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Bruce Cline

Littleton, CO USA
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  • The Revolution of ’28

  • Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal
  • By: Robert Chiles
  • Narrated by: Peter Lerman
  • Length: 11 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7

The Revolution of ’28 explores the career of New York governor and 1928 Democratic presidential nominee Alfred E. Smith. Robert Chiles peers into Smith’s work and uncovers a distinctive strain of American progressivism that resonated among urban, ethnic, working-class Americans in the early 20th century. The book charts the rise of that idiomatic progressivism during Smith’s early years as a state legislator through his time as governor of the Empire State in the 1920s, before proceeding to a revisionist narrative of the 1928 presidential campaign.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Al Smith paved the way for FDR

  • By Chester on 10-27-18

Al Smith—a surprisingly fascinating character

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

Reviewed: 11-16-18

The Revolution of ’28 Al Smith American Progressive, and the Coming of the New Deal by Robert Chiles. As we all know from high school history classes, the phrase Tammany Hall is a synonym for absolute political corruption. (For the record, I tend to think of myself as relatively well-read in American history, but every time I stumble upon a book like this one about New York politician Al Smith, I realize (again) how little I know.) If you’ve not heard of Tammany Hall, it was a New York Democratic political machine that wielded considerable clout from the mid-19th century through the early 1930s, with additional but sporadic success into the 1950s. It was known not just for power, but for corruption that is an inevitable handmaiden of political power. Al Smith was a product of Tammany Hall, serving four terms as the governor of New York before running for President in 1928 when he was soundly defeated by Herbert Hoover. What I was surprised to learn was that Mr. Smith, despite his political roots (and arguably trunk, branches, and leaves) was a Progressive in the mold of F.D.R., another New York Governor (1929 to 1932) who actually made it to the White House. Among the many things I learned, was that Smith was the first Catholic to win the Presidential nomination. Like JFK later, he faced heated and bigoted religious opposition. A sizable portion of his political base were urban working class immigrants, including many Catholics and newly enfranchised women voters. As Governor he instituted numerous social welfare programs, many of which were substantive progenitors of New Deal programs, though Chiles takes pains to deny a direct link between Smith’s programs and those enacted by F.D.R. He does not adhere to the popular belief FDRs New Deal was the direct result Smith’s work. Rather, he argues his programs and the people they served were influential but not determinative of what followed. His view of the evolution of Democratic progressives was more nuanced than what other historians have posited. What I found interesting, bordering on fascinating, was Smith’s compassionate interest in the welfare of the working poor, many of whom became the backbone of the modern Democratic Party, notwithstanding some seismic shifts in the electorate along the way. My greatest takeaway was how this remarkable politician pursued social programs that exist in one form or another to this day. Smith eventually lost a second run at the Presidency in 1932, losing to Roosevelt. Moving into the private sector, Smith evolved into a conservative who abandoned much of his earlier progressive beliefs and disassociated himself from the monumental successes of the New Deal. In doing so, he put himself on the backbench of history, at least for most of us with only a superficial understanding of Progressive politics. Bottom line: great book about an important character in American politics.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.




1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • North

  • By: Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek
  • Narrated by: Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek
  • Length: 8 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,538
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,393
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,390

 Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing journey diminished by off putting profiles

  • By Carl on 06-03-18

Great feat by unlikeable subject

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-02-18

North: Finding My Way By Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek with Jenny Jurek (audio book 9hrs). First off, Scott Jurek is an amazingly skilled long distance runner/hiker, and his wife, Jenny, has astounding resilience given her recovery from medical issues noted in the book. Second, despite often finding adventure narratives annoying when the dialogue is split between participants, in this instance I liked the alternating chapters from each of their respective perspectives. That said, the Type A personality traits that have made Jurek such an accomplished athlete make him a less than appealing subject. Regardless, the underlying story about a record-breaking traverse of the Appalachian Trail is interesting throughout. What grated my ears were constant references to his vegan diet (religion?), his attempt at the “FKT” (Fastest Known Time), his paternalistic references to his wife who served as his key support person throughout, his denigration and insulting and stereotypic characterizations of people in the South, and his barely concealed self-worship. There is no question one has to be supremely confident to attempt let alone achieve what he has done, but confidence does not have to translate into arrogance. Seeing past the personality, though, there is a detailed story of the body- and mind-bending commitment it takes to run the AT faster than anyone before him, which Jurek did South to North. Jenny (mostly) described fellow runners who came and went as they provided additional support to Scott. It was no surprise that several of these other Type A people were described in less than flattering terms, notwithstanding their willingness to assist a friend and competitor. Overall, a good story with a flawed main character, much like WILD by Cheryl Strayed and Between a Hard Place and a Rock by Aaron Ralston (who showed up as a supporter toward the end).

