Shelby Foote is a brilliant storyteller, and his history of the Civil War is a masterpiece. Other histories give you the view from a thousand feet; Foote shows you what it must have looked like to the birds in the trees. It's often said that he's biased toward the South, but I think that's an exaggeration. He may not be overly fond of Grant, but he lavishes praise on Abraham Lincoln. His "bias," such as it is, comes partly from the narrative device of trying to give equal time to Jefferson Davis, as if he were in the same league as Lincoln. (Sorry, Shelby, but Jeff was a pill and even you can't make him sympathetic.)
I like Grover Gardner's narration a lot. There is some variation in audio quality, as others have noted, but for the most part Gardner is clear and forceful, and the story unfolds almost effortlessly. I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue.
The only drawback to listening to this, rather than reading it, is the absence of maps. Foote's book is peppered with maps, large and small, strategically placed throughout the text, and they support the narrative descriptions with economy and precision. I was fortunate in having the book at hand and could follow the maps. Wikipedia also has a number of excellent Civil War maps that can be used for this purpose.
Greenberg has written a lively political history of the Mexican war and the substantial but disorganized opposition to it. Key players include Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Nicholas Trist, and Abraham Lincoln: all deftly characterized with a few well-chosen anecdotes. The military history is covered in broad strokes - for more detail on that, a better choice would be Martin Dugard's Training Ground. But if you want a clear and vivid picture of the machinations that led to the war and to its ultimate conclusion, this is the book for you.
There are obvious parallels with more recent wars, some of them opposed by many in the US, but Greenberg doesn't hit us over the head with that. Apart from a few somewhat anachronistic references to "embedded journalists," she leaves us to our own conclusions. This is political history, not politicized history.
Caroline Shaffer's narration is equally lively. At first it seemed discordantly "peppy" to me, but as I got used to her style of delivery, I realized her unflagging energy was keeping me drawn to the story. All in all, I really enjoyed it.
"Washington's Crossing" is a great narrative and has plenty of surprises. I'm no expert on the American Revolution, but I've read three or four books on the subject, as well as a couple of biographies of George Washington; and I don't remember any that laid out the action of this part of the war, or the stakes for the colonies, as clearly as this book.
I knew in broad outlines how disastrous the summer and fall campaign of 1776 was for the Continentals. Washington lost Brooklyn, Manhattan, and most of New Jersey in one long, nearly continuous, retreat. But I didn't know a lot of the details: the atrocities committed by the British and Hessian soldiers in New Jersey; the activities of New Jerseyites in fighting back; the second battle of Trenton, with Washington facing off against Cornwallis (and making a brilliant night march around his flank to attack the garrison at Princeton). I never thought about the vast difference in the way British generals and Washington held councils of war, and what that meant for the future of the republic. It never occurred to me that the very different way British and Americans treated their prisoners was a key to what the Americans were fighting for, and a reason why they were successful. (Americans gave quarter. British and Hessians did not. In both cases it was a matter of principle.)
Fischer also does a remarkable job clarifying what made Washington such a good leader. He learned from his mistakes, and he learned fast; and he valued the opinions of his subordinates, and fought tirelessly for the comfort of his men. He may not have always led from the front - sometimes his subordinates refused to let him do so - but he would never have been caught miles behind the lines in the arms of a mistress.
The problem with the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, says Fischer, is that it makes Washington look Napoleonic; and there was never a general who led - not commanded - his army in a less Napoleonic manner.
Good narration from Nelson Runger. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Includes an interview of author by narrator that talks about a lot of the surprises Fischer himself encountered when researching the book.
I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.
Never before had I read a firsthand account, from primary sources, as damning as this book. All of the negative superlatives that one could pen I have not the number of commas in my repertoire to string them together. You get a striking picture of Hitler, who he was, what he did and how he failed. As grotesque as he may be, the intellectual flyweights he surrounded himself with defy understanding. How, intelligent and gifted military leaders allowed themselves to be led into the manifest slaughter of innocent people – well I have no words. Read the book and you too will be speechless.
The book is built on primary reference materials and hence, I confess, unless I had listened to it, I would not have been able to get through it. It is essentially a 50 hour audio documentary. Although I could not listen at my usual three to four hours a day because I was so disturbed and depressed by the subject matter, I had to finish. And, to think, how close Hilter came to winning on at least four occasions makes me breathless about what evil he would have wrought and what the world would have been like today.
Hitler came to power and in twelve short years of rule and conquest - five of them in war - caused over 30 million people to be killed, not mention the number of people forced to kill on his behalf or to fend off those trying to kill them. It is a testament to how a single perverted point of view with power to influence the masses can spin lies and deceit that move ordinary people to be puppets. Looking to today’s world situation, you have to ask yourself whether parallels exist. You must listen to this book! I also highly recommend the Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk which is a true story set with fictional characters. For a Japanese view of history, read Flyboys by James Bradley.
This is must read for a serious historian. Do not expect to find gruesome details; expect to find a documented story that causes you to reconsider history and today’s world.