From the author of First in His Class, the definitive biography of Bill Clinton; When Pride Still Mattered, the best-selling biography of Vince Lombardi; and They Marched into Sunlight, the classic saga of the Vietnam era - a stunning new multigenerational biography of Barack Obama.
In a groundbreaking work based on hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama, and a trove of letters, journals, and other documents, one of our preeminent journalists presents a richly textured account of Barack Obama and the forces that shaped him.
This book begins in Kansas and Kenya, decades before Obama was born, and ends as he prepares for a political life. The listener gains a deeper insight into the first black president of the United States, revealing as never before the arc of his history, character, contradictions, and ambition. As with First in His Class, Maraniss's seminal book will redefine a president.
This seamless narrative moves through generations and around the world, evoking time and place so vividly that readers feel they are there. Maraniss explodes the myths as he explores the difficult and colorful lives of the president's forebears and then follows young Barack from Hawaii to Indonesia to Los Angeles to New York to Chicago as he struggles with self-identity and searches for home.
©2012 David Maraniss (P)2012 Simon & Schuster Audio
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Presidential biographies are tricky bits when written while the president is still in office. They tend to fall broadly into three groups (two of which are generally to be avoided):
1. Political hit jobs (President Obama is a _(noun) _, set to secretly destroy America and all our _(plural noun)_.
2. Political puff pieces (President Obama is a brilliant knight in shinning armour hunted by desperate, but wicked forces).
3. Journalists looking to take a strong wack at the first draft of history-making (see also David Remnick's "The Bridge", Richard Wolffe's "Renegade", Alter's "The Promise").
Maraniss' biography is solidly in door three. He isn't interested in myth-making or saving us from (scaring us about) some secret Chicago conspiracy set on destroying the Republic. Maraniss is interested rather in grappling with who Obama is/was. On balance, he does this without boring me (the reader) or indulging in too many of the cliches of political journalism.
Obama's story, as told by Maraniss, is more commonplace and usual than both sides of this hyper-political world would have you believe. Maraniss shows, like all good journalism and writers of early biographies should, that we don't need fairy-tales or dark fantasms to tell a compelling story.
I also prefer it when writers read their own work, so I was happy about that too.
Less tedious details which have nothing to do with BHO
not if he narrator .
there is good info in the book, you just need to wade thru too much tedious boredom.
I'm spoiled by professional NARRATION
Maraniss does a nice job providing the context for Barack Obama's life, with extensive treatment of the lives of his grandparents and parents. The story ends with a young Barack Obama as a community organizer in Chicago, so the "politician" aspect of Obama must wait for a later volume. Michelle, the future First Lady, has not even come along in Barack's life by the conclusion of the book. Place matters to this author. The reader learns a lot about the dusty plains of 20th century Kansas and Oklahoma; post-colonial Kenya and Indonesia; the basketball courts of an elite private school in Hawaii; college life at Occidental and Columbia. The result is richly descriptive.
I was surprised at the relatively limited role Obama's mother played in his life, virtually abandoning him to the care of his grandparents in order to pursue her various lovers and career goals. We learn much about her life, as well as the complex life of Obama senior...long after he has any direct connection to his son's life. Much of the work seems to be Maraniss providing a more balanced, much needed corrective to Obama's memoir Dreams of My Father.....especially some of the characters Obama "invented" or combined in his memoir. Maraniss does this gently and soberly, with no apparent desire to engage in Obama-bashing, merely to help provide a more accurate first draft of history based on extended interviews with the President and many, many friends and family members.
I have mixed emotions about Maraniss as narrator. There is something genuine, comforting, and authentic about hearing the author read his own words. On the other hand, he speaks with a thick Wisconsin accent (I happen to like it, others might find it an acquired taste). What's more, his voice often sounds dry and raspy...like a friend who is recovering from a bad cold or allergies. One often wishes he would take a break, drink some tea, and get some rest before continuing. This results in some rather abrupt transitions from hoarseness to a sudden new, seemingly refreshed voice(the next day in the recording studio?)
