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Charles

West Monroe, LA, USA | Member Since 2015

63
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 9 reviews
  • 149 ratings
  • 730 titles in library
  • 30 purchased in 2015
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  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Timothy Egan
    • Narrated By Patrick Lawlor, Ken Burns
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1452)
    Performance
    (848)
    Story
    (865)

    The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region.

    Sara says: "A Fascinating History"
    "An American Book of Job"
    Overall

    The Great Depression was depressing, just know that before you download this selection. With that caveat in mind, this is a masterfully researched, well written tale of an important, but under studied area of American history.

    However, it is essentially the tale of a small group of well meaning people going from hard earned success to travail, disaster, and ruin. It is a little like reading an American Book of Job set in the Texas Panhandle without the uplifting ending. There is no redemption. I wish he had gone on told a few more stories of personal success at the end even if it they were stories of people that left the Great Plains or maybe served with distinction in World War II or something.

    However, I am certain that was not his point. His point was to show how development without concern for ecological consequences can, has, and will again lead to social and economic disaster. If you live or grew up in that great swath of the United States from Central Texas to North Dakota this is something you should make yourself read. It will answer a lot of questions that you have probably considered in passing about the development of the Great Plains and, more importantly, how the area should be developed today.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational, and Scientific

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Martin A. Lee
    • Narrated By Nick Podehl
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (57)
    Story
    (59)

    Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana, from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. Lee describes how the illicit marijuana subculture overcame government opposition and morphed into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry. Colorful, illuminating, and at times irreverent, this is a fascinating listen for recreational users and patients, students and doctors, musicians and accountants, Baby Boomers and their kids, and anyone who has ever wondered about the secret life of this ubiquitous herb.

    Gregg says: "I might recommend, but barely"
    "The Tragic Romance of America and Marijuana"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you try another book from Martin A. Lee and/or Nick Podehl?

    Nick Podehl's performance was outstanding.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    In Martin Lee's telling the story is something like a tragic romance between two young lovers: the American people and sweet Marijuana constantly thwarted by cruel, uncaring parents - the Federal government.

    It is incredibly one sided. I agree with the vast majority of Mr. Lee's assertions, but it is totally lacking any balance and in the final analysis I just can't trust it. Martin Lee apparently has never met anyone for whom pot was anything but an incredibly positive experience.

    I believe pot is generally harmless for most people and causes less short term issues than booze, but that doesn't mean it there is no downside to pot use. I've seen it and, oddly, many of the strong pot advocates highlighted in the book, such as the founder of "High Times" Tom Forcade, die sad untimely deaths. I'm not saying they died because of their pot use, but Lee is so focused he never bothers to consider the question. I have no idea, but I am curious about him and the other untimely deaths.

    Also, according to Mr. Lee no one who ever opposed pot ever did so except for the most venal, greedy, shortsighted reasons. And that would be OK, but he is so certain about his opinions. For instance, his description of Pancho Villa is like something from a Villista propaganda pamphlet, and he makes America in the 1940s and 1950s sound as bad or worse than Stalin's Soviet Union. It is just a matter of balance and Lee is so unbalanced that it makes me hesitant to endorse all of his conclusions.

    I believe Mr. Lee would argue that the anti-marijuana crowd have had the floor for the last century and there is a lot of truth to that. Perhaps Mr. Lee lacks a certain confidence, because he could have overwhelmed nearly all of the serious, honest opposition to pot. He simply doesn't try, because he is so busy extolling the many virtues Miss Mary Jane.

    All in all a solid book with a lot of useful information, but not a good balanced book that I can trust as the final word.

    It's like reading Douglas Southhall Freeman's biographies of another Lee - Robert E. Lee. Even seventy years later those are great books, but they are hardly the last word on Lee because Freeman could not bear to ask hard questions about his idol General Lee. In this case, Martin Lee loves sweet Mary Jane. That keeps Smoke Signals from being the final word on marijuana.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Peter Andreas
    • Narrated By Kevin Stillwell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    America is a smuggler nation. Our long history of illicit imports has ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Contraband capitalism, it turns out, has been an integral part of American capitalism.

    Charles says: "The Hidden Story of American History"
    "The Hidden Story of American History"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    A very solid book about an issue that is often just beneath the surface of American history from the colonial period through today.

    There are parts of the story that could have been highlighted more, particularly the issues around smuggling on the frontier in 19th century, but this helps tie together a lot of issues. If you've read a lot of American history this will help you connect the dots to among a huge number of issues.

