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American Prometheus Audiobook
American Prometheus
Written by: 
Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin
Narrated by: 
Jeff Cummings
American Prometheus Audiobook

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2006

National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2006

J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress.

When he proposed international controls over atomic materials, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, and criticized plans for a nuclear war, his ideas were anathema to powerful advocates of a massive nuclear buildup during the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s. They declared that Oppenheimer could not be trusted with America's nuclear secrets.

In this magisterial biography, 25 years in the making, the authors capture Oppenheimer's life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War.

©2005 Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The definitive biography...Oppenheimer's life doesn't influence us. It haunts us." (Newsweek)

"[A] profoundly fascinating, richly complex, and ineffably sad American life.... Bird and Sherwin are without peer...in capturing the humanity of the man." (Booklist)

"A work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer's essential nature.... It succeeds in deeply fathoming his most damaging, self-contradictory behavior." (New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (1301 )
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4.3 (870 )
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4.0 (857 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Thomas MSU, MS, United States 11-07-07
    Thomas MSU, MS, United States 11-07-07 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Listen"

    This book is very well written and read.

    + Even though there are two authors the story is consistent and you don't style differences as you go through the book.

    + There is a lot of intrigue in Oppenheimer's life and this book captures it well. You get a close up look at how powerful people abused their power to ruin Oppenheimer.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alain 07-06-07
    Alain 07-06-07

    professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Openheimer"

    A masterful account of one of history's most portentous moments, experienced through the life of a great genius whose complicity in evil (the bomb) eats at him as the eagle does the liver of Prometheus.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron New York, NY, United States 12-16-07
    Ron New York, NY, United States 12-16-07 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic book, but one..."

    ...big annoyance: the reader seems to have made no attempt whatsoever to learn to pronounce any unusual names or foreign terms. He butchers names of quite famous people - Lewis Strauss pronounced his last name [straws], not to rhyme with 'house.' I.I. Rabi said [RAY-bee] (rhymes with 'maybe,' not [RAW-bee]). Vannevar Bush's first name rhymed with 'receiver.' Niebuhr is [NEE-burh], not [NAI-burh]. Fermi is [FAIR-mi]; Kantorowicz, well, it's closer to [kan-tuh-RO-vits] than to what the narrator says - it took me a minute to figure out whom he was referring to.

    The word 'hauteur' isn't [o-TYOOR]. Forget about 'Bhagavad Gita' - he adds an extra syllable. The list could go on.


    This is a very important book, I think; shouldn't the producer of the audio version be scrupulous about presenting it faithfully?


    32 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TM 08-08-14
    TM 08-08-14

    TJM

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    "Exhaustive but Dry"
    Any additional comments?

    This book was written from the perspective of laying out all possible evidence from Oppenheimer's earliest days to his final ones to answer the questions regarding his associations with Communism. Obviously this issue would eventually become what he was famous for and it needed to be addressed, but every aspect of his life, even the production of the A-bomb was seen through this lens - who he met with, what he is recorded to have said to this person, what the FBI were investigating etc.

    I was hoping the book would include a narrative of his life, perhaps an exciting one. A narrative that perhaps would include the inside story of the manhattan project or other scientific discoveries.

    But it was a rather dry, but seemingly thoroughly researched book that addressed only readers who wanted to know that answer to the questions of his political motivations and associations. Again, whilst an important part of a biography of the man, it should only have been part, rather than the hole focus.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 10-30-13
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 10-30-13 Member Since 2016
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    "An Era and a Person - you get both!"

    I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book! Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon. On closing this book the reader truly understand the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War. The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer - his creativity, his imagination and his failings too. The list of the latter is long, but boy do I admire the guy! There is so much I could tell you about this man who I knew nothing about before I read this book, except his label as the the "Father of the Atomic Bomb".

    I don't regret reading "Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon", but the two don't compare! You in no way need to read one to read the other. The first is about the bomb, the Manhattan project and spying, but this about Oppenheimer is about the person and his era.

    I listened to the audiobook read by Jeff Cummings. I have no complaints with the narration. Read the book or listen to the book. You choose, which ever suits you best. Just don't add it to one of those never-ending lists of books that you don't get around to actually reading!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Henry Sinnreich Richardson, Texas USA 11-13-12
    Henry Sinnreich Richardson, Texas USA 11-13-12 Member Since 2012
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    "2/3 fascinating history and 1/3 political pamphlet"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The authors have a fascinating story to tell but lose credibility by forcing their obvious political biases on the reader. The book feels like a pamphlet against the (bad) Republicans and glosses over Soviet spying during that era. Also, portraying Lewis Strauss as evil incarnate seems highly out of place and biased, almost like settling old scores. American and European communist sympathizers, the "useful idiots" (Stalin's own words) are portrayed with too much sympathy for my taste, having lived in their nightmarish society.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin again?

    Not very likely.


    What does Jeff Cummings bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Jeff Cummings delivers the perfect audio, one can almost hear the talking from that era.


    Did American Prometheus inspire you to do anything?

    Yes, at least to check up in the Wikipedia for facts.


    Any additional comments?

    I was hoping to get a quality historical narrative, but got some aggravation instead.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-21-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-21-12 Member Since 2015

    54 yrs, ,memb 12yrs,library -75%nonfic 10% fiction,15% classics. History, all sciences, bio, classics,diverse other interests.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "VERY WELL DONE"

    I Have to admit that I stalled on this for awhile, but was ampaly rewarded for returning to this listen and finishing. What a story! what a man! A remarkable book in the end. I would label this REQUIRED READING for the history revealed from many different critical points. Aspects of this book still haunt me. A very well researched, revealing and rewarding read. Well written and narrated

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Reich Northern, CA 04-06-09
    Chris Reich Northern, CA 04-06-09 Member Since 2009

    Business Physicist and Astronomer

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The American Myth Continues..."

    Sometimes the government of the US conducts itself very shamefully. This is one such case among many from the founding myths to slavery to civil rights to native American slaughter to environmental rape.

    You can add this story to the ever growing list of crap pulled by the US government.

    Incredible story from start to finish---better than a novel. Truth truly is stranger than fiction...

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Grady Commerce, TX, United States 10-29-08
    Grady Commerce, TX, United States 10-29-08 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tedious, but thorough"

    I agree with other reviewers who have quipped OK if you have patience. By midway through the book it was drudgery to keep going. I hung in there and in the end, found it to be only barely worth my time. My biggest disappointment was that this is a book about Oppie's political trials and tribulations; not about science. Even in retrospect I find it astounding that someone can write such a detailed account of Oppenheimer's life and say so little about the heart of the man's life...which was science. What you do get in full measure is intricate descriptions of who was meeting whom during which FBI wiretap and who testified against whom to save their owns skins. Thus, this was a book about personalities; not about the world-changing events that marked Oppie's life. A non-scientist with an interest in the McCarthy era may well enjoy this book thoroughly. But I, alas, did not.

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve 07-29-13
    Steve 07-29-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Great Story - Awful Sound Engineering"
    Any additional comments?

    Volume of narrator went up and down constantly. There was no volume leveling at all.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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