This book, The First Tycoon by T.J. Stiles, was on an A. Knopf recommended reading list, and I borrowed it from my local public library.
I used to live in a city where Vanderbilt was the name of the major university and medical center. I lived there for more than two decades, but knew nothing about the family or the patriarch, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had amassed a fortune in the 19th century.
I completed only one-third of this very hefty book, simply because I’m not fond of biographies. But the 230+ pages I read were enough to realize the excellent biography and historical writing skills of Stiles. He begins with the background of the parents of Cornelius, with interesting commentary on the attitudes of New World inhabitants and late 100 economics. When Cornelius is introduced I had a firm grasp of his word. The early-to-mid 19th Century are the years I have researched and used in my fiction books, so learning more detail appealed to me. Stiles presented the facts with a comprehensible style. I acquired an excellent sense of what it was like to live and conduct business in the New York/New Jersey port towns—big and small.
Although I didn’t complete the book, I suggest it is a 4-star (or higher) book to biography lovers.