There were magnificent aspects of this book and equally terrible ones.
First, the book was published in 1984 - 27 years prior to my reading it. The content of the book - the dissection of epic failures of leadership in history - is still as compelling as ever. For example, upon listening to the account of King Montezuma's approach to marauding Spaniards drew an immediate parallel to me of the way in which US President Obama has deigned to handle disputes with Congressional Republicans who've publicly stated their primary goal as being the destruction of the President at all costs.
Many lessons in history are prescient and almost all of Ms. Tuchman's eclectic selection of stories (I don't understand why Troy is included though, as it's, as the author essentially admits, more mythology than history) from history are indeed excellent studies for all leaders - regardless of whether leading in politics, business, local groups, classrooms.
Second, the detail of the accounts are scrupulously laid out and points are painstakingly substantiated. Of course, audio books don't have the luxury of a bibliography to review, but for a few reasons, I'm convinced Ms. Tuchman's accuracy is beyond reproach.
On the down side, the narrator is utterly infuriating. I'm in the US and the narrator is from the UK. I've worked with folks from and have been to the UK. I've always found the Queen's English to be quite pleasant. But until this narrator, I've never spoken with any British person who spoke just like Elmer Fudd.
Maybe I'm just too intolerant, but "heawing of the tehwwible results of" this speech affect forced me to take this book only in small doses. And at 17+ hours, it made the consumption of the work a long and sometimes painful process.
Last, the book's theme. The introduction's torturous defining of "folly" and the conclusion's ham-fisted effort to mash these tales of failed leadership (which IS it's actual theme) together under that definition is awkward at best.
Summary: This book is a financial crisis disaster tour that is absolutely mandatory reading for anyone - especially for those with a lot of "technical" crisis reading/knowledge.
The reason I got the book anyway was because I had read Lewis's previous book and I'm glad I did. At first, I read the subtitle "Travels in the New Third World" and thought, "Is the author going to slog around rice paddies in impoverished sections of Indonesia and tell me how they were impacted by the financial meltdown?" It turns out that the subtitle is more of a cynical philosophical statement than anything.
Lewis takes you on a simultaneously hilarious and depressing walk through Iceland, Ireland, Greece, and Germany. He interviews dozens folks from government, finance, and academic organizations who were or are at ground zero of the financial disaster. While interjecting insightful anecdotes of his experiences with local people, he covers the parts played by these varied nations in the run-up to and the aftermath of the crisis.
The mass insanity that he uncovers is simply incredible. And the diversity of the insanity is also stunning. It was so shocking to me that I asked one of my co-workers, a 50-ish man from Greece to help me understand Lewis's depictions of Greek culture. He hadn't heard of the book - and I didn't tell him what Lewis had written. I asked about how Greeks deal with taxes. After 30 minutes discussing that and other topics related to Greece, my co-worker had completely confirmed everything Lewis wrote about the country. And I am certain the vast majority of the US public is as uninformed as I was prior to this book - otherwise, no one would ever say, "we're going to be the next Greece" without blushing in abject embarrassment.
Lewis delivers a thorough, head-hurting treatment of the overwhelming dimensions of the mass delusion (we can all have something for nothing) under which the "free market" constructed a self-destructing global financial time-bomb. Even so, it's packed with laugh-out-loud moments that truly cast a glaring light on the absurdity of these markets and the sometimes insurmountable barriers to reason and progress that human cultures present.
If you know anything about Dave Mustaine, you probably know something about his early childhood, the story of the Metalica betrayal, the frequent trips to rehab, etc.
But in this book, all of Dave's most meaningful moments - from childhood all the way through 2009 - is assembled and presented in a very honest and naked format. Although the narrator occasionally imposed his own influence on the story (e.g. heavy inflection on certain words can change the emotional intensity of a sentence or word), the description of important events of Dave's life and career provide a smorgasboard of psycho-analysis opportunities.
You get the facts from his side, but of course, there are other sides. And there are also plenty of different ways to interpret the events that Mustaine describes in sometimes painful detail, leaving you to wonder "why did he....?"
And in the process, you get the opportunity to see a man. A man neither evil nor saintly - never trying to portray himself as one or the other. Proud but not condescending. A man not so different than anyone else, with great strengths and weaknesses, with tremendous triumphs and agonizingly painful falls, who had to find his place in the world. His path is not the path most of us would take - and probably a path many couldn't survive. But it's an amazing listen. Since I take in audio books only when I drive or fly, I found myself looking for excuses to get on the road and take in the next few chapters.
I was 9 years old when this started to unfold. It was never a topic they talked about in school - ever. And I sure feel like I, and the rest of the nation, lost out on an unparalleled educational opportunity. The entire exercise begs an ongoing debate over who broke the laws/rules in the best interest of the country.
The story, though read with a general sobriety, was nonetheless filled with moments of intensity - exactly what you'd hope for when hearing the story of someone knowingly breaking the law and throwing his career away in order to tell the American people what the "deciders" in government knew about Vietnam, and deliberately ignored, in its arrogant zeal to, well...., just in its zeal.
The interview takes place before the 2008 Presidential Primaries were held, after Conscience of a Liberal was released. I got this because I wanted to get a feel for what that book was about prior to buying it. But the dialog with the interviewer is amazing on its own. Events after the book's release cogent to the election and Krugman's aspirations for the contenders are able to stand on their own. I listened to this in January 2011 after mid-term elections, making it very interesting to correlate to Krugman's more current editorials. I suspect that if a follow-up interview were held today, the buoyant attitude exuded by Krugman in this 2008 interview would be more subdued.
If I found an unabridged version, I suspect the rating would be 5 stars instead of 4. A few big gaps in this version left me wanting more.
If you're looking to get a sense of the horrible toll that the Vietnam War exacted on the young men thrown into its relentless soul grinder, you will find it in this book. You would think accounts like this would make it very difficult for politicians to so cavalierly send soldiers into unwinnable conflicts such as Vietnam.
The author's style is simple and credible. Since I was hoping to hear from a Marine, not a poet laureate, this was welcome to me. You feel like you were there with Clark - and his experiences are vivid. Sometimes painfully so. Clark's story has no pretense and seeks no personal glory. It's honest and sober view of what one young, naive Marine endured in Southeast Asia.
I haven't read the printed version, but until an unabridged version is available, I recommend getting a version that leaves Clark's entire work intact. Failing that, get this book.
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