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Alexander Hamilton

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  70,968 Ratings  ·  5,418 Reviews
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 story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America.
Paperback, 818 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published April 26th 2004)
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Ron I'm on page 244 and it's fantastic. It dispels any illusion that our founding fathers and their representative states were united in the direction of…moreI'm on page 244 and it's fantastic. It dispels any illusion that our founding fathers and their representative states were united in the direction of the country. Even George Washington questioned the longevity of this experiment. Great read and it's nice to find out that there were opposing views and spirited debates during our infancy. Love the soundtrack and looking forward to selling a child to buy tickets to the show.(less)
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)

Community Reviews

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Oct 12, 2015 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*
"...the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me." -Burr

This book is utterly exhaustive in its scope. Dry and dull in a few places, exhilarating and taut and heartbreaking in others. This feels like a life done justice, although I am also curious about the biography that Eliza started and her son finished after she was gone. I loved the framing with Eliza in the prologue and epilogue. Loved piecing together where the book and musical met, loved the bits where they diverged. Loved stumbling upon
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, aere-perennius
"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
Sean Gibson
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been wracking my brains literally for months trying to figure out who I can compare Alexander Hamilton to on the modern politocelebrity scene (or “to whom I can compare” him, if you douchey grammar wonks prefer).

There are two reasons that process has taken months: 1) I’m currently operating with the mental processing power of an old Radio Shack TRS-80 (on the plus side, I guess that means I can run awesome software like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!) and 2) Alexander Hamilton was one unique
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kemper by: Sesana
Like a lot of people I’ve been listening to the Hamilton musical album non-stop and read this because it was the source of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to create the brilliant Broadway show. The idea that a dense biography of an American Founding Father who was probably best known to the general public as the guy on the the ten dollar bill and the subject of a pretty funny Got Milk? commercial would someday lead to the creation of an incredibly popular musical that blends show tunes with hip ...more
Feb 08, 2016 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
If they break this Union, they will break my heart.~Alexander Hamilton
If anybody had told me a year ago that I would be delving into an 800 page biography on arguably America's least known Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury and he of ten dollar bill fame, I would have said they were crazy. But like so many people who will read this book in the coming years, it all started with a mad love affair for the Broadway musical. It's literally all I've been able to think about (or listen t
4.5/5 stars
How does a bastard orphan,
son of a whore and a Scotsman,
dropped in the middle of a forgotten
spot in the Caribbean
by providence,
impoverished, in squalor,
grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The ten dollar founding father
without a father got a lot further
by working a lot harder,
by being a lot smarter,
by being a self starter,
by fourteen, they placed him
in charge of a trading charter.

And ev'ry day while slaves
were being slaughtered
and carted away across the waves,
he struggle
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am now prepared to see the Hamilton musical. Also, I now know more about Alexander Hamilton than I ever thought I would.

Despite its length, the book stayed generally interesting throughout. There was a section in the middle that got into the establishment of the US banking system where I got a little lost, but overall the book stayed accessible.

Another thing that helped keep things interesting was that the audio was read by Scott Brick. Brick has to be my favorite audio narrator.

The book cove
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So I'm sitting on a plane crying over the ending of this book. It's not like I didn't already know how it turns out. But I didn't know Alexander Hamilton before--not in the way I do now. No lie, reading this book is a major undertaking. I am a lover of history and biography and this is one of the most compelling true stories I've read in a long time. I've always been a little obsessed with Thomas Jefferson because the man had so many conflicts and inconsistencies. This book demonstrates the powe ...more
Mike Mcfarland
Jul 02, 2007 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
Apr 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rise Up! Time to Take a Shot!

Reviewing a historical biography can be a difficult task, a genre for which the writing can veer to the monotonous. Here, Ron Chernow does a kingly job with his impeccable research and suaveloquent writing. More significantly of late, this bio served as the basis for the fantastic new blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton. I'll step back and let Lin-Manuel Miranda's daedal lyrics give you the players and a sketch of part of the story. And well, you know how it ends.
Jun 20, 2007 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
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
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
Oct 22, 2015 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
Feb 16, 2016 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
Apr 10, 2008 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

I remember hearing a little about Alexander in school and it mostly had to do with the duel with Burr that killed him. He was not mentioned the way Washington and Jefferson were.