    It fills a lot of little gaps. Also, I liked that Andreas was careful not to oversell his point. Smuggling has often been important, but, except perhaps for the run up to the American revolution, rarely the most important single issue, and he admits that. However, smuggling has been a constant secondary issue in many historical developments and this book fills a lot of those gaps.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Rachel Maddow
    • Narrated By Rachel Maddow
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1540)
    Performance
    (1398)
    Story
    (1392)

    Rachel Maddow's Drift argues that we've drifted away from America's original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails. Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seriously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a "loud and jangly" political debate about how, when, and where to apply America's strength and power - and who gets to make those decisions.

    Dolf says: "Half the National Debt?"
    "Every Service Member Should Read This Book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Drift in three words, what would they be?

    Fair, Interesting, Important


    Any additional comments?

    Every member of the US military should read this book, because Maddow raises some interesting points about the rudderless, reactive nature of the US military. I was expecting something more classically liberal and I wasn't sure I would really like the book, but Maddow points out how challenging the current situation really is. Maddow point out that the US military is faced with a series of challenges from Islamic radicalism to Putin's revival of the Cold War to the a more aggressive China. She is also respectful and appreciative of the military while questioning a lot of the current doctrine that has developed since 9/11.

    She doesn't hammer Bush or Obama, but points out that the US faces some difficult challenges and explains how difficult the challenges will be in the future. Anyone on the far right or left should read it and try to see that it is not an easy situation. And for service members and their families, who are most impacted by these strategic decisions, in particular should take the time to consider her arguments.

    I consider myself a fighting liberal. I tend to be liberal, sometimes even progressive on domestic issues, but I am extremely concerned about many of the long term strategic problems faced by the United States and the rest of the Western world. Maddow heightened my concerns.

    Also, her read was relaxed. I almost felt like I was having coffee with her and I believe even if you disagree with some of her analysis you will reconsider some of your assumptions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Robin Olds, Christina Olds, Ed Rasimus
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (780)
    Performance
    (504)
    Story
    (507)

    A larger-than-life hero with a towering personality, Robin Olds was a graduate of West Point and an inductee in the National College Football Hall of Fame for his All-American performance for Army. In World War II, Olds quickly became a top fighter pilot and squadron commander by the age of 22—a double ace with twelve aerial victories. But it was in Vietnam where the man became a legend.

    R. A. Frank says: "Top Notch Audiobook"
    "Great Book: More Than Just Flying and Shooting"
    Overall

    Robin Olds' memoirs are more than simply a string of combat stories. I like that type book, but this is about two steps above the standard combat narrative.

    Olds really bares his soul in "Fighter Pilot". He was an old man dying of cancer when he put the book together, and I believe, much like "Grant's Memoirs", his realization that this was his last statement about his life and legacy created an amazing story.

    Olds is brutal in his assessment of fellow USAF officers. He goes after the USAF establishment with the same energy and passion that he went after ME-109s and MIG-21s. For me, this was a special treat, but he also gives credit to hundreds of men of all ranks that he served with. I really liked that he specifically complimented so many of his ground crew and staff officers by name, because those guys are almost always forgotten.

    However, the personal elements are what really make this book special. Olds was admittedly not the best husband and he admits it. The story of his attempts to juggle his career with his family responsibilities are particularly touching. He was a great man, but also a deeply flawed man and I believe that's what makes the portrait so compelling.

    I will admit there are lots of stories about the inner working of his thirty year rise to brigadier general, but I believe that reveals a side of the military that very few civilians ever even realizes exists. In fact, I hope "Fighter Pilot" becomes required reading for young officers. Military wives should read it too.

    I thought I knew quite a bit about Olds before: A hard partying ace during World War II and a sort of modern day Nathan Forrest in an F-4 over North Vietnam. All of that is true, I believe Olds would really like the Forrest comparison, but he was really a much better LEADER and much better THINKER than I ever realized.

    Highly recommended!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Tobruk

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Peter FitzSimons
    • Narrated By Humphrey Bower
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (223)
    Performance
    (126)
    Story
    (126)

    In the early days of April 1941, the 14,000 Australian forces garrisoned in the Libyan town of Tobruk were told to expect reinforcements and supplies within eight weeks. Eight months later these heroic, gallant, determined "Rats of Tobruk" were rescued by the British Navy having held the fort against the might of Rommel's never-before-defeated Afrika Corps.

    J B Tipton says: "Fair dinkum"
    "The Few, The Proud, The Australian!"
    Overall

    This is an outstanding history of the battle of Tobruk and Australia's role in World War II from the point of view of the digger, the average Aussie soldier. It is biased towards the Aussies, who at times Fitzsimmons paints as supermen, but Fitzsimmons admits his bias in the introduction. This is an ode to Australia's World War II soldiers and an entertaining listen, especially the slang. This book is a primer on Australian slang. I thought the narrator was great, but at times the Australian slang may be too much for some listeners.

