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Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty

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New York Times bestselling author and journalist Anderson Cooper teams with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty—his mother’s family, the Vanderbilts. When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginni New York Times bestselling author and journalist Anderson Cooper teams with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty—his mother’s family, the Vanderbilts. When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one could have imagined that one day he would, through ruthlessness, cunning, and a pathological desire for money, build two empires—one in shipping and another in railroads—that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing familial discord that would never fully heal. Though his son Billy doubled the money left by “the Commodore,” subsequent generations competed to find new and ever more extraordinary ways of spending it. By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers—the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius’s grandson and namesake had built—the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all. Now, the Commodore’s great-great-great-grandson Anderson Cooper, joins with historian Katherine Howe to explore the story of his legendary family and their outsized influence. Cooper and Howe breathe life into the ancestors who built the family’s empire, basked in the Commodore’s wealth, hosted lavish galas, and became synonymous with unfettered American capitalism and high society. Moving from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way to modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe wryly recount the triumphs and tragedies of an American dynasty unlike any other. Written with a unique insider’s viewpoint, this is a rollicking, quintessentially American history as remarkable as the family it so vividly captures.


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New York Times bestselling author and journalist Anderson Cooper teams with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty—his mother’s family, the Vanderbilts. When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginni New York Times bestselling author and journalist Anderson Cooper teams with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of a legendary American dynasty—his mother’s family, the Vanderbilts. When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one could have imagined that one day he would, through ruthlessness, cunning, and a pathological desire for money, build two empires—one in shipping and another in railroads—that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing familial discord that would never fully heal. Though his son Billy doubled the money left by “the Commodore,” subsequent generations competed to find new and ever more extraordinary ways of spending it. By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers—the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius’s grandson and namesake had built—the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all. Now, the Commodore’s great-great-great-grandson Anderson Cooper, joins with historian Katherine Howe to explore the story of his legendary family and their outsized influence. Cooper and Howe breathe life into the ancestors who built the family’s empire, basked in the Commodore’s wealth, hosted lavish galas, and became synonymous with unfettered American capitalism and high society. Moving from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way to modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe wryly recount the triumphs and tragedies of an American dynasty unlike any other. Written with a unique insider’s viewpoint, this is a rollicking, quintessentially American history as remarkable as the family it so vividly captures.

30 review for Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    This is the second of Anderson Cooper’s books that I’ve listened to, the first being ’The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss’ which I still remember the pleasure of listening to a couple of Octobers ago, while driving through New England. I loved the back and forth of listening to him share his thoughts along with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, who occasionally shared some personal history of her life, and could almost feel him squirm - but there was so much obvious This is the second of Anderson Cooper’s books that I’ve listened to, the first being ’The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss’ which I still remember the pleasure of listening to a couple of Octobers ago, while driving through New England. I loved the back and forth of listening to him share his thoughts along with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, who occasionally shared some personal history of her life, and could almost feel him squirm - but there was so much obvious love between them. It was that much more poignant as it had only been a few months since she had passed away. This shares the history of the Vanderbilt family beginning with Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the more famous multi-millionaires of the 19th century. The son of a man who ferried cargo from Staten Island and Manhattan, eventually making a name for himself among the largest steamship operators in the 1820’s. Later on, he would add the railroad industry and his fortune grew. As the years passed and other generations were added to the family, that fortune dwindled over time as did the family’s standing. Coauthored by Katherine Howe, this was fascinating to listen to. The eras that this covers is part of that, but also there’s so much honesty in how this is shared that it was made for a compelling story, one that almost seems fictional. The excesses, the family drama behind the scenes, the losses, the famous friends - it’s all fascinating, if a bit heartbreaking at times. Some stories of those people who were friendly with the Vanderbilts would have been considered scandalous at the time, and perhaps still. But there’s so much real-life history beyond this family, as well that anchors this in place and time, as well. At the heart of this story of this family is the idea that anyone willing to work hard enough could improve their life, and how that idea has gradually become twisted over time to include those who would take advantage of others, including family, in order to obtain wealth, fame or just notoriety - good or bad.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Howe

