The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles is a penetrating portrait of a complex, self-made titan who revolutionized transportation, amassed vast wealth and shaped the economic world in ways still felt today. Stiles describes the man as "a paradox—both a creator and a destroyer."
Stiles also wrote Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War and has written for the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in San Francisco.
Finalists in this category were Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey and Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper Jr.