No, I don't live in a house where goat-paths thread among stacks of newspapers, magazines, and assorted junk. But even as I listened to Caron's excellent reading of this well-written book, I couldn't help but notice how many of the traits of the sufferers of extreme cases of hoarding I had, or could recognize in friends and family members - though never so out-of-control. The authors never overclaim - they are genuine scientists who remain cautious and skeptical of their own tentative conclusions. The result is a book that is both fascinating and reliable. It's a happy coincidence when first rate science is done by first rate writers.
Grant, Lee, Parallel
Davis follows the approach of Plutarch's classic "Lives". While he skips a vast amount of biographical material, he does show important similarities and differences in the upbringing, training, early military experience, and eventual command styles and grasp of strategy and tactics of the two great Civil War commanders.
Burns's reading was expressive, moved along at a good clip, and was always clear. History should always be read like this.
When you write about figures as prominent and often-written-about as Lee and Grant, you have to bring something new to the discussion, and Davis does exactly that. Of course, some will be outraged that Davis is not worshipful to Lee (the normal treatment) but instead measures his mistakes against Grant's, and shows ways in which Grant's command style was more effective than Lee's. Davis admires what is admirable about both men, and deals candidly with their flaws. An excellent addition to military history and to Civil War evaluation.
The problem with a book about rationalization of mistakes is that everything depends on your judgment of what actions were mistakes, and what explanations are mere rationalizations. If one person believes he made the right choice, but the authors disagree, then they call his explanations "rationalizations," while if the authors agree, then of course it's not rationalization at all.
The result is that it is the authors who are rationalizing their own biases, and the book is essentially worthless as anything but feel-good reassurance if your views happen to coincide exactly with the authors'.
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