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Extended Audio Sample Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different Audiobook, by Gordon S. Wood Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.65 out of 53.65 out of 53.65 out of 53.65 out of 53.65 out of 5 3.65 (26 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gordon S. Wood Narrator: Scott Brick Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2006 ISBN: 9781429586290
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Even when the greatness of the Founding Fathers isn’t being debunked, it is a quality that feels very far away from us indeed: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Co. seem as distant as marble faces carved high into a mountainside. We may marvel at the fact that fate placed such a talented cohort of political leaders in that one place, the east coast of North America, in colonies between Virginia and Massachusetts, and during that one fateful period, but that doesn’t really help us explain it or teach us the proper lessons to draw from it. What did make the founders different? Now, the incomparable Gordon Wood has written a book that shows us, among many other things, just how much character did matter.

Revolutionary Characters offers a series of brilliantly illuminating studies of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers. Each life is considered in the round, but the thread that binds the work together and gives it the cumulative power of a revelation is this idea of character as a lived reality for these men. For these were men, Gordon Wood shows, who took the matter of character very, very seriously. They were the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made, men who understood the arc of lives, as of nations, as being one of moral progress. They saw themselves as comprising the world’s first true meritocracy, a natural aristocracy as opposed to the decadent Old World aristocracy of inherited wealth and station.

Gordon Wood’s wondrous accomplishment here is to bring these men and their times down to earth and within our reach, showing us just who they were and what drove them. In so doing, he shows us that although a lot has changed in two hundred years, to an amazing degree the virtues these founders defined for themselves are the virtues we aspire to still.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 2/11/2014

    " Michael's book that I picked up and lost before finishing. Interesting particularly in how it goes into the ways in which modern politicians use the images of the founders. Annoying in the old curmudgeonley tone of the author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Kasten | 2/1/2014

    " Solid, but brief look into a half dozen or so of the key American founding fathers that excels in tying the Revolution to the Enlightenment period. Too often though, the individual parts never seem to tie together to make a cohesive whole other than consistently pointing out the fact that these great "indifferent" men were eventually expendable by their condescension of making a government empowered by those who before then had no control at all. A similar anthology book that centers on events instead of individuals by Joseph Ellis entitled "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" would be the one to read first, but one would certainly not waste any time spent on these tales. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dana | 1/17/2014

    " I listened to this one in the car, though it was sometimes a bit dense (or I was a bit dense) during my 6:00am commute. I consider myself a history nerd, so this fit. I think I can look at the presidential (and vice-presidential) roles with more insight after hearing Wood's interpretation of the original roles of them. There's also a lot more complexity to the US founders than the brief overview we get in 5th grade. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kyle | 12/23/2013

    " Started strong, ended downright boring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 12/22/2013

    " Great book about the character of many of the Founding Fathers of America. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jason Houx | 12/8/2013

    " fascinating book on the founding fathers exposing them from youth to their elder years with a lot of view on what they believed they fought for and what in fact the achieved. very very good read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nathan | 11/5/2013

    " A collection of sketches portraying the Founders as generally populist-leaning. Wood seems to be reluctant to point out any of their shortcomings, but he assumes a earnest and genuine tone in stripping them of the patrician - and partisan- trappings that seem to have clogged up a more realistic view of who they were. A mostly introductory work. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeff Shackelford | 11/3/2013

    " I have two suggestions for the author. The first is to find a good editor. Grammar should matter. The second is to write more than a summary of other biographies. This was a poor effort. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John | 10/29/2013

    " A collection of excellent short biographical sketches of the founders. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Andy Fry | 6/16/2013

    " It was not worth finishing. Read 100 pages and was bored. Going to the used bookstore that one is... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg | 3/25/2013

    " This is a fun to read, fairly light book that emphasizes the unique characteristics of some of the revolutionary leaders. The overall theme is how different they were from each other, but also how different they were from subsequent generations (e.g. even by the time the Jacksonian era arrived). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stubble | 3/20/2013

    " Interesting look at the founding fathers. They were human and were very different from each other. Amazingly, we came out with a great constitution in spite of their differences. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ron | 1/17/2013

    " What a hypocrit Thomas Jefferson was! No wonder modern Americans love him so. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 1/13/2013

    " Wood is one of the most readable historians anyway, so when he writes a book for the Borders/Waldenbooks crowd, it's pretty much a breeze to get through. A great book about the founders. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Garrett Hall | 11/14/2012

    " Great read, but doesn't contain much unique information that is not contained in other Founder books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Russ | 6/1/2012

    " A nice summary of biographies from the Revolutionary Generation. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 7/29/2011

    " Carl really enjoyed this on our last trip to and from Mammoth. There were some interesting anticdotes, but I get to choose the next book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura | 4/28/2011

    " Great analysis of what made the founders were different from modern politicians, and why we can never go back to that "ideal." Loved the chapter on Aaron Burr as the anti-founder! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Connie | 3/30/2011

    " Good overview of Founders...worth the effort for someone who doesn't what to plow through a long biography "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matthew | 1/2/2011

    " Very interesting...He seems to love all the villains: Hamilton, Paine and Burr. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael Orr | 1/2/2011

    " A wonderfully researched look not just at the Founders, but inside them. A personal look at the personality traits that each brought to the Constitutional Congress and the debate and discussion that created the most important single document in US History "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 12/7/2010

    " Great book about the character of many of the Founding Fathers of America. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 9/3/2010

    " Great book. I wish this is how we were taught about the founding fathers in school. It just reinforces how far we haven't come in our political and personal hangups. It might be time for the next Revolution... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 7/25/2010

    " A wonderfully researched look not just at the Founders, but inside them. A personal look at the personality traits that each brought to the Constitutional Congress and the debate and discussion that created the most important single document in US History "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 7/24/2010

    " I sort of wish I had this book as a companion when reading the dreaded history textbooks in high school. The founding fathers were ballers. This book is a great introduction. I'll be sure to follow up with Franklin's autobiography. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jim | 6/2/2010

    " The author spends a chapter on each of five of the founding fathers. His perspective on each is blended with cited history and his own opinion. Although I didn't agree with all of Wood's opinions I still found his perspective interesting. "

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About the Author
Author Gordon S. Wood

Gordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor and professor of history at Brown University. His 1969 book, The Creation of the American Republic 1776–1787, received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes and was nominated for the National Book Award. His 1992 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Emerson Prize. Wood contributes regularly to the New Republic and the New York Review of Books.

About the Narrator

Scott Brick, actor, narrator, and writer, attended UCLA and spent ten years in a traveling Shakespeare company. Passionate about the spoken word, he has narrated a wide variety of audiobooks, from thrillers and science fiction to classics and nonfiction. He has recorded more than eight hundred audiobooks and won over fifty AudioFile Earphones Awards and several of the prestigious Audie Awards. He was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine and the Voice of Choice for 2016 by Booklist magazine.