Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
This is a long book! Really, really long! In the very best way!
At first, it seemed as though Doris Kearns Goodwin might have bitten off more than she could chew in taking on the divergent lives and stories in one volume. But I came to realize that these characters, and this piece of history, do indeed belong together. These two amazing Presidents (and hooray, Doris, for reminding us of the admirable Taft!), began the struggle against the powerful business interests that has continued (with varying degrees of success) until this day.
Even less remembered or acknowledged was the work of tireless journalists who - at least at first - truly had the welfare of the country foremost in mind. We are so accustomed to viewing the Press as a cynical, self-serving bunch; thank you Ms. Goodwin for reinstating Ida Tarbell, McClure, Baker, Phillips and others to their important place in history. The Golden Age of Journalism was indeed a worthy and necessary inclusion in this effort.
This author/historian has a real gift for making historical figures come back to life. As this book progresses, the reader cares more and more for them as people. As in "A Team of Rivals" about Lincoln and his advisors, there's real feeling in the portrayals of Theodore Roosevelt and Taft and in the people who most influenced them, especially their wives.
It seems to me that Goodwin presents these people and this important time in American history with a good deal of objectivity and prospective. Often the faults of these men and women are as grand as their strengths, and what begins as idealism and vitality sinks into egotism and self-aggrandizement. As Ray Baker is quoted in the epilog, in their belief that injustice would swiftly be corrected if it was known, these early crusaders never realized fully "just how hard-boiled the world really was."
We may be appalled at how little things seem to have changed and at how often we repeat the mistakes of the past, but, reading "The Bully Pulpit" ultimately assures us that the effort has been worth it, some progress (however slowly) has been made, and we soldier on.
Everyone has reviewed this book. It is as excellent as everyone says! I'm only writing yet another review because I believe there is a real difference between this and other great Presidential and civil war tomes - the perspective of a few, very interesting woman.
Don't get me wrong - the stars here are Lincoln and his "rivals", but a female historian just naturally carries her interest a little farther - into the lives and motives of the women who love and inspire them. Mary Lincoln becomes real here, but I also appreciate the fascinating details about lesser-known wives and daughters like Kate Chase and Frances Seward. Doris Kearns Goodwin's inclusion of these women adds yet another dimension to an already exemplary historical effort. It's an element which many fine male historians have overlooked.
I'm so glad Audible offers the Modern Scholar series - and sometimes puts them on sale! "Winston Churchill" is a very solid example of their excellence: John Ramsden is a terrific lecturer, the material is comprehensive and well-researched; and the listener/student comes away with an impressive amount of information (either new or refreshed from earlier schooling or reading).
It is pretty obvious that our good Professor is a fan of Churchill's and, in this series of lectures, is something of an apologist for any flaws the man may have had. He certainly makes reference to the controversies surrounding Churchill and to his self-promoting and self-serving tendencies, but Ramsden basically follows the oft-accepted view of Churchill as one of the greatest men (if not THE greatest man) of the 20th century. I believe there are historians out there who might be a bit harder on Churchill's legacy.
Still, this is a very good overview of the life and times of an extraordinarily powerful politician, a persuasive speaker and writer, and a bigger-than-life personality. I think anyone interested in 20th century history will enjoy the ride.