Yesterday I finished listening to the final volume of this series, and am left feeling somewhere between awe over the sheer value and magnitude of this amazing work and depression over what seems a bit like the loss of a dear friend.
In fact, I'm tempted to start the series over!
Listening to these books while making some independent study of what I've learned from them has been, without doubt, the most personally enriching project I've ever undertaken. My understanding of every aspect of these key years in American history is unlike any other -- including years I've personally experienced.
Given the intense level of detail consistently manifest in this book, I had to continually remind myself that Foote's wasn't actually there to personally document these events.
That said, I should point out that this series is not for everybody. Unless you're serious about really understanding *everything* that happened during the US Civil War, you'll probably grow bored, very quickly.
If, on the other hand, you value deep context and objective examination based on eye-witness accounts and the assessments of noted historians, you'll adore this series.
And then you'll probably buy the print version, like me.
Again, I cannot begin to heap enough praise on this work.
It's hard to follow up on something like Freakonomics, but Super Freakonomics does a good enough job. In the absence of the earlier work, this book would be an unqualified winner, but when compared, it falls slightly short. I simply found many of the "stories" less freaky than the first. Interesting, but not mind-blowingly so. As for the narrator, Dubner does an outstanding job, especially for somebody who does not do that kind of work for a living. Bottom line: worth reading if you liked the first.
This title did not deliver on its original promise of a scientific examination of the co-evolution of humans and four species of plant. Not that it didn't make an attempt, because it did. And yet the author seemed to get consistently -- and deeply -- distracted in ways that I could barely abide.
It's as though the author sold the concept to a publishing house only to discover that there was not sufficient material on the chosen subjects to fill 300 pages, forcing him to compensate with vast spans of particularly annoying and formless (even...Dionysian?) sophistry.
I usually avoid abridged books but this is one title that, had it undergone an intensive (even...Apollonian?) abridgement, would have merited an additional one or two stars.
This was among the best works of military history I've encountered. The story unfolded in a focused, intuitive way, with plenty of the sidebar-type extras that add so much enjoyable texture to this sort of work. My only complaint was the Conclusion, which could have been 75% shorter.
First of all, I think there was a change of narrators at some point, because my version was superb, while the narration offered in the sample on this page was as terrible as many earlier reviewers suggest. So, for the record, the narrator problem appears to have been fixed.
Unfortunately, the basic flaws of story telling remain problematic. I've read many works by Ambrose and have adored them all. This book fell flat for me. Thud. Just when it seemed about to get interesting, it diverged into a morass of not-so-consequential tangents that were hard to endure.
I suspected this would be an interesting work, but was totally unprepared for how shockingly interesting it turned out to be. Having worked in the medical field, I knew of Sulfa only as the poorer cousin of penicillin, and wondered what might be so interesting about the story behind its discovery that would merit an entire book on the topic. Now I know. there are a great many lessons to be considered and internalized in this story. An outstanding work.
This is a deeply compelling history of radical Islam and the circumstances that led to the events of 9/11. Finally, all the strange-sounding Arabic names that have come up since that day have meaning and context. A very powerful work, which I was sad to see end.
Rare is the book that could not use even a little abridging. This is just such a book. From start to finish, the narrative was relentlessly enthralling. How did I spend so many years believing this was a dry topic? Ambrose has succeeded where my history teachers failed.
I'm halfway through this epic piece of research, but I can't take any more. I was hoping for the promised "fresh insights into the conflict’s great events" but instead found an impenetrable listing of one Nazi atrocity after another. From time to time the book threatened to become original and interesting, particularly when examining the Nazi wartime economy and internal power struggles, but these gems were so few and far between the vast and gut-wrenching slogs through Nazi horrors I cannot find the will to go on.
Furthermore, the narrative tying these events together can best be compared to that of a text book (in other words, it's almost absent).
To experience what this book intended, I recommend The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer.
This was an outstanding look at a key period of American history. The narrative was engaging, the stories were compelling, and the reading was flawless.
I've spent my life hearing important WWII stories, but never managed to have quite the sense of context needed to understand how they all fit together. This book analyzes the most important factor of the war -- Hitler's Third Reich -- in minute detail from the beginning to the end. And in so doing, provides the reader with a amazingly thorough understanding of exactly how the world landed in the mess it did.
This work of exhaustive research, beautifully composed and narrated, should be required reading for anybody who values democracy and peace.
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