This is a huge, sprawling, masterpiece of a book which chronicles the history of the US from the depression era through the early 70's. The writing is tremendous, very human, finely detailed and yet broad in scope. Concentrates much on biographies, but also enables one to understand economics, politics, wartime strategies, and more, through explanations that are very accessible to "lay readers". Extremely engaging, even thrilling.
Frustratingly, the recording is of extremely bad quality, with many- and I mean MANY skips which I presume to be from the source discs. This makes several sections quite hard to understand.
I am trying my best to keep going despite the terribly distracting skips. I don't want to tell you unequivocally to stay away, because it's such a fine work, and the narration is quite good too. But beware of this issue.
One of the best history books covering any period ever written in my opinion. It offers the reader the unique experience of living through this period through the eyes of the forgotten men and women who lived these times. It is truly a unique work by a uniquely gifted writer. Instead of a top to bottom history, focusing on events, dates, battles, meetings and leaders of the time, this is a bottom-up version of history with attention focused on what ordinary men and women felt, did, suffered through, and ultimately triumphed in taking the US from a 2nd rate power to the predominant super power in the world. When you listen to Rock Bottom, you feel like you are living and suffering through the depression, listening to Roosevelt, or been just told that Kennedy was shot. By the end, you feel like you just lived through this entire period of history.
Downside: This is a terrible recording. The narration is way too fast. I had to listen on slower speed on my ipod, or the pace would just be too fast to listen to. Second, there is static which makes certain sections hard to listen to (see on line sample). Most maddening is the “skips” in which words or sentence fragments are skipped in the second section of the book. It sounds like an old LP record where the needle skipped. It is maddening and incredibly distracting.
I would offer future listeners encouragement that once you make it through the 2nd downloadable segments, the worst is over and the rest is from an audio standpoint considerably better. I wish Audible would offer a better version
After listening to the whole work, I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in this period of history, but after struggling through the 1st and 2nd segments, I almost gave up and was extremely upset that this product would even be sold. Overall, however, this is the as good a book I have read/listened to.
Furst of all, this is an outstanding audiobook - outstanding text, outstanding narration. It was long, but very, very engaging. I loved it all the way through.
So why only 2 stars? Many, many technical glitches. Worst of all were the skips, especially in Parts 2 and 3. Although they did become less frequent in the latter half of the audiobook, they were still frustrating enough to spoil it for me.
I live and breathe audiobooks ... member of Audible for years and generally very appreciative of the service that's provided... This book could have been so great to listen to, a masterpiece of cultural history. The sub par production however, comes close to being as much a negative as the writing is a positive. The audio reminded me of a vinyl record where the needle advances and my imagination must fill in... such a shame to have a Great reader, Great writer, Great subject and such irresponsible production.
If it were possible I would have listened to the whole book NON-STOP. How the book was written it's self is excellent and then only made better by the way it was read. Actually a 5+ in my book. The occassional insertion of interesting asides really added to how it was read.
yes yes yes
After reading this book I had to read everything else by Manchester. Sadly the other books did not live up to this one. A must read for anyone interested in this era. I actually have listened to it a couple of times.
I had read other reviews about the fast pace, general dissatisfaction with the narrator and the choppiness of the way material was presented.
But none of this deterred from my enjoyment. The audio is a bit compressed occasionally but overall this was one of the best books on tapes I have received
Giving Manchester his due, this book is remarkably listenable and compelling, and Jeff Riggenbach reads it superbly; it's clear he's the perfect match for the author. As a result, just as a good book is hard to put down, I found this audiobook is awfully hard to switch off.
Yet it frequently left me feeling annoyed... And its flaws and omissions are not confined to the many places where the audio skips (as mentioned by other commenters); in fact, those skips seem relatively minor annoyances, when you consider how many hours of good listening you get for just one credit. For me, the bigger annoyances are those of Manchester's biases and emphasis.
As it happens, I read this book around fifteen or twenty years ago. At the time, I loved it. As in his multivolume Churchill biography and the assorted magazine essays I'm familiar with, Manchester had an amazing gift for lively, brisk, readable, colorful popular history spiced with memorable quotes and well-chosen details (all of which probably set him apart from his fellow academics). Subsequently, however, I've read a good deal more twentieth-century U.S. history, and Manchester's biases in this book -- his left-of-center politics, rather uncritical adulation of unions, slightly sentimental affection for working stiffs, scorn for businessmen and disdain for Republicans (whom he tends to caricature), worship of FDR, and penchant for breezy generalizations about the American people and their opinions, from bobby-soxers to G.I.'s -- seemed more glaring this time around, and more irritating. I sometimes felt as if I were listening to a sort of scholarly Joe Biden (and that's not a good thing) or a medley of Time magazine essays (also not a good thing).
I was also irritated by the very chapters I remember devouring with the greatest pleasure the first time around: those that focus on World War II. Any book that encompasses this much history is bound to be a bit superficial, but Manchester's treatment of many key aspects of the war seems almost inexcusably hasty. The Fall of France, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz are barely alluded to (though for some reason Julie Andrews receives three mentions); the Battle of Midway -- one of the most crucial events of the war, and easily one of the most dramatic -- is described in two or three paragraphs, and somewhat confusingly at that. (His much lengthier coverage of Pearl Harbor is also a little confusing, though still gripping.) Because Manchester himself fought in the Pacific, we get plenty of that side of the war, plus a very skillful account of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the bombs. But D-Day, Omaha Beach and all, gets -- astonishingly -- just a few sentences; so does the Battle of the Bulge (which is personally disappointing, since my father fought in it); Market Garden isn't even mentioned; and yet the intricacies of Franklin Roosevelt's medical history, the various worrisome signs of his failing health, his behavior at his final public appearances, the feelings of his doctors and various colleagues and relatives, the minute-by-minute events leading up to his death, the memories of various people as to what they were doing when they learned of it, the exact wording of the news flashes, the minutiae of his funeral and its press coverage -- all are treated in endless, almost microscopic detail.
In sum, Manchester was a wonderfully gifted writer, and his talent makes anything he chooses to talk about in this breezy, colorful, lively narrative fairly enjoyable. But in the end you're likely to come away with a somewhat distorted picture.
I might listen to it again in the future- as some of the details could need refreshing, and I found the experience relaxing.
I'd compare it to the podcast "Whistlestop" from John Dickerson (of Slate's Political Gabfest and Face the Nation - I purchased this at his recommendation) - it has the same sort of appreciation of the multiple perspectives of history from the big events to the little cultural details that just belies a love of history that becomes infectious.
I really enjoyed the section on the Bay of Pigs invasion - I had never understood JFK's decision until I heard the whole story here.
This is audiobook was practically it's own hobby - it's a great value for 1 credit.
There were some damaged areas of the audio files, and my attempts to address them with audible support were failures. (Support basically didn't closely read my comments after asking me where to detail the issues with the audio book
This is a very good book. It isn't just extremely informative but is written with an elegant prose that makes it very enjoyable. I also liked the way it elaborated on details of daily life at certain points, giving you an idea of what it would have been like to be alive at that point.