As an auditory learner, I much prefer books narrated.
The Ken Burns Filmography on the same subject, which is not as detailed.
I listened to "The Stand" by Stephen King, and "Jurassic Park" which may have been him, though it was unaccredited if it was. The Stand was excellent, and exceptionally well done.
I probably would have reacted more emotionally to this work if it had been given the dramatized aspects that Ken Burn's work had.
I'll let this review stand for all three volumes. It is probably the most comprehensive and detailed account of the period of the civil war to ever be published, and it is delivered in masterful aspect. Gardner was in my opinion one of only three narrators who could have pulled this off, the other two being David McCullough, who could have done it better, and possibly Simon Vance.
Superbly written and movingly read, this series is not to be missed by any American citizen who can be encouraged to listen to it. All should.
You might be put off by this books length. You will cherish every second of it. Shelby Foote was an immeasurable treasure. He relates every cough of generals and soldiers and how they impacted the battle and war.
This book or rather's a series of three books was an awesome review of man, honor and forgiveness. The narrator was awesome.
The best of the 3 volumes. Editing issues seemed to be resolved. The complete set was well worth the listen. Gives you a detailed summary of this event. Has a good mix of battles and politics behind certain events.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Compendium of Facial Hair and Human Tragedy Dispassionately Told
This is a review of all three volumes, consisting as they do, one massive narrative history. Having read several listener reviews and having watched Ken Burns’ PBS series on the Civil War in which Shelby Foote is a frequent contributor, I was anticipating a masterful immersion into Civil War history. I was, however, disappointed at the disjointed and disoriented feeling these books gave me. Hearing brief segments of Shelby Foote on video explaining the stories of the Civil War is rich and fantastic. His Southern drawl is warm and interesting. But hearing Grover Gardner read Shelby Foote’s words is a quite different experience.
Perhaps it is the massive scope that this work attempt to encompass. There are a very great number of military campaigns to relate and a cast of thousands to profile. The political currents are covered and are the best parts of this work. The battles scenes seem to blur together—this could very well be an accurate sensation of the confusion and fog of was—but as a listening experience, confusion is not one of my goals.
Foote is obsessed with the descriptions of the men involved in the great struggle. His description of the facial hair of the various military commanders borders on obsessive and would be sufficient for a police sketch-artist to provide an accurate drawing of the perpetrators General—would that he spent as much of his talents on providing equally perspicacious accounts of the details of the various military campaigns.
In all, the trilogy covers a lot of ground, relating the Civil War in a series of smaller anecdotal accounts of various other elements, political campaigns, military campaigns, and soldiers camping out in the field waiting for the order to suffer the pains of battle. I can say that I learned a lot from this work but I found myself trying to place the various tidbits of knowledge within the framework of the Civil War that I already had in my head. This work did nothing to modify or improve the framework of Civil War understanding that watching Ken Burn’s PBS documentary had placed there years ago, and so I consider it a failure in being a definitive history of the War Between the States. I just finished listening to 132 hours of material on the Civil War and I feel as if I need to again watch the Ken Burns documentary to put thins back in historical perspective.
For examples of successful narrative histories in three volumes you may want to listen to Richard J. Evans’ insightful Nazi history in three volumes: THE COMING OF THE THRID REICH, THE THIRD REICH IN POWER, and THE THIRD REICH AT WAR. If biography is what you are seeking look no further than William Manchester’s account of the life of Winston Churchill: THE LAST LION: VISIONS OF GLORY, THE LAST LION: ALONE, and THE LAST LION: DEFENDER OF THE REALM—the last co-written with Paul Reid.
The production values displayed in Shelby Foote’s Civil War audiobook are not up to the average book available here on Audible, or even the average Blackstone audiobook. There are many shifts in voice tone and timber that are characteristic of the breaks where edits are made between recording sessions. In places the edits occur several times within a paragraph. It seems that the editing choice was made to re-record a little as possible, choosing instead to insert the corrected words and phrases in place of having the narrator re-read a corrected section entire. Sadly, this is not the most discouraging word I have on the subject.
