Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

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Rate: 5/5


Medium: Audiobook


Overview: It has been almost a year since I first began my Hamilton obsession, which a small sampling includes watching a PBS special, reading all about the cast, traveling to Chicago to watch the show live, and spontaneously humming the soundtrack at the most random times. With that being said, I had  inexplicably been dragging my feet concerning reading the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the musical that has enthralled current pop culture. My curiosity toward Hamilton’s biography finally peaked upon reading Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, in which several key lines from Hamilton (the musical) didn’t quite line up to the actual facts conveyed in the biography. Therefore, I quickly procured Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, and promptly dove in, with the overall result of being unable to put down this fascinating story describing the remarkable life of one of the most influential founding fathers! Having read quite a few historical biographies at this point, I was repeatedly impressed throughout this text regarding the elegant writing style employed by Chernow due to his ability to truly convey a story instead of lapsing into purely reciting facts. It is little wonder that Miranda was inspired by Chernow’s distinct writing style, as multiple times I caught subtle notes of deja vu from lines in the text, as well as literal quotes from letters or notes from Hamilton and his contemporaries’ own hands being wove in the musical. Obviously, when coming across one of these familiar lines, I would have to stop where I was in the biography and listen to the specific song in the musical! I did find myself a bit disappointed in the inconsistencies between the biography and musical, however could understand why Miranda made the choices he did concerning overall timeline and simplifying the number of players involved. In general, Hamilton’s tale is one that defies imagination, especially considering the circumstances/where he was born and the ultimate heights he achieved in society, not to mention the impact he had on shaping our nation in its infancy. Overall, although I went into reading this biography already predisposed to enjoying the subject matter due to my obsession regarding the musical, Chernow’s elegant, detailed writing style thoroughly solidified my adoration of Alexander Hamilton and this time period as a whole. Whose biography should I pick up next? Perhaps John Adams?


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34 comments

  1. After I listened to the Chernow audiobook I listened to a book about the Election of 1800. Man, was that a total cluster. It kept me in the world of that time period. I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy the Hamilton Biography as much as I did even though love the music to the musical and I was surprised how invested I got in the story. It’s just really well written. Happy Reading!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I ended up with an abridged version so I feel like I could have gotten a better book, but I enjoyed the history side of it. It didn’t have the same emotion, I guess, as the Hamilton biography or other historical books I’ve listened to. I have Chernow’s Washington biography in my audible queue and I’m excited to listen to it. I believe it has the same narrator as the Hamilton Biography.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love history too! I have been doing family history online at ancestry.com and found a relative who came from England and fought in the civil war here, for the Union side. I recently visited the Andersonville prison site in Georgia and the military graveyard. That was very interesting! and sobering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In high school I read an book about the Andersonville Prison. Was it well preserved? I really want to look into my ancestry. Whenever I ask my mom or dad what we are I get the answer ‘American.’ 😀

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  3. I was really into the American Revolution a decade or so ago. My favorite books from that time period are:
    –Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson (and also Franklin’s biography is very readable if you want to go straight to the source)
    –John Adams by David McCullough (1776 is good also, focused heavily on the military aspect though)
    –Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, the story of various women important to the Revolution

    It’s been years since I read much about that time period, but I would still recommend those three. I came close to reading this book when it came out, perhaps I’ll check it out again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you’ve finally motivated me to listen to my audiobook of this biography now! I started listening to it a while ago and, while I thought the writing was great (like you mentioned), I didn’t love the narrator and I kept drifting off and getting distracted. Your review has intrigued me though, so I think I might give it a second chance. What other historical biographies would you recommend? I’m interested in checking some out over the summer. 🙂

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  5. This book has been on my to-read list as well! It’s good to see a nice review.

    As for what to read next, I will forever and ever recommend The Firebrand and the First Lady. Granted it’s like a century after the time period you’re looking at, but Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauli Murray are both fierce, impressive women. Reading about their friendship, and their activism gave me insight into their lives and the era that I really appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Heh heh. My husband thought I was crazy for reading Isabel Allende to her when she was a baby. But, I was nursing and it was boring, so I read, and decided to read aloud. 🙂 Our reading selections shifted to more age-appropriate things once she was talking. Now she LOVES Hamilton. I got her the libretto for her 11th
        birthday.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m recently obsessed with that musical XD I really need to get that book. I love biographies, and I am not throwing away my shot 😉 If you’re into serial killer biographies, The Devil in the White City is an award-winning book that I enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ll love this biography! I also really enjoyed The Devil in the White City! Have you seen they’re making it into an movie? They’ve really changed the plot line which is disappointing but Leonardo DiCaprio is starring in it?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thomas Paine. He managed to become embroiled in the American and French Revolutions. He railed against the slave trade and spent time in a French prison. His pamphlet provided a spark for the American Revolution and his words (“These are the times that try men’s souls….) gave heart to Washington’s soldiers at Valley Forge. Yet, Paine died virtually a pauper. A fascinating life.

    Liked by 1 person

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