When I read a preview of Grant online, I knew it was a book I wanted to add to my historical book collection. I already had an online order I was working on, so I added Grant to my shopping cart. When my very heavy package arrived, I tore open the box. I was shocked by how large Grant was, especially since I hadn't thought to look at the book's number of pages. I love to read, but the approximately two inch thick book was daunting, nonetheless. Even so, I was determined that I'd finish the book no matter how long it took.
Just a few pages in to reading Grant, I realized that reaching "The End" might not take nearly so long as I thought, because I was already abandoning some of my other books to pick up Grant. Simply, Chernow's prose is captivating. While he writes in a style that attests to his experience as a nonfiction author, the writing was easy to understand. Further, though the writing style illustrates that Chernow is educated about his subject, it isn't akin to reading a college textbook. Grant isn't difficult to comprehend, even for a novice historian.
Additionally, Chernow blended his own writing with those from past eras. By doing so, readers receive an in-depth glimpse of the thoughts and emotions that plagued the era. Moreover, I felt that, by the time I had completed the novel, I had become quite familiar with General Grant. This is because Chernow would frequently put Grant's own thoughts in the book, quoting him often and inserting snippets of conversations that actually occurred into the work.
I also like that the book focused on Grant's entire life, not just his time in the military or his presidency. By doing so, one can see the factors, like situations and personal relationships, that shaped Grant into the daring general and president that he was. Further, by learning more about Grant from his birth until his death illustrates that he was like those of us alive today who may deal with hardships, negative relationships, money struggles, etc. For those who may see historical figures as similar to fictitious characters, Grant will perfectly display that the thoughts and emotions of today were very much present over 100 years ago, too.
Grant also included photographs. These pictures ranged from those of Grant and his staff to images of his family and other individuals who played a significant role in his life. For those who are visual learners, this further enhances the book.
Chernow's Grant has an index in the back of the book as well. This allows readers who may want to learn more about Grant's time at Jefferson Barracks, for example, to easily navigate to sections of the book that discuss that particular topic. There are also notes and a bibliography located in the back of the book for readers who want to discover what sources were used.
Even though, at 1,074 pages (which includes acknowledgements, notes, bibliography, index, etc.), Grant could feel daunting due to sheer size, it really wasn't. I suggest making Grant one's main read, however, instead of trying to read multiple books at once. Additionally, Grant felt more manageable to read when I focused on one chapter at a time. In fact, it only took me a few months to read it, even though I was also attending college and pursuing extracurricular historical activities. Therefore, if someone could dedicate more time to reading Grant, it could probably be read fairly quickly.
Overall, Ron Chernow's Grant was a thorough, enjoyable read. While Chernow could have easily focused on Grant's accomplishments solely, he chose to address parts of Grant's life that were more controversial, such as Grant's struggles with alcohol abuse. Plus, Grant pairs nicely with Grant's memoirs, providing information that enhances the details Grant already provided in his own published work. So when you're looking for a great historical read, and you have some time to dedicate to reading said book, I highly suggest Ron Chernow's Grant--I don't think you'll regret it!
About the Author: Kass Cobb is a genealogist, history enthusiast, and college sophomore who is majoring in history. Kass first became obsessed with history in eighth grade through a unit on the American Civil War. She began researching her family's heritage and discovered that she is a direct descendant of eleven Civil War veterans, ranging from an "excellent soldier" and Andersonville Prisoner of War to a "patriotic Kentuckian" and United States Colored Troops soldier. Kass is passionate about sharing the stories of United States veterans, specifically those who fought in the Civil War. One of the ways she does this is by obtaining grave markers for veterans. When Kass isn't busy planning historical events for her community, placing signs at cemeteries, decorating her ancestors' graves, or researching her family's past, you'll find her antique collecting, studying her Bible, reading, singing, and enjoying nature with her many pets.