  • A Thousand Miles to Freedom

  • My Escape from North Korea
  • By: Sebastien Falletti, Eunsun Kim
  • Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller
  • Length: 5 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,195
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,004
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,003

Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child, Eunsun loved her country...despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the countrywide famine escalated. By the time she was 11 years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun too was in danger of starving. Finally her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not Much New Here, but Courage and Hope to Spare

  • By Gillian on 03-25-16

Too few details to be credible

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-01-18

There may be a variety of reasons why, but this is one of least readable (listenable) books I’ve come across in the last couple years. Possibly that is the fault of the translation/translator, maybe it was just really poor writing, or its just not a compelling story. The story lacks what I think are important details, ones that would’ve made its different parts cohere, including unexplained leaps of time & distance. It is rife with details that strain credulity. This subject (North Korea generally plus defection) is one that can fascinate, so it was extremely disappointing to find little to like about this woman’s story. The detail is so spare that I began to doubt the authenticity of the story. Needless to say, buying this book was a mistake.

  • Devotion

  • An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice
  • By: Adam Makos
  • Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
  • Length: 14 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 908
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 840
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 838

Devotion tells the inspirational story of the US Navy's most famous aviator duo, Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, and the marines they fought to defend. A white New Englander from the country-club scene, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighters for his country. An African American sharecropper's son from Mississippi, Jesse became the navy's first black carrier pilot, defending a nation that wouldn't even serve him in a bar.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Jaw Dropping Ground and Air Combat Realism

  • By STRATIS A. SIMON on 04-29-17

Excellent, but with one flaw

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

Reviewed: 11-01-18

This the story of Ensign Jesse Brown the first African American Naval Aviation pilot, who died in the Korean War in 1951. It is also the story of Lt. Thomas Hudner, a Naval Academy graduate and Brown’s wingman, who intentionally crash-landed his own Corsair to help rescue Brown who had gone down in enemy territory due to battle damage, and who was pinned in the wreckage. Hudner and a rescue helicopter crewman were unable to pull Ensign Brown out and he died, probably from a combination of crash injuries and the bitter cold of the North Korean winter. Hudner attempted the rescue, knowingly destroying his plane in the process, despite a standing threat of a court marshal for any pilot who attempted such a rescue. Instead, he was awarded the first Medal of Honor since WWII. The book is about the extraordinary friendship between the two pilots in a context of rampant discrimination, both in private life and in the military. The book inexplicably glosses over much of the ugliness Brown and others faced throughout their lives, and that Jesse faced throughout his short military career. Including it might have, for some, detracted from the feel good nature of the book, but it’s omission missed an opportunity to further underscore Ensign Brown’s accomplishments. Despite that shortcoming, this is a wonderful story about a mostly forgotten war and two rarely remembered heroes. Brown’s crew mates on his aircraft carrier raised the equivalent of $20,000 as a gift to his family (for his young daughter’s education), and Hudner signed over to Brown’s widow a check given to him by his hometown, the equivalent of nearly $10,000. It’s a very good story about two amazing individuals.

  • Our Oriental Heritage

  • The Story of Civilization, Volume 1
  • By: Will Durant
  • Narrated by: Robin Field
  • Length: 50 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 790
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 711
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 708

The first volume of Will Durant's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume I chronicles the early history of Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful

  • By Michael on 11-30-13

Where it all began

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-04-15

I have carried 40+ years of skepticism about this series, having felt there was no way an author (or two) could provide a credible look at such an expanse of time. Based on this first volume I am convinced I was wrong. My only wish is that I had started Durant's volumes decades earlier. Incredibly insightful!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume I: Visions of Glory 1874-1932

  • By: William Manchester
  • Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
  • Length: 41 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,114
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,673
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,671

Winston Churchill is perhaps the most important political figure of the 20th century. His great oratory and leadership during the Second World War were only part of his huge breadth of experience and achievement. Studying his life is a fascinating way to imbibe the history of his era and gain insight into key events that have shaped our time.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb - Review of Both Volume I & Volume II

  • By Wolfpacker on 01-23-09

Fabulously detailed exploration of W Churchill

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-14

If you could sum up The Last Lion in three words, what would they be?

