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In the tradition of Truman, John Adams, and Team of Rivals, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning biographer of Charles Lindbergh, Maxwell Perkins, and Samuel Goldwyn sheds new light on a president and his presidency in a way that redefines our understanding of a tide-turning historical moment.
A hundred years after his inauguration, Woodrow Wilson still stands as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, and one of the most enigmatic. And now, after more than a decade of research and writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg has completed Wilson - the most personal and penetrating biography ever written about the 28th President.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of documents in the Wilson Archives, Berg was the first biographer to gain access to two recently discovered caches of papers belonging to those close to Wilson. From this material, Berg was able to add countless details - even several unknown events - that fill in missing pieces of Wilson's character and cast new light on his entire life.
From the scholar-President who ushered the country through its first great world war to the man of intense passion and turbulence, from the idealist determined to make the world "safe for democracy" to the stroke-crippled leader whose incapacity and the subterfuges around it were among the century's greatest secrets, the result is an intimate portrait written with a particularly contemporary point of view - a book at once magisterial and deeply emotional about the whole of Wilson's life, accomplishments, and failings. This is not just Wilson the icon - but Wilson the man.
I thought that this book was extremely well written. I also thought that Jeremy Bobb did an superb job with the narration. The biggest problem I had with the book is that Professor Berg has produced a volume that deifies President Wilson too much and is not critical enough of his shortcomings both as a person and as a world leader. Throughout the book Berg gives short shift to Wilson's weaknesses (his unwillingness to forgive people whom he felt betrayed him, his pure enmity for Henry Cabot Lodge with regard to the Versailles treaty and the racism that came from his Southern roots) while spending way too much time on the good that he accomplished (his Progressive Agenda and his willingness to try to avoid US involvement in World War I until Imperial Germany pushed him too far). In writing this book Berg indicated that he had access to previously unreleased materials (i.e. the letters of one of Wilson's daughters and the letters of Dr. Grayson who was Wilson's personal physician), but in completing the book I am left with the feeling that the addition of these materials did not add greatly to the biography or shed any new light on Wilson than what I already know. If you have never read a biography of Wilson before, this book would be a good place to start in trying to understand him- but I believe that if you really want to understand the man and the times he lived, this book is only a first step.
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
The last few years I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about World War I. Woodrow Wilson was the President during WWI therefore I have read several biographies on Wilson. In 2012 I read “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography” by John Milton Cooper which I enjoyed. Due to all my reading of Wilson I might have been demanding more from Berg’s biography of Wilson than he could deliver. Berg successfully demonstrates Wilson in all his complexity. The book covered in-depth Wilson’s youth, education process, his early career and his turning toward academe. The book describes his ascent form academia to president. Berg also noted that when he was young Wilson practiced his signature over and over because he felt that someday he would be writing it on important documents. His early goal was to be a statesman and he studied toward that goal. As President Wilson created the Federal Reserve Bank, progressive taxation and the State of the Union address. Berg downplayed Wilson’s faults for example he displayed a southern perspective of racial intolerance and he increased segregation in some government agencies. He also downplayed Wilson inability to forgive anyone he thought crossed him, his womanizing, and his behavior negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. His first Secretary of State was William Jennings Bryant who most people recognize from the Scope Trial and his railing against evolution. I did not care for the bible quotes at the beginning of each chapter. If this is a person’s first book on Wilson remember even thought the book is in-depth coverage in it not unbiased. Jeremy Bobb did a good job narrating the book.
19 of 21 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
The author want to say wilson was great but the facts keep getting in the way<br/><br/>In many ways wilson was the Jimmy Carter of his age<br/>A moral man<br/>A smart man<br/>Not a politician<br/><br/>On the bad side<br/>A racist<br/>A know it all dreamer<br/>A bad Judge of people<br/>A sickly man<br/>indecisive
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
be more objective Giving a a speech is not a profile of courage
What aspect of Jeremy Bobb’s performance would you have changed?
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
there is a movie to be made on his time in office
Any additional comments?
author glosses over flaws and rationalize way to many of them
14 of 16 people found this review helpful
Woodrow Wilson is almost forgotten. He was a brilliant, moral, if flawed man and this book can't be put down. Scott Berg has exceeded even his biography of Lindberg here. The book is mesmerizingly read aloud and a joy to go back and walk around in Wilson's time and see him struggle and mostly prevail.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Berg is an outstanding biographer. I chose this book because I enjoyed his "Lindbergh". I was not disappointed. This should be required reading for young adults...and the rest of us as well. It is that well done in every respect.
Wilson is arguably one of five American Presidents who had the most impact on subsequent generations. Berg traces Wilson's academic development (warts and all) and how he went from being President of Princeton to President of the US in two years without ever really becoming a "politician".. Wilson faced a time of rapid world change with an astounding view of the future. His policies were what eventually led to the American position of superpower. He was overcome during his lifetime by the inertia of empire stabilized world politics but the things he did not get finished came to fruition under FDR and Truman. This was a man (with "feet of clay") who had a vision that the world needed but took another war to realize.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Terrific biography written with great understatement and attention. Gave me a much better appreciation for the man and his times.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Wilson to be better than the print version?
I would, if it was narrated by a different narrator.
What other book might you compare Wilson to and why?
Insofar as it is a biography of an American President, I compare this book to John Adams by David McCullough, Thomas Jefferson by John Meacham, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Founding Rivals by Chris De Rose.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Jeremy Bobb?
George Guidall, Simon Prebble, Chrisotpher Hurt, Suzanne Toren, Edward Hermann, Nelson Runger, or George Wilson.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
I have to think about this one.
Any additional comments?
Although the narration is dull, monotone, and tedious, the biography is well-written and wonderful. It is a must-read for anyone even mildly interested in the United State's presidential history.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I am happy to learn about Woodrow Wilson, a figure I did not previously know well. This biography was too long for me. Comparing it to Caro.'s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, I found the Johnson biography an easier read.
It's amazing to me that Wilson didn't enter political life until his 50s, and that despite the pressures of such a life, he stuck to his values and morality. Regrettably, his morality did not encompass equal rights for all races. Based on this writing, I wonder if World War II may have been avoided or at least lessened had the league of Nations been enacted in the US. I recommend this book to anyone interested in politics.
I thought this was a great book reviewing a time period I knew little about