Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Napoleon Bonaparte” as Want to Read:
Napoleon Bonaparte
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Napoleon Bonaparte

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  488 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A definitive biography of Bonaparte from his birth in Corsica to his death in exile on St Helena, this book examines all aspects of Bonaparte′s spectacular rise to power and his dizzying fall. It offers close examination of battlefield victories, personal torments, military genius, Bonaparte′s titanic ego and his relationships with the French government, Talleyrand, Wellin...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published August 26th 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published September 1st 1997)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Napoleon Bonaparte, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Napoleon Bonaparte

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueThe Proud Tower by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThe Magic Mountain by Thomas MannGeorge, Nicholas and Wilhelm by Miranda Carter
A Heady Brew
103rd out of 113 books — 19 voters
Napoleon by Felix MarkhamThe Second Empress by Michelle MoranNapoléon ou la Destinée by Jean-Marie RouartDe honderd dagen by Joseph RothZarafa by Michael Allin
Best books about Napoleon
15th out of 40 books — 9 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 992)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Peter Crouse
Terrible biography. Napoleon may have his faults but he deserves a fairer treatment than this. My review is based on less than half of its 900 pages. After the chapter on the Imperial coronation turned into a soap opera starring the Bonaparte family, I decided I couldn't go on. The remainder of the book just suddenly seemed too imposing.

Schom turns Napoleon into an amoral monster, eaten up with ambition. He places unfair emphasis on the Egyptian campaign while belittling Napoleon's victories. He...more
Erik Graff
Nov 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Napoléon fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Having read a short biography of Napoléon I in the past, I was pleased and ready for this one--perhaps the longest and most detailed study available in English. The writing is good, the annotation sufficient and the subject fascinatingly outrageous.

Schom's book has been criticized by John Clubbe of the International Napoleonic Society for being a hatchet job on the emperor. It certainly is true that Napoleon comes across as no exemplary figure in either his public or private life, but should he?...more
Mike Prochot
While engrossed in early American history and our relations with England from the Revolution through the early 1800's, a gentleman by the name of Napoleon popped up from time to time.

The details of his career had been left a foggy, distant memory in my subconscious, stashed there years ago sometime early in my college career. Not being a psych undergrad, his M.O. did not appeal to me at the time. As I learned then, he was, after all and quite simply, a tyrant bent on world domination. Apologists...more
This biography has some very good points to it. For example, it devotes entire chapters to Tellyrand and Fouche. However, one thing I hate about so many historians, especially military historians, is to make the losing general in a battle seem like a fool, or the winner just lucky. I've never commanded an army in battle, but I imagine it is a lot harder than armchair general historians appreciate. Also, this author clearly hates Bonaparte. For sure, there is much to dislike about N.B., but the a...more
T.J. Radcliffe

This is the most remarkable biography I have ever read.

I have a basic grasp of the Napoleonic era, and have read histories of the Peninsular War and the Russian Campaign and the like, but I have never read such a clear and evocative precis of the little Corsican sociopath himself.

Like the little Austrian sociopath 150 years later, the man himself diminishes the more you know about him. The child of a rebellious political environment, always arrogant and self-aggrandizing, he changed the face of...more
Well written and for its length it does a good job of holding one's attention.

Unfortunately, Schom appears to have a grudge against Bonaparte. When he wins, he's lucky. When he loses, it's incompetence. Those who love him are deluded by Nappy's propaganda. Those who hate him are clear-eyed realists. Truth is Revolutionary France was no place for the faint of heart, so any one who came to the fore at this juncture of history was going to be a shark.

