Book Review · Books

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life

Two hundred and thirteen years ago today, July 12, 1804, Alexander Hamilton died.

I never gave much thought to Alexander Hamilton. Or any. He was just the dude who wrote those long essays I didn’t read or pay any attention to in history class.

Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2009, dangling in front of the world the idea of a concept album about somebody he thought “embodies hip-hop, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.”

Nearly seven years after this performance, I would login to Spotify and press play on a cast recording of some musical about a founding father because everyone on Twitter said it was pretty good.

Nearly eight years after this performance, I would pick up Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser, of my own free will, because I couldn’t seem to get enough of this dude who wrote his way out.

A mix of biography, humor and advice, Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life is a good place to start for anyone looking to learn a bit more about the ten dollar founding father. Not only do you learn about Hamilton’s life in a biographical sense, but the entire book splits Hamilton’s life into different sections, each designed to be, well, a guide to life. We learn lessons about romance, money, style, friends and family, leadership, career advancement and honor, all to the tune of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

“The human condition hasn’t changed,” Wilser tells us when speaking of America’s founding fathers. “Their guide can be our guide.”

Meaning, learn from history.

I knew I was going to enjoy Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life once I opened up the book and read the dedication page.

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“To everyone really into Hamilton . . . and to those not yet really into Hamilton.”

Wilser makes many references to the musical throughout the book and even goes as far as to thank Lin-Manuel Miranda in his acknowledgements. I have to praise Wilser’s awareness that his book might not have been possible without the musical–I definitely wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the greatest piece of art our generation has ever seen ever in the history of evers…

Though I came for Hamilton, I stayed for the writing.

Wilser has a very modern writing voice and style that kept me reading because it felt as if I were listening to an old friend talk about some dude they know who writes really long essays and lives a somewhat dramatic life.

The way Wilser penned certain things really struck me at times. A few of my favorites:

“Hamilton knew that books can worm their way into your brain in surprising ways, sparking ideas that power the imagination. The examples are infinite, such as the time in 2008 when, on the way to a vacation in Mexico, an artist picked up a book to read on the beach. Thankfully this artist was Lin-Manuel Miranda, and thankfully the book was Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.” (p. 12)

“. . . The point is that you should believe in something–whatever it is–with so much passion, so much love, so much hunger, that you would be willing to die for it. Hamilton believed in the United States of America.” (p. 289)

That last one reduced me to tears… Seriously.

Listen, my life has become one of spewing random facts about a founding father to anyone who will listen and crying over him, often. There was a very slim chance I would have ended up hating whatever Wilser wrote, and though I knew I wouldn’t hate it, I’m so glad to say that I loved it.

I learned a lot more about Hamilton, drew even more inspiration from him as a writer, and I might have convinced myself to finally tackle Chernow. All thanks to this book.

And not only did Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life teach and inspire me, but it was a joy to read. There are now two people in the world who have made it fun to learn about the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

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Rating: ★★★★☆ = Excellent.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging For Books for this review. 

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