    This book rocks. I promise.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Howe

    It's going to be awesome. Trust me. It's going to be awesome. Trust me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    This book is stultifyingly dry and slow until around the 70% mark, when Little Gloria enters the story. Then it becomes much more interesting. I'm puzzled, though, as to why there is a whole chapter devoted to the downfall of Truman Capote, who was, you'll be astounded to learn, not a Vanderbilt. Yes, he and Gloria were friends, but she makes only minor appearances in the chapter. I have to admit I was tickled to learn that Katherine Anne Porter publicly called Truman "the pimple on the face of This book is stultifyingly dry and slow until around the 70% mark, when Little Gloria enters the story. Then it becomes much more interesting. I'm puzzled, though, as to why there is a whole chapter devoted to the downfall of Truman Capote, who was, you'll be astounded to learn, not a Vanderbilt. Yes, he and Gloria were friends, but she makes only minor appearances in the chapter. I have to admit I was tickled to learn that Katherine Anne Porter publicly called Truman "the pimple on the face of American literature." He was talented, but he was such a little troll. He hurt a lot of people with his gossip and manipulative behavior. I also thought the book could have done without very detailed chapters about the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the 1934 World Cup yacht race. And I do mean very detailed. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that passing references would have been enough, to explain the fates and fortunes of the Vanderbilt men affected by these events. The Vanderbilt heirs pissed away an unimaginable fortune on dissolute living and extravagant expenditures on trifles. Most of them never bothered to learn how to manage all that money to make it last and have something to pass on to their progeny. I think it's fitting that almost all of the oversized, elaborate mansions and hotels built and occupied by the Vanderbilts and Astors and their ilk have been razed and replaced with more practical edifices. If you like history and you don't know much about the Gilded Age or the Vanderbilt family, the book is worth a look. It's generally well written. Just sloooooow.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ulysses Dietz

    Vanderbilt: the rise and fall of an American Dynasty By Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe 2021 It's no surprise that Anderson Cooper knew relatively little about his Vanderbilt forebears when he decided to write his new book, "Vanderbilt, the RIse and Fall of an American Dynasty." People like me, curators obsessed with the GIlded Age, inevitably spent more time studying the Vanderbilts and their impact on the material culture of America than Cooper would have. Indeed, I only became really interest Vanderbilt: the rise and fall of an American Dynasty By Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe 2021 It's no surprise that Anderson Cooper knew relatively little about his Vanderbilt forebears when he decided to write his new book, "Vanderbilt, the RIse and Fall of an American Dynasty." People like me, curators obsessed with the GIlded Age, inevitably spent more time studying the Vanderbilts and their impact on the material culture of America than Cooper would have. Indeed, I only became really interested in Anderson Cooper when I found out two things: that he was gay, and that he was Gloria Vanderbilt's son. Cooper's book is not really a history of the Vanderbilt clan. It is a highly "curated" series of a dozen vignettes that focus on specific characters and moments in the long arc of the Vanderbilt name. It is well written and, for the most part, well-researched (Cooper used a historian to help him write this, and I think you can see her voice in contrast to his journalistic voice throughout). But rather than a history of the Vanderbilts, this book is Cooper's effort to understand a part of his background that had been purposely pushed aside and suppressed, most of all by his mother, who was perhaps one of the greatest victims of being a Vanderbilt. This is a book full of stories of broken relationships, unbridled ambition, unparalled desire for power and money and control. At the end, where there are two chapters that focus on Cooper's mother and her mother and the chaos that was her young life, one realizes that this book is a piece of historical therapy. Cooper's chapter on his mother's adult life--which is the only chapter in which he himself appears as a major player--is called "The Last VanderbiIlt." It is, essentially, a distillation of Cooper's feelings about how being a Vanderbilt messed up his mother's life, and transformed her into the damaged, intelligent woman she was, a woman who spent her life desperately seeking something that she only found, in the end, in her son Anderson: steadfast love and endless forgiveness. Even if you know about the Vanderbilts, this is a worthwhile book to read. Most of the juiciest bits are here. Just understand that this was written to help the author come to grips with who he is, and to exorcise ghosts that have undoubtedly haunted him his whole life. The other image I posted with my FB review is Joseph Seymour Guy's monumental group portrait of William Henry Vanderbilt and his children in his Fifth Avenue parlor in 1873. It is called "Going to the Opera." Cooper might never have seen this, because it belongs to the Biltmore Estate and another branch of the family. I have used this painting in lots of lectures over the years, and I always get a cheap laugh by referring to it as "Waiting for the Commodore to Die." If you read the book, you'll get the joke.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scot

