After Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin wields her magic on another larger-than-life president, and another momentous and raucous American time period as she brings Theodore Roosevelt, the muckraking journalists, and the Progressive Era to life.
As she focused on the relationships between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in No Ordinary Time, and on Lincoln and his team in Team of Rivals, Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the "muckraking" press - including legendary journalists Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, William Allen White, and editor Sam McClure - Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business. The rupture between the two led Roosevelt to run against Taft for president, an ultimately futile race that resulted in the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and the diminishment of Theodore Roosevelt's progressive wing of the Republican Party.
Like Goodwin's chronicles of the Civil War and the Great Depression, The Bully Pulpit describes a time in our history that enlightened and changed the country, ushered in the modern age, and produced some unforgettable men and women.
©2013 Doris Kearns Goodwin (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
“Few audio productions this year are likely to match, or deserve as much praise as, this history of the Progressive Era and the presidential friendship that shaped, and was destroyed by, its politics… Edward Herrmann is simply her most simpatico reader…his steady, unflagging delivery is perfectly attuned to her narrative voice and, without mimicry, to the broad array of voices, personalities, and events that highlight this rich personal and social drama.” (AudioFile)
“Swiftly moving account of a friendship that turned sour, broke a political party in two and involved an insistent, omnipresent press corps. . . . It’s no small achievement to have something new to say on Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency, but Goodwin succeeds admirably. A notable, psychologically charged study in leadership.”(Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
Doris Kearns Goodwin is a terrific narrator, and does a good job relating the sweep of history and how her various characters fit into the sweep (and influence the sweep as well). With respect to Taft & Roosevelt, and especially the latter, there is not a lot of new information here, but it is the "how" of the narration that is new, the connecting of the dots between the two of them, and between them & the history of the US that is novel here.
It would be impossible and indeed undesirable to read this in just one sitting, it is a sprawling story, in the way Kearns Goodwin tells it. And it is better to take smaller bites over a longer period, to appreciate the story.
A strength of this book and indeed of all of this author's books, is her strength as a narrator. A weakness is the absence of analysis. And, often, along with that lack, the portrayal of the protagonists with a substantial deemphasis of their flaws. Not so much their flaws as people but the flaws of their policies.
No, I love both forms. The print version has beautiful photos. I love that.
The personalization of the characters. Doris Kearns Goodwin really knows how to bring those characters into your home. It was wonderful. I feel like I know Presidents Roosevelt and Taft and their wives personally.
The description of Roosevelt and Taft walking together along the streets of Washington, DC. Both men are physically distinct, and for some reason, I found that scene amusing and beautifully memorable - a picture of a great friendship.
This book had such an enveloping sense of context. The time period covered is relatively short, but showing the perspective from the Taft's point-of-view and the "muckraker" journalists integration into the happenings of the time provide a well-rounded picture of the characters and made clear the significance of the relationships on the policies of the day.
This is the first performance by Ed Hermann that I've heard on Audible choices. He told thie story with perfection and I will be checking out any others that he has don.
The scene in the restaurant where Taft approached Roosevelt and they both moved toward toward a more congenial relationship because they were not "small" men, after all.
I enjoyed getting to "know" Edith Roosevelt, Nellie Taft and the entire cast of muckraker journalists as people. This was the personal layer of the context. I'm glad there was room for it, even though the policy and historical events were the engine that drove the book for me.
I recently got interested in this era, but knew little about it. This was a good overview of the political and governmental issues of the time. In that context it is biased towards the activists. With respect to Taft and Roosevelt, it seemed fairly even handed and fair. This was a good book, interesting, entertaining and educational and worth it. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in history or the subject.
That being said, it was not a perfect book. While the book was almost always interesting, it was not exciting. There are some books, long and short, that I want to listen to all the time. This was not one of them. I found that I got drowsy at times when I was driving with the book as my soundtrack. I cannot say where to cut, but it seemed too long. The book started with a detailed account of the former presidents early years, but then seemed to end quite quickly after Taft lost the election 1912 election. Ms. Goodwin also seems to like her thesis and tried to tie a few too many loosely related things tightly together. It probably would have been even better as a couple of smaller books, but do not let that stop you from listening to it.
