Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: This book is one of the reasons to hate the 80s.
Quick synopsis: A terrible biography of U.S. Grant.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: This terrible book won the Pulitzer Prize. It annoys me to no end.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: This book is an example of an author having an axe to grind for no apparent reason.
My Take: This book absolutely enrages me.
U.S. Grant is one of the most complex characters in American history. He was a drunk, a hero, an amazing judge of character in military matters, but a horrible judge of character in business matters. He was gifted a slave, whom he freed while broke when he could have sold him. He was madly in love with his wife at a time when that wasn’t always the case.
The first person who would tell you Grant was an extremely flawed human would be Grant. And he did, in his own autobiography.
Then you have this hatchet job by William S. McFeely which somehow won the Pulitzer Prize. It is full of amateur pop psychology. He makes wild accusations about Grant based on nothing, as far as I can tell, because he never explains why he feels that way.
Contrast that with Ron Chernow who takes great pains to explain his point of view. When he says George Washington had a complex relationship with his mother, he supports it by referencing letters between the two and placing them in historical context.
Don’t read this book. Awards don’t guarantee quality.
Verdict: Read anything below. For the love of God, please. Just not this.
If You Liked This Try:
- Jamie Malanowski, Commander Will Cushing
- Tony Horwitz, Midnight Rising
- Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals
- Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman
- Ron Chernow, Grant
- Charles Bracelen Flood, Grant and Sherman