    I've always been fascinated by Gilded Age excesses and have profound memories of touring the various "cottages" at Newport Beach the Vanderbilt family had. Anderson Cooper is also a remarkable fellow in his own right, so I started reading this the first day it came out. It was a quick read, breezy. Went through history focusing chapters on different family members, moving forward through chronological time, putting them in a historical context based on some struggle in gender, class, or race issu I've always been fascinated by Gilded Age excesses and have profound memories of touring the various "cottages" at Newport Beach the Vanderbilt family had. Anderson Cooper is also a remarkable fellow in his own right, so I started reading this the first day it came out. It was a quick read, breezy. Went through history focusing chapters on different family members, moving forward through chronological time, putting them in a historical context based on some struggle in gender, class, or race issues. There was nothing really wrong with it, I just didn't learn much I didn't already know. I noticed more salacious details were in the People interview with Anderson I read this morning, part of his book promo tour. It's not that I just wanted dirt on the family, it's just it all seemed so general. The epilogue, tying the family to landmarks and different spots in Manhattan or Staten Island, was the most compelling writing, but it came at the very end. Perhaps I am too harsh, but I think the targeted audience does not have much sense of history. I read the T. J. Stiles biography on the Commodore, the scion that started the family, several years ago, and I suspect the thorough details and scholarly tone there had set me up to expect more depth here than there is. But for those unfamiliar with the Vanderbilt lineage in America, or their impact on its economy, culture, and the arts, this book is a fine place to start. And it is told with a 21st century sensibility.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Journalist Anderson Cooper has written an excellent biography of his mother, Gloria’s, family, the Vanderbilts. It’s not written in a conventional style by time, but rather by individual. The book is really a series of vignettes about various family members. There are more conventional bios out there of this illustrious family and it’s many homes but Cooper puts a personal touch on it. Almost melancholy but so, so interesting.. The book is coauthored by novelist Katherine Howe. I don’t know how t Journalist Anderson Cooper has written an excellent biography of his mother, Gloria’s, family, the Vanderbilts. It’s not written in a conventional style by time, but rather by individual. The book is really a series of vignettes about various family members. There are more conventional bios out there of this illustrious family and it’s many homes but Cooper puts a personal touch on it. Almost melancholy but so, so interesting.. The book is coauthored by novelist Katherine Howe. I don’t know how the actual writing was divided, but you can tell there’s a novelist touch to the book. Very good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Fascinating read about the history of the Vanderbilts, New York City, society [the Gilded Age], commerce, Newport, Rhode Island, the America's Cup, and so much more. Richly detailed and well researched. Recommend. Fascinating read about the history of the Vanderbilts, New York City, society [the Gilded Age], commerce, Newport, Rhode Island, the America's Cup, and so much more. Richly detailed and well researched. Recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Carr

