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Extended Audio Sample Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph J. Ellis Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (14,815 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Joseph J. Ellis Narrator: Bob Walter Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2016 ISBN: 9781524733926
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An illuminating study of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic—John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

During the 1790s, which Ellis calls the most decisive decade in our nation’s history, the greatest statesmen of their generation—and perhaps any—came together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton’s deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison’s secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton’s financial plan; Franklin’s petition to end the “peculiar institution” of slavery—his last public act—and Madison’s efforts to quash it; Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams’s difficult term as Washington’s successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson’s renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.

In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America’s only truly indispensable figure.

Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional, but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics—then and now—and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A splendid book–humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit. The New York Times Book Review
  • “Masterful…. Fascinating…. Ellis is an elegant stylist…. [He] captures the passion the founders brought to the revolutionary project…. [A] very fine book. Chicago Tribune
  • Learned, exceedingly well-written, and perceptive. The Oregonian
  • Lucid…. Ellis has such command of the subject matter that it feels fresh, particularly as he segues from psychological to political, even to physical analysis…. Ellis’s storytelling helps us more fully hear the Brothers’ voices. Business Week
  • Splendid…. Revealing…. An extraordinary book. Its insightful conclusions rest on extensive research, and its author’s writing is vigorous and lucid. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • “Vivid and unforgettable . . . [an] enduring achievement. The Boston Globe
  • Founding Brothers is a wonderful book, one of the best . . . on the Founders ever written. . . . Ellis has established himself as the Founders’ historian for our time. Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books
  • “Lively and illuminating…leaves the reader with a visceral sense of a formative era in American life. The New York Times
  • “A splendid book–humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Masterful…Fascinating…Ellis is an elegant stylist…[He] captures the passion the founders brought to the revolutionary project…[A] very fine book.”

    Chicago Tribune

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Craig | 2/16/2014

    " Great stories about some of the Revolutionary War era heroes. The stories on the Hamilton-Burr duel, the tale of how the capitol was built in Washington DC and the relationship between Adams and Jefferson are especially memorable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 2/14/2014

    " I thought there were many poignant points made and that it was great book all around. It is also one you can come and go from, it you like, since each chapter is it's own story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicky Colorado | 2/13/2014

    " Excellent book. An engaging look into the forming of the United States into the country we know today. The fact that the country remained teetering on the brink for its first couple of decades is depicted through the feuds and differences of the key figures of the revolutionary period. The founders of the country come to life in this book. Although clearly exceptional men, it was especially interesting to know them as flawed individuals. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mirriam-grace | 2/11/2014

    " Great book! It really sheds a different light on the founding fathers of the American nation. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robbie | 2/3/2014

    " While in the longer perspective I realized Founding Brothers was a tad interesting and informative, this was one of those summer reading books that was way over my head. Each chapter was gruelling, and honestly I think Ellis kept repeating the same things throughout. The book would be much shorter if he hadn't. It used a lot of stupid big words that did expand my vocabulary but also made the book somewhat...pretentious. It was ok. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Daryoush | 1/21/2014

    " I think I picked this up too late--long after the recent works and interest in Jefferson, Alexander, Adams, et al. It felt like treaded ground. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Thomas Kinsfather | 1/16/2014

    " A good way to bring yourself up to speed on American's founding fathers. Founding Brothers is about seven men and one day from their life that best represent what they stood for. Much conversation about slavery. This book covers a lot of ground and does it well. Best book I've read by Ellis. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ryan Curell | 1/12/2014

    " Ellis is an outstanding writer who successfully examines the friendships and rivalries of the men of the Revolution. He strips the book of historical context and examines the pith of several feuds, most interestingly setting up the book with the famous Hamilton-Burr duel. Each chapter (and the prologue) is worth reading on its own, though as a whole it is a journey through the American spirit. Extra points for its short length and accessibility. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dennis | 1/9/2014

    " Enlightening book on America's age of enlightenment. Actually after reading this, the romance of American Independence and building of the country was brought down to more human terms. According to this book, the formation of the USA was not as thought out as we have been led to believe. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ariana | 11/28/2013

    " womp "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nick | 11/14/2013

    " An intersting account of American history events which are commonly referred to but rarely ever actaully explained. Such as the duel between Hamilton and Burr "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James Batchelor | 11/13/2013

    " Really Enjoyed this book. If your are looking for an interesting high level view of some of the key founding father's and the roles they played, then this is a great choice. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kayehw | 11/11/2013

    " Learned a lot of history. But the book is not an 'easy' read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike Martin | 11/6/2013

    " Have read it multiple times and love it every time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsay | 7/26/2013

    " I don't know what made me pick up this book; but I am glad I did. It is a personal, historical account of the founders of our nation. This should be required reading for all U.S. History classes! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Randy | 6/8/2013

    " This sounds hypocritical but I loved the information and details surrounding the stories even though I found the book to be dry and long-winded. It was like I was sitting through a really great history class when I was itching to be somewhere else. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Krystal Crespo | 6/6/2013

    " Call me geeky but I really liked this one. I have a thing for historical recounts and this one put a new spin on things. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrew Boryan | 4/30/2013

    " lots of big words! nice brief overview "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeni | 3/9/2012

    " Hard to read, but interesting. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Tricia | 12/26/2011

    " Was not interesting to me - too techincal. I couldn't get through the whole book. I started to read it for a book club I joined. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott Hodges | 11/26/2011

    " Fairly concise book on founding of United States. Important read "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Traveler | 11/24/2011

    " Our April read!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lorenzo Pilla | 8/13/2011

    " Ellis brings the founders down to earth and describes their real prujudices and other faults, as well as their wisdom and foresight. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 George | 6/23/2011

    " see my "Patriots" review for comments "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve | 5/8/2011

    " The author takes some of the most memorable events and circumstances from American history and presents them in an entertaining and readable book. For example, the issue of slavery is well presented and clarifies the great quandary that was for even the most moral of people. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ted | 4/29/2011

    " one of the best books I have ever read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 4/6/2011

    " Very good, opens with the intriguing tale of the Burr/Hamilton to suck you in and ends with the political philosophical debate between government by the many vs. government by the few, featuring the first two American leaders of each: Jefferson and Adams.

    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Angela | 3/29/2011

    " I learned that politics then are about the same as politics today. Yeah bureaucracy! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patrick | 3/28/2011

    " Six insightful and interesting vignettes portaying the primary players and events of our Revolution. "

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