A rightfully monumental biography, Ron Chernow‘s Grant (Penguin Press, $40) is a finely crafted portrait of a complex man. Chernow, awarded the Pulitzer for his life of George Washington, details the life of the Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant by exploring the underbelly of military success. He starts by exposing Grant’s vulnerabilities, which figured in the future commander-in-chief’s memoirs as the modest ambitions of a young soldier at West Point. Suspecting he lacked the skill to succeed as a warrior, Grant was nonetheless determined to lead and command. He studied hard. Became a skilled equestrian, developed strong mapping skills, and eventually proved himself on the battlefield, despite skepticism from journalists and fellow soldiers who were aware of Grant’s struggle with alcoholism. Chernow also illuminates much about Grant’s staunch criticism of slavery, his resignation from the army, his newly formed political awakenings, and infamous financial problems. Later, as the eighteenth president, Grant emerges from the tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination and his own scandals as “America’s most famous man” who, as Mark Twain notes, “saved the country from destruction.” Prepare to be deeply immersed in this account of an immortal American life.
Grant - Ron Chernow