    Absolutely fantastic. Isn't it odd that we can be so intrigued by people long gone but whose legacy remains. Goodness, it's not even my family but the entire time I was reading could picture this or that and then view it though a lense of "...if that happened today..." Wow. Wow. Wow. The amount of money is something to behold. Very grateful that they often aquatinted it with currently inflation but still more than I could ever imagine. Absolutely fantastic. Isn't it odd that we can be so intrigued by people long gone but whose legacy remains. Goodness, it's not even my family but the entire time I was reading could picture this or that and then view it though a lense of "...if that happened today..." Wow. Wow. Wow. The amount of money is something to behold. Very grateful that they often aquatinted it with currently inflation but still more than I could ever imagine.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This was an interesting take on the Vanderbilt story, focusing on members with a rocky place in life. Surprisingly I was left with wanting to know more about Alva and Truman Capote, who really were people who affected the family rather than be part of it. I was frustrated at the seemingly constant lavish descriptions about how the family decorated their homes, how they dressed, their excessive wealth. Nothing about these descriptions made me feel anything for the members of the family, though I This was an interesting take on the Vanderbilt story, focusing on members with a rocky place in life. Surprisingly I was left with wanting to know more about Alva and Truman Capote, who really were people who affected the family rather than be part of it. I was frustrated at the seemingly constant lavish descriptions about how the family decorated their homes, how they dressed, their excessive wealth. Nothing about these descriptions made me feel anything for the members of the family, though I suppose it was necessary to show perhaps how they set themselves apart. With the exception of the presentation of Gloria near the end, I felt very little empathy for the rest of the people featured. And Gloria likely invoked some empathy due to the feeling with which Cooper presented her. There were certainly interesting tidbits in the book, but that's all I feel they were. Much like the rest of New York reading the society pages, I felt more like this was a voyeurs take on the family story. I'm not sure what I was looking for, but this wasn't it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    A cleverly written historical autobiography I wasn’t expecting such an entertaining book, though Anderson Cooper’s smile would lead you to believe he is never boring. The chronicle of the Vanderbilts is a chronicle of America in many ways. Briskly written, carefully documented, and never tedious. Well worth reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ormondebooks

    This is a comprehensive and compelling book about one of the most famous American families of the 20th Century, co-written by CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper. Anderson is himself a Vanderbilt, his mother was Gloria Vanderbilt. Its also a story about how a fortune was squandered. Cornelius Vanderbilt, or “The Commodore” was the patriarch of the family. Descended from Dutch immigrants, Cornelius began his career in the 1850s by ferrying passengers between Staten Island & Manhattan. He invested in This is a comprehensive and compelling book about one of the most famous American families of the 20th Century, co-written by CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper. Anderson is himself a Vanderbilt, his mother was Gloria Vanderbilt. Its also a story about how a fortune was squandered. Cornelius Vanderbilt, or “The Commodore” was the patriarch of the family. Descended from Dutch immigrants, Cornelius began his career in the 1850s by ferrying passengers between Staten Island & Manhattan. He invested in the rapidly growing railroad industry. His rise to wealth was dizzying & he quickly became one of the richest men in the US. This coincided with the growth of the nouveau riche in New York society & the birth of celebrity culture. This was the era of the Morgans, Rockafellers and the Astors. An era where obscene amounts of money was spent on lavish balls and in building the biggest and best homes in Manhattan. The story of the Vanderbilts is a whistle stop tour through the 20th century. Alfred Vanderbilt died aboard the Lusitania in 1915. Alva Vanderbilt was a prominent socialite & a major figure in the American women’s suffragist movement. Gloria Vanderbilt was the subject of a controversial custody trial in the 1930s. She was also one of the original “IT”girls of the era & one of Truman Capote’s “swans”. The Vanderbilts were synonymous with New York. Cornelius Vanderbilts opulent mansion is now the site of the Bergdorf Goodman Department Store. He built the beautiful Grand Central Terminal. His daughter Gertrude was the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Its also a story about a family that has experienced great tragedies, including suicide, alcoholism, unhappy marriages & the loss of their fortune through mis-management by subsequent generations. The death of Gloria in 2019 was the end of an era. This is a fascinating personal account of an intriguing high society family, beset by so much sadness. Andersen Cooper narrates the audible book which brings the reader even closer to the story. I loved it!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bob Baen

