Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
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 have been a fan of the Great Courses for a long time. The two biggest drawbacks were price and difficulty of download. So, hooray for Audible for bringing us this collection!
"The American Civil War" is a terrific overview. I have recently moved to "Civil War country" near Antietam and am especially glad to refresh my memory of lessons past and add new knowledge about this subject.
Professor Gallagher gives us military information, of course, but there's also much about the political, social (regional, racial, etc) and other ramifications of the conflict. I especially enjoyed lectures about what was going on at the homefront on both sides during the war - and the attention to the experiences of women and African Americans (slave and free). It's not difficult to understand, hearing this recording, why we still live with so much "baggage" from the Civil War. Also, how fortunate we have been since to experience no warfronts on our homeland.
I learned a great deal from this course and highly recommend it!
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.
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.