This book truly fills a gap in most histories of the early republic. Most people are vaguely aware of "Marbury vs. Madison" (though I am surprised how many don't know who either of the litigants were, even the famous James Madison). Most people's knowledge ends with that it was the first time the Supreme Court struck down a law as "Unconstitutional." This book does an outstanding job of setting the stage for WHY this was such an important case. Also, some of the intricacies of it, such as that John Marshall was the Secretary of State during the end of the Adams administration who prepared the commissions that were never sent to Marbury (as well as 2 others). It goes into the politics of the time and just how anemic the Supreme Court actually was.
It also, of course, described the decision and the part that made it most remarkable was that the court managed to assert its authority in the least threatening way possible. It said a law was unconstitutional which could be seen as an affront to the legislative and executive branches, however they did it in sch a way that LIMITED their own authority. In effect, intentionally losing the battle (we do not have authority to issue a ruling on a law that is unconstitutional) to win the war (we HAVE the authority to decide whether it is constitutional or not). It was a brilliant balance of judicial restraint, judicial activism, statesmanship, and politics.
To be fair, this author also gives, albeit in very short sections, some of the criticisms of the Marbury decision (like the inclusion of a court hypothetical ruling on a case involving a law that they decided was unconstitutional). They also do point out on several occasions that state courts had declared state laws unconstitutional (however Marbury was the first time the US Supreme Court had done this) so this act was not unprecedented.
FInally, this book finally gives some explanation behind the antipathy between Marshall and Jefferson as well as describing how they were related. Many books I have read have said they were cousins, but didn't describe the "family tree" to explain this. After this book I have a far greater understanding of this and how it affected them both at a visceral level.
My one small caveat with this book is that it does, for some stretches, become tedious, but this is necessary in a story this technical and these stretches were short.
This book definitely qualifies as a 5-star listening/reading experience. It covers ground only lightly trod in any other book I have read/heard. It covers it with fairness and adequate thoroughness.
This is a solid book. It tells the story of Congress trying to come up with a solution to the weighty problem of slavery. The author does a good job of telling all the guises that the debate came under and points out, strongly, that slavery as an institution was pulsing away beneath all the major issues debated and compromised on. He also did a good job of pointing out how "omnibus bills" (a phrase coined during the debates discussed) tend to unite opposition more than solidify support.
My one major criticism of this book is it tends to sugarcoat the failure of the 1830's-1850's Congresses for not addressing slavery more directly. At the end the author tries to argue that the compromises negotiated during this time allowed time for the "north" to solidify itself as the major concentration of population, industry and other advantages that allowed it to win the Civil War. While on the one hand this is likely true it still does not absolve them completely of a significant moral failing in my opinion.
Even with this considered, it is well worth reading as a showing that, even when divisive issues reign if leaders have strong personalities and want badly enough to work it out, they can usually find a way to muddle through.
This is book somehow managed to not be about baseball, business or anything but patting D-Rays execs on the back, but not really giving a reason why. The author spoke of "arbitrage" and how they tried to do that (trading something for more than it was worth for something for less than it is worth) but failed to give an example of it. The storyline was not coherent, the reader mispronounced names (famous manager Lou Piniella is 3 syllables, not 4...ignore the 2nd "i"). Most of the "business" parts of the book had to do with promotions they ran and not the thinking behind them. This is not a good book and I would not recommend it to anyone.
I came into this book with high hopes to understand Benedict Arnold, a character rarely dealt with in other books beyond the "High School History:" He was a great general, betrayed the American Revolution, and escaped into the British Army. Most books do not spend more than a paragraph or two discussing him so I was hopeful this would give me a fuller fleshing out of the story.
I was very disappointed at the beginning. The author covered his childhood through first marriage (and first widowhood) in about 20 minutes. It was not very in depth at all, almost none of the fun details and anecdotes I have come to expect. His description of the beginning of Arnold's involvement in the Revolution like his attempted invasion of Canada were covered in "connect-a-quote" style with him stringing together long strings of journal entries. At this point I was prepared to give the book 1-2 stars.
Then came the battles at Lake Champlain (particularly Valcour Island). This is where the author really found his stride and it was a FANTASTIC reading after that point. He began paralleling the life of John Andre and Benedict Arnold, even a serendipitous meeting between Andre and Henry Knox. He began to shed light on Arnold's character that, while not justifying what he did, at least attempted to make it understandable.
The rest of the book was full of the anecdotes, insights and stories that I had been expecting and hoping for. Its story of his time at Saratoga and his run-ins with General Gates were well told and interesting. This book shot from being a big disappointment to one of the books I will likely listen to again and again, although probably skipping the first hour or two as I did not find them to be very good.
The only negative I found in the rest of the book was a habit the author sometimes slipped into: editorializing. He would insert sentences like "What was Arnold thinking?" and one can imagine him slapping himself in the forehead. These comments kind of broke up the flow he had established and was, in my opinion, self-indulgent on the part of the author.
Even with this, it could not overshadow the writing and the unbelievable true story of what happened and what nearly happened during Arnold's betrayal. It could have worked at so many points, and had it all come together the Revolution likely would have ended there.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Revolutionary War history. It should be a must read.
This book was a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. The format was outstanding as he would give a short narrative of the pertinent action and then go on to give short biographies of a player who figured prominently in the action of that inning. These ranged from the owner, the general manager, that manager, the publicist, the radio broadcaster all the way to some of the fans at the game, and of course Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs.
My only problem with the book was that the author sometimes tried to hearken back to the 1920's-1930's style of baseball writing that was overly flowery. For example, he drifted into obsessively calling the baseball a "white orb" for stretches of the book. But this was not enough to overcome the otherwise outstanding writing.
You do not need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book. He explains EVERYTHING (it has been a long time since I have heard an intentional walk not only described, but the strategy explained), but he was going into his writing assuming that the listener/reader does not know about baseball and I would rather have that than someone who assumes that terminology is understood if I don't know about it.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for insights into a game that can too easily be thought of as a million "Trivial Pursuit" questions. It showed the diversity of the individuals involved and how their lives became intertwined by this one event that they all experienced.
"Forged", like Ehmrans other books, is well researched and written in a style that is easy to follow. Easily a worthwhile listen. Most of the material was also included in his other books "Misquoting Jesus" and "Jesus, Interrupted." I was also surprised that much of the book is about forgeries that are NOT in the Bible. Books that have been found. This was very interesting but I was expecting more time spent on the forgeries he believes made it into the Bible and more time spent on why scholars believe that a given writing is a forgery, and then, for intellectual honesty, also points made by those who do not believe that the text is forged.
Overall, a good book, certainly not a waste of time, but not as good as I had hoped.
This is one of the best books on the Bible I have experienced. Ehrman gives an outstanding expose on how the Bible has changed over the millennia which presents a very real problem for those who believe that the Bible is "the inspired word of God." The fact is that we don't have the original texts and the texts we DO have contradict one another, even when presenting the same verses. We don't have any conclusive way of knowing which of these copies is correct. Scholars have done their best, but that has sometimes led to even more disturbing texts. An outstanding book for anyone interested in the Bible and how the book revered today came into being.
Like other Bart Ehrman books this one is outstandingly well researched and he goes out of his way to present the "standard" narrative for the "Historical/Critical" perspective of the Bible. He is not putting forth any groundbreaking theories at all. His point is that the historical/critical approach to the Bible has valuable things to say about the Bible and presents some of them in a very accessible format.
I do recommend listening to/reading "Misquoting Jesus" before this book because it will introduce you to some of the concepts and gives a good overview of historical changes to the Bible which is valuable to understanding this book.
There is one caveat with this endorsement, though. This would not be a good book for those that are threatened by "poking holes" in Scripture. While this is not the author's goal it could be interpreted as that when he points out discrepancies in the Bible. He reconciles them by pointing out the context that they occur under and the different audiences that are being addressed rather than reconciling them by semantic/historical gymnastics as some conservatives would do.
He also occasionally goes into diatribes against those who denigrate the Historical/Critical approach. He does not say that the Historical/Critical approach is the best, but that it is a valid way to look at the Bible and, sometimes, in my opinion, goes a little far in striking back at some of his critics. That is what kept this book from being a 5-star listen for me.
This book is sometimes miscast as a biography, which, in my opinion, it is not. A biography tells the life story of its subject. The best ones, such as Ellis' and Chernow's biographies of Washington, Chernow's biography of Hamilton, and Isaacson's biography of Einstein show how their beliefs developed and show continuity or explain their changes in attitude. This book is more closely related to Jon Meacham's "American Lion" about Andrew Jackson in that it really only covers their public life after they entered onto the national stage.
With that caveat in mind this is a worthwhile read/listen. While it doesn't give any real particular insights into Madison's character than can be gleaned from other readings it does give enough of a twist to them to make them not just a restatement of things others have said.
Odd feature: I think I heard several times where the reader (and author?) made a simple mistake in their dates. At one point I thought I heard the reader say that "In 1971 Jefferson and Madison were..." Clearly the date is wrong and when I simply made it 1771 it made perfect sense. There were at least 3-4 occasions where this happened. It is kind of frustrating to have to change the reader's words in your mind while you listen, though.
This is a very solid and well researched book. I will probably listen to it again because my main problem was that I lost track of some of the characters of Henry VII advisors and they switched from help to hindrance so many times I had trouble keeping track of them, but this is as likely a problem with my memory as with the book. It does a really good job of describing not only Henry VII and his personality but how it came to influence his famous son, Henry VIII. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in English Monarchical history.
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