    Interesting story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    As I've read pretty much every book about the families from the Gilded Age and the robber barons, I can't say I learned a lot of new info but the way the book was written, just as you would imagine Anderson Cooper adding his intelligent and amusing spin to things, made it very enjoyable. My favorite chapter was the last one when he touched on life with his mother, father, brother and son. It was written kind of dream-like, if that makes sense. As I've read pretty much every book about the families from the Gilded Age and the robber barons, I can't say I learned a lot of new info but the way the book was written, just as you would imagine Anderson Cooper adding his intelligent and amusing spin to things, made it very enjoyable. My favorite chapter was the last one when he touched on life with his mother, father, brother and son. It was written kind of dream-like, if that makes sense.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    I've always had a fascination with the Vanderbilt family and was excited to see this book by Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor and a member of the most recent generation of Vanderbilts. I purchased the audiobook, and it did not disappoint. I finished it in two days--a testament to how engaging the story is and to Cooper as a reader. Cooper begins with Cornelius Vanderbilt, the family patriarch who was known as "The Commodore." He worked on his father's ferry as a boy and, with a loan from his mother, p I've always had a fascination with the Vanderbilt family and was excited to see this book by Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor and a member of the most recent generation of Vanderbilts. I purchased the audiobook, and it did not disappoint. I finished it in two days--a testament to how engaging the story is and to Cooper as a reader. Cooper begins with Cornelius Vanderbilt, the family patriarch who was known as "The Commodore." He worked on his father's ferry as a boy and, with a loan from his mother, purchased his own boat when only a teenager. It was he whop made the family fortune in shipping and railroads. Cooper makes a brief digression a few chapters later to take us back to the first family member to emigrate to New York from the Netherlands. He arrived as an indentured servant in 1650. Like many immigrant families, the Vanderbilts struggled through generations until The Commodore rose to the top of American industry and commerce. Love him or hate him (and many certainly hated him), he was one heck of a self-0made man. The Vanderbilts did not lead a charmed life. The Commodore had thirteen children but discounted his nine daughters and wrote off two of his sons in his will. One son died young, another suffered from epilepsy and was for a time confined to a mental institution, and a third was rejected as a "wastrel"--a drinker with debts. That left his son Billy and Billy's four sons to inherit most of the Vanderbilt fortune. Although they reigned at the top of New York high society for decades, the family history is riddled with multiple divorces, scandals, suicides, alcoholism, and tragedies, including one son who went down with the Lusitania. Cooper spares no details. It wasn't until near her death that his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, began to talk abut her troubled childhood and the infamous legal case in which her paternal aunt and her mother battled over her custody. Gloria was estranged from her mother until shortly before her death; she considered her nurse, nicknamed Dodo, as her mother, even fantasizing that she was her biological mother, and she never forgave her mother or her aunt for agreeing to fire Dodo. She and Anderson suffered through the early death of his father, Wyatt Cooper, from cancer and his brother Carter's suicide at the age of 23; Anderson was in the room when he jumped from the family's 14th-story apartment window. Part of Cooper's purpose in revealing so much about his family is to let the public know that money does not always bring happiness--nor does it last. While he acknowledges that the Vanderbilt name opened doors for him along the way, by the time his father died, there was no fortune left for Gloria or for her sons to inherit. Gloria had to work hard and make her own way in the world through modeling, fashion design, and a home decor line. Sadly, she retained her Vanderbilt tastes and went through any money she earned like it was water. Cooper himself earned spare cash as a teenager by modelling and says that early on he did his best never to let people know about his Vanderbilt background. This is a fascinating portrait of an extraordinarily successful and extraordinarily flowed family, told candidly by one of the last Vanderbilt descendants with great personal insight but empathy by one of the last Vanderbilt descendants. If you love family sagas or reading about Old New York or Hollywood society, or just have a curiosity about the lives of a renowned American family, this is one you won't want to miss.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelley Kimble

