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Ever wonder why lower class, NASCAR watching, Elvis on black velvet types vote against their own self interests? Ever wondered why they view things the way they do? Ever wonder why people become Christian nationalists? This book will make you understand (and make you more understanding) . . . . It is a no BS, no holds-barred, well-researched, kind, and much-needed bit of social commentary.
The personal stories of the various people in the town where Joe Bagaent grew up are engrossing and illuminating. You'll care about these people and their struggles. The book is so well-written that you'll picture sitting in their living rooms, hanging out with them at a bar, or talking with them in their churches. You'll easily see the disconnect between liberal intellectuals and this large segment of the population, and Bagaent's book provides an implicit and explicit guide for bridging that gap.
It is also hysterically funny in many, many parts, and engaging to the point where you will have a hard time putting it down. The narrarator, Fred Stella, may be the best I've EVER heard, and I've listened to 115 books on Audible. His accents are all incredibly authentic (various 'southern crackers,' Scottish brogue . . . ), his comedic timing is fantastic--I can't say enough.
You will NOT regret buying this book!
I haven't read anything else by Elizabeth Gilbert, but she made a great first impression here. I live in Boone, North Carolina, and my land sits just above Eustace Conway's place. Though I'd heard about him, I'd never met him. I bought this book because he drove up on his motorcycle the other day and struck up a conversation with me. He's intriguing, really present, curious, and unassuming. The last was the only thing that remained surprising after reading the book, and it was only a half hour conversation, so I wouldn't profess to know him.
He wanted to see my chickens, I offered him a fig tree in the spring, and we talked about asparagus. We also talked about solar heating, a green house I built, and he offered to show me how to do some blacksmithing, which I'll gladly take him up on. The whole encounter made me really think about modern interactions, or our lack thereof. Nobody's ever just walked up to my house, introduced themselves, and started a pleasant conversation with me. A sane person, who wasn't selling something. It's never happened to me before, and it got me thinking about how isolated we've become.
I'd never thought about it, but when I was younger, I recall talking with strangers more. In a waiting room, a line, on a subway or plane . . . . Now, I'm generally listening to a book or something in my own personal bubble. I like that time, don't get me wrong, but it's a major shift in how we interact with others I hadn't really noticed. Private in public space--kind of shutting other people out. I don't even welcome most interactions with strangers anymore, as I have better ways to pass the time on my phone. But I wonder if I'm getting lazy. Missing out on experiences like this one.
I had no idea about the fascinating things he's done in his life, only that he's a well-known guy in the area, and that he owns and runs the Turtle Island Preserve. Obviously, the book was even more interesting having just met him, and knowing the places and many of the people discussed in the book, but I think I would have found it just as interesting had this not been the case.
He's had some extraordinary adventures and his many accomplishments are something beyond impressive, but what I really liked most about this book was the treatment of his faults and issues, and his painful relationship with his dad. Gilbert clearly knows him and his family personally, and her insights into the complexities of his family relationships, and their impact on who he's become, seemed really sapient without over-reaching or descending into psycho-babble.
In this book, he emerges as a very complex, smart man, who is likely a *!#@! to be around due to his instintingly high standards for himself and others. He doesn't suffer fools well, and he's smart enough that he's likely surrounded by people less intelligent than he is, even where they are plenty smart. I think that's hard for really smart people sometimes, and some don't handle it very well. Given the dad he was dealt, it wasn't really surprising to me that he can be less than a joy to work around in a situation where he has something he wants to accomplish.
It's an inspiring and sad story, all at once. Gilbert does a good job of painting a picture in which he's isolated by people's fascination with his persona and lifestyle, as well as by his own shortcomings. I was awed by his accomplishments myself, and couldn't help but wonder how our interaction might have changed had I known all of this beforehand. I'd like to think it would have been the same, but I doubt it.
The narration is great--very engaging and natural--and the story is well-worth the credit. If you like books like "A Walk in the Woods" or biographies of fascinating people, generally, you'll probably binge on this.
