This book is a gem. Five stars all the way! Most other books on the topic are either dry and boring scientific talk or they are too crude and juvenile. This book is a perfect balance of education and entertainment. As someone who is medically trained, I still learned quite a bit from this book, but was entertained as I learned. The author uses appropriate and well-thought out humor that makes the read very enjoyable. The reader can, at one moment, be caught in a state of marvel with the science while at other times giggling uncontrollably from the author's own humanness and wit.
I think this book is for everyone, young and old. I would even go as far as to recommend it to high school students who want to know more than the standard "birds and bees" talk in sex ed class. It's entertaining enough to keep young folks engaged, yet scholarly enough to be considered a good supplementary textbook. I think back at the boring pamphlets and other materials I got when I went through sex ed as a young adult. I can't imagine how fun class would have been if I would have had this book as additional reading, or even to read on my own since the information I got back then was so abbreviated and boring. Of course this isn't meant as a primary text for sex ed, it would make an excellent complimentary text for those who want to dive a little deeper and laugh while learning.
I read/listened to the audio book version and would recommend the audio version over the text because the narrator does such an excellent job in timing the humor so perfectly and even doing some voice characterization.
While the story is somewhat entertaining, overall the concepts it conveys is terrible (unless of course you're a conservative Christian). About 3/4 of the way through the story, I noticed on the book's cover image that there's an endorsement by Rush Limbaugh. That should be all the explanation necessary. However, I'll point out some of the agenda this book tries to carry:
Of course in a novel with a conservative spin, the U.S. President is a Democrat who abhors war and seeks Middle East peace. The author portrays him as a weak "peacenik" whose hopes for diplomacy are naive. He's constantly ridiculed by characters for not taking more aggressive action against potential threats, wants to negotiate with the bad guys, putting his ambitions for diplomacy over the safety and security of the nation.
Religiously, the author slowly starts "preaching the gospel" to you through the characters. The preaching gets thicker and thicker as the story unfolds. It becomes terribly annoying and in some instances, several passages are just characters giving mini-sermons about accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, quoting and reading scriptures. At times, the pro-Christian theme is downright unbelievable (millions in Iran who are secretly Christian). All of this "follow Jesus" talk ends up ruining the story for the non-Christian or non-Conservative listener.
The worst part of all however is that the story portrays Islam as the source of the antichrist, with its leaders being demonically possessed. I'm not even Muslim (I'm a mainstream Christian) and I found this idea to be very offensive in that regard...I can hardly guess what a Muslim must feel while listening to this book.
It's garbage like this that is the cause of so much of the anti-Islamic/Christian-superiority sentiment in our country. It's why people outside of the U.S. tend not to like us. It's the classic conservative Christian "end of days" story of the good and righteous Christians trying to save the world from the evil Muslims who want to destroy the world.
It's really sad because the story really could have been a good one without all of the conservative Christian agenda bleeding through so heavily.
I was a bit skeptical that this book would be non-partisan, but it is! And this was my biggest (and most pleasant) surprise. Maddow is critical of all administrations (Republican and Democrat) and makes good arguments. I certainly hope she continues to stick close to the topic and write another book over time as we progress (regress?) in the way we wage and fight wars in the future. Conservatives, do not fear reading this book. It will not upset you in the sense that the criticism doesn't focus on the right. Where it will disturb everyone (and rightly so) is that it's critical of an overall philosophical move that we've made in our military policy as a nation over time, through Republican and Democratic administrations...the CIA drone strikes ordered by Obama as one of the primary examples.
My other overall "surprise" is how intelligent Maddow is. I always knew she was smart, but wow, it's really evident in this book that she's quite brilliant. I always consider myself quite astute with geopolitics, but several times I had to stop the book (audiobook) to absorb everything and consider what she was saying. The reader has every right to dispute the arguments or Maddow's opinions, but it would be really hard to dispute her intelligence.
Finally, I really like the book because it's not dry policy wonk stuff. Maddow uses lots of wit and great lines to make the book entertaining. To get the full effect of this, I would highly recommend the audio version since Maddow narrates her own book, so the timing and inflection is natural and quite funny in some spots (even given the serious nature of the topic).
I couldn't stop listening. Usually I listen to my audibooks while falling asleep but this book is far too exciting than to be a "sleep inducer". In fact, when I had things to do around the house, I kept listening. I usually don't do this (so I can focus on either the story or on my work) but I just couldn't stop listening. Loved it! Will definitely look for more books by this author.
Good book overall. The first several sections with Truman and Eishenhower are more political history than relationships within "the club" but this improves as the book goes on and there's more info about the actual relationships and interaction of Presidents.
The biggest downfall of this audiobook is the narrator. He speaks in the same exact cadence over and over again. It doesn't matter if he's quoting someone or simply narrating, the cadence, emphasis, etc. is irritatingly repetitive. I could actually give you a voice example mocking his style if I could upload a audio sample here...It's would be comical if it weren't so repetitive. He also does almost zero voice characterizations (acting) so unless you're paying close attention, sometimes you don't know if a President is speaking or a staffer or another political figure. The only exception I noticed was in characterizing LBJ's voice with a bit of a Texan accent, but it's very slight.
Sadly, it's REALLY hard to listen beyond the narrator. He's so distracting that it's hard to listen for very long.
This is one endorsement that I would NOT recommend the audio version, but would recommend the actual book (read it yourself).
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