Reader reviews and comments on Founding Brothers, plus links to write your own review.

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Founding Brothers

The Revolutionary Generation

by Joseph J. Ellis

Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2002, 304 pages

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There are currently 184 reader reviews for Founding Brothers
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DougO

Character Matters- Then and now!
Highly recommend Founding Brothers, this is a great read. An honest and mature presentation of the challenges our Founding Fathers faced creating America after the Revolution. You will get to know the founding fathers as individuals, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. They often made policy up as they went along; each understanding the importance of compromise if America was to be given the opportunity to stand on untested wobbly legs. The States were apprehensive about creating any centralized form of government with the authority to tell them what to do; after all hadn't they just fought and won the right to be free of England. Complex issues like slavery had to be dealt with carefully or not at all if the Union was to be preserved. The initial chapter covering the Burr- Hamilton duel could put you off as Ellis includes too much unnecessary detail. Once Ellis hits his stride with Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison you will find yourself sitting along side these great men as they struggle to transform the idea of an American democracy into a reality.
Jake

This book is not written at the 8th grade level...
I found the book very compelling and inspiring. I am a veteran and a student of history. Though the book was a challenging read, I found it much more enjoyable than most texts written to accommodate students who are lacking in reading skills. You want boring? Try reading Naval engineering manuals. If I do not have to search for the definition of a word in any book I read then it was a waste of my time. I found the chapter "The Friendship" the most inspiring, the story of Jefferson and Adam's friendship overcoming their political differences.
Don G.

If you only knew what you don't know.
Ellis' book is a great read. People who read it with the idea that history is a noun, full of facts, dates, people, and places, miss the point. Ellis intends us to look at history as a verb, the inquiry, not the things, but the relationship between the things. Ellis isn't trying to tell us about Hamilton or Jefferson, he is trying to tell us about the relationship between these two powerful men that led to a historic compromise. As a former AP US History I can appreciate some student's frustration, but I often feel we waste real good history on young people.
founding bros

Just because I am VERY interested in History
I have never read such a challenging book in my young life before but after the first few pages, the style and essence of Ellis' writing really hit me as eloquent, intriguing, and insightful. I believe that this book is the right choice for someone who likes to be challenged and at the same time, is engrossed in all the stories and people history has to offer us.
KLeigh

Excellent Insights into the Revolutionary Generation
Certainly a college level book (and therefore appropriate for an AP class). I read this for a basic college government class, and was totally surprised. Yes, the language is hard to understand at first, but I just used the dictionary and reread until I understood. I'm used to fast reading and had to slow way down for this one, but it was worth it! It is obvious the author spent a lot of time perusing first hand sources from the Revolutionary Era and really tried to bring to life the thoughts, fears, and desires of the "Founding Brothers." It brings perspective and clarity to the choices and compromises of the era. The intro had some great insights as well about the relation of past and present politics.
Ivana Vilinsky

Foolish People
I am sorry but I am majoring in political science and history, and yes at first it was slow but when all was said and done the book uncovered the side of history not told in our history books. You must have an appreciation for our history and for truth. The truth must be told even if some find it boring and others disregard it. It deserves its award and the readers respect.
Lizzzzard

Class resumes tomorrow, I need answers to my Review Questions
Overall I did actually like the book. I don't think I fully satuarated all of the content of the book though, because I cannot come up with receptive answers to my review questions. If you are taking AP US History this book really is insightful, but I don't think it should have been required to read over the summer. All of the other information we had to read had to do with pre-colonial America to mercantlism and the navigation acts. And surprisingly, I cannot wait for class tomorrow, even though I have nothing to look forward to besides a year of... HISTORY. =]
stephen

I'm a history teacher that assigns this "book of death" to all the pitiful wretches that have written about their trials here. I am here to offer a defense.

First of all, I've read enough books about history to know that, while there are dry spots in Mr. Ellis's work (especially in the chapter dealing with Hamilton's compromise with Madison, in which a lot of Hamilton's economic plan is discussed), the work as a whole is very insightful. The "dullness" that a lot of students seem to be referring to is what others would call "depth" and "substance." Mr. Ellis doesn't jump from topic to topic in an attempt to satiate painfully short attention spans. Rather, he takes a few events and discusses them thoroughly (well, thoroughly relative to most history textbooks these days). The brevity of the book obviously limits its thoroughness, but I suppose that it would have only made the students wail all the more if the book had been 600 pages, as many works are, rather than the 250-ish pages that it is.

In his use of these stories, Mr. Ellis makes a convincing case for an overall view of American history, which I have found very helpful, both in teaching my class and in my own continued investigations into American history, and find to be a useful jumping-off point at the beginning of the year. So my response, in an attempt to balance the glut of negativity about this book on this message board, is to offer that perhaps the poor reception by students has less to do with the book itself and more to do with the fact that they were REQUIRED to read it.

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