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Publisher's Summary

A classic since its original landmark publication in 1980, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is the first scholarly work to tell America's story from the bottom up - from the point of view of, and in the words of, America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers.

From Columbus to the Revolution to slavery and the Civil War - from World War II to the election of George W. Bush and the "War on Terror" - A People's History of the United States is an important and necessary contribution to a complete and balanced understanding of American history.

©2009 Howard Zinn (P)2009 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Zinn's work is a vital corrective to triumphalist accounts." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,635
  • 4 Stars
    798
  • 3 Stars
    346
  • 2 Stars
    140
  • 1 Stars
    184

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    1,894
  • 4 Stars
    837
  • 3 Stars
    421
  • 2 Stars
    141
  • 1 Stars
    133

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,379
  • 4 Stars
    571
  • 3 Stars
    250
  • 2 Stars
    82
  • 1 Stars
    158
Sort by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Thomas
  • Oakland Park, FL, United States
  • 11-09-10

Amateur hour in the production booth

This has to be the most poorly produced audiobook of all time. With a work of this length - roughly 35 hours - I understand there are several challenges in putting everything together, but here it's like whoever was doing the recording wasn't even trying. Consider. 1) Starting sometime between the 90 minute and 2 hour mark, a number of obvious and jarring cuts, with the narrator dropping out suddenly, and then resuming speech in the middle of a different sentence. This issue seems to settle down after roughly the 5 hour mark. 2) Different audio levels for different recording sessions. After a cut, the narrator returns notably louder or quieter, and with a different level of white noise in the background. 3) At the 5 hour and 46 minute mark, the narrator says "hold on", and then engages in a conversation with the recording engineer, and this was never edited out of the final product. This means the publishers didn't listen to this audiobook even one time for quality control before putting it out in the wild. Shameful, and this is a product of unacceptably low quality. 2 stars for the wealth of content and Jeff Zinn's effort in recording well over 30 hours of speech, but minus 3 stars for a final product that could have been put together better by a motivated middle schooler.

353 of 377 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Horrible Editing Ruins Experience

I was looking forward to listening to this audiobook, but as I worked my way through it, the horrible production quality ruined the experience for me.

Jeff Zinn's narration is fantastic, the subject matter interesting, but there are numerous spots where the audio editor chopped off half of a word. On a long car trip, these jarring "jump cuts" were too much to tolerate. Did nobody quality-check this audiobook before releasing it?

264 of 283 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Tallman
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 06-30-11

Terrible Production

I write only in regard to the production of the audiobook, not as to the text itself, which is great and worthy. The slovenliness of the recording, with gaps, repeats, and periods where the reader is obviously having a conversation with a third party (editor? recording technician?) are beyond the minor and forgivable. Are these things not edited? Vetted by quality control? Does no one bother to listen to an audiobook before it is mass-produced and distributed? If no one at the publisher does, then someone at Audible ought to.

150 of 167 people found this review helpful

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

The Narrator is not as bad as some have said...

I was hesitant to purchase this book due to some of the reviews regarding the narration. The Narrator was not as bad as some have said in my opinion but he was not great. This is a wonderful book and it is the book that carries the "meh" performance.

47 of 53 people found this review helpful

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

Narration SUCKS and poor production!

The narrator sucks! The production was poor. I read most of the comments and was like it can not be that bad. They must have fix some problems because I did not hear a few that were mentioned through out the comments. The narrators voice gets loud then soft many times. Sometimes so soft that I have to crank up the volume and then all of a sudden the guy is screaming. I did find myself laughing at the way he tried to read people's names and when he was trying to read the writings from African Americans. Although the information was very good, it would have helped the book out if they add more chapters to break the information down. Instead of having one 3 hour chapter, how about 5-10 sub chapters to give the listener a break and a good stopping place to take in all that information. In all, I guess it could have been worse, I could have been the narrator!

