I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This book should be read by anyone interested in the history of the CIA. I have rated this five stars, but this is not the perfect book, just a must read. The author clearly focuses only upon the failures of the CIA and glosses over any successes. Nevertheless, there is substantial value is focusing on failures (of course there is also value is focusing on successes, but that would be a different book). This book also does not seem to go out of its way to suggest tangible changes to improve the CIA.
The material is somewhat dry, and there is some jumping around. The narration is quite good, which helps keep the book interesting. This is not the best book about the CIA, but it is an indispensable viewpoint for anyone who wants to understand the agency.
This was a great book. I really found myself unable to put this down. I somewhat expected a dry, one sided, hatchet job. Instead this was detailed story starting with the early life of the clearly troubled founder of Scientology and continuing to the present day. I fully enjoyed the reading of every footnote. I did not really expect to, but I learned a lot. The writing and the narration were both quite compelling.
I have not been a fan of Scientology since a friend of mine joined, and after a few years called me having just escaped penniless and only wearing his underwear out of a window after a many hour auditing session with several people pointing out body thetons on him that were visible to them but not visible to my friend. I agree many of the ideas of Scientology are no weirder than any other religion, and I always thought the basic idea of auditing sounded interesting and potentially useful, but there does seem to be a pattern of secrecy and intimidation not seen elsewhere. This book presents a pattern of paranoia, violence; control, and hypocrisy with an intensity that is truly shocking. I would recommend anyone thinking about Scientology to read this book first.
Surprisingly this book covers quite a bit more than 1812. It begins at the second constitutional convention and ends at the eve of the civil war. The war of 1812 does not really get going until half-way through the book. The treatment of the early years covered many of the founders and events, necessarily lightly. The author also skirts some of the more controversial elements of the various characters, which seemed a bit weak. Otherwise this is an excellent history of the early years of the union and the war of 1812. The narrative shifts seamlessly between stories of characters and battle strategy and action. This was well worth the listen.
So right off the bat let me say this is an excellent general overview of the Civil War - but not of Reconstruction. The book is around 20 hours long and he don't even get to Reconstruction until the last hour and a half. So know that coming in and you shouldn't be disappointed.
OK now for the review.
At this point I've read and listened to probably more than a hundred of Civil War books, this would rank near the top of them. This would be a great book for someone that doesn't know much about the Civil War as it is not a military history of the war and it's not in great depth, instead it more or less is a narrative that provides atmosphere and gives you all the fundamentals you need to understand what happened and why. At the same time I still found it interesting as a refresher since it's easy to listen to and well structured. There wasn't a lot of new material in there but the other does a good job of keeping the story moving and not going back over the same material you've read in other history books 100 times. He does bring new narratives to the story, personal accounts and such that I have not heard before and that helps great for the Civil War buff.
Another review said that the book has a southern bias and that's ridiculous, I've read enough Civil War material to know what is biased and what isn't, this clearly falls into the non-biased category.
The reader does an excellent job as well.
So in closing I'd highly recommend this book to people who want to begin to have an understanding of the Civil War and want it in an interesting and easy to read (listen to) format. If you're just starting out this book should be interesting to you and hopefully will work as a bridge to get you into more in-depth reading (listening) later.
Also I very much believe anyone already interested in the Civil War that might want a refresher or just wants a good narrative of the war will enjoy this as well.
I do NOT recommend this for anyone that want's an understanding of Reconstruction as it's breezed through way to quickly to be of any use. If you can get past that this is very very much a 5-star book.