    I am usually all in for a book centered in NYC and I certainly learned a lot about NY, a dynasty and NY Society. The telling of the story was too dry for my taste, too removed. So yay for interesting and not so much for dull for a family that definitely wasn’t dull!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    During my younger school years I honestly had no interest in history. Probably a maturity thing at the time. Now I seem to have developed a huge thirst for American history and Cooper's latest book quenched some of my thirst. Found myself googling/researching a lot as I read along. (Which I probably didn't need to do because at some point along the way many of my questions that I had googled were answered. Still had fun googling some of the addresses and seeing what is at that address today in 2 During my younger school years I honestly had no interest in history. Probably a maturity thing at the time. Now I seem to have developed a huge thirst for American history and Cooper's latest book quenched some of my thirst. Found myself googling/researching a lot as I read along. (Which I probably didn't need to do because at some point along the way many of my questions that I had googled were answered. Still had fun googling some of the addresses and seeing what is at that address today in 2021) He goes all the way back to 1660 when his first relative arrived before NYC even existed and how the Vanderbilt name begun. Recognized many mentioned names that turned into names of streets/towns all over NYC area. Great Staten Island history too that I particularly enjoyed. He covers over 4 centuries of American and family history. Also seems some of my relatives are buried where his family's mausoleum is located, so guess they are all neighbors now ? Book was easy to follow (co-writer Katherine Howe) and Anderson's beautifully narrated the audio. What a beautiful gift to Anderson's son this book is. Highly recommend! And now adding a few mentioned movies to a list that I want to view. #andersoncooper #HarperCollins #katherineHowe #vanderbilt #nytimesbestseller

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    A very interesting account of the rise and fall of the Vanderbilt family. Anderson is a great narrator as well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrianna Rinaldi

    3.5 if I could. Interesting but not what I expected. Jumped around a little too much, didn’t flow. Thought coverage would be more expansive across family members.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Goodness, what a disappointment this book was! "Rise and fall" is a bit of a misnomer, given that this book is literally all over the place. We know the Commadore made a bunch of money; we know his son Billy made more; and we know the rest of them squandered it on building opulent mansions which no one could afford to keep up. But is that it? Is that really the whole story? I guess maybe the words "rise and fall" being in the title, I was expecting more exposition on that part of it. Perhaps I'd Goodness, what a disappointment this book was! "Rise and fall" is a bit of a misnomer, given that this book is literally all over the place. We know the Commadore made a bunch of money; we know his son Billy made more; and we know the rest of them squandered it on building opulent mansions which no one could afford to keep up. But is that it? Is that really the whole story? I guess maybe the words "rise and fall" being in the title, I was expecting more exposition on that part of it. Perhaps I'd have lowered my expectations if this book had instead been called a "bunch of random Vanderbilt family anecdotes". The in-depth sailing chapter? What was the goal there? SO MUCH on Truman Capote? While he was a friend of Gloria, I'm just not sure why that was such a large part of this book. I'm not sure what his time in Kansas writing In Cold Blood has to do with the Vanderbilts rise and fall. Also, while I know this wasn't meant to be written in a linear timeline, maybe it should have been? It was really confusing at some points, especially since the family tree didn't have dates attached to it. For example, opening with Gloria going on a date at age 17 with Howard Hughes, to then backing WAY up to the Morgan Sisters, and hopping aroud unti Gloria was an adult made for a really unenjoyable experience. It was also (outside of the chapers about Alva), just....boring content. And when I was coming to the end of boring content, it seemed like they'd instead back up FURTHER to tell me the source of that boring content. There was also a REALLY disjointed section in the book about a mine collapse in Illinois. While I understood that it was meant to compare the amount of money offered to miners' families in direct contrast to the massive sums Alva spent on her party.....there was no connection to the family. I was half-expecting the chapter to end with a note that the mine was owned by a Vanderbilt. It just felt like really weird, shoddy writing, and a mismatched way to connect two events that were so far from being connected. I actually read it, and re-read it to see if I had missed anything because it just seemed so out of place. I love Anderson Cooper, and I love stories about the Gilded Age, and I'm fascinated by the old money families wreaking golden havoc on Manhattan. The one (small) slice of the book dedicated to talking about where, in modern day Manhattan all of these grand homes once stood was wonderful! But on the whole, this book was just a patchwork of mismatched fabric squares sewn together in the wrong pattern. There are better books on this era (and frankly, about this family) that make this one a waste of precious reading time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mystic Miraflores

