This is not an accessible book for Americans (at least after the first couple chapters). There are too many descriptions of architecture in far flung parts of the British empire and lots of references to notable families and people (most of whom I have never heard of).
That being said, many chapters provide compelling overviews of the British empire or exciting stories of sieges and wars. And all the chapters are very well written and the narrator is excellent.
The book starts with the constitutional convention, and Burns focuses on describing the framers, and their political motives and ideas. The sections about political theory are very interesting. However, he also analyzes each of the framers as 'leaders'. Unfortunately,his leadership analysis of each is so cursory as to seem superficial.
From 1830-1900 he pretty much ignores presidents and great senators. Instead he focuses heavily on the social woes of the US as well as captains of industry, artists, and especially authors like Whitman and Emerson.
In the 20th century, he covers great liberal leaders like Teddy, Wilson (he loves Professor Wilson), FDR, Kennedy, LBJ and MLK. His analysis of the first three is long enough for him to properly convey his leadership ideas. He also mocks late 20th century society culture - movies, sports, tv, and radio and he mourns the decline of literature, newspapers, liberalism, intellectuals...
Burns has an unusual, interesting take on American history and presidents. I thought that some chapters were too critical of American society to be interesting. But I enjoyed most of it.
This is just trash. Not interested in a baby who had premonitions that planes were going to crash in the world trade center on Sept 11. Or about how a girl who was sick of being raped by her father stuck a needle through his balls and then through his eyeball. Lots of child molestation. lots of incest. lots of disturbing stories mixed with lots of sappiness.
The most striking biography I've listened to/read. It presents a brilliant nuanced picture of perhaps the most brillant, contradictory politician in American history. Caro has an incredible knowledge and understanding of LBJ and his time period. He also writes grandly and beautifully.
Perlstein covers riots, protests and violence in the 60s and 70s in great detail - because they were amazing in and of themselves, and because of his contention that civil unrest fractured America. Although his lengthy descriptions of civil unrest sometimes become tedius, the extent of civil unrest stunned me (I'm in my 20s), and convincingly prove his argument.
I also thought that Nixon was rather liberal for his talks with China and his creation of the EPA. But Perlstein shows how Nixon's idealogy and talking points contribute greatly to modern conservatism. Perlstein also shows how cynically Nixon used the war in Vietnam for political purposes.
You may be slightly overwhelmed by all the details in this book, but Nixonland is nevertheless extremely interesting for those interested in history and politics.
According to Unger, Monroe almost single handily saved America during the War of 1812 and ushered in a post-partisan era of good-feelings. Unger describes pre-cotton slavery as a 'paternalistic' institution (with no hint of sarcasm) and provides an extremely lopsided account of US, native American wars - describing the atrocities that Native Americans committed but not those of the US.
Yet despite Unger's (very) skewed narrative, I found the book fun to listen to. He makes early America come to life in a way that more reflective biographies often fail to.
A World Undone is a very comprehensive history of WW1, yet accessible for non-experts.
Interspersed throughout are sections called "Background" which give compelling accounts of everything from the origin of the weapons used to fight WW1 to the personal history of leading politicians and generals, to the history of the major warring countries. They help the reader get the necessary background to understand the war, yet fit in very nicely with the narrative flow of the rest of the chapters.
The narrator is also excellent.
First, you will be repelled by the narrator's strange cadence. Then, you will note that phrases in German, French, and Latin are left untranslated. FInally, you will realize that Morris is more interested in writing prose than history.
Although Brands makes the questionable claim that capitalism thrives on inequality, and although he pits democracy against capitalism, this book is certainly not biased against capitalism. I initially thought that Brands would portray all capitalists as criminals, and overlook industries' positive contributions to society, but instead he gives a very balanced account of the impact that large corporations had on society.
Also Brands has a knack for giving interesting and funny accounts of scandals or strange incidents. Stories of conspiracies by speculators like Gould on Black Friday (Gould manipulated Gold prices) are the best part of this book.
Parts of this book are just hard to follow and there is too much detail . For instance, Brands account of the cattle industry left me with only a vague appreciation of its impact on the American economy or society, because there was so much detail. That being said, I listen to audiobooks while I exercise and sometimes I'm distracted.
Also, Its not clear why Brand covers certain presidential elections and certain presidents in much greater detail than others. He basically ignores Grants - which I find puzzling.
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