This is a very good book. It covers a critically important topic in history that is often neglected, and does it in good detail with great prose. One thing in particular I liked about it was that on several occasions it discusses some other events going on in Europe at the time, and is thus even more informative than it would be otherwise.
I have read so much on John Adams that I didn't think this book would contain much information that I didn't already know, but it does. It is well written and tells you a lot about the Adamses in general, and their marriage in particular. John and Abigail (and John Quincy for that matter) left behind so many letters and writings that scholars still haven't been able to go through them all. Because of this, there is so much information about them that one or two books about them doesn't tell you even many of the basics. This book also shines a light on daily life in their day, which we can only see because the Adamses left behind so many writings. I highly recommend this book, along with the John Adams biography by David McCullough, the Abigail biography by Woody Holton, and the John Quincy biography by Paul Nagel. I have gone through all of these and they all contained a lot of information that I hadn't known before.
I have read a lot, and few books that I have read are as good and informative as this. The author does a good job of explaining the life of Genghis Khan. But what I really liked is his summary of the history of the Mongolian empire after Genghis Khan's death, and its broader impact in world history. I also really liked the author's discussion of the way the Mongols were seen in 18th century Europe, and how that impacted the way they viewed Asians and led to eastern colonialism. I highly recommend this book.
Grant is one of the most underrated heroes of American history. He is usually remembered as a drunk, a butcher, or an incompetent, who had one of the most corrupt presidential administrations ever. There's a grain of truth in some of these — Grant did have a drinking problem earlier in his life; his final push to end the Civil War resulted in appalling casualties; and many of the men he picked for his administration betrayed his trust. (No evidence about the incompetence, except with money: he was a brilliant general and a wonderful writer.)
But Grant remains a hero: personally honest, a devoted husband and father, a courageous soldier, a brilliant strategist, and totally committed to Lincoln's vision for ending the war. H. W. Brands demonstrates his remarkable virtues in chapter after fast-moving chapter. Even his presidency gets more positive attention than usual: among other things, he broke the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the postwar south.
And of course there's the inspiring story of his battle with bankruptcy and cancer and his struggle to complete his memoirs before succumbing to the final assault. Their subsequent publication (by Mark Twain) ensured the prosperity of his family for many years after his death.
H. W. Brands tells the story as much as possible in the words of the participants. Every biographer of Grant will quote from the same letters and journals and memoirs; but usually these are snippets interspersed with summary and interpretation. Brands is more generous in his quotations, presenting whole paragraphs and even groups of paragraphs. The result is an exceptionally vivid account. Brands has captured him in motion.
Stephen Hoye narrates briskly and with a lot more passion than is usual in nonfiction. It's an audiobook I plan to return to again and again.