Vintage Books, 2010.
Review published Aug 2011.
Stiles shows that the popular image of Vanderbilt as a rapacious warrior-businessman is ony partly true: Vanderbilt was present before and during the emergence of all the appurtenances of modern business and finance, including the New York Stock Exchange. At the time this commerce was totally unregulated, and only a risk-tolerant buccaneer could have survived the crises that Cornelius Vanderbilt welcomed.
Primarily a shipping magnate, who built the finest steamships in the world, Vanderbilt's interest in railroads was to provide cargo for his vessels. It was only towards the end of his 83-year-long life that he took the controlling interest in what became the New York Central and became known as a railroad baron.
I found this Pulitzer Prize biography a valuable introduction to the Wall Street shenanigans of today.