The biography would have been better served by e...more
What a complete piece of literary trash. This book absolutely couldn't be worse. Any British view point is better than this book. It is the most biased piece of crap I have ever read, and clearly no one edited this for grammar mistakes, because it has PLENTY. Also misleads everyone who knows nothing about Napoleon by giving them incorrect figures, statistics, and dates. Got about 100 pages in and stopped. Never own this book. EVER. I'm kind of sad that I own it. Makes everything in my library lo...more
Sean Chick
Just another pointless hatchet job by a British historian intent on making Napoleon the forerunner of both totalitarianism and just another long line of despots defeated by glorious Albion. This could have easily been written by William Pitt or one of the aristocrats Napoleon defeated in battle, since it is pretty much just a non-stop screed. You are better off reading Markham's account.
John Maniscalco
This was a very informative, yet extremely biased book. What bothered me most about it, and the reason why I gave it three stars instead of four or 5, is that the author clearly hates Napoleon and deprives him of any credit he rightfully deserves. If you hate Napoleon, this book is for you. If you like Napoleon or want a fair account of his life, look elsewhere.
Excellent one-volume biography of Napoleon, let down by sloppy editing. The spelling errors (really!) and the sentence construction, for me, detracted from what was otherwise a very readable biography. (This was the 1997 hardcover edition) The author (Alan Schom) seems not to have been a fan of Napoleon. I had expected something of a eulogy for a great man; instead I found his many faults highlighted. It was ironic that he wanted to be in power (at first) so that he could make sure Corsica no lo...more
Steve Lane
Easy, if depressing, read. You might hope for something larger than life, but instead you see an almost garden-variety tale of psychopathy, megalomania and cronyism -- tiresomely, fearsomely reminiscent of Hitler. The writing and scholarship seem very sound, the pace brisk, and Schom makes no secret of his feelings about Napoleon and many of his hangers-on. A very well-written book, laying bare the essential meanness of his subject.
You don't need to read very much of this book to realize that Alan Schom obviously had an anti-Napoleon axe to grind while writing this biography. Anyone searching for an enjoyable, evenhanded presentation of the life and career of a fascinating historical figure will need not look to this flawed work.
Milton Soong
THis is crap. The man has a vendetta against Napoleon and is a highly biased, and it shows in every paragraph. Avoid at all cost unless you like repetition of "the man is an egomaniac.."
I have often thought I'd like to find a good biography of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and become a bit better acquainted with him. Alan Schom has put together a lengthy account of his life ... I was amazed to find that although he brought some minor reforms to France following a bloody and violent revolution, he ended up becoming so addicted to war and power that his ambitions nearly destroyed the whole of Europe. France itself suffered terribly under his reign with an entire generation of y...more

As you can see from my start and end dates of reading this book, I felt as if I were trudging along side
Napoleon's royal army as a silent observer to his intentional trespass of wars that brought large scale rape, pillage, and plunder through out Europe dragging every European nation into chaos and poverty, under the hard yoke of the French Empire. What was particularly interesting was how now France (besides for this war in Libya) is considered a civilized nation that values restraint. But bac...more
I read this book something like 15 years ago, shortly after reading the same author's "Trafalgar", and it is one of the books that I remember from that time and which I can therefore give a retrospective rating.

I recall it being of a good length and that it gave a clear and compelling account of Napoleon's career - balancing the triumphs and disasters and allowing one to see the man behind the legend. Indeed what becomes clear is Napoleon's extraordinary ability to survive the disasters, e.g. th...more
Glenn Robinson
A superb bio of Bonaparte. Not a hero worship, but more anti-Bonaparte, this one shows many of his warts, his character flaws and his many mistakes. While in-depth, each chapter could be expanded into large books. From his childhood in Corsica, to his rise during the the period of the Revolution and every other period until his death at St. Helena-his murder as the evidence shows, this book brings many new facts that will help give a little more understanding of this leader.
Mar 31, 2008 Mark added it
Okay, I got to page 300 a year ago and now I'm going to give it another crack. On March 8, 1796 at 7pm Josephine shows up in a white muslin dress to get married. By 10:00 pm, with no sign of Napoleon, The Mayor of Paris walks out on the ceremony . Finally after showing up close to three hours late they both sign the marriage certificate. Josephine giving her birth date at 1767 (instead of 1763) and Napoleon giving his birth date as 1768 (instead of 1769). Napoleon lies about his place of birth o...more
I have read a lot of books on Napoleon. This is hands-down the best biography of Napoleon out there. I have read it cover-to-cover at least three times.
Tyler Windham
I must confess, I did not read all of this biography, it was lacking in style and in substance which is a magnificent travesty for the life-story of one of the most massive colossi who dominate the story of human civilization. Furthermore, the author seems to seek to tear down Napoleon--to bring him down from his loft heights into the ignominious dirt at the very bottom of the pits history casts its villains and pretenders. Anyone serious about studying a historical figure should not be endeared...more
I finished. That was a labor of... not love, but not drudgery either. What's something in the middle? A labor of "have to". I am proud to have read it all, to have learned more than I think I needed to know of battle numbers, death tolls, war strategies, and countless army generals. I am happy to have this one under my belt, but now I just have to try not to forget all that I've learned. I wish that this novel had more about his relationships with those in his life (maybe 10% of this book spoke...more
I liked this book because the author clearly does not like Napoleon and that makes this biography well-balanced.