Grover Gardner delivers his usual perfect diction and impassive monotone delivery. If you love him this will be fantastic for you. I know he is very popular, the past winner of several Audie awards. He, for me, is always an obstacle to be overcome. Sorry. find that hearing his nasally voice in my head for several hours causes my soft palate to elevate as I unconsciously attempt to sub-vocalize his high-pitch intonations along with his voice in my ear. To be fair, he is always easy to understand and reads with great pacing. The timbre of his voice carries well, making it a good choice for listening in a noisy environment. In fact, having loud ambient noise helps take the focus off of the voice quality making it easier to tolerate. The problem is that Mr. Gardner never becomes “the voice in my head” that some listeners find so desirable. He is too intrusive, an alien infringement on the solace of my mind. And, what is more, he does not do character voices. I prefer a more dramatic performance, one that does not try to read to me but that tries to paint visual images with different voices and characterizations on the canvas of my mind—a performance. I prize many fiction narrators for their dramatic talent. Some may say that such melodrama may be fine for fiction but not for non-fiction. They seek someone to just read the words on the page. I disagree, seeking over-the-top performances in all my audiobooks.
Yesterday when I knew that my time with Mr. Gardner was coming to a much anticipated end, I took the opportunity to play sections of several audiobooks that I had loaded on my phone, to my daughters at the dinner table to elicit their reactions. (I am trying to cultivate the next generation of Audible customers.) First I played a brief section of Christopher Aruffo reading POE, then I played Tavia Gilbert in HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE, both of whom they thought were excellent. I followed that with Jonathan Davis’ inspired rendering of SNOWCRASH, Wil Wheaton in READY PLAYER ONE , Charles Stransky reading RED MOON RISING, Jack Vance delivering SHERLOCK HOLMES, and then Rob Inglis doing Tolkein. These garnered less enthusiastic reactions but all were deemed worthy. After these we excerpted Bronson Pinchot reciting ON STRANGER TIDES and Todd Mclaren doing ALTERED CARBON, two of my absolute favorites: my daughters concurred. Then, without fanfare, or warning, I played a bit of THE CIVIL WAR, narrated by the award winning Grover Gardner… All three of them burst out laughing. One daughter described the experience as, and I quote, “like a man with a frog in his throat talking while pinching his nose.” Aptly put.
Well, I'm very focused on certain books. You have all the Asimov books I want, but by some unbelievable oversight, no Robots and Empire!
Reviewing Shelby Foote's narrative is almost as complicated as the material it proposes to explain. Brining the Civil War to the average reader (listener) is difficult in itself; it is grim history, and that is the only thing everyone agrees on. Limited to facts, it's dry and short, because every piece of information comes from the writing of those intimately involved in a radical clash of viewpoints, so facts come in the form of dates, names, and sometimes, numbers. Foote endeavored, therefore, to put a narrative forward, not a history, and as such, this is a masterwork. But even Foote had his point of view, as a Mississippian in the late 1950's to early 1960's, and so it is good to know as much history as there is before diving into the nearly six full days of solid narration. Foote's bias is, not surprisingly, toward the south, and is very subtle, so if you know the history as well as the average student, you will find yourself filling in the blanks without thought. Blanks are the primary vehicle of bias for Foote, along with some understatement, a little overstatement, and conclusions that are not wrong, but not provable either. The bias also tends to highlight the deeds of armies, which are not the main focus of the narrative, which makes itself indispensable by tying the economy, politics, interpersonal military relationships, even the weather, into a story that the reader will not put down after the first chapter of dusty names and numbers. In this way it has not only become shorthand for historians, but appeals to academicians and casual readers alike. As I said, it is complicated, but less that 5 stars of 5 is not a credible score.
The performance is almost flawless. This may sound like hyperbole, but I've listened to it backward and forward, and it doesn't get old; Gardner's reading is both businesslike and interesting, and aside for a problem pronouncing Spanish town names in New Mexico, hits names, dates, intonation, inflection, structure and cadence despite the quaint turn of phrase from the 1860's, the complicated sentences that Foote enjoyed, and the rapid change from dry humor to dark descriptions that litter the text. It is completely enjoyable.
The weakness of this package is the overall quality. I was disappointed to find that the recording is noticeably uneven, making editing breaks so obvious as to be distracting at times. Even so, the Gardner and Foote make this, warts notwithstanding, something that anyone interested in our country's first major course correction.
I have now listened to the entire three volume work three times! I do not get tired of it. A great mix of history, anecdote, interesting, hard core, light, invaluable for today....how did Shelby Foote do it?!