What a fascinating personality he is. He was brilliant and after reading this book, it is obvious that our government and many of the ideas that made our country run are because of Hamilton. He was a proficient writer and orator. I learned so much about our history and the way the country works and it even sets
"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
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Definitely not something I would have ever picked up, but after becoming obsessed with Hamilton, I was curious.

It was a bit dry, but very well written. I did skim parts of it, basically just wanting details for the sections of Hamilton's life that are highlighted in the play. The last chapters dealing with the duel and the aftermath were heartbreaking.

May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
No words can describe what I'm feeling right now. After two months, I finished this biography at 9:38 PM tonight with tears streaming down my face, hysterically sobbing. I just have to read the concluding line of this 731-pages-tome and tears start dwelling in my eyes again.

I'm not going to properly review this biography here on Goodreads, because I discussed it at lenght in my YouTube series, "The Hamilton Diaries" , and I don't like repeating myself.

All I want to say here is that I am incredi
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This gets a solid 3.5 stars, but more for effort than for objectivity or verve.

I feel obligated to mention how I came to this book. I did my undergraduate at the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson founded and which ranked as one of the three accomplishments that Jefferson wished reflected in his epitaph. The love is no less genuine or intense going the other way, either, with the school's unofficial soubriquet being "Mr. Jefferson's University"; honest conversations about the man's
Oct 14, 2008 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
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This by far the most stimulating, thought provoking, absolutely enriching, fascinating biography I have ever read (actually, listened to on Audio). It consumed me for months and I talked about it to anyone who was motionless enough to listen. It helped me keep both my sanity and perspective (think long term historical here) during a horrendous election year. So good to know it wasn't our first and that fabricating stories occurred on both sides. Chernow is a marvel! I highly recommend reading th ...more
Sep 29, 2015 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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
2018 Reading Challenge: book that is also a play or musical

This book was the most extensive I have read in awhile. It was superb! And it inspired me to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack. And now I can't stop. And now I'm a Hamiltonophile. All the Hamilton!!!
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21-ce, biography, us
Wonderful—an education in itself. Voluble, big-hearted.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
3/5 stars

Wow. This is by far the densest book I've ever read. It took me almost 2 months to get through. I had to prop it on a pillow while reading it because it's so heavy.

Yes, I wanted to read this because I am obsessed with the musical 'Hamilton' and had to know more about Hamilton's life. The deeper I got into this book the more I was amazed with Lin-Manuel Miranda's ability to craft a hip-hop musical based on this man's life. GENIUS.

I loved the beginning and ending of this book. The parts
Steven Z.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The popularity of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” has rekindled interest in Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. I read the original when it was published and I found it to be an amazingly comprehensive study which included incisive analysis and a fairly objective approach to its subject. Since I will be teaching a course entitled, “Hamilton: The Musical, Historically Accurate or Not” I decided to revisit Chernow’s work. My opinion has not changed and I ...more
Jackie Ullerich
The hottest Broadway ticket is Hamilton, and no, I haven't seen it. The cost of tickets are a bit rich for my blood. But, I have read the book that inspired the musical and am in awe of how this 832-page historical non-fiction book was turned into such a sensation.

Because of the musical, my book club decided to tackle Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. And let me tell you, it was NOT an easy read. At least not for me. I do have an appreciation for history, but at times the details dragged on and
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I Just Have a Lot of Feelings About Hamilton 13 76 Jun 10, 2018 11:34AM  
International Boo...: Biographies 1 4 Feb 20, 2018 10:11AM  
New York Times Gr...: January Nonfiction: Alexander Hamilton 1 5 Dec 31, 2017 07:06AM  
Hamilton: An American Musical 4 24 Oct 17, 2017 06:26PM  
Play Book Tag: Alexander Hamilton Read-a-Along 36 66 Sep 25, 2017 02:01PM  
Play Book Tag: Alexander Hamilton on Audio 8 26 Aug 23, 2017 08:01AM  
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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
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“Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation. (Alexander Hamilton, July 1792)” 45 likes
“The law is whatever is successfully argued and plausibly maintained,” 21 likes
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