Book Review: Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)

If you don’t make it to the end of the review, know that all I wanted to say was that this is great reading for “outsiders,” immigrant or otherwise.

Because it’s 700+ pages, I wasn’t sure I had the time or energy to finish it. A few pages into it, though, I was hooked. I remember the line that did that for me:

“Today, we are indisputably the heirs to Hamilton’s America, and to repudiate his legacy is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.”

That’s a bold statement, I thought. What were Hamilton’s contributions?

I only had a tiny glimpse of American history, most of it I probably got from documentaries I’ve seen here and there. Maybe some from when I was in grade school somewhere in the southern Philippines. I didn’t have much of an inclination to history books, partly because my history teachers wanted me to memorize too many dates, places and people when all I wanted to do was read stories.

I read this book right after reading Digital Gold, the history of people who created bitcoin. When I got to the part where Hamilton was minting coins, I asked myself if I was still reading the former book. Little did I know that I’d learn more about the economics behind capitalism in this book. I always knew that the world works with the underlying principle that humans are self-serving, but this book explained the inner workings of the system we’re a part of today. I’ll be honest that I felt a slight dislike for Hamilton when I found out he basically authored the capitalist system.

Then on Page 666 —
“At moments, his life had seemed one fantastic act of overcompensation for his deprived upbringing.”

Like other readers who got to this book ten years after it was published in 2004, I started reading Alexander Hamilton because of the musical.

I love the musical “In the Heights,” also by Lin-Manuel, because it involves stories of immigrants trying to make it in New York. These are very familiar stories to me, as someone who moved to the United States only five years ago. Needless to say, I’m a struggling immigrant, too. So when my boyfriend, who happens to live near Weehawken, NJ, a history degree holder, and a lawyer, told me about Lin-Manuel’s new play, he couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it. I’m late to the party, but I quickly knew all the lyrics to the songs of the musical by heart. Each song is an inspired masterpiece, so I naturally wanted to see the well that Lin-Manuel drew water from.

With all the stories in it, this could have been a 2000-page book but Ron Chernow has done an excellent job in getting to the point quickly in each chapter. Can I just say that one of the best things about this book is how genius the chapter titles are? I’m inching towards reading his other book Washington. Hamilton set me back weeks in my reading challenge for the year — but it was so worth it! I loved every part of it and you should read it.

Written by

VP, Product at Sezzle | Financially empowering the next generation

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