Dramatic. Informative. Riveting.
I loved Ms. Goodwin's book on Lincoln. This was even better.
It gave me a much greater appreciation of the contributions of role of the press and the courage of Roosevelt and Taft. I believe there are many relevant lessons we can learn from this history. It is hard to imagine what our country would be like if the greedy who bought the government and whose cruelty was unbounded were not brought under some control.
There were many. But I think the most moving was when Taft showed his greatness by reaching out to Roosevelt.
If only history could be taught in schools as Ms. Goodwin presents it, we would be a much more informed electorate.
I'm a writer of everything from children's picture books to fiction to memoir. I usually listen to nonfiction, mostly history, on Audible simply because I prefer to read novels on the page. The only exception to that rule is short stories and I'm partial to the Selected Shorts Anthologies.
Goodwin brings out the interesting tale of TR's great friendship with William Howard Taft. They complemented each other perfectly, and turned to one another on many occasions for advice and support as they each battled corporate interests in their own way. But in 1912, when TR decided to run on the Progressive ticket, the friendship soured to disdain. It wasn't until years later that these two men connected again in the years before Roosevelt died. The other fascinating part of this book is the description of the "muckrakers", Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker and Lincoln Steffen and their connection with S.S. McClure who brought them to print in his magazine, McClure's Magazine. Goodwin does an excellent job weaving all these characters together and Ed Herrmann is the perfect reader for this history. Highly recommended.
You really have to love history. The book is very detailed and based mostly off of personal letters written between Teddy and Taft. It can get a little long-winded at times, but that being said, I don't know what I would remove from book if asked to shorten it.
I really loved learning more about Taft, a little-known character in history. He was truly a great man.
I have listened to/read a lot of history. It is the rare feat when a writer can make history sound like a novel. DKG achieves it. Not only did I enjoy the writing style, I also enjoyed the structure of the book. I really enjoyed the discussion of Roosevelt, Taft, and the press. Looking at it through the lens of what is going on now (with the Tea Partiers, the call for eliminating income inequality) -- the underlying story really does have a modern feel to it. It was a book I did not want to end.
Rigorous, Penetrating, Exhaustive
Margaret MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace, both books are similarly well researched and written.
I especially enjoyed his subtle rendition of William Taft, the learned jurist.
No, because of the subject matter and penetrating depth of its subject matter, this book lends itself to slow, careful listening in small chunks. You want to make sure that you have time to digest the information before moving on to the next part.
I first encountered Doris Kearns Goodwin's writing in "A Team of Rivals" and became a fan of her writing. The Bully Pulpit has only served to make me an even more ardent reader of her work.
For starters I have read a lot of Doris Kearns Goodwin, but this is the first book I have listened to. To that end, I am starting to wonder if I should have READ this book as opposed to listening to it. Like her other books, I think it is very well researched. I think the issues I have with it are because of my tastes, which is what my ranking stems from. Here are some examples of aspects of the book that I do not like:
- Too much information about McClure's magazine. If the book ended with TR's presidency, this wouldn't have been an issue. But as the book winds down (finally!), and the story shifts to the rift between TR and Taft, I wonder if the long sections on the press were really necessary? I believe they were to the early part of the story, which is probably why the editor left them in the title.
- Given this, however, I feel like this is really two books in one. Book 1 was really about how TR used the press to move American opinion to his progressive agenda. Book 2 is about the relationship between TR and Taft. Their rift, split, and the start of a new party leading to the election of Wilson.
Overall, this is a very good work. I can't say that enough. It just isn't my favorite DKG work. For me, it falls down to fourth:
1) No Ordinary Time
2) Team of Rivals (more like 1A to the above)
3) Wait Till Next Year (*I'm a baseball fan, otherwise B.P. would fall in here)
4) Bully Pulpit
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