A great little volume with clear, concise and persuasive ideas.
If I were a tuition-paying student attending this Professor's lectures I would want my money back. These lectures had very little original to say, were very poorly prepared and had appallingly defective standards of grammer and word usage. Time after time, the lectures are delivered as if a thesaurus were in hand and the professor was pulling out multiple synonyms strung together for no apparent purpose. Someone should tell him that using words with the same meaning over and over does not make one erudite or even rhetorically interesting. It is not even an effective device for emphasis.
To make it even worse, when he shares his judgements about the importance of events, he repeatedly cites examples of what he considers "the most important" in the history of the republic or the world, hyperbole that could be excused if it were not lavished on so many events. How many things can be "the most important" unless the phrase has no meaning (or the author has no memory, a hazardous thing in a historian).
Last, the lecturer repeats phrases frequently as a rhetorical device (much as an old-time preacher would). This adds little to the substance of what he says, although it adds considerably to the time.
This was a very interesting biography but not the author's best work. Too many interesting confrontations are treated with less detail than one might want; others with so much detail that one wonders why. McCullough has a tendency to include details that do not even remotely bear on the story, seemingly included only to show he knows them. He also has a tendency to identify incident after incident as "the most significant" this-or-that.
The treatment of Truman's early life and historical context was fascinating and was worth the price fo the book.
Professor Stern's approach to the issue seemed very promising but both her reporting and conclusions turned out to be very disappointing. She had no balance between the types of "terror" she explored, giving little depth of treatment to Christian and Jewish examples. Her analysis was filled with lots of hand-ringing but little insight into solutions. One came away thinking her greastest suggestion was that the West walk away from globalization, at least to the extent it makes religious zealots uncomfortable. If the rise of religious terror is the by-product of McDonalds franchises, she ought to do better for all the work and risk she endured to gather her impressions.
This story had a great deal of promise in its set-up, but its execution seemed shallow and very unsatisfying.
Save yourself the disappointment. You will learn little about opera, latin america, or hostages.
This is a spectacular book and clearly demonstrates why Dickens should still be read.
I greatly enjoyed the recording. The narrator made it come alive and, considering the 19th century syntax and the voices of the characters, it was quite accessible.
Somehow, I expected this book to do for coal what Mark Kurlansky's excellent book did for salt. However, it fell far short.
To her credit, the author is very up-front about her bias and her political agenda. Her interest in the subject grew out of her involvement in litigation concerning coal, environmental problems and global warming and the book is not disguised in its point of view. If you expect a vivid and detailed history without an agenda, this is not your book. If you don't mind picking through the point of view, it has some nuggets of interest.
Unfortunately, the reviews did not give much of a clue.
I almost felt embarrassed laughing out loud to a Dickens novel, but this was a great reading. As good as any contemporary humour.
The narrator is the ultimate British mumbler and the recording is virtually impossible to understand. If you can understand this, you have much better ears than I.
I will never think of history the same way again. Lots of cool, little twists on historical trends, large and small. Very engaging book.
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