I tend to figure out what's going on too quickly when reading suspense thrillers and mysteries, but this one kept me guessing much longer than usual. --And without resorting to ridiculous red herrings, or at the expense of the plot. It's an enjoyable read, with unobtrusive narration (that's a good thing, in my book, where there isn't a natural platform for a great performance, like Shantaram, or The Help, for example), and nice character development. I like a guilty pleasure like this, but it can't be stupid or poorly-written. This isn't.
Just buy it. If you're even reading reviews, you likely enjoy a good, well-written history, and this fits the bill. I bought this on the strength of loving the author's book, "Destiny of the Republic", and wasn't disappointed. Millard has a knack for injecting historical information that's flat fascinating without it interrupting the pace of the story. Here, the information about the Amazon and the family life of the Roosevelts is amazing, and blends effortlessly with the action of this expedition. Pretty sure this is the first book I've experienced with narration by Michael, and he was very good. No fancy accents and the like--which can be great at times (think Shantaram), but when there isn't much to do, it's nicer when the narrator doesn't get in the way of the story. You aren't thinking about what an amazing actor he is--you're just engrossed in the book, and definitely not thinking that he's annoying you in any way. Really liked it.
Wow. I just finished reading this novel practically straight through, and was/am so impressed with it that I just had to write a review. Given my profession, people recommend crime-related fiction to me frequently . . . but I so rarely find it interesting, well-written, thoughtful, and/or realistic that I hardly ever read in this genre. It's just so ridiculous and formulaic that it makes me cringe. This book doesn't insult your intelligence.
You will be hooked from moment one--so you might want to take a nap prior to picking this one up, because you will find it difficult to put down. It's refreshingly well-written, paced brilliantly, and just a damned good story. I won't spoil anything in saying this, but this author either has a gifted sense of human nature at its rougher edges, or did some admirable research . . . and it feels so natural that I suspect it's the former. The pieces fit together in the end without you having to suspend reality or groan at the machinations undertaken to get there. And though you might guess at a few of the elements in the plot, you won't see most of it coming even if you're good at foreseeing twists, and will be left sending mental kudos to Gillian Flynn for being flat clever. I recall the word 'craft' being used in a number of reviews when I purchased this, and I now see why. This is smart, addictive, funny, tight, suspenseful stuff. As a bonus, you don't have to sacrifice a great story for great writing (or vice versa).
The narration is first rate for both characters, as well. Truly top notch. My faith in crime-related thrillers is renewed. What fun.
I love historical books that really tell a story about the people involved, and the era in which the action takes place, and if you do, too, this book doesn't disappoint. I read extensively in this genre, and found this book particularly interesting because I really didn't know much of anything about the story beyond Livingstone being an African explorer. Embarrassingly, I knew so little that I assumed he and Stanley were partners in this quest. Boy, did I learn a lot! Both men were truly interesting, with Livingstone emerging as the more purely noble, and Stanley emerging as a little more interesting due to his complexities and character flaws. I don't want to ruin it for you, as the adventure is compelling.
Finally, John Lee is a particular favorite of mine, and his completely credible accents, pacing, and inflection are, as always, top-notch. His narration always makes a good book that much better. Highly recommend this audible book.
This is a great, interesting book that I highly recommend. One tip for listeners: If you're finding the narration painfully slow, as I did, if you knock it up to 1.5 speed, it completely fixes the problem without a noticeable change in the tone. In fact, I'd forget I'd sped it up until the changes in download segments, when the 'this is audible' announcements and the like sounded cartoonish. Nelson Runger is SLOOOOW, but that fix took care of it.
If you're a fan of good histories that provide a rich background, you'll love this book. The corruption and colorful nature of New York politics in that era, the amazing engineering and construction feat that building this bridge represented with the technologies available at the time . . . if you're not impressed, you weren't paying attention.
Well worth the credit--hours of entertainment.
I'm a big fan of political history and biographies, and this didn't disappoint. I think it was Bill Clinton who said that history may prove kinder to LBJ in the future, and this book will likely make you agree. When I purchased it, I noticed a few reviews where people were upset at all the ground left to cover, but this is a four book biography, and I'm not sure how they missed the specific scope of this volume. It delivers exactly what is promised.
