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.
"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)
The tale of Oppenheimer displays America's politically and socially unique strengths and weaknesses - acceptance; bigotry; hypocrisy; corrupt, greedy, insincere, and ignorant politicians - in lively, entirely plausible detail.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, at once brilliant but flustered under pressure; socially accepting and simultaneously aloof and haughty; globally farsighted but unable to perceive his own self-inflicted immediate personal peril.
Dispassionate but captivating
Elevated to great heights by the country he loved, only to be shunned by it from it by the bigoted and corrupt forces who came to control it.
Terrible patching-in of acoustically different bits of sentences or sections make it seem as if in some places parts were carelessly changed in ways that disrupt thought. Some characters' names are mispronounced until hours later when the correct pronunciation is pointed out but left unchanged in earlier misreadings. Some major sections have barely a second a second or two's pause from the previous one - a sign of thoughtless or careless production that makes the section break seem less meaningful than a chapter pause.
Only if you like heavy bios
Make a big bomb.. Not really
Only if you like heavy bios
Got 15 hours in And still talking about his early years with girlfriend
This is an outstanding biography of a fascinating historical figure. But the narrator can't seem to pronounce foreign words (there are a lot of them; Oppenheimer was a cosmopolitan guy who spoke multiple languages), and there are awkward patches in the audio where pronunciations obviously had to be fixed. It's annoying.
The audio recording was broken, often changing from one "recording session" to another mid-sentence. The quality was very poor and distracted from the overall enjoyment of the book.
This is my ninth book on Audible and is the only one with anything more than a couple of technical glitches. I lost count on the number of times the quality of the narration noticeably changed, as if it was re-recorded or dubbed over. It's very distracting and disappointing.
I'm just a big kid.
The deep look into the life and personality of Dr Oppenheimer.
A great compliment to this book is Richard Rhodes 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb'. This is the seminal book on the development of the atomic bomb. Unlike this book, the Rhodes book covers not only the personalities of the people involved, it does a good job of explaining the physics as well as the people.
I could only rate this book as a four stars, because of the author's continuing insistence that Japan was 'on the verge of surrender', or 'was virtually surrendered'.
Only once does the author support this claim, by quoting a MAGIC diplomatic communication that discussed the possibility. Of course, surrender was up to the military, not the diplomats.
Google "The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II - A Collection of Primary Sources" and read :"Document 73: "Magic" – Diplomatic Summary, War Department, Office of Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, No. 1236 – August 13, 1945, Top Secret UltraSource: Record Group 457, Records of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, "Magic" Diplomatic Summaries 1942-1945, box 18:
"That important elements in the Japanese Army were unwilling to surrender is evident from intercepted messages dated 12 and 13 August. Willingness to accept the “destruction of the Army and Navy” rather than surrender inspired the military coup that unfolded and failed during the night of 14 August."
Even after Nagasaki the Japanese military wanted to continue the war.
I'm sure the allied POW's who were being worked to death in the mines didn't perceive their Japanese slave-masters as 'virtually surrendering'.
I'm sure the thousands of Korean women who had been kidnapped and forced to become sex slaves didn't perceive their Japanese slave-masters as 'virtually surrendering'.
I'm sure the Chinese people who were being massacred on a daily basis didn't perceive their Japanese occupiers as 'virtually surrendering'.
I'm sure the lucky GI's who were not among the 65,000 allied casualties suffered in the process of capturing one half of Okinawa, an island about a mile wide and 60 miles long didn't perceive their Japanese opponets as 'virtually surrendering'..
Certainly the 100,000 Japanese soldiers killed on Okinawa never 'virtually surrendered'.
What I perceived in the author's nonsensical claim that Japan was 'on the verge of surrender' prior to use of the atomic bomb to be racism.
It's clear that to the author the civilian white people being killed by the Nazis were much more important than the insignificant orientals and allied military people who were being killed in huge numbers every day by the Japanese.
This book is well worth reading, but readers should be aware of the author's unfortunate and erroneous repetition of the myth of Japan's 'virtual surrender'.
I know enough to know, I don't know all I want to know...
Learning about life of Oppenheimer. I have always 'known' about Oppenheimer via my Physics background, but I had no idea where he came from, and what 'really' happen to him .
The voice of Mr. Cummings during most of the narration was fine. My only real problem with this book, was the editing... There were far too many edits, and they did NOT blend well, and after a while, it was rather distracting.
The Witch-Hunt, and that is were there seem to be many comparisons to what is going on in current times.
To me, learning about Oppenheimer's background from his youth to his death was fascinating!
Having a background in Physics, it was amazing to think of the conversations he had with his Friends! Wow!
To be a bug on the wall for those meetings would have be an incredible!
Oh wait.. that did happen...
This is a definite MUST listen if you have any interest in this Time period or early 20th Century Physics.
Indeed an editor would have helped but it is still worth the read. While the first 1/3 is far too detailed with unimportant data, the last 2/3 is detailed with interesting although not critical data.
The performance is at best a "C", but the quality of the recording is very poor; I'd say a D-. When they splice in corrections both the volume and tone change dramatically, which in some .parts is very distracting.
Overall - if you like history it is worth the read.
The book is filled with information of the fascinating and detailed life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The book was for the most part balanced. I did find the authors going off on details about supporting character lives that did not seem to tie strongly into Dr. Oppenheimer's life. Overall a long but worthwhile book about a amazing person living in an equally interesting time in world history.
I did rate the performance a bit lower than I typically do. The reader was very engaging and articulate. My issue was with the audio quality. It would randomly vary for a few sentences as if they were recorded at a separate time or place and then inserted into the audio track. I would go back over the section to make sure it was not my player, but the audio issue would repeat at the exact spot. It is not major, but I seemed to be sensitive to the variations. I would not avoid the book based on this minor issue.
I liked the lot of details in the most interesting parts. I did not like the lots of details in the less interesting parts.the story remained interesting even after the building of the atomic bomb. The whole post WW2 development of the nuclear bomb industry is laid clear. On one side Oppenheimer was a genius, but was very naive
Narrators voice had an 'intellectual' tone. Good match for the subject matter, but a bit dry for a loooooong story
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