So hooked by audio that I have to read books aloud. *If my reviews help, please let me know.
I love to be blown away by a book!! I love that rare ocassion when you randomly pick up a book and hope it will at least hold your interest just until something else comes along, to listen half-heartedly, then--be drawn in thoroughly, completely--to the point where you forget everything around you and become so engrossed in the story that the house could be burning down around you and you wouldn't notice till your toes got hot!
In the case of Destiny of the Republic, it isn't the history of 20th president James Garfield alone that catapults this book into the category of toe-toasting "amazing"...it is the meticulous research and straightforward writing of former National Geographic writer and editor, Candice Millard--a truly great historian/author (and we could probably add detective). A book about Garfield would never have been tops on my Wish List, but I'd read Millard's first book, River of Doubt, (about Theodore Roosevelt's trip on the Amazon) and found it fascinating. Based on that read, I figured I had a winner. Now I have to say, Destiny of the Republic is even better, and I have a new picture of Garfield and wonder what might have been.
The book establishes the dignified character of Garfield, the high esteem the people had for him, his erudition, and his humanity. It goes into detail about the schizo plottings of the crazed assassin, Guiteau (and some fascinating history of the "insanity plea"). But, it focuses largely on the 79 day period while Garfield, Guiteau's led bullet lodged somewhere deep in his back, suffered at the hands of the woefully arrogant Dr. D. Willard Bliss, and the dedicated Alexander Graham Bell's fervent race against time to perfect his "induction balance machine" in hopes of locating the bullet and saving Garfield from Dr. Bliss, and therefore, Garfield's life. The details of the dreadful and ridiculously archaic treatments Garfield suffered through at the hands of the ignorant Bliss, and the account of the autopsy, are painful to read about and shed light on the great progress medicine has made. At his trial for the murder of Garfield, Guiteau nonchalantly admitted to shooting Garfield, but insisted that he did not kill Garfield, rather it was "malpractice killed Garfield."
A slower first half, but you'll be rewarded with a mesmerizing tale, some fascinating medical history and facts, all wonderfully narrated by Paul Michael. *If Candice Millard wrote the history books for school--the students would never miss a day. Fantastic read I highly recommend to history buffs and non-history buffs alike.
When an unstoppable force (aka the white man) meets an immoveable object (aka the American Indian). Vae Victis...
Well-researched and presented piece of American history that does not take sides, but rather presents the battles between the savage efficiency of the Oglala Sioux and a technologically advanced U.S. government. Chief Red Cloud realized early in his life that the government treatise "existed on paper and dissolved on the ground," and refused to continue meeting with the U.S. government, saying he would continue instead, to fight their encroachment on his people's sacred grounds. Considered by historians as the greatest American Indian military strategist, Red Cloud was able to analyze the U.S. soldiers fighting style and their conditions, and use the knowledge to his tactical advantage to fight for the Indian way of life. In his later years, after a life of battles and meetings with the government, Red Cloud knew his people and their life style was no match for the empire-minded white man; the bow and arrow no match for guns that fired multiple bullets.
Similar to Empire of the Summer Moon, but focused on Chief Red Cloud as opposed to a tribe of American Indians. I found the read fascinating, but definitely brutal. After reading dozens of books about the American Indians, a favorite subject of mine, this is the first time I have had the authors actually explain the reason for such savage butchery.
I read the Autobiography of Red Cloud (by R. Eli Paul) about a dozen years ago, told by Red Cloud to different journalists, writers, etc., (which would be a good companion read to this book) but found this one better organized and the better view into life in the American West from both sides on the great plains in the mid 1800's. Don't miss if this is a subject you are interested in--the information is riveting and the narration/production very good.
Our fascination with Jefferson, the "sphinx" President, is obvious in the seemingly never-ending volumes of Jefferson biographies published. D. Malone's ambitious PP winning Jefferson and His Times, (all 6 volumes) - never mentions Sally Hemings; Gordon-Reed's single volume The Hemingses of Monticello is all about Jefferon's child with Hemings - his wife's half white, slave, and half-sister; W. H. Adam writes exstensibly on Jefferson's years in Paris; R. B. Bernstein biography covers the whole man, including some of Jefferson's "ambiguous legacies". Meacham has now written what I think is one of the more readable biographies on Jefferson available, or at least the pragmatic side of this multifaceted man, with a good narrative style and an easy to listen to reading by Edward Herrmann. (*"more readable"...in so far as I have NOT read Malone's volumes, but have read the other books mentioned).
T. S. Eliot wrote, "Between conception and creation, there falls the shadow," Meacham focuses on Jefferson in that shadow -- his quest for power and discipline, and the struggle to use that power to unify a divided country and create a course for that new nation. This focus doesn't restrict Meacham, and he has adeptly editted massive amounts of information about this enigmatic man into a book that still has some new revelations, but the author does take advantage of this focus to pussy-foot around some of the more contradictory elements associated with Jefferson. There is either little written about Jefferson's philosophies and his personal conflicts, or Meacham takes the half-full approach, allowing that it takes great power to do that which is better for the whole than for oneself.
Jefferson seems to get more enigmatic with each biography published, but each adds a dimension. The Art of Power presents Jefferson in the light of our modern day; a "flawed giant" balancing politics, science and art. A very impressive and timely listen that should appeal even to those of you that have conquered Malone's 6 volumes.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
Other reviewers have said most of what needs to be said about this often fascinating book. The era of the plains Indian and the American incursion which brought it to an end is incredibly rich material, and Gwynne has brought it to life with a wealth of telling detail.
I would like to add that one of the great strengths of the book is that it brings the landscape itself to life as a character in the narrative. This sense of place as a central character adds tremendously to our understanding of both the extraordinary prowess and resilience of the Comanche and the daunting obstacles which faced settlers during their gradual but inexorable occupation of the mid-section of the country. Having spent a year in Amarillo and traveled on horseback in Palo Duro Canyon, I was deeply impressed by how well the author captured the almost malevolent expanse and elemental grandeur of the plains. Beautifully done.
I assume that the print version of the book includes maps, and I strongly suggest that listeners would best enjoy the listen if they find some on the internet keep them close at hand.