A bigography of Obama where the main character (the President) doesn't appear until over 6 hours into the story?! Yup that is right. You will hear the life story of his great grandparents etc - but then the book ends in the late 1980's except to say "oh yes, he got married and has 2 children"
NO - his reading of the book adds nothing to the story - but perhaps this is just because of the writing?
Instead of reading like he is dictating a story to be typed, he could have added some feeling.
The first 6 hours should just be cut totally - then after that heavy editing and you would have had a much better story.
The book reads like a dry newspaper account of something the writer has observed. There is very little explanation of the significance of any of the events and way too much of "he said" then "she said" My two star rating for this may be too generous and may just reflect my support of the President today rather than anything that the writer offers in this book.
I have enjoyed previous books by David Maraniss, but in this one, he tells us way too much about the lives of people who were layer upon layer distant from President Obama. He presents a lot of raw material for future historians, but as a read, I found it occasionally tedious. In between stories about the politcal and marital relationships of Barack Obama senior, however, we do learn a lot about the early life of the President, and I found the descriptions of Stanley Ann Dunham very interesting, since she had a much greater impact on her son than his father did. The window into the developmental life of the young Obama and his journey toward finding his own identity make this book well worth listening to, all the same. If for no other reason than to utterly debunk the insane claims of fear mongerers about the President, this book is an important addition to history.
This book was engaging and compelling. The author went back generations on his mother's and father's side. The book showed how both sides contributed to the person he became and the President he has become: more intimate than a typical political biography. Great!!
Few writers should read their own books. Think Simon Winchester, Bill Bryson and Barbara Kingsolver as three that do an excellent job. David Maraniss' audio book would benefit greatly by allowing a professional to read his comphehensive, fascinating book. The research is unrelenting,the resultant information juxtaposed masterfully to reveal the interconnections between the President, his parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. But Mr. Maraniss' voice is not suitable for such a task. Few voices are, so some things are best left to the professionals.
I loved reading about "Barry's" foibles at Occidental College. A typical undergraduate who found his direction and never looked back. He owes a lot to the "motley crew" who helped shape his world view.
As mentioned above, Mr. Marianiss' voice is not the best for undertaking such a read. It frequently trails off requiring a rewind. I think it's enough that he wrote this thorough, exhaustive and entertaining biography. Leave the rest to the professionals.
Since the book is 20+ hours, listening to it in one sitting is pretty much impossible. It is worth every minute, however.
I do appreciate the research that went into this book. I do not recommend the audio version, but would most definitely recommend the print version.
If you're looking for WONDERFUL things to hear about Barack Obama, this is not necessarily the book to read. Conversely, if you're looking for NASTY things to hear about Barack Obama, this is not necessary the book to read. What you will find is a very fair and extensive biographical account. No one could accuse David Maraniss of taking "sides". He has compiled a thorough story of Obama's life and it is for the reader to sift through his descriptions to come to your own conclusions about why Barack Obama is who he is. Is it nurture or nature.
NO. This reader was very boring in his delivery. I would have really enjoyed this book and got it for a long road trip. But the reader was so boring I had to stop listening. Now I will read the book instead.
Kathleen in FL
The author's reading of the book added greatly to the enjoyment of it. His pronunciation of the names of individuals and the many places in the book is wonderful. He points out factual errors in Mr. Obama's memoir, "Dreams from my Father", but makes it clear that the purpose of the book is not to debunk that prior book. He very carefully explains why it is impossible that the president was born anywhere but in Hawaii. He talks very honestly about Obama, Sr. and his personality flaws and failings. He describes in great detail Obama's three years at a Catholic school in Jakarta, his time in high school in Hawaii as part of a weed club and the state champs basketball team, his two years at Occidental College, his two years at Columbia and his three years working in Chicago before law school. And then the book ends with a simple chronology of highlights of the years to come. There is nothing about Obama's various campaigns or his presidency.
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