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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

A Must-Read

Few books have stirred such patriotic feelings in me. It's wonderful to to live in a country, that, despite its flaws, allows a book that goes against the grain of the "accepted narrative" to be printed.

Many will accuse Zinn of being biased, but that is the point. History is, by its nature, biased from a point of view. Zinn is writing a People's history, telling events from the points of view that have long been silenced. Anyone offended by this would be better suited for less literate works by gaseous pundits that bolster weak arguments rather than challenge the mind.

It is true that the audio book should have been edited before release. I noted one long swatch of narrative that was repeated (Were there long omissions? I may never know). Also entertaining was a long sound check that showed fascinating insights into the workings of the audiobook recording industry. However, the errors are few and shouldn't detract from an otherwise fascinating and vital work.

90 of 108 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • JB
  • 09-08-11

Very poorly read

This is a very good thesis, but so poorly read, its painful.
One can even hear the narrator making unedited commentary within the body of the story. He often sounds like he is tired and out of breath. I think they were very stingy and cheap to have this man narrate the book...I feel like I wasted my money because I cannot listen to another sentence from the inept narrator. -0 stars...
I really wish I could return this audio book...REALLY POORLY NARRATED.

75 of 90 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mary
  • Madeira Park, BC, Canada
  • 05-20-13

Even History Haters Will Love This

Every country should be so lucky as to have a history like this that punctures all the carefully concocted national myths and gives the contrary view--in Zinn's account George Washington was a wealthy landowner who fomented revolution for personal gain; Abe Lincoln believed blacks were not equal to whites and only abolished slavery out of political expediency; FDR was a staunch defender of upper-class privilege who only introduced the New Deal to defuse revolt; etc. But Zinn is not just a gadfly--his version makes sense more often than not, and furthermore, his great sense of story gives hackneyed old history new life and makes for highly enjoyable entertainment. And don't pay any attention to the quibbles about production quality--the actual reading is fine and the few technical glitches there are barely deserve mention.

20 of 24 people found this review helpful

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

Incredible work of art - inspired & informed

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This book is a 'must read' for any American who considers themselves educated, or believes they have an understanding of how the United States.

Howard Zinn must have had an incredible team to help him do the research to put this together. It's rare for me to read something that fundamentally changes my worldview, but this book opened my mind and filled in gaps in my education and understanding of the formation of the United States - and Western Civilization in general - that was absolutely staggering for me personally.

What's amazing, is that I was aware of much of the content of this book from my own reading and studying -- but having it the entire history put together in such a brilliant manner somehow made everything 'click' for me so that for the first time in my life I grasped the the totality of our history, and clearly saw the naked truth -- the lie that's been perpetuated in the service of those few wealthy families who have been brutalizing nearly every human-being on earth for power and profit since recorded history began. The same families we elect to our presidency and our congress, appoint to judge us, and to manage our treasure, our health, our childrens' education and our infrastructure.

Mr. Zinn is intentionally slanted in his presentation of our history -- he gives little time to the caricatures our education system has trained us to believe in as martyrs and heroes, courageous leaders and selfless public servants. What time he does spend on them is simply to expose the reality and motivations behind these characters, and the connections they all inevitably have to the masters who have controlled this country and the world for untold generations.

On that note, one of the finest points he makes is that "heroes" such as FDR, Abraham Lincoln and so many others who myths tell us stood in lonely courage to make historic changes on behalf of the downtrodden and ordinary person. The reality is much different - he demonstrates in every case, it was the threat of revolution or similar expressions of the will of the people that forced those leaders to make changes -- in essence, they had no other choice. To paraphrase Zinn, there has never been a bold politician on the national stage who made changes on behalf of the working man or woman -- rather, there were men who circumstances forced to make changes. Politicans are not leaders -- they are followers; policiticans do not make changes, people do, and politicians simply follow what the people demand.

