Bottom line, this book provides an exceptional insight into the culture and politics of a burgeoning nation, and it goes a long way to explaining the foundations of much of what we see around us today. It is well written, impeccably organized, and if you don't learn a thing or two about the country after finishing, you might just be the author.
My main contention with the book is that is not a linear narrative, it is organized into a series of topics meant to lay out a comprehensive cultural mosaic, and skips around a lot in painting its picture. To this end it is quite effective, but at the expense of consistent and compelling story. That is, there is nothing passive about this listen, you have to pay constant and close attention to fully appreciate it, less so than you would if it were told as a chronological account with emphasis on the significance of individual events.
That said, it is hard to understate the comprehensive nature of the cultural understanding conveyed in this book. Upon finishing, you will intimately know the people of the late 18th / early 19th century, at all social strata. It is truly a magnificent work.
Personally, I'd always had a very low opinion of Jackson. The major talking points of his life and career tend to cast him in a pretty poor light. The cocky and brutish youth, the recalcitrant and high handed military chieftain, the uncompromising and nepotistic president - a quick survey of the facts paints the picture of a racist, mean-spirited bully without respect for any authority other than his own.
This biography's main strength is that it tempers a lot of these negative characterizations, and fills in some color between the black and white lines which usually define Old Hickory. Now don't get me wrong - I still view the guy as more or less a jerk by any of today’s standards. But provided with just enough context to the progression of his political career and personal character, the sharp edges are dulled a bit. And in turn, I was surprised to detect something of a popular bias in the things I’d read and heard about Jackson previously. And what is good history but learning to see events from all sides?
The storytelling was decent enough. It was a bit uneven, rambling at times with copious amounts of back story, and leaving some glaring omissions at other times. The telling of the Dickenson duel was extremely well done, probably the best portion of the book. The latter part of Jackson’s life, however, was breezed through without as much detail. There was hardly a mention of Polk, which is a bit odd for a guy who earned the nickname of “young hickory”.
All told, this is the best book Audible has on Jackson, and more than adequately does the job of telling his story.
Doesn't match a McCullough or Chernow biography in quality or depth, but I'm OK with that. A little dramatic at times but again, no major complaints. The author's intent is to shine some light on a man who deserves a little more recognition in posterity, and to that effect it is as an informative and entertaining story as one can ask for.
The views expressed often border on humorous, with the story drifting into contemporary biases and rhetoric in its portrayal of characters and events. But then again, that sort of context contributes to the general schtick that the author seems to be after So again, fair game.
I originally downloaded this book for some history on Rhode Island (where I live), and was surprised by the amount of political and cultural context it provides, on both sides of the atlantic.
A good deal of the first half is a sweeping tour of the culture and politics in england that pushed people to look to america to escape an increasingly volatile domestic front. It then details the events in the Massachusetts bay colony leading up to williams' exile and the formation of Rhode Island. In turn, it builds him up as the embodiment of the emigration movement, and ultimately of the independent and free spirit that sparked a revolution and led to the foundation of a new nation.
It does a fantastic job of both painting a cultural picture of that time, as well as transposing its visible impact on the classic american frame of mind throughout the years. For a relatively concise book, it really covers a lot of ground in a very entertaining fashion.
The end kind of trailed off unceremoniously, but it wasn't anything that would diminish my strong recommendation to check this one out.
Also -- the narrator is quite good! He's definitely taken an acting class or two -- very dramatic and lively at times.
Ellis does a good job of breaking off a series of self-contained, bite-sized stories surrounding the revolution, and using them to both individually entertain and collectively pad the context of our understanding of the personalities behind the intricate and delicate formation of a blossoming nation.
For anyone interested in gaining a thorough understanding of any historical events, context is key. Multiple angles help round out events and give the reader as close an angle to first hand experience as is possible. This book methodically does just that. With the assumption that either you know the full story or that the story isn't entirely relevant to the point, this blend of relationships and incidents - in spotty yet vivid detail - Ellis aims to give you a window into the minds of these now canonized men. And in the process he blows an eerie spark of life into them that, in spite of any frustration about his narrow scope, cannot be denied.
Mayor has done a great job of piecing together the fragments of ancient history to paint a grand and vivid picture of western asia in the time of roman imperial dominance. I was drawn into the fascinating blend of political, military, and personal stories surrounding the enigmatic Mithridates and his black sea empire, struggling to assert his dominance in his own lands and his independence from mighty rome. Enough detail for history buffs and enough theatrical presentation for anyone who just likes a good story, this is one of the better historical offerings here on Audible today.
Simply OK. There is little depth given on any caveat in Bonaparte's long and nuanced life. Much of the historical gravitas is lost on what seems to be a cook's tour of this highly influential era in history. However, since Audible is severely lacking in any quality books on the Napoleonic era, this is as good as any available here, and anyone inclined to this period in history can't really do much better than this offering.
Highly recommened for the faithful. Not joking!
Hitch is sure clever. A bit self-satisfied at times, but really quite articulate, and presents a compelling series of arguments.
Although it was great to hear his voice for the proper emphasis at key moments, his narration skills weren't the best. The main issue was the speed - he talked too quickly through a lot of the book. Not an easy listen for any level of audible distraction, you need a set of headphones, or loud, quiet surroundings to catch every word.
I'm not sure if vicarious is the right word, but Max's books definitely invoke the inner adolescent in me.
It's not that I sympathize with his actions, or him as a person - and he does tend to play up his exploits as something more than the silly college boy antics that they are. But he presents an honest, egalitarian approach that he is quite forthcoming about, in the vein of "if you sleep with the dog, you get fleas." Coming from the dog, that's something.
Bottom line you don't have to agree with the guy to find his writing engaging. In fact it works better if you find him repulsive, because the one-dimensional fratboy which is initially presented is gradually chipped away by an elliptical but effective series of rules and principals that he outlines. To be sure, the "rules of the game" angle is an important part of his writing. And either you like it or you don't.
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