    "Tobruk" is a great book for serious World War II buffs, because frankly it goes into details about the Aussies that no general campaign history will ever cover. Fitzsimmons is tough on nearly every non-Australian leader other than Rommel, but his critical assessment of Churchill is particularly refreshing.

    If you like "Tobruk" I would recommend "At All Costs" by Sam Moses about the siege of Malta too.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Stephen W. Sears
    • Narrated By Barrett Whitener
    Overall
    (132)
    Performance
    (74)
    Story
    (69)

    The Civil War battle waged on September 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek, Maryland, was one of the bloodiest in the nation's history: On this single day, the battle claimed nearly 23,000 casualties. In Landscape Turned Red, the renowned historian Stephen Sears draws on a remarkable cache of diaries, dispatches, and letters to recreate the vivid drama of Antietam as experienced not only by its leaders but also by its soldiers, both Union and Confederate.

    David says: "Excellent Book"
    "Best Coverage of America's Bloodiest Day"
    Overall

    Great book! Sears is knowledgable and fair, but it is really his ability to create an interesting narritive of an event most readers are already largely familiar with that makes "Landscape Turned Red" work so well. In large measure Sears succeeds, because he weaves in interesting quotations from such a wide variety of sources without distracting the story. He quotes Lee and McClellan, but also from unknown officers and men on both sides. Great work!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Forgotten Man

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Amity Shlaes
    • Narrated By Terence Aselford
    Overall
    (521)
    Performance
    (189)
    Story
    (188)

    It's difficult today to imagine how America survived the Great Depression. Only through the stories of the common people who struggled during that era can we really understand how the nation endured. In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes offers a striking reinterpretation of the Great Depression. Rejecting the old emphasis on the New Deal, she turns to the neglected and moving stories of individual Americans, and shows how they helped establish the steadfast character we developed as a nation.

    Ray says: "One of the Best Books On the Subject"
    "A New New Deal"
    Overall

    The "Forgotten Man" is a valuable piece of revisionist history, and it has both the strengths and weaknesses common among works that attempt to recast history through the eyes of later generations. The greatest strength of the work is that it recasts focus on the people that did and still do largely control the fate of the American economy: the wealthy. The book makes it clear that the resistance of the wealthiest Americans fatally weakened the New Deal. Shale explains in chapter after chapter how the rich moved their investments off shore, filed suit, and lobbied against the New Deal on the radio stations and in the newspapers they owned. However, she never interprets this resistance as a series of selfish un-patriotic choices that only prolonged the nation's agony. Instead, for her the villains are the New Dealers who were concerned about the plight of the average American. Shale lays out a laundry list of failed and misguided New Deal programs and never gives any credit to FDR or his administration or to the New Deal programs that worked. Instead, the book is a one sided polemic against the New Deal. Shale never accounts for the incredible popularity of FDR and the New Deal programs that her heroes worked so hard to sabotage. She fails to mention that the resistance to the New Deal in the South that really started after 1936 was largely driven by fears that the New Deal would weaken Jim Crow and she does not make the connection between some of the successful projects, such as the TVA and Intercoastal Waterway, with the eventual American victory in World War II. If you are really familiar with the New Deal the "Forgotten Man" might be worth a read for a different perspective, but this should not be your introduction to the subject. In fact, among most of the over eighty set FDR is still a hero and I believe that they would disagree with Shale's view of the New Deal as a disaster.

    31 of 72 people found this review helpful
  • The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Leonard L. Richards
    • Narrated By Jeff Riggenbach
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (33)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    In this revelatory study, award-winning historian Leonard L. Richards outlines the links between the Gold Rush and the Civil War. He explains that Southerners envisioned California as a new market for slaves, schemed to tie California to the South via railroad, and imagined splitting off the state's southern half as a slave state. Richards recounts the political battles and the fiery California feuds, duels, and, perhaps, outright murders as the state came shockingly close to being divided in two.

    John M says: "Not typically covered in history class..."
    "A Must For Civil War Buffs"
    Overall

    If you think you have read everything about the Civil War this book will probably give you a new point of view. Serious students of the Civil War realize that the Gordian Knot of Antebellum politics was not slavery, only a handful of extremist questioned the right of southerners to own slaves, but the expansion of slaves into the territories, however this is the first book that I know of that looks at the question through the eyes of westerners. That is really what makes this book worth reading, because it makes it clear just how complicated the problem really was.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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