As an example, FDR's sweeping changes to provide the necessities for our elderly and sick, such as social security, was prompted because the country was on the verge of a communist revolution. The "modern" changes he made to provide such basic aid for the disposessed in society was common in cultures that existed before the birth of Christ. The wealthy families - the masters by whom we all are exploited by -- were enraged, but FDR famously said that they should praise him, for his actions had saved capitalism - the New Deal was only a temporary set-back. And living under a goverment that has been completely taken over by the wealthy class -- the families that have truly run the government since it's inception -- we can witness first hand that captilism is alive and well and the New Deal is being dismantled piece by piece.

But, Howard Zinn doesn't spend a lot of time on those well known characters -- just enough to clarify the historical record. He works witha purpose -- to enlighten the reader with the truth -- and as such, he has a monumental task, and has created a monumental book. He wastes little time on the characters that have been ingrained in our psyches from the moment a person is able to comprehend anything. He doesn't waste time arguing -- but simply makes you aware that the big lie is ingrained using every tool available, from movies to songs to advertising, and our school system is simply a purveyor of these same illusions, designed to control us and make us useful for our masters. It is not a conspiracy -- it is clearly done and with purpose -- they make no attempt to hide their lies -- instead, the sheer audacity and momentous reality make it difficult to accept the reality, and those who do are simply marginalized, heros like Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader and a host of others who most people have never heard of ... although the Internet may change all of that.

So, it's a tough task that Mr. Zinn took on to create this book -- and for all of it's beauty and brilliance -- it's a tough task to make it through. Howard Zinn writes without sentimentality -- he simply shares his research -- the well-documented, incredibly well-written story of the settlement of the United States -- but as the title implies, the story is told from a perspective is rare and difficult to find -- the PEOPLE's history of the United States.

It's a sad and ruthless story -- at times I would forget I was reading historical accounts -- the tale dredges up instances of cruelty and ruthlessness and absolute evil that would give me nightmares. I found myself depressed and to read any contemporary work on individuals like Lincoln, our "founding fathers," or that disgusting racist pig, Harry Truman, who dropped two nuclear bombs in the center of cities populated by civilians with full knowledge that the Japanese had already agreed to meet the terms of surrender. All of those sins, lost in history -- those men, held up as heroes.

And too, there are moments of sadness, where you see that if the right person had been in place, so many needless deaths and acts of sheer cruelty could have been prevented. The true civil servants - the men and women who selflessly cared for the average person -- were betrayed and humiliated time after time. Like Henry S, Wallace -- someone even most educated people have never heard of -- was the true architect of FDR's "New Deal." He was a tireless fighter for the poor and was on the verge of implementing changes that would have altered the course of the nation and prevented the wealthy few from every taking control of our resources again.

But, politics being what they are -- FDR was running for an unprecedented fourth term and faced strong opposition from the Democratic party bosses, and in a literally smoky back room, he sold out his faithful vice-president of three terms -- Henry S. Wallace -- for an uneducated racist from Missouri named Harry Truman. The same man who needlessly killed half-million Japanese civilians and gave the United States the distinction of being the only nation to use a nuclear weapon. George W. Bush positively gushed with admiration for Harry Truman, saying he was his favorite president, and a man he modeled his own administration after.

And such is the People's History of the United States -- an incredible work of scholarship, and regardless of your politics, it's an heroic contribution and indispensable for anyone seeking to understand truth.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

What about Jeff Zinn’s performance did you like?

It was very cool that Howard's son was able to do the narration, and in addition his speaking skills were excellent.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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

Distrubingly Fascinating History of the US

What made the experience of listening to A People's History of the United States the most enjoyable?

The book is clearly narrated and the audio quality is perfect on my device unlike the listening experience some other people claim to have had.

What other book might you compare A People's History of the United States to and why?

I have never heard in such detail the "other side" of the history of the US which has been conveniently not taught in our public school system. And I wonder if the children of the elite private schools are taught about the history of the US that they have benefited from.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I was moved all throughout the book, so much so that at times I had to cut it off.

Any additional comments?

For anyone who wants a well rounded education this is a must read (I mean listen).

11 of 13 people found this review helpful