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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed historian Rick Perlstein chronicles the rise of the conservative movement in the liberal 1960s. At the heart of the story is Barry Goldwater, the renegade Republican from Arizona who loathed federal government, despised liberals, and mocked "peaceful coexistence" with the USSR. Perlstein's narrative shines a light on a whole world of conservatives and their antagonists, including William F. Buckley, Nelson Rockefeller, and Bill Moyers. Vividly written, Before the Storm is an essential book about the 1960s.

©2017 Rick Perlstein (P)2017 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Before the Storm

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Narrator Detracts From Superb Content

Whether mispronunciations - for example, what should be South Vietnamese President Diem [dee-em] rather than Deem - to his attempts at voice impersonations, the narrator undermines the author’s superb content of what is significant history of the emergence of the Big Lie wing of national governance and campaign

Necessary to know of this context to acquire the tools needed to deconstruct the Big Lie with calm and repetitive truth

Excellent, illuminating content Mr. Perlstein!
Thank you

3 people found this helpful

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Great book, great reading

Perlstein writes an important and always timely history of the early 60s around a biography of Barry Goldwater. Though the events don’t quite reach the absurd peaks of Nixonland, Before the Storm held my interest all the way through, and VandenHevel’s dynamic reading—including good approximations of the Kennedys, LBJ, Reagan, and Goldwater—is an excellent companion to the text.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating political history

The book is excellent, like all of Perlstein's work. Goldwater is more obscure than Nixon or Reagan. But the events described here are the fountainhead of their transformative presidencies. The narrator is good, just a handful of mispronunciations. Be warned: he does impressions of the more well known figures. They're pretty bad in the first couple of chapters, but improve markedly over the course of the book.

2 people found this helpful

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Rigorous analysis, excellently performed

First of all, the performance by the narrator has caused me to reconsider what it means to experience excellent performance. I had given excellent performance reviews to many other non fiction books from this platform merely because they were clearly spoken. However, this performance was inspired, with pitch perfect inflection. He really drew out the emotion of the author. Even compared to the Gulag Archipelago, which was another dramatic performance, this narrator really nailed the passion of the author.

Now for the content of the book it was, as I said, rigorously researched with a high resolution chronology. It spanned from the end of the Eisenhower administration to Goldwater's crushing defeat in 1964. The author did an excellent job of explaining how the American consensus came to pass in the wake of FDR's New Deal, and how durable it remained even as the conservative backlash boiled over in this time period. Perlstein played fair, and he gave the conservative characters in this book the platform that they deserved. It's a shame, then, that the Southern Strategy really did turn out to be a naked plea to American racists to crush black equality under the law. It seems like the exact point in time where, on social issues at least, the parties really did "trade places". What a shame that the party of Lincoln and Grant would eventually give license to the domestic terrorists known as the Ku Klux Klan just so they could bid for the votes that would allow them to shrink all but the most violent parts of the government.

8 people found this helpful

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Fascinating history

I am finding this detailed history of a pivotal era in US history fascinating. I already knew the outlines of what happened, and I recognize the major characters. But much is new to me, and illuminating. The echoes through the subsequent decades, and right to our times. are notable.

There’s a lot of “inside baseball” detail, so if you aren’t interested in that, you might find the book over-long. But it’s well-told and surprisingly suspenseful.

My one criticism is of the narrator. I enjoy his impressions of Goldwater, Nixon, LBJ, JFK and so on, and his voice and energy are engaging. But he mispronounces a startling number of words (“lah-zay faire,” “po-LI-tic”) and names (Ad-a-lay Stevenson, Adolphay Menjou). I find it distracting.

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Starting the Series

This is my dive into Mr. Perlstein's four volume history of the transformation of the conservative movement since the early 1960's. I am a big fan of his work, but have never committed myself to this series.

Mr. VandenHeuvel is not a ready-for-primetime narrator. I'm sorry. He needs much coaching on basic English pronunciation and how to communicate through close micing without shouting.

And, the producer should never have allowed the performance to pass as it is.

1 person found this helpful

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Ok for Conservatives

I was concerned as a conservative about how slanted this book might be, which is why I avoided it for years. While certainly not sympathetic, it was acceptable overall from a bias perspective and a very good narrative.

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worth a listen

read this series of books, phenomenal all around. the author captures the time he describes better than most

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Thoroughly Informative and Chilling

An outstanding beginning to Rick Perlstein’s modern American conservatism saga. You get to hear about all of the details behind the origin of the modern movement that first took off with the Goldwater campaign in 1964. You go behind the scenes to learn about that idiosyncratic, abrasive ideologue and the people who supported him. As you listen, it will become increasingly clear how the story Perlstein tells has ultimately culminated in a Trump presidency which shares many of the core instincts at the heart of the movement - but little of the intellectual foundation.

3 people found this helpful

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Unbearable

The book itself was well-researched, well written but tedious. The narration was astonishingly painful. It was like having someone scream rather than narrate. I do not know what would compel this narrator to make poorly executed imitations of famous historical figures. It was a combination of ballpark-level yelling and amateur open mic night at a sad comedy club. What a shame.