I'm a pop culture writer and editor living in San Francisco who commutes about half an hour with audio books five days a week. I go through a lot of audio books.
"Team of Rivals" surprised me in so many ways. I was surprised by how much I didn't know about Abraham Lincoln. I was surprised by how beautifully told this story is. And I was surprised by how moved I was by a story that I, essentially, already knew.
Strange to say, but by the time Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater, I had almost willed myself into thinking Lincoln was a character who could figure out the trap, and avoid it somehow. I really didn't want him to die.
Narrator Suzanne Toren breathes life into the story, and even into the nearly all-male cast of characters. I could listen to her talk all day, and she made some of the dull spots easier to get through.
Readers/Listeners will be surprised at how well they'll come to know Lincoln's cabinet and family, and how heartbreaking it is to consider the untimely deaths of three of his four children, not to mention the tragic histories that haunted both Salmon P. Chase and Edwin M. Stanton.
I listened to this shortly after listening to "1861: The Civil War Awakening" (Adam Goodheart) which makes a fascinating companion piece to "Rivals" for its more colorful descriptions of the times, and its different perspective on figures such as Gustavus Fox.
"Rivals" is destined to go down as one of the definitive accounts of Lincoln's life, and any reader with even the most fleeting interesting in the 16th president would do well to delve into it.
Before reading this book I had no inkling Theodore Roosevelt's pre-presidential life would be so interesting or so entertaining!
From tracking down criminals in the old west to rooting out corruption in the NYPD to leading the charge at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Roosevelt's life was literally full of adventure. Yes, this romantic view of the 26th president arguably threatens to gloss over his bullying and what some might even call warmongering, but Edmund Morris applies an even hand to the material that allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusions about Roosevelt the man. (This evenhandedness becomes more evident and more important in the second of his three Roosevelt biographies, "Theodore Rex.")
I've listened to all the "Game of Thrones" books, and if you enjoyed the pace and intrigue of those thick tomes, then you'll probably also be able to lose yourself in this brilliantly crafted biography. This is top-shelf, A-list stuff, and Morris' place as one of our greatest historical writers has rightly been cemented since he published "Rise" in 1979.
The vocal performance in this book is equally engaging. I would place Mark Deakins' work here on the same level as Roy Dotrice's narrative mastery in the "Game of Thrones" series. Deakins' ability to slip into Roosevelt's clipped cadence adds a whole other level to the book.