The #1 New York Timesbestseller.
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2017
Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling 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 an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.
Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.
More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.
With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic... and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant's lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America's greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant's life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.
Named one of the best books of the year by Goodreads •Amazon • The New York Times • Newsday •BookPage •Barnes and Noble • Wall Street Journal
Thorough, well-written and a balanced view of a man that present day America doesn’t know. Incredible insight into his thoughts and actions, his strengths and weaknesses, his brain and his heart. Grant was a man for all times...the type needed in our time.35
Every West Pointer and every US Army officer should be required to read this book. And then answer questions to gauge their understanding. Is Grant the best general the U.S. Army ever produced? Please indicate in one paragraph your response. What qualities made Grant successful? Do you possess these qualities? Do you think you can develop them? Do you think the current US Army structure fosters leaders like Grant? One paragraph, give your response. Do you feel that the existing U.S. Army senior officer schools promote these qualities?55
Long, but the pages turn easily. Chernow builds a complete picture of a good man made a great man by circumstances more than ambition. Chernow invests careful and thorough research to conclude that Grant a) kept his latent alcoholism under control, b) placed excessive and naive trust in close friends and c) sincerely fought to give freed slaves a real chance at freedom and (near) equality. He adds context to historical events that modified my understanding of causation. The absolute dominance of the post-war Republican Party , the enormous growth of government spending and rapid economic growth spawned by peace enabled profiteers to run amok. Grant left office broke while all of his closest advisors wound up wealthy, disgraced, or both.55
What a masterpiece of writing. I learned more about Grant from this book than in my military history classes at West Point.55
Put simply, Chernow’s work on Grant brought me into daily involvement with Grant until I finished reading the book. I feel like I’ve lost a great acquaintance but proud that Grant was a fellow American! Raymond N. Miller55
Grant is a supremely well-written biography of perhaps the most under-rated of our presidents. Easily equal in quality to Hamilton as a biography.55
The first ⅔ of this book is fascinating and a great read. But then it devolves into a boring history of legislative activity, more a history of governmental activities during Grant’s reign. It just goes on and on and boringly on with the minute details of individual legislative activities and how it was handled and managed during Grant’s presidency. BORING. It’s not a biography of Grant, it’s a little excellent history of Grant and an excessive amount of legislative detail during Grant’s presidency. What a disappointment.35
Based on all the five star reviews I gave this a go. It is 500 pages too long in my opinion. Do we really need to know every time Grant picked up a glass to drink, or speculate how Lincoln may have stood with his hands behind his back fuming in his office? Not sure how much of this is real and how much is fluff. Grant is made to look like a hero of some sort, yet history says otherwise. Sorry, but despite all the hype this was a long slog with littel payoff. There has been better written on the subject.15
This book provides great insight into Grant, the person. While I always knew he was a great general, I had very little understanding of Grant as a person outside the Civil War. The book also opened up my eyes to the political situation that Blacks and Grant had to contend with during Reconstruction. It was a tragedy the way Blacks were treated post Civil War through the Civil Rights movement after WWII. I used to think if only Lincoln had lived, but now I am not so sure if Lincoln could have done much better than Grant. Southern society was simply not willing to accept Blacks on any terms other than as inferior to whites.55