The first part of Edmund Morris' biography of Theodore Roosevelt is absolutely wonderful. This volume covers Mr Roosevelt's life from his birth through his selection as Vice President under McKinley and McKinley's assassination and is long enough, at 26, hours to cover everything of importance. While this is not the first Roosevelt biography that I have read it is the first that has covered all of the relevant parts of his early life with what seems like completeness.
Theodore Roosevelt led an extraordinarily varied life – young naturalist and student of animal life, Harvard student, New York assembly man, corruption fighting reformer, Civil Service Commissioner in Washington, cattleman in the Dakota Territory, Police Commissioner in New York, assistant Secretary of the Navy, mayor of New York City, Rough Rider and more and all of it comes to life in the wonderful writing of Mr Morris and the flawless narration of Mark Deakins. While parts of his life seem incongruous (for example his ability to be both a nature conservationist while, at the same time, engaging in hunting trips to kill wild animals and mount their heads and skins at his house) we need to remember that this occurred well more than 100 years ago and was perfectly in line with the common views of his day. What stands out above all are his enormous energy, his quick and subtle thinking and his absolute honesty. It is easy to see why he was so popular with the voters while, at the same time, so unpopular with some of the political class of his own party. His rise to power, given the unhappiness of some of the powerful politicians of his day, seems remarkable.
Mr Morris' writing of Theodore Roosevelt is largely positive, but not fawning. He writes about both the positive and negative sides of Mr Roosevelt's habits, views and opinions and his writing seems well balanced. However there is also a tendency to attribute the motives Mr Roosevelt's opponents to either meanness or greed and he (Mr Morris) seems unwilling to believe that those opponents might have held honest views which just were at odds with those of Mr Roosevelt. It is not enough to spoil the book but, while listening, I kept thinking to myself that perhaps the person in question honestly believed that Mr Roosevelt was wrong.
This is a very long book. All three volumes, in Audible format, add up to about 77 hours. While that length itself seems long it seemed even longer when compared to some of the other popular political biographies – Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington is about 42 hours, David McCullough's biography of John Adams is about 30 hours, H W Brand's biography of Ulysses Grant is about 28 hours, Jean Edward Smith's biography of FDR is about 33 hours and so on. As I said, this is a very long book. To find a comparably long biography one has to look at William Manchester's 3 volume biography of Winston Churchill which, at about 133 hours, eclipses even this book.
While listening to the Audible book I kept thinking that the book might have benefited from some judicious editing but I could never really put my finger on anything that should have been left out. It is long, but all of the information seems to be important, interesting or both. While 77 hours seems very long perhaps it is necessary for a life so varied, intense and central to the history of the US and the world. Theodore Roosevelt's life deserves a great biography and has found it in this book.
Highly recommended for those interested in history during the beginning of the 20th century.
Absolutely wonderful. Covers history of the US from the first English settlers through the middle of the 1990s when the book was written. Very well read by Nadia May whose clear voice and pronunciation I found suited the book very well. One of the things I found most interesting is that Mr Johnson covers not only the facts but also the background philosophical views at the time as they pertain to the issues being covered. Thus Emerson and others come up not only as poet or writer, but also how their views supported or ran contrary to the then current American thinking.
While I found the entire book fascinating and full of nuggets of information I did not already know I found the treatment of the 20th century most interesting. Johnson's view of the years from Coolidge through Nixon is at odds with the views prevalent 30 years ago, but he makes his case very well indeed with facts, quotes and statistics. I heartily recommend this to anyone with an interest in US history.
I first heard about the Zimmerman Telegram a long time ago when in High School taking a U.S. History class. The telegram was mentioned as the reason the U.S. entered World War I, but we were also told that there was a common view that the telegram was actually a British hoax designed to draw the U.S. into the war. I remember thinking that I wanted to know more about what happened and the validity of the telegram.
Years later, when I started to actually read history for pleasure, I found that World War II consumed most of my interest in twentieth century history and I never actually got around to reading anything about the telegram. Thus, when I saw Barbara Tuchman's book on sale on Audible, I bought it thinking that finally I would find out what it was all about. I was not expecting too much, but was very pleasantly surprised.
Most of this book is concerned with the events leading up to the sending of the Zimmerman Telegram and reveals a part of U.S. history that I knew very little about. The tensions between Mexico and the United States prior to World War I are reasonably well known (for example, General Pershing's assignment to track down Pancho Villa) although the details seem to have been cast into the shadows by the U. S. efforts to first keep out of World War I and then by its actions as a participant. This prelude to U.S. entry is so interesting that I find it surprising that it was not covered in detail in the history classes I took in High School or College.
I have read several of Ms. Tuchman's books (The Proud Tower, A Distant Mirror, The Guns of August, Stillwell and the American Experience in China, The March of Folly) but until I read this book I never sensed any humor or sense of irony in her writing. While the events leading up to the sending of the Zimmerman Telegram were serious and involved Germany's efforts to get the United States involved in enough trouble to keep it from arming the Allies, a description of those events and the Wilson Administration's reactions to them sound more like a script from a Max Sennet comedy than the actions of a deliberative and serious government. Those who think highly of the Woodrow Wilson’s handling of domestic and international affairs might find this book at odds with that view.
Ms. McCaddon’s reading of this book is first class. Her narration fairly bristles with Ms. Tuchman’s sense of the absurd and the events are so interesting as to leave one wondering why much of this was not presented as a basic part of U. S. history. This is doubly so because it is clear that many of the views described prior to the release of the Zimmerman Telegram are representative of the American view of Japan during the first half of the twentieth century and make it easier to understand the U.S. reaction to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor 25 years later.
I recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who has any interest in the events leading up to the start of U.S. participation in World War I or, for that matter, to anyone with an interest in U.S. – Mexican or U.S.-Japanese relations in the twentieth century.