    When I read the part about Cooper not having a big inheritance coming his way and that he'd have to work for a living like the rest of us ordinary schmucks, I had to laugh. It seemed he didn't like or respect his ancestors. His tone was sarcastic/facetious/tongue-in-cheek when he poked fun at them. Those stories were quite entertaining. However, when it came to his mother, his description was authentic and heartfelt. He acknowledged her flaws, such as her mishandling of money, but at heart, she When I read the part about Cooper not having a big inheritance coming his way and that he'd have to work for a living like the rest of us ordinary schmucks, I had to laugh. It seemed he didn't like or respect his ancestors. His tone was sarcastic/facetious/tongue-in-cheek when he poked fun at them. Those stories were quite entertaining. However, when it came to his mother, his description was authentic and heartfelt. He acknowledged her flaws, such as her mishandling of money, but at heart, she was a good person. On a personal note, when I was a child in the late 1960s/early 1970s, my family and I lived in Newport, Rhode Island for 5 years. My father, a career Navy man, was assigned to the Naval Station there. On some weekends, our family would visit the area where The Breakers and The Marble House are located. We could see the front of the mansions, but couldn't afford to buy the tickets to go in. By the time I was married and had my own family, we could afford to buy tickets to visit the Biltmore House in Asheville. (It's funny that Cooper didn't mention those cousins, the Vanderbilt-Cecils.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A fascinating account of the Vanderbilt family history and fortune. I especially appreciate Anderson Cooper’s motivation for wanting to research and learn his family’s history to pass along to his son. That we get to learn more about the lives of the Vanderbilt family offers insight beyond the wealth and offers reminders that wealth doesn’t necessarily offer the protections we imagine. The Vanderbilt family was just as susceptible to heartache, vulnerable to vices and financial challenges just a A fascinating account of the Vanderbilt family history and fortune. I especially appreciate Anderson Cooper’s motivation for wanting to research and learn his family’s history to pass along to his son. That we get to learn more about the lives of the Vanderbilt family offers insight beyond the wealth and offers reminders that wealth doesn’t necessarily offer the protections we imagine. The Vanderbilt family was just as susceptible to heartache, vulnerable to vices and financial challenges just as any other person. I listened to the audiobook and felt Anderson Cooper’s love for his mother and the gratitude for getting to know her even better and more deeply as she neared death from cancer. What a gift to have in the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Grant

    This is a strong 4.5 for me. I rounded up because I am and always have been so interested in the Gilded Age and especially the Vanderbilts. I truly admire Anderson Cooper and he did a fantastic job connecting his family's direct history to that of the collective history of each generation. I usually loan my books as they become available but I wanted this one for myself. I am not disappointed and I just may read it again. It is like a imaginary cinema reel reflecting both the lifestyles of the u This is a strong 4.5 for me. I rounded up because I am and always have been so interested in the Gilded Age and especially the Vanderbilts. I truly admire Anderson Cooper and he did a fantastic job connecting his family's direct history to that of the collective history of each generation. I usually loan my books as they become available but I wanted this one for myself. I am not disappointed and I just may read it again. It is like a imaginary cinema reel reflecting both the lifestyles of the ultra rich with the building of the greatest American city into the superstructure that it is today. New York was the silent "round" character of this storyline and it was as if she was burping up a few of her secrets and scattering them in the Vanderbilt gardens.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Because I read Anderson Cooper's previous book. I didn't think it was necessary to read. I thought it maybe redundant. His previous book I loved. He talked about his perspective of his mother's life. He's love and understanding of his Mom, her history, the accesses. Her sad, and blessed life how she was able to turn her life around. How the accesses in wealth didn't keep her. Instead she was able to use her talents to brand the Vanderbilt name. How she was able to transform her self. And at the Because I read Anderson Cooper's previous book. I didn't think it was necessary to read. I thought it maybe redundant. His previous book I loved. He talked about his perspective of his mother's life. He's love and understanding of his Mom, her history, the accesses. Her sad, and blessed life how she was able to turn her life around. How the accesses in wealth didn't keep her. Instead she was able to use her talents to brand the Vanderbilt name. How she was able to transform her self. And at the same time Anderson didn't take advantage of the name. Instead he saw what wealth did to the Vanderbilt family. He wanted to contribute, and work, and not squander.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Debra Belmudes

