When I was 12, I became a Yankee fan and caught the tail end of Mickey Mantle's career. I knew of him as one of the greats, but was also aware he had many flaws. This book tells the story of a man who had the potential to be the best and seemed to have it all - but due to circumstances never lived up to this true potential. This is not a baseball story, but the story of a tragic hero who never really understood why people liked him so much.
Curtis LeMay is one of the more misunderstood heroes of WW II. His legacy was tarnished by his decision to run with George Wallace in 1968. Yet he was one of the most effective military leaders of his era who simply has not gotten the credit he is due. I don’t recall hearing much about LeMay in the various histories of that era, but this book highlights the significant contribution this man made to the Allied war effort in both Europe and Japan. His success in whatever he undertook is quite remarkable.
LeMay was known to be a demanding leader. He came into difficult situations and figured out how to fix them. Perhaps the most controversial was his decision to use incendiary bombs on Japan. LeMay thought he could destroy all industrial cities in Japan by October, a few weeks ahead of the planned invasion in November. The atomic bomb brought an end to that. Later he organized the Berlin Airlift and set up the Strategic Air Command. Worth a read!
This is a book about evil spirits and bad karma in your home and the clutter therein. Nuf said, I couldn't finish this one.
I have listened to a number of books on the Kennedy/Johnson era – and I must say this is by far the worse. From the cover, I thought this book would explore the tight family relationship between these two brothers. Instead what I got was a just another poorly written Kennedy conspiracy book.
The author’s thesis is simple – Kennedy and Castro were going to become friends and ensure world peace after the 1964 election, but there were many important people who did not want this to happen. The Cuban exiles, the CIA, the FBI, bigots, maybe even right wing nuts who did not believe in JFK. There is little in the way of hard facts to support this vague thesis, just innuendo and heresy. The author notes that RFK and all of the “Kennedy’s men” accepted the findings of the Warren Commission, but he speculates that this was because RFK was planning to take action after he became president.
This is a back-to-Camelot book, for those who are looking for that. The author asserts that JFK was totally without blame for the Bay of Pigs, handled the Cuban Missile Crisis without flaw, and would have accomplished much more during his 1000 days were it not for the special interests in and out of government. I think most of us know better.
There are better books about this era. Berlin 1961, Brilliant Disaster and Passage of Power to name a few.
I enjoyed listening to this account of the critical part of Nixon’s career as a politician. Ambrose writes as an historian should – presenting the facts with a neutral perspective. Something rare among those who write about this man. What happened during this period is provably familiar to most, but this account provides a fair narrative of things from Nixon’s perspective.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Nixon (like most Presidents of this era) is the way they run the country with a small cadre of unelected advisers. Nixon and Johnson directed the Vietnam War, yet had no military experience. Nixon wanted to appoint John Connally to be secretary of defense even though he had no relevant experience. In the end it was all about politics..
That Nixon was a flawed man is a given. It’s all here. But what is also here is an example of how a politician needs to make premises he can’t keep and say things he doesn’t believe in – in order to get elected. Very relevant at the moment…
I had a hard time finishing this book - it just seemed to go on forever. Perhaps I was misled by the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the cover. There was very little about the US, instead there were extensive discussions of all the oddities of the British aristocracy and artistic community. Way too much information that I had no interest in, though I am sure there are some who would think otherwise.
The recording seemed a bit off, not pleasant to listen to.
I enjoyed this listen, but must say it was a bit long. It covers a wide range of topics, so some parts are not as interesting to everyone as others. In my case, discussions on how the various parts of the brain function were of cursory interest.
This book changed my thinking about Mankind in some ways. Maybe we are actually getting "better" after all. However, as the author points out, most of the genocide in the 20th century can be attributed to three men - Mao, Stalin and Hitler.
There are some very entertaining intervals among the heaps of statistics dished out. I almost had to pull my car over when I was listening to a lengthy citation of proper manners in Medieval Europe. We've obviously come a long way since then.
This telling of the Guadalcanal story captures the desperation and valor of this critical campaign. The story flows like a novel, and unlike many history books, it really draws you into the story.
What made this story significant to me is the family connection. My father served with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal and I recall him speaking of being abandoned on that island. He was seriously injured during Japanese shelling and evacuated to New Zealand. This book puts all this into context for me.
I previously listened to “Neptune’s Inferno“ which covers the naval battles of the Guadalcanal campaign. That book is an excellent follow up reading as there is little overlap, but they are closely linked nonetheless.
It was a bit of a struggle to get to the end of this book - but I did it. Only for the hard core military history buff. Very technical, lots of jargon.
Straightforward account of Eisenhower’s White House years. Pleasant narration. Not nearly as deep (or as long) as the Truman biography, this book provides some insight into Eisenhower’s beliefs and management style. He was a leader, not a politician. He seems to have taken an active role in international diplomacy, an area in which he had much experience. But in the case of domestic issues he relied on the advice of his staff. He was not an active promoter of civil rights, but when his Supreme Court made it the law of the land, Eisenhower provided the leadership to get it done.
We tend to think of the 50s as a simple, harmonious time – but it was anything but that. If there is nostalgia for this time, it is for the type of leader who seeks office not for self-serving purposes, but because he believes he can help shape a better nation. We could use that today.
While a little tedious at times, this account of Obama’s first 1000 days (give or take) provides insight into why this great orator, who offered a vision of a better America, is an ineffectual President. The extent to which Obama was both supported and advised by the same Wall Street players that got rich while helping to create the financial meltdown is both insightful and disturbing.
I was disappointed to not hear about the influence organized labor played with this President, but this is a story about Obama and Wall Street. The author has some good connections into the inner workings of the administration, but does not seem to have a grasp of how the failures of financial regulation caused the very problems they were supposed to prevent.
The story line gets lost a bit when the author tries to explain the financial meltdown in terms of evil bankers versus virtuous regulators. He meanders into long stories describing how bankers gave into their craving for wealth and power, setting in motion a series of events that almost destroyed the economy.
The story is much more complex than that, as is implied when Lawrence Summers warns Geithner to “never admit you were wrong”. As we all know, Summers was part of the administration that relaxed financial regulation a decade earlier.
I recently listened to bios on FDR, Truman, JFK. I will go out on a limb to say Obama shares FDR’s lack of understanding of what to do, but lacked his ability to give people confidence in what he was doing. Obama and Truman both came from political machines, but Truman did a great job addressing the challenges in the post-war period, while Obama worries about getting re-elected. After listening to “1961” and “Brilliant Disaster”, I conclude Obama and JFK are comparable in many ways – marvelous at campaigning, dismal at leading.
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