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Publisher's Summary

David Halberstam's masterpiece, the defining history of the making of the Vietnam tragedy, with a new foreword by Senator John McCain.

Using portraits of America's flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country's recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose? As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded. It is an American classic.

©2002 David Halberstam (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The most comprehensive saga of how America became involved in Vietnam.... [I]t is also The Iliad of the American empire and The Odyssey of this nation's search for its idealistic soul." (The Boston Globe)
"Seductively readable.... [I]t is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking that is fully matched by Halberstam's performance." (Newsweek)
"A rich, entertaining, and profound reading experience." (The New York Times )

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Preparation for Ken Burns

I first read this book some 45 years ago and decided that it was time for a refresher with Ken Burns' series on Vietnam coming up on PBS. Scary part was how much I'd forgotten about the LBJ period of self delusion. The historical background from WWII up the JFK period, (missed opportunities), is absolutely fascinating. FDR had no intention of allowing the French to regain possession of Indochina post-war. Sadly all his plans died with him. Even then, the US was against French reoccupation but the British were kind enough to rearm the interned French forces prior to leaving for Burma and Malaya. Instant civil war with the Viet Minh who had been fighting the Japanese. Unfortunately this war coincided with Korea and de Gaulle convinced the US that Indochina was an extension of Korea. American assistance followed.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me was the historical dichotomy that trapped JFK to even pay attention to Vietnam. The convergence of domestic political history and the historical geopolitical circumstances placed JFK in a no-win situation that he was barely juggling when he was assassinated. He was poorly served by his advisors, including RFK as the deaths of Diệm and his brother amply demonstrated. You need to listen to this tome, (and at 37 hrs., it IS a tome), but Mark Bramhall's voice makes it enjoyable, without detracting from the verbiage. Five Stars across the board!!

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Before there was "groupthink"

Anyone with interest in what is happening *now* would do VERY well to pick up this $56+ masterwork for a credit or free trial w Audible. The book is 37 hours long, never boring. The facts contained here are jaw dropping, literally. Halbertam's body of work is generally amazing. This book is that book where I must use the M word: MASTERWORK. The delivery is duly dry and inspired: reader lets the facts do the work. Probably the best value four a credit I've used in 14 years w Audible.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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How all the Best and Bravest were lost to History.

What a marvelous tomb built out of tight and intimate character sketches. These were the men that Kennedy assembled to fill his table at Camelot. These were the same men Johnson kept on to help him shepard in his Great Society. These were the, mostly young, men with their panache and style and computer sharp minds who had ushered in a new way of thinking about bureaucracy and armament and diplomacy and helmsmanship of the American craft of State. And these were the very same men who lied their way into the barbarous and genocidal folly that was the beginning of the end of America’s greatness in the century that was otherwise hers, the Vietnam War. This huge book, so well sourced and thought through, such a rollicking tour of duty through the halls of government and all its winding back alleys, so vast in its perusal of persuasion and its insights into invective, left me with a pressingly prescient notion for our current corrosive state of affairs: when power only tells power what it wants to hear, then power often proudly makes the sagest of mistakes. McNamara’s IBM was only as wise as the lies fed into it.

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  • Peter G
  • Hamilton, Ontario Canada
  • 11-09-17

Superb

I first read this in 1973 and it has lost none of its potency or relevance. The narration is excellent and clearly evokes many of the players, especially LBJ.

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Outstanding summary of US involvement in Vietnam

This is a classic for a reason. It's extremely well written and provides an excellent summary of the lives and actions of the major US players in Vietnam. I've read and listened to hundreds of books on Vietnam and I don't think any single one can compare in terms of wealth of information.

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Could not get through the intro... 25 minutes.

I have 100's of audible books. this author's tone, style, "voice" was off putting. I returned it.

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The Best Political History of Viet Nam

If you could sum up The Best and the Brightest in three words, what would they be?

Excellent writing, fantastic reader.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Best and the Brightest?

The background of the Kennedy involvement.

What about Mark Bramhall’s performance did you like?

Steady and smooth.

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

No, It would take over a whole day.

Any additional comments?

I will by the "Prequel" about Korea

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A conspiracy of lies in a government gone mad.

Unfortunately, a worse situation exists in the US today. This book serves warning of what is possible in a secretive and paranoid administration.

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Shaking my head

A marvelous and tragic story of how the US stumbled into Vietnam. So many squandered opportunities to avoid the quagmire and so much dissembling and dishonesty on the part of the government.

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I could not keep my ears away from this book

Having been of draft age during the war i and my generation were saddened and disgusted by our country's increasing decline into a maelstrom from which it could not seem to emerge. The frustration we felt was at the burning core of the social unrest of the 60's.
With this book, which i started reading in college, the historical fault lines and the tensions upon the key actors is now put into its proper perspective. This book is Halberstam's magnum opus.
I highly recommend to listeners his book THE COLDEST WAR which was written long after THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTESTMany of thesame forces were at work both in Korea and Viet Nam