• Revolutionary Characters

  • What Made the Founders Different
  • By: Gordon S. Wood
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (175 ratings)

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Revolutionary Characters

By: Gordon S. Wood
Narrated by: Scott Brick
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Publisher's Summary

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 200 years, to an amazing degree the virtues these founders defined for themselves are the virtues we aspire to still.

©2006 Gordon Wood (P)2006 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Books on Tape. All rights reserved. Penguin Audio is a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Of those writing about the founding fathers, [Gordon Wood] is quite simply the best." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

What listeners say about Revolutionary Characters

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Wood clearly dislikes Adams

I had been really looking forward to this book. And I will admit right up front that I like John Adams so I might be letting that cloud my judgement, but Mr. Wood is clearly not very impressed with him and it shows. I have listened to and read a lot of books on the the revolutionary period and based on this book you get the impression that Adams should not even be called a founding father. I stopped listening after the Adams chapter since I could no longer trust what the author was saying. I am sorry I wasted a credit on this book.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Typical academic

Gordon Wood is your typical liberal "founding fathers were not what you think they were" academic writer. While he is not as vitriolic as some, he is determined for us to see the founding fathers as aristocrats more self-serving and conniving than patriotic and noble. But I admit, I keep reading him. He is interesting and knowledgeable about important aspects of American history. For a more balanced and reflective interpretation of the founding fathers, I must recommend Joseph Ellis. I trust him more, but I do admit I can not ignore Wood's work.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

What a waste of a credit!

Avoid this book at all possible! I wish i didnt even have to give it 1-star. I ordered this book to learn more about the founding fathers except what i got was a tearing down of the founding fathers. The author, clearly borrowing from other authors, could not form a single clear and new thought of his own. Yes, the founding fathers were human after all but to berate them to the point that their accomplishments are so minor to their imperfections. I totally regret this ordering this drivel. If i could get my credit back I would!

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Not as informative as I'd hoped for

This was an interesting book, but not as many "new" things about the founding fathers as I'd hoped to hear.

And Scott Brick was not the best choice of narrator for this book. I usually enjoy his narrations, but he was a bit too low key and monotone for this type of book, and I found it hard to keep my attention on the content. A more animated read might have made this come alive a bit more.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

If you're interested...

I'm sure it had good content and was very interesting, but I couldn't finish the book. It was kind of boring and the reader added an odd inflection to the ends of random sentences that I found quite unnerving.

If this topic is very interesting to you, I'm sure you'd probably like the book. If not, save your time.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Nice little book for short attention span people

Great narration here, can’t do better than Scott Brick

The book is good for a generally uninformed person to start on independence era history. It’s a decent starter on history of the founding fathers. Much better than a Wikipedia search

Basically, if you have read Chernows Washington or Meachem’s Jefferson this book is a quick summary.

The best part of this book is the first chapter. That would have been enough and it would be a really good 1hr book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

wonderful summary of the founding characters

in this short book you can read about many of the most important founders from the perspective of one of the most eminent American historians. plus, I love the voice and style of Scott Brick.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not for a novice reader!

Required to read this for an upcoming AP US history class, and I have to write a 6 paragraph book review on it. I tried reading a hard copy, but since I’ve got ADD and a short attention span, it didn’t work,
Overall, this book gives way too much irrelevant information in order to convey a simple point. You will lose your focus and forget who the author is talking about before the point it conveyed. If I’m being honest, you really have to be dedicated to read this book.
Im close to dropping the class because I don’t think I’m capable of finishing it and absorbing any information.

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  • DD
  • 04-16-22

Surprisingly Relevant

As a history buff, I expected - and discovered - many new glimpses into the characters of our Revolutionary Period. But it was as a political buff, I was surprised to read of the tension and open conflict between the political elite and political populism whose divergent worldviews continue to divide our national culture today.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

The worst performance imaginable!

I have never heard such a ridiculous performance on any of the hundreds of audiobooks I’ve listened to!