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.
If you want to see how company- and platoon-level combat played out between Normandy and the fall of Berlin, this is the one you want. If you want the "Big Picture," I recommend Rick Atkinson's The Guns At Last Light. Reading both - I suggest Atkinson first - gives a really nice appreciation for what US troops faced between June 1944 and April 1945.
This is the best of Ambrose's audiobooks that I have listened to or books that I have read. If there is a better audiobook or book out there covering the troop's-eye view of combat on the western front of WWII, I haven't seen it yet.
It's definitely full of action, and Hampton's career has been long and varied enough to provide a view from the cockpit in many different scenarios, from training, through Desert Storm and the "intermission" as he calls the time between the wars, through 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It gives you a view to a lifestyle most of us will never see very closely.
As someone who worked alongside (I'm sure Hampton would say "under") the F-16 jocks out of Prince Sultan Airbase as a member of the Army medevac detachment in Operation Southern Watch, I can definitely say he nailed the voice of a fighter pilot, and he pronounced everything correctly, not to be taken from granted when acronyms and middle eastern locations are involved. His tone carries the right amount of arrogance and derision for non-fighter pilots to be a believable voice for the author.
I understand that separating a long military career from politics is difficult. But the editorializing became too frequent and a bit distracting. (If you're wondering, the author applauds George W. Bush's strong and resolute leadership in going to war, but badmouths Clinton's maintenance of the no-fly zones as an attempt to distract the public from his marital indiscretions, and his line of reasoning in how 9/11 led to OIF in the first place is an exercise in jingoism over logic.)
As these political asides begin to pile up, you start to wonder if this guy has a long-term beef with civilian control of the military, one of the basic tenets of US military policy from its inception. This can be seen in other military memoirs - the otherwise outstanding No Easy Day comes immediately to mind - and I know from experience that the "ours is not to question why" attitude is hard to maintain when it seems like your life and death are a political poker chip, but that's ultimately part of the job.
Overall? The action and the revelations are very, very good, but by the end of the book, you might not like the protagonist very much. I came away with great respect for his "particular set of skills," but not for his professionalism outside the cockpit.
The author made me rethink not just how I view the umpires (and, as he points out, when they are succeeding, we don't view them at all), but how I view baseball. Lots of insight on topics you just don't really think about, like what exactly this mythical beast known as a "strike zone" is, or the labor issues these guys have had to deal with, or how a call that appears on replay to have been blown is sometimes, in protecting the game's integrity, the right call.
The umpires come out of this as larger-than-life characters, and they're almost all likeable.
Steiner didn't do impressions, but his voice fits with what umpires should sound like: naturally jocular, middle-American guys with big voices who can convey authority and gravitas between the lines.
It drags a bit when the author describes the process of making an umpire: schooling, minor-league assignment, and the slow slog to the top. But it's worth getting over that early hump.
As someone who has played, watched, and coached baseball, I got a new perspective on a thing I've seen thousands of from many different angles: a baseball game. How many books can deliver that?
As someone who grew up on the movies, it was good to get a more complete picture of the Corleone family, which this book provided. Puzo's writing is good, I suspect as good in his medium as Coppola in his own.
The other Puzo books, of course, though they are a bit harder to keep up with, because I'm not familiar with where the plot will go next, as I was with The Godfather.
It was a good decision to do this audiobook this way - there is a lot of dialogue - though I found myself envisioning the cast from the film delivering the lines, for good or ill. Michael in particular sounded to me like they intentionally hired someone whose voice was similar to Pacino's, which was probably for the best but a bit distracting.
If you liked the films, this should hold your attention well. It moves along at a brisk pace, but anyone familiar with the general arc of the story should be fine.
Probably not - though I might listen to specific chapters on certain leaders to reorient myself to them when I run across them in other books.
Pershing was interesting. On the flip side, I came away with less respect for Patton.
Most of this is broken down into portraits of particular leaders in the United States' major military conflicts, though there are also interesting chapters on how western military leadership changed from the French Napoleonic model to the Prussian model. The transition from horseback generals to administrators gives better understanding of the context in which each of these men succeeded in their craft. Overall, it was informative and interesting, and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting an overview of the evolution of western military methods and leadership.
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.
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