by Ron Chernow
Penguin Books, 2004. 818 pgs. Biography
Alexander Hamilton is having a moment, 112 years after his death. Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton premiered in early 2015 and, in addition to selling out every performance, has won 11 Tony awards, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer Prize. The play’s success has inspired renewed interest in Hamilton’s life and has brought the 2004 biography it was based on, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, back to the bestseller lists.
I can be a little reluctant to read nonfiction, but I absolutely loved this biography. Chernow, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of George Washington, writes in a thoroughly researched but thoroughly readable way. Through his words, the cast of characters who populated the early United States come to vivid life. I experienced the anxiety of Hamilton’s many personal and political conflicts and finished reading both in awe of his accomplishments and surprised by his weaknesses. I also came away with a profound respect for Eliza Hamilton, who preserved her husband’s legacy and on whom Chernow rightly focuses the final chapter of the biography.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Scott Brick, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend listening to the Hamilton soundtrack after finishing the biography, as the two listening experiences can enhance each other.
I’ve jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon, and I'm proud of it.