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Alexander Hamilton

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  162,194 ratings  ·  9,399 reviews
An alternate cover edition can be found here.

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,
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)

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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 Marie
"...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
"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
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
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Hamilton was not the master builder of the Constitution: the laurels surely go to James Madison. He was, however, its foremost interpreter, starting with The Federalist and continuing with his Treasury tenure, when he had to expound constitutional doctrines to accomplish his goals. He lived, in theory and practice, every syllable of the Constitution. For that reason, historian Clinton Rossiter insisted that Hamilton’s “works and words have been more consequential than those of any other America ...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
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alexander Hamilton. The musical has brought much publicity to this early founding father. I have never seen the musical before, but a few Goodreads friends whose reviews I trust recently read this biography. I had been following their discussions in the nonfiction book club, but still wasn't sure. I am in the Doris Kearns Goodwin historian camp and had never read Ron Chernow before. What finally pushed me to read this book is that a Chicago Cubs player posted that it took him eighteen months but ...more
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
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
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
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 suaviloquent 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.
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
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Alexander Hamilton had a way with words, as does Ron Chernow. While Hamilton is a brick of a book, it was an interesting, thorough look at the life of a Founding Father: his upbringing, his challenges - both personal and professional, his accomplishments, of course, his fatal duel with Aaron Burr, and his lasting impact on the foundation of today’s nation.

This was a buddy read with my friend Cody, and it was nice to be able to share takes on certain events or actions that occurred, and gain an
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm going to try to refrain from referencing Hamilton songs in this review. Yeah right! You know that's coming, I'm not going to throw away my shot!

Ok, but seriously - this book is an impressive look at one of America's perhaps lesser-known (prior to the broadway musical) Founding Fathers. There's drama! Intrigue! Feuds! Battles! And a whole lot of political/financial stuff that was obviously dumbed down for the reader but even then I am still not 100% sure I followed all of it. But here's s
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
“Hamilton was not the master builder of the Constitution…He was, however, its foremost interpreter…”

“Alexander Hamilton” is a biography worthy of its subject. It is detailed and overall very interesting, although at times I found Ron Chernow’s style to be a little too dry. It is clearly well researched and well sourced, which I think is a key component.
It’s a long book and there is lots that could be said about it, but I will mention that I especially enjoyed the section that focused on how the
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
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am not going to give you Alexander Hamilton's life story. If you are looking for that, it is this extremely thorough and well researched book you should read. Nope, my review is no “Reader’s Digest” version of the book! I am going to tell you what I like and what I think could have been better, with a mere peppering of details about Hamilton’s life.

Let me start by saying that I listened to this as an audiobook on a long, long car ride, over several days. It is perfect for this. It is clear. It
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
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a long daunting biography, par for the course for Chernow, but all the same an absolute masterpiece. Hamilton casts a long shadow on the American experiment i. So many ways and Chernow masterfully reconstructs his life with anecdotes and insights gleaned from a bewildering number of sources. This book is evry bit as engaging aa his biography of Grant which I also reviews on GR.
Conor Ahern
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 studies at the University of Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson founded and which ranked as one of the three accomplishments that Jefferson deemed worthy of constituting his epitaph (he didn't even list "President"!). The love is no less genuine or intense going the other way, either, with the school's unofficial sobriquet being "Mr. Jefferson'
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
Nov 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent historical biography, one of the best I’ve ever read if not the best.

More than just a biography of one of our most influential founding fathers, this is a glimpse into the heart and soul of our fledgling democracy and the sources of many of our institutions today.

Many readers will know about this book because of the popular Broadway musical, and while there are no songs in this scholarly work, there is much personality as the author fills this erudite account with asides, opinions,
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

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
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.

Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Knowing the purity of his heart, he bore it, as it were, in his hand, exposing to every passenger its inmost recesses. This generous indiscretion subjected him to censure from misrepresentation. His speculative opinions were treated as deliberate designs and yet you all know how strenuous, how unremitting, were his efforts to establish and to preserve the Constitution." - Gouverneur Morris

This was a buddy read with my friend Brandice.:)

Alexander Hamilton
"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
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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

Articles featuring this book

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
78 likes · 24 comments
“Perseverance in almost any plan is better than fickleness and fluctuation. (Alexander Hamilton, July 1792)” 59 likes
“Hamilton, the human word machine,” 34 likes
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