    Well written and well read by Anderson Cooper. I never tire of reading about the Gilded Age. I find it interesting to see beyond the lives of original robber barons, especially to see how great wealth affected them and their families. One would think that money brings happiness, but that isn't necessarily true as I learned from biographies of the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families. This journey into his family's past was quite an undertaking by Cooper, especially as he never felt part of his sto Well written and well read by Anderson Cooper. I never tire of reading about the Gilded Age. I find it interesting to see beyond the lives of original robber barons, especially to see how great wealth affected them and their families. One would think that money brings happiness, but that isn't necessarily true as I learned from biographies of the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families. This journey into his family's past was quite an undertaking by Cooper, especially as he never felt part of his storied family, but was done as a means of learning and sharing his family history with his son, Wyatt.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    I lucked out by finding this sitting on the library 7 day read shelf. There are endless Vanderbilt books and appreciated that this was a concise set of vignettes of one or two individuals in each generation. The point was to illustrate how the world's greatest fortune was frittered away in 4 generations, ending with Anderson's mom Gloria. It does a good job of that while being entertaining. Some chapters throw in little stories of how the "common" people were struggling while the likes of the Va I lucked out by finding this sitting on the library 7 day read shelf. There are endless Vanderbilt books and appreciated that this was a concise set of vignettes of one or two individuals in each generation. The point was to illustrate how the world's greatest fortune was frittered away in 4 generations, ending with Anderson's mom Gloria. It does a good job of that while being entertaining. Some chapters throw in little stories of how the "common" people were struggling while the likes of the Vanderbilts partied (or put bullets in their heads or destroyed their livers). Not sure if those stories add anything not already obvious. Its a very quick read and makes its point that handing down great wealth to one's children is not likely to end happily for many of them (though I am sure if the authors looked at all 40 of the people in the family tree shown (and many more cousins in lines) there must have been a few that did, or are doing, just fine with their privileged head starts.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jo

    The Gilded Age has always fascinated me and time at The Breakers a few years ago was eye opening so I found the book very interesting. My only criticism is it was sometimes a little confusing as it tended to wander into side stories like that of Truman Capote. However, the writing style was relaxed making it a good read about (to quote from the intro) the story of the greatest American fortune ever squandered. A nice feature was the genealogy chart.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

    I expected Anderson Cooper’s book on the Vanderbilt family to chronicle “the rise and fall of an American dynasty, but the book devotes little ink to how the Vanderbilts built their wealth and even less to how they lost it. Instead, Cooper focuses on the sensational, tabloid-worthy anecdotes about his famous family. This is a real disappointment.

  29. 5 out of 5

    KC

    3.5 stars. The rise and fall of a dynasty. From the inside personal looking-glass of Anderson Cooper, a Vanderbilt heir. The rags to riches to rags story of one of the most well known names in tremendous wealth and industrial history. For those who enjoyed THE RAINBOW COMES AND GOES.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Betty Adams

    I admire Anderson Cooper's journalism and his serious, no-nonsense mien. I wanted to love this eagerly awaited read. Instead I found I liked it, but had little sense of the generational representatives about whom he wrote. They didn't emerge as real people. I liked the idea of picking a few people as opposed to a linear history, but I didn't feel it worked. I was particularly disappointed in his treatment of his mother - I felt it was shallow and didn't add anything I hadn't already read.. I admire Anderson Cooper's journalism and his serious, no-nonsense mien. I wanted to love this eagerly awaited read. Instead I found I liked it, but had little sense of the generational representatives about whom he wrote. They didn't emerge as real people. I liked the idea of picking a few people as opposed to a linear history, but I didn't feel it worked. I was particularly disappointed in his treatment of his mother - I felt it was shallow and didn't add anything I hadn't already read..

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