I am an avid eclectic reader.
Robert Gates has a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet History. He served as the head of the CIA , been a member of the National Security Council under eight different white house administration, was a Air Force officer in the Strategic Air Command. He knew the pentagon better than most Defense Secretaries. “Duty” is a typical of the memoir genre, declaring that this is how the writer saw it, warts and all, including his own. Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings based in part on notes that he and his Aids made at the time and a review of some of the official reports. I thought he did a fairly good job of writing about the positive as well as the negative remarks about different people. The media seems to want to pick out only the negative comments. For example, Gates did make numerous negative remarks about Joe Biden but also said he and Biden were in agreement about the use of the military in Libya and that he likes Biden. Gates had only glowing remarks about Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton. What came across clearly in the book was his fury with having to deal with a dysfunctional congress, his frustrations in dealing with the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and the feelings of lack of understating of protocol, respect and distrust by white house staff who had never served in the military. Gates writes that Obama was very thoughtful and analytical, wanted to hear all points of view but then made up his own mind. The author also said that he admired Obama for making some very difficult decision as President. He writes about his concern about the welfare of the troops and how he felt his concern was interfering with his ability to do his job. A good deal of the book deals with battles over the budget and his fight with the Pentagon to get rid of programs, equipment that they no longer need only to have the congress reinstate them because the program had direct effect on their State. Over all it is an interesting look into the workings of our government. George Newbern did an excellent job narrating the book.
From the title of the book I thought this book would be a muckraker. Instead Charles Lachman set forth a well researched statement of the facts from both sides of the claims against Cleveland. Grover Cleveland was born March 18 1837 and had to go to work to support his family at age 16 with the death of his father. He moved to Buffalo NY to work for an uncle. He studies law and became a lawyer. Buffalo at this time was a wild dangerous frontier town. Cleveland like most of the men when to the saloon after work at dinner, drank beer, smoked cigars and played cards until bedtime. He was the D.A. of Buffalo the mayor and then the governor of New York. It was not until he ran for President that the scandal was published in the newspapers. I found the comment Cleveland, made to his staff, when the scandal broke "tell the truth" should be the backbone of all crisis management. No matter if the claims he raped Maria Halpin then had her baby taken from her and raised by someone else is true or not. His behavior of having her committed to an insane asylum was poor judgement. Lachman also covered Mark Twain's time in Buffalo as a newspaperman covering the scandal. Another quote by Cleveland I thought telling of his character was as follows "Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote". Of course that was a common thought by men of the time. Cleveland married the daughter of his best friend. Cleveland and Frances Folsom married in the white house during his first term. Cleveland was the only president to see separate term as president. I was pleased with the ending of the book as Lachman carefully tied all the loose end up including what happened to the boy Oscar Folsom Cleveland. I will not reveal information about the scandal you need to read the book and make up your own mind. Joe Barrett did a good job narrating the book.
I learned so much from this book. I must admit I had not read or studied anything about the history of the first amendment before. This absorbing book is about the law and also about change, how one man's thinking evolved nearly 100 years ago. For 125 years the first amendment was essentially dead until Holmes wrote his dissent in 1919. Thomas Healy shows us how Holmes was educated/persuaded to change his mind about the meaning and reach of our most fundamental safeguard. His friends, Justice Brandeis, Judge Learned Hand, Harold Laski, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chafee (all teachers at Harvard) and others had discussion, letter exchanges and loaned or gave him books to read. Holmes was a voracious reader and during his summer breaks he devoured books that challenged his thinking. Holmes also had a habit we should all learn, he listened to people who didn't agree with him and set about to learn more about the topic from all view points.
The rule, at the time, borrowed from British practice, was that you could speak and publish freely without fear of prior restraint, but once you had spoken, the State had the freedom to prosecute you. Holmes had written the majority opinion in Debs V U.S. upholding the conviction. Eugene Debs was the Socialist candidate for President. He gave a campaign speech and was arrested after for violation of the Sedition act and sentence to 10 years in prison. I found this interesting because via Audible I had read "1920: The year of six Presidents" by David Pietrusza and "Clarence Darrow" by John A. Farrell. Darrow was Debs attorney. Both these books provided a great deal of information about Debs and the above mentioned case. Holmes had been a defender of the power of government to punish controversial speech. He was a Boston Brahmin and his friends were owners of big business so he dismissed the fight of and for unions and the problems of the workers.
I found it fascinating how Holmes's friend educated him at age 78 to change his mind. . When the Court reconvened in the fall they heard the case Abrams V U.S. Holmes decided to write the dissent opinion in the case and changed the Frist Amendment forever. He provided guidelines to help determine when the speech crossed the line, he stated "clear and present danger of public harm" to be the key. The Abrams case is covered in-depth in the book so I will not spoil it by going into it. Danny Campbell did a good job with the narration. This is a book I am going to read again.
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.