Of course, not liking him and thinking he was very interesting are two different things and Schom draws that line with an expert hand.

I finished this book firmly believing that Napoleon was nothing but an extremely lucky man with tons of ambition and, yes, military genius, but, as always, hubris knocks the head off of those who wear its crown.

But Napoleon was also fascinating and hi...more
Joe Paulk
I excitedly delved into this book. The thickness of the book hinted that much about Napoleon would be revealed. It was not to be and I quickly wished that Schom's book had been thinner. There is no spirit in his work. It seems as if the author was busy simply regurgitating information that could be found in a number of places. He did do a better job of pointing on the importance of Napoleon's generals, but even that seemed to be a sterile endeavor.
Will Larrick
Cannot imagine why an author would bother writing a 944 page book about a subject he obviously detests. This hatchet job does not make compelling arguments based in fact or historical interpretation but rather relies on the author's own bias to remove any credit from Napoleon's accomplishments. Austerlitz wasn't a trap? Who is this pathetic excuse for a historian kidding. Unreadable and an unfair onslaught as vicious as Napoleon's campaigns.
Christopher Smith
Well, as far as a 700+ page biography goes it is not so bad. There are moments where it does drag a bit, and some parts where I had wished there was a bit more (Childhood?). It is not charitable in its depiction of Napoleon, but IMHO any person responsible for world changing levels of violent conflict may deserve the criticism they receive.
Lewis colburn
I needed a complete bio of Napoleon for research, this book fit the bill but poorly. It really comes across as a litany of battle after battle (which, to an extent is accurate). Still, it's written in a leaden style, and I'd at least expect complete sentences from a published historian, but that seems too much to ask of this book...
This one was great at navigating the sometimes challenging world of military and personal life of this conqueror. I'm a sucker for military conquest, but this book also gave me a new perspective on the cultural contributions this Corsican gave to Franch and more importantly to Europe.
Very in-detail descriptions of battles, stats, strategies made it pretty interesting. Love how the author is obviously not a Napoleon fan and spends 900 pages calling him out of all his lies, mistakes, and flaws. Very entertaining.
Ian Drake
I'm reading this for the third time. It's a concise history of Napoleon's life. At the time it was originally published, it was the only full biography in a single volume. The author is very critical of Napoleon and his legacy.
Dennis Sison
Interesting popular history of Napoleon. Some insight into the man behind the Boogeyman. I had no idea the man was suicidal or that he was branded pretty much a nobody by his peers very early in life... There's hope for most of us yet!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Age of Napoleon
  • Wellington: The Iron Duke
  • Knight's Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
  • Napoleon: A Life
  • Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign
  • The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
  • Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815
  • The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649­-1815
  • George III: A Personal History
  • The Devil's Broker: Seeking Gold, God, and Glory in Fourteenth- Century Italy
  • Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for Renaissance Florence
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, #11)
  • Napoleon: The Path to Power
  • The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull
  • The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor
  • Caesar: A Biography
The Eagle & the Rising Sun: The Japanese-American War 1941-43: Pearl Harbor through Guadalcanal One Hundred Days: Napoleon's Road to Waterloo Trafalgar: Countdown to Battle, 1803-1805 Émile Zola: A Biography

Share This Book