Our Man

Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century
Narrated by: Joe Barrett
Length: 20 hrs and 11 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (331 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Prize for Biography

Winner of the 2019 Hitchens Prize

"Portrays Holbrooke in all of his endearing and exasperating self-willed glory.... Both a sweeping diplomatic history and a Shakespearean tragicomedy.... If you could read one book to comprehend American's foreign policy and its quixotic forays into quicksands over the past 50 years, this would be it." (Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review)

"By the end of the second page, maybe the third, you will be hooked.... There never was a diplomat-activist quite like [Holbrooke], and there seldom has been a book quite like this - sweeping and sentimental, beguiling and brutal, catty and critical, much like the man himself." (David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe)

Richard Holbrooke was brilliant, utterly self-absorbed, and possessed of almost inhuman energy and appetites. Admired and detested, he was the force behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan wars, America's greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era. His power lay in an utter belief in himself and his idea of a muscular, generous foreign policy.

From his days as a young adviser in Vietnam to his last efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke embodied the postwar American impulse to take the lead on the global stage. But his sharp elbows and tireless self-promotion ensured that he never rose to the highest levels in government that he so desperately coveted. His story is thus the story of America during its era of supremacy: Its strength, drive, and sense of possibility, as well as its penchant for overreach and heedless self-confidence.

In Our Man, drawn from Holbrooke's diaries and papers, we are given a nonfiction narrative that is both intimate and epic in its revelatory portrait of this extraordinary and deeply flawed man and the elite spheres of society and government he inhabited.

©2019 George Packer (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"It is impossible to read George Packer’s new biography of Richard Holbrooke without a piercing sense of melancholy, not only that a man so supremely alive should be dead, but also because such people - Our Man, in Packer’s title, the incarnation of vanished glory, imperial hubris, exceptional Americanism - no longer walk the earth.... Extraordinary." (James Traub, Foreign Policy)

"This book is a real accomplishment; it’s hands down the best biography I have read this year.... Deeply researched and reported.... Sure to win a prize (or two or three) in the 2019 literary-awards sweepstakes." (Adam B. Kushner, Philadelphia Inquirer)

"This is the kind of biography (massive, detailed) by the kind of author (respected, experienced) reserved for great books on great men.... Packer make[s] a case for Holbrooke’s place in the pantheon, showing that there was real idealism and skill buried beneath the layers of self-regard." (Mary Ann Gwin, The Seattle Times)

What listeners say about Our Man

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    5 out of 5 stars

Story telling at its finest...

I was mesmerized by the audio version. Packer's retelling of history was absolutely fascinating. I could not stop listening. Parts of it had me laughing out loud. Holbrooke was a gifted and inspired larger than life character with larger than life brokenness. Following his life was like following the history of the United States since the 1960s. It is a potent reminder that history is made not just but great men and women, but men and women with character flaws, feelings, and vulnerabilities. The narrator does a perfect job in bringing the text to life.

3 people found this helpful

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A riveting story about an imperfect diplomat

A great book for those interested in the role of the USA in the 20th Century. The voice, cadence and rhythm of narrator Joe Barrett really added to this audible version. George Packer has a rare skill to unpack personality, history and psychology into a thoroughly enjoyable book. The arch from Vietnam to Bosnia, to Afghanistan describes the role that Dick Holbrooke played in the "American Century"

2 people found this helpful

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A five star experience on a great problem solver

Moving, raw and very informative on Presidents Clinton and Obama. Excellent narator and biography on a difficult but brilliant man.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic book!

I had two brief encounters with Holbrooke in my career, and Packer captures this larger than life man perfectly a terrific, interesting read.

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Riveting Story!

Never expected such a riveting and enthralling book on modern US foreign policy. Yes Holbrooke's “bull in china shop” personality and career warrants such an interesting book though George Packer goes the extra mile in covering many aspects of US foreign policy since the Vietnam War (when Holbrooke started his career) up to the Obama administration in such a way that you just can’t stop listening / reading. Fascinating to learn about Holbrooