Friday, December 29, 2017

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Nine erstwhile articles of confederation showed up for lunch at the Canyon Club and gathered in an engraved portrait of Alexander Hamilton.  They expressed their views:

Jack F:  I enjoyed it.  Found it fascinating to read.  I did get bogged down in the detail.  H's early life was a great read - the first 50 pages.  I was not turned off by his word choice; it did not distract from the book.  A-

Charlie:  That's a good grade.  The author did a great job, but there was too much detail.  If it was really interesting, I could read a book this long, but it takes a full-time commitment.  A-

Dick Arms:  I didn't finish reading it; I bogged down after about 350 pages.  He told me his view point, and wrote it well.  B+

Ron Bousek:  I don't usually take much time to read in December, and this month I did not start the book - but did read some substantiating article in Wikipedia, e.g., Valley Forge and Hamilton.  I will pass on the grade.

Dick Jensen:  I used Mike's name in vain several times while reading this book, and found myself reading on Christmas Day to finish it.  I am in awe of people who can pull something like this together.  I learned a hell of a lot and plan to pass the book along to my only offspring, who has gone to Hamilton (the musical) 4 times.  A-

Ken Gillen:  An extra interesting history.  Because of my 7th Grade History teacher, I read only 1/3 of the book but saw the Play.  I learned a great deal about our country.  I remember from 7th Grade that George Washington didn't want to be King.  B+

Bob Simon:  H is a true genius.  My government class, Law School - none of that exposes what went into that work.  No one goes into how checks and balances (and government and country) were created.  As a lawyer, I would say there are never too many quotes.  The level of detail is amazing.  The book was almost a legal document as to how this country was put together.  This may was proof of the American Dream:  come from any background and make an impact.  The author had tremendous ground to cover.  Love to give it an A, but it didn't strike me as world class.  As history, great.   A-

Keith:  A comprehensive appeal was nicely summarized by John Adams:  "good, human, made him too supernatural.  History is a random walk, with the outcome unpredictable.  We don't learn anything from history.  B

Mike:  What constitutes a good biography?  It is a combination of thorough research and clever, even entertaining splicing of the facts into a readable document.  Chernow has achieved that at a high level, adding insights that may be his most important contribution.  Two examples:  comparing Hamilton to Jefferson: "In fact, no immigrant in history has made a larger contribution than Hamilton."  Also: “We have left behind the rosy agrarian rhetoric and slaveholding reality of Jeffersonian democracy and reside in the bustling world of trade, industry, stock markets, and banks that Hamilton envisioned. (Hamilton’s staunch abolitionism formed an integral feature of this economic vision.) He has also emerged as the uncontested visionary in anticipating the shape and powers of the federal government. At a time when Jefferson and Madison celebrated legislative power as the purest expression of the popular will, Hamilton argued for a dynamic executive branch and an independent judiciary, along with a professional military, a central bank, and an advanced financial system. Today, we are indisputably the heirs to Hamilton’s America, and to repudiate his legacy is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” A  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Summaries and Guides: Alexander Hamilton

After the first 30+ chapters, I could not recall what was the main theme of each chapter - the 'perhaps too clever' chapter titles do not provide instant recall for me.  I prefer the old 18th-century chapters with a multi-word subtitle such as "in which our hero spurns the flirtations of his sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler Church, only to flounder under the advances of a scandalous Maria Reynolds."
Instead we have Thirty-two:  Reign of Witches  [perhaps the most relevant chapter to today's world]

As expected with a book this size, there exist numerous summaries and Readers Guides.  I have purchased two of them, but not yet ready to claim help or discredit.  I offer these titles, and request the readers to proffer their own.

  • Summary by Readtrepeneur [64 pages]; provides by Chapter headings.  Paperback - has been ordered.

  • Summary by Instaread [30 pages]; no "read inside' view; perhaps NOT by chapters.

  • Summary by Fast2Read [30 pages].  Not chapter by chapter.

  • Summary by Worth Books [76 pages].  Not chapter by chapter.

  • Summary by SummaryReads [76 pages].

  • Summary by Stuart Publishing Notes [30 pages];  Kindle:  $2.99;  Paperback:  $6.99.  Not chapter by chapter.

What have you found useful?