I'm not romanticizing LBJ--his role in Vietnam's escalation was too negative to forget--but this book reminds you about some of his major, positive contributions in getting things through the House and Senate in the face of overwhelming opposition on both sides of the aisle. The passing of the Civil Rights Act alone is a testament to the good this complicated president accomplished, and this book takes you behind the scenes to witness that it was far from an 'idea who's time has come' in the political arena. He didn't just shepard it through with a lot of support, and the book (like others I've read on the subject, but in greater detail that was fascinating) leaves little doubt that Johnson's skill in the Senate was likely the key to it's passage at the time. It would be truly interesting if we could glimpse what Kennedy might have accomplished if not for his horrible murder, but it's pretty clear that it might well have been far less than Johnson due to the gap in their legislative experience. I'm not knocking Kennedy there, but the tricks, manipulation, and maneuvering it required to defeat the tricks, manipulation, and maneuvering of opponents was breathtaking. In laying out the battle behind the scenes, Caro makes crystal clear that the fact that LBJ had employed all those skills himself as majority leader, and early indications of Kennedy's naiveté in that department, would almost certainly have led to failure if LBJ hadn't been at the wheel.
It's sort of a testament to the whims of history that his earlier, great, accomplishments were so overshadowed by his later, admittedly huge, mistakes. I think a fairer recollection would speak to a balance between these actions. Finally, it was fascinating to get a much fuller picture of him as a man, which was also a study in contrasts. He was frozen by fear of failure, and driven to become successful at the same time. Thoughtful and down-to-earth, while at other times, a corrupt tyrant and master of manipulation. Talk about a truly mixed bag.
Well worth the credit--and I love Grover Gardner's narration of any book.
I've read MANY historical accounts of the presidencies covered in this book, and did notice a few areas where the accounts here didn't quite jive with others (considered to be authoritative), but I can't speak to the bias that I noticed in other reviews, as I'm not far enough along to have encountered them. I certainly don't see it thus far, and I'm up to the account of Nixon's campaign. I've never written a review prior to finishing a book, but this one made me want to due to the narration. Perhaps it will help someout out.
Argghh! I'm truly surprised that more folks haven't mentioned this, but Bob Walter's inflection and pacing is reminiscent of a really bad John Wayne impression. I'm not terribly picky about narration in general, and thus didn't listen to the sample. I wish I had. I find his pacing, inflection, and emphasis bizarre, and very distracting and annoying. This experience . . . has . . . taught me that I . . . should definitely . . . listen to the . . sample before I . . . purchase . . . a book. I'll certainly avoid him in the future, as it makes the book a tedious listen for me.
Finally, at least thus far, the authors didn't seem to have enough material to warrant a book on the specific topic of the relationships between past and present presidents, and spend a considerable amount of time away from that angle. I understand the need to provide historical context to readers, certainly, but much of the time it feels like the 'presidents club' is more of an aside. I was hoping for more on this specific topic, as it's interesting, and usually an aside in more focused biographies of presidents. However, this doesn't provide much to previous works in this respect. As such, it kind of feels like more of a marketing angle to justify a history of the presidencies of Truman through the present. If you haven't read a lot of political history, that might be more interesting to you, but if you've read a lot, it's mostly a re-hash with a little more emphasis on the presidential relationships.
Just to put this review in context, it is the worst I've ever given, by far--and again, mostly due to the narration, and to a lesser extent, to the paltry amount of new information regarding the presidential relationships.
I have to admit, this book languished in my library for awhile before I read it, in part because I assumed it would be less than, er, fun to read. Boy, was I wrong. I bought it because I've always felt embarrassingly inept and uninformed about finance and economics, and hoped to bone up a bit, as clearly, things in that area have been going awry for some time. As such, I thought this book might help me gain a better understanding . . . it certainly did.
This is not anti-capitalist at all, by the way--if anything, it's anti-(so called) free market economics. The big surprise is how interesting this book is. There's nothing dry about it--I couldn't put it down. I felt great when I finished it--empowered, well-informed . . . . It's one of those books that you want to recommend to everyone the moment you finish it.
Finally, it's extremely well-written, and the narrator does a great job with it. You'll be glad you bought this!
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