Obstreperous unrepentant genius

Who was your favorite character and why?

Winston himself

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

While initially off-putting, Davidson's mimicking of Churchill's voice was, for the most part, an added benefit to the narrative.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Loved it--totally absorbing.

  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume II: Alone, 1932-1940: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume II: Alone, 1932-1940

  • By: William Manchester
  • Narrated by: Richard Brown
  • Length: 36 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,552
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,261
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1,257

This second volume in William Manchester's three-volume biography of Winston Churchill challenges the assumption that Churchill's finest hour was as a wartime leader. During the years 1932-1940, he was tested as few men are. Pursued by creditors (at one point he had to put up his home for sale), he remained solvent only by writing an extraordinary number of books and magazine articles.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb - Review of Both Volume I & Volume II

  • By Wolfpacker on 01-23-09

Well written book about an amazing leader

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-14

Would you listen to The Last Lion again? Why?

Absolutely -- An absolutely amazing story about an absolutely amazing man and the times in which he lived

Who was your favorite character and why?

Winston Churchill (duh!)

Which character – as performed by Richard Brown – was your favorite?

Winston Churchill (duh redux)

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

This is a must read for anyone interested in WWI, WII, or the British Empire generally.

  • Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

  • John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
  • By: Wallace Stegner
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 17 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 180
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 144
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 144

Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner recounts the remarkable career of Major John Wesley Powell, the distinguished ethnologist and geologist who explored the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, and the homeland of the Southwest Indian tribes. This classic work is a penetrating and insightful study of the Powell’s career, from the beginning of the Powell Survey, in which Powell and his men famously became the first to descend the Colorado River, to his eventual expulsion from the Geological Survey.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • History repeats itself.

  • By Roy on 09-12-11

Good book about an amazing fellow: JW Powell

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

Reviewed: 11-03-14

Would you listen to Beyond the Hundredth Meridian again? Why?

Yes - very informative about a fascinating and important man in American History

What was one of the most memorable moments of Beyond the Hundredth Meridian?

The entire story about Powell's impact on American Indian ethnology.

Have you listened to any of Mark Bramhall’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

N/A

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

This is an important book to read (listen to) for anyone interested in Grand Canyon, JW Powell himself, the exploration of the SW, and matters related to non-indigenous movement into arable lands of the SW.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

  • By: John Wesley Powell
  • Narrated by: Andre Stojka
  • Length: 8 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 36

The great unknown of the Southwest is conquered by a one-armed man and his crew of adventurers, placing the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon on the map of the American continent. It is a journey no human being had ever made before. Dangerous rapids, narrow canyon walls offering no escape, terrifying river waterfalls, capsized boats, near drowning, lost equipment and disillusioned men are dramatically described by John Wesley Powell, leader of this adventurous party.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Unfortunate Narration

  • By Jason W Davenport on 03-14-17

No justice done to JW Powell by narrator

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-14

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This book desperately needs a less dramatic reader. Powell was a fairly button downed autocrat and to think he would have tolerated someone breathlessly, excitedly, and needlessly exaggerating the emotion of his text defies imagination. The narrator's style severely detracts from the text, which is unfortunate.

If you’ve listened to books by John Wesley Powell before, how does this one compare?

N/A

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Andre Stojka?

Anyone who can read text without adding extreme voice inflection!

Could you see The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Yes - but a movie was made years ago by Disney. The Colorado and Green River portions are film worthy, but am not sure about the rest.

Any additional comments?

Powell's narrative is flawed in many respects, including detailing parts of this 1871 expedition in this 1869 book with acknowledging them. However, the information he includes is noteworthy and I only wish Powell was more of a story teller.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful