Bennington, VT USA | Listener Since 2009
Seminal social history
I think my head would explode. Look, this is the kind of thing that qualifies as Very Legitimate History, and if you want a fairly deep understanding of what made the American Revolution revolutionary in the social sense, it's a great listen. It's probably not what the casual watcher of the History Channel wants to chew on, unless he's in training to go to a Harvard bar and have an argument with a math genius from Southie.
No. In fact, I got most of the way through this, then ordered it in hardcover.
Atkinson has a knack for finding a perfect middle-ground between The War as an event run by entire coalitions of governments and massive military units on the one side, and the troops in the proverbial trenches on the other side. It is therefore more readable than a history of politics and policy or of divisional maneuvers and terrain, while being broader in scope than, say, Jarhead. Stylistically, his writing brings things to life while giving the "big picture" history.
This was my first. As other reviewers have doubtlessly pointed out, he mispronounces household names like Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. He also pronounces Arabic place names oddly; though "Sa-OO-di" may well be technically correct, it's not how anyone pronounced it when I was there twice with Operation Southern Watch. Aggravating.
The book is a series of anecdotes, seemingly anywhere from one to several pages long. It is not organized chronologically or, as far as I can tell, thematically. Each section is titled with the name of the individual at the center of the anecdote, so a story on, say, Dom Dimaggio ends without warning, the narrator abruptly announces, for example, "Roger Clemens," and it's off to the races on his 20-K performance against Seattle. Probably fine in a book, but as an audiobook, it's like sitting next to a talkative and somewhat drunk old man at a Boston bar.
The lack of context around each makes the perpetual shifting of time particularly hard to follow. Oh, Billy Rohr got the Impossible Dream season off to such a start....oh, wait! now we're considering Wade Boggs' penchant for chicken and, strangely, his marriage trouble...but there's no time to figure out what one has to do with the other, because now it's an apocryphal account of that time Harry Hooper threw a ball really far....oh, no time for that, Ted Williams is a fighter pilot now....and now the war must be over, because Wakefield is throwing knuckleballs that only Doug Mirabelli can handle...even an experienced Sox fan - one who likely knows most of these "Amazing Tales" - will find his or her head spinning.
Rearranging the stories into chronological order may have made this listenable....but maybe not.
Some of the anecdotes are interesting-ish...but not as much so as those in, say, Francona, Bouton's infamous Ball Four, or even The Baseball Codes.
Probably not. Lifelong fans already have heard these along the way from the NESN crew or elsewhere, and casual fans will find it perplexing.
Historical primary sources that are this colorful are rare. WWI has been hugely overshadowed by WWII for most Americans interested in history for a number of reasons, one being that it seems obscure, foreign, and bleak to today's reader. Rickenbacker's account gives it an immediacy that cannot be denied: these were young men fighting on the last front of modern war that had some claim to a code of gallantry and chivalry, though total war is by its nature brutal and unromantic.
I like social and military history, so getting a firsthand account of an aviator's life just as military aviation began to develop was right up my alley.
As the book is written in the first person, having it narrated made it feel more like Rickenbacker was telling his story to me personally. The narration is competent and unremarkable, which is probably a good thing with a book like this; the narrator has no quirks that detract from the story.
Absolutely. Any Sox fan who has felt a little like George Steinbrenner or Bill Veeck has been running things at Fenway for the past few years without quite being able to put their finger on why they have that feeling will find a lot of clarity in this behind-the-scenes look at the ballclub from a manager's-eye-view. Things you may have noticed, without quite making sense of, all add up here. I expected a bit of sour grapes, but Tito's criticisms of the organization all fit with the more-than-casual fan's experiences of the Red Sox over the past decade or so, and he invariably qualifies them with the acknowledgement that the front office and the manager's office have different agendas because they serve different purposes for the organization.
Francona, somewhat obviously. It's good to hear that some of his more seemingly boneheaded decisions were in view of the bigger picture. While it sucks to spend money to go to Fenway on a day the team rolls over, Tito explains why sometimes that's still the best call for the team and the organization.
Not sure if I've heard anything else of his, but the occasional mispronunciations of names - it's "Bill Miller," not "Bill Mueller," regardlesss of spelling - exposes him as someone who doesn't follow the team. Distracting? Not terribly. Could they have found ONE narrator who knows the player names for the Boston Red Sox? I'd imagine so.
Funny in spots, sure. Crying....uhh, no.
This is, overall, probably the most addictive audiobook I've gotten in the past year. If you've been a Sox fan, especially if you've been around for the entire career arc of Francona at Four Yawkey Way, give it a listen. You'll be surprised at how many of these games you personally remember, and at Tito's commentary on those games and the circumstances in which they were played. A really nice fly-on-the-clubhouse-wall book that tempts a lifelong Boston fan to root for the Indians in 2013....especially once you learn about what a nutroll the ownership group for the Red Sox is.
If you liked Founding Brothers by Ellis, or maybe 1776 by McCullough, this provides more background into the cast of characters without being a 200-hour commitment. There's enough humanity to keep things interesting to anyone who wants to know more while remaining, under Schlesinger's name, Real History. At not quite twenty-three hours, it moves along at a fairly good clip.
As a work of Real History, it works to steer clear of the modern inclination towards the "WWGWD" (what would George Washington do?) political commentaries disguised as histories, largely by having a different biographer for of each of these men (and having none of them Glenn Beck clones). While none of the biographies are going to be called "the definitive work" on their respective topics, they provide a nice history aimed at the many of us in between high-interest stuff like Founding Brothers and the hardcover biographies most often given as gifts and used only as bookshelf decorations.
Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin comes to mind, though the unabridged version is actually longer than these four biographies combined.....as the biographies are relatively short, you shouldn't expect the kind of in-depth detail found in a stand-alone single biography.
While not dry and dusty, appropriately professorial for the subject matter.
Uhh....it's not really that kind of book.
I've long since recommended it for a read, and now can recommend it even more so as an audiobook. This is a book that deserved a great narration, and got it.
The narrator does a good job with some witty dialogue...he shifts voices and characters smoothly in a book that demands close attention.
As a teacher, I know that it's one thing to understand complex ideas; it's quite another to articulate them clearly to someone who lacks a good frame of reference for understanding. Hawking's real genius is not in his knowledge and understanding of complicated ideas, it's in his ability to simplify them so that a guy like me, who dropped high school physics because it seemed so much like pure magic, is able to understand them on a basic level.
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