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Scott D. Gray

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  • Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents

  • What Your Teachers Never Told you About the Men of The White House
  • By: Cormac O'Brien
  • Narrated by: Robin Bloodworth
  • Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 167
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 152
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 153

Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents features outrageous and uncensored profiles of the men in the White House - complete with hundreds of little-known, politically incorrect, and downright wacko facts.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very interesting

  • By Swede on 02-20-17

Sloppy, dull, partisan

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-25-15

The author, O'Brien, did not make himself master of his material. Every piece of trivia recounted could be found in a quick web search, and many even more interesting things were left out.

O'Brien made the novice historian's error of presuming to speak for what his subjects wanted or thought without showing evidence that this was the motive behind the policy in question (and obviously ignoring direct evidence from the Presidents' own speeches writings and diaries that contradicts his psychoanalysis. This is compounded by an easy partisanship; partisanship is easier to forgive in a historian who recognizes her/his own biases, but O'Brien has no such sense of self, writing over and over things like "everybody agrees that . . ." or "we can all be thankful that . . ." about issues faced in the past over which reasonable people still differ today.

A good prose style can make up for sloppy history, as in Chesterton's thoroughly enjoyable if unreliable history of England. Sadly O'Brien's prose is lackluster; neither engaging, enraging, or melodious, but in the form of simple un-lyrical statements and lists.

I wanted to like the book, but I simply could not find a purchase from which I could hang any praise for it.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful