Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow


My first reaction upon finishing this book was sheer relief that I had finally finished it. Not because I felt like I'd wasted my time, or because it wasn't a good book; it's a worthwhile and interesting read. It's also enormous. If you're looking for a commitment of a book, this book is for you. If you're the type that reads a couple of pages a day, this book may take you a couple of years to read. It took me just about four months to read it from beginning to end, reading a chapter most days that I had the book, and returning it to the library every three weeks and waiting to get it back because there was one other person who kept putting it on hold as well. I like to think that we were sort of trading it off back and forth, each one giving the other a break from the book while we gave it three weeks of attention. 

The breaks helped, honestly. I think if I'd gone at this book without a break, just a chapter a day until I was done, I might have quit. It's a long book, and a lot of it is discouraging, not because of Hamilton himself, but because of how little we've changed when it comes to politics, issues, and public figures. When you're still in school, you learn about the founding of the U.S.A. and the revolutionary war as this high-minded thing, built on principles and morality. Later on they tone it down a bit, get down to the pressures that caused the revolutionary war and all that, but I'd never read about the years after our nations founding in this much detail. If there's one thing this book taught me, it's that the U.S.A. was flawed from the start, militaristic and prone to violence, sexist and racist, divided and about as good at getting along as a bunch of 14-year-olds. 

Anyway. I could talk about this book for a long time. I've got 2,000 words of notes, for goodness sake. However, I will sum up my thoughts by saying simply: I can't say I loved it, but I learned a ton. I struggled to finish, but do not regret having read this book. I would recommend it if you have the time and patience to give it the long term attention that this book needs. It contains a wealth of information, not just about Alexander Hamilton, but about the United States and its founding in general.

4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.