Book - 2017
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"Pulitzer Prize-winner and biographer of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most complicated generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and inept businessman, fond of drinking to excess; or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War; or as a credulous and hapless president whose tenure came to symbolize the worst excesses of the Gilded Age. These stereotypes don't come close to capturing adequately his spirit and the sheer magnitude of his monumental accomplishments. A biographer at the height of his powers, Chernow has produced a portrait of Grant that is a masterpiece, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Penguin Press,, 2017
ISBN: 9781594204876
Branch Call Number: 921 GRA
Characteristics: xxiii, 1074 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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Mar 19, 2018

Learned a lot from this one. Very funny. More informative than high school civics class.

Jan 10, 2018

I gave White's biography of Grant 5 stars. That was before I read Ron Chernow's epic work (959 pages not including notes and acknowledgments). If you read only one book about Grant, read Chernow's. Never, ever boring, the book is rich in painting a vivid picture of this much celebrated general and even more maligned president, whose stock has been rising in recent years: since 2000 he's risen in a historians' poll from number 33 to number 22 of the 44 men who have held the office (Trump isn't being rated yet).

Yes, there was corruption--but Grant himself was never involved. Chernow writes that Grant had such trust in his friends and family that he simply could not envision them doing anything bad. This, of course, left him as an easy mark, which he paid dearly for near the end of his life, when his family's entire savings were lost in a Ponzi scheme run by a trusted advisor.

The corruption has, until recently, masked over Grant's contributions to those who needed help. He supported the 15th Amendment and early voting rights and civil rights legislation, sent federal troops into the South during Reconstruction to protect Republicans from widespread violence (Republicans in the South back then were mainly black with some whites), destroyed the original Ku Klux Klan, had a far more progressive attitude to Native Americans than almost anyone in government, submitted a dispute with England over its role in providing the Confederacy with ships during the Civil War to a successful international arbitration, thereby setting a precedent for peaceful means of settling international disputes, oversaw the first Justice Department, which was active in prosecuting civil rights violations in the South, and much more. His work on civil rights was probably the greatest of any President until Lyndon B. Johnson. A modest and generally taciturn man, he was popular enough to be elected to two terms (and almost got nominated for a third) and was the first since Andrew Jackson to serve through both of them. After his presidency, he went on a round-the-world trip, where he engaged in diplomacy, setting yet another precedent for future presidents.

I was glad to see Chernow's definitive account of Grant's drinking problem--he was an intermittent binge drinker but only when his wife wasn't around and he was bored. It never affected his conduct of the Civil War or his presidency. He'd pretty much conquered the problem by later life.

Movie rights have been purchased--how this man's fascinating life can be boiled down to 2-3 hours is beyond me, but I'm hoping the film people will succeed. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Jan 02, 2018

A beautiful book in every way, from Chernow's adept writing to the bookbinding. A total pleasure from start to finish.

Dec 10, 2017

One of NYT best books of 2017

Nov 26, 2017

Having read Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs (The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, which should be one of the finest books you'll ever hope to read), Chernow's biography fills-in a lot of gaps about his life and times not covered by Grant himself. For example, one glaring aspect missing from Grant's memoirs: his drinking problem. Here Chernow keeps tabs throughout the book with sturdy research and a more modern, sharpened discrimination, offering the most honest appraisal to date of Grant's battle and ultimate victory over his, and some say mankind’s most foolish weakness. Without this victory, the course of world events and the map and history of the United States would greatly differ. But that is but one clever glimpse of the man as portrayed by Chernow. Grant, as a person - one of the finest soldiers and perhaps the greatest general the world has ever seen (“unmatched military genius” is the phrase proffered by many military historians) - is studiously and frankly portrayed, offering appropriate 19th century sensibilities reflected through the prism of the 21st century.

Aug 21, 2017

Chernow delivers another solid biography. I was a big fan of his Hamilton biography because he gives you a solid sense of the subject's personality and drive. I really got to know more about Grant before his Civil War successes and the challenges he faced during Reconstruction. I also identified similarities between his personality and my own, giving me a greater sense of my own self. Maybe that's the highest compliment you can give a biography, when it breathes life into someone long gone and helps us understand folks that are still with us today.

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