to my surprise it's not heavy at all. It's actually a quick read; the language zips along and doesn't pull an ...more
EDIT: I should reread this. And I need to actually see Hamilton, not just put the soundtrack on repeat.

Excellent biography on all counts. Covers the many contradictory facets of this figure and dazzles you with the force of his achievements, yet also makes you sympathize with him, from his rise from obscurity to his sudden fall.
Continuing on with my American Revolution/colonial America reading, I eagerly delved into Alexander Hamilton. I had already read Chernow’s Washington: a Life and deemed it the best biography I’ve ever read.

Alexander Hamilton started out meeting all my expectations. Chernow’s excellent research and depth in reporting the events surrounding Hamilton’s life established a terrific launching point and I was completely engrossed.

Here’s what I loved about the book: Additional details about the revoluti
Nov 22, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
In an ongoing project to better educate myself about important political figures in history, I sought to return to another member of the American Founding Fathers. However, to call Alexander Hamilton a 'father' when surrounded by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson seems slightly odd, as he was much younger than the others around the table. While that may be true, Ron Chernow effectively argues that Hamilton was a substantial, even quintessential, player in the founding and early establishment o ...more
Taryn Pierson
May 21, 2016 Taryn Pierson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Since I’m not able to see the Broadway show Hamilton just yet, I had to channel my enthusiasm some other way, so I decided to read the 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton written by Ron Chernow that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical. I was feeling optimistic, so I decided to listen to the audio version—all 37 hours of it. It took just over three weeks, and I loved every minute of it.

Chernow’s biography is a meticulously researched scholarly analysis that reads as addictively
Jun 03, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
This book was really interesing! The only reason I was reading it was because I was researching on the creation of stocks, but once I started reading I enjoyed the book. This book is not like other biography books I've seen of our founding fathers. The book showed his personal life, and how his wife and him loved each other. This book was also really detailed, the author even mention about Hamilton's wife pregnancy. His wife even create a statue for him after his death. The part I found most int ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Paula rated it it was amazing
Alexander Hamilton will make you feel like such a loser.

He was born on a tiny island in the West Indies to a poor Scotsman and a woman who was married to someone else. His father took off when he was 10 years old. Alexander then survived a major illness two years later but his mother did not, leaving him orphaned. He was taken in by a cousin who then committed suicide shortly after. He went to work to support himself, and by the age of 14, Alexander was essentially running a trading company and
Aug 17, 2009 Kirby rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book; I can easily say that Alexander Hamilton slides into the short list of my all time favorites. Chernow paints a vivid picture of our most misunderstood founding father. I admit, I'm biased- as a fan of economics, learning more about the foundations Hamilton laid has been a treat. Even beyond this, however, the life of Hamilton was as colorful and interesting as it was busy. The exhaustive detail of Chernow's research allows for a three dimensional portrait of Hamilton as ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Jess rated it it was amazing
Well, I am pretty goddamn emotional now.
This is important.

Not only is this the true narrative of one of the most influential people in regards to the founding of the United States, but it's also an extremely captivating story. This book gave me a very personal (at times) look into a man's life that was far from ordinary.

As a fan of the musical, it was wonderful to be able to learn more about a politician and founder that has captivated so many people. There's something so present and enduring about Hamilton; he feels real, but at the
Apr 16, 2008 Arminius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
When I read a book about a great person I look to find out what made the guy or girl tick, what drove him and what did he do in order to reach his goal. Ron Chernow ,in this great detailed book, answers some of these questions. For example, why is Hamilton against an agrarian economy that Jefferson supports? The answer lies in the fact that he grew up on a farm-rich Caribbean island and yet it was so poor a country.

I get to the end of the book where he is killed in his duel with Burr and unexpe
Mar 14, 2009 Patty rated it it was amazing
“..greed can corrupt a state and that a public official who betrays his trust “ought to feel the utmost rigor of public resentment and be detested as a traitor of the worst and most dangerous kind.””

“..paper currency issued by the Continental Congress continued to sink precipitously in value..” “During one ghastly period in 1779, the continental dollar shed half its value in three weeks.”

“The 1792 financial panic came on the heels of……”

A letter from Wolcott.. “The public affairs are certainly in
Apr 14, 2016 Kendra rated it really liked it
I enjoyed that. It was a very long audiobook, and the reader had a nice steady voice, so I sped it up in increments to twice the speed, thus making it possible to finish less than an hour before I had to return it to the library.
I think I like Chernow’s Hamilton better than Miranda’s. Sure, he’s not as good a rapper (though apparently a good singer?) but he did a lot of really interesting things. More interesting than a silly old national bank! And he had a lot of friends. And a staunchly loyal
Larry Bassett
Apr 02, 2016 Larry Bassett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
This is one heck of a book. It covers the life of Alexander Hamilton from his birth as an illegitimate child on a Caribbean island until his death in a duel with vice president Aaron Burr when he was 49. If you think politics in the 21st-century are dirty you should see how they were in the late 1700s just after the revolution. I am not a practiced reader of histories about our founding fathers to judge the accuracy of this account. But it does seem relatively well balanced with the positive and ...more
Dec 12, 2007 Michael rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in whether our Founding Fathers were aliens
Shelves: alive
in bios, often the velocity depends on the subject's life. Hamilton had the life: born into a mysterious and adulterous Caribbean family, miraculously makes it out to King's College in NY, and then on to be an aid-de-camp to Washington during the Revolution. from there he marries well, sleeps around, gleefully picks enemies, authors The Federalist Papers, more or less creates our Constitution, our financial system, duels poorly with another of the Founding Fathers.

but for some reason, the book w
Mar 28, 2016 Anna rated it it was amazing
I came to read an 800 page biography of Alexander Hamilton, a figure I had barely heard of two months ago, thanks to the brilliant musical based on his life. After reading rapturous recommendations of Hamilton, I listened to the soundtrack on spotify and was fascinated. The music is fantastic and Alexander Hamilton’s life story is extraordinary. Since I have previously derived great enjoyment from long books that inspired musicals (Les Mis), I then tried to hunt down a copy of Chernow’s biograph ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Joanie rated it it was amazing
If you had told me this time last year that I would be reading not just a biography of Alexander Hamilton, but loving it, and even considering reading other doorstoppers to do with the Founding Fathers, I would've laughed in your face. I wouldn't have believed that I would be so obsessed with a musical about said Hamilton either. I'm not sure how the average Canadian feels about this period of US history, much less the particular historical figures, but for myself, they barely registered on the ...more
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  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times
  • The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin
  • Madison and Jefferson
  • Henry Clay: The Essential American
  • American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic
  • Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations
  • Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: The Extraordinary Post-presidential Life of John Quincy Adams
  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr
  • Colonel Roosevelt
  • John Quincy Adams
  • The Sage of Monticello
  • John Adams: Party of One
  • Wilson
  • A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic
  • Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution
  • John Marshall: Definer of a Nation
  • The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800
Ron Chernow was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating with honors from Yale College and Cambridge University with degrees in English Literature, he began a prolific career as a freelance journalist. Between 1973 and 1982, Chernow published over sixty articles in national publications, including numerous cover stories. In the mid-80s Chernow went to work at the Twentieth Century Fund ...more
More about Ron Chernow...

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“Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation. (Alexander Hamilton, July 1792)” 20 likes
“A prudent silence will frequently be taken for wisdom and a sentence or two cautiously thrown in will sometimes gain the palm of knowledge, while a man well informed but indiscreet and unreserved will not uncommonly talk himself out of all consideration and weight. (Alexander Hamilton's 'thesis on discretion' written to his son James shortly before his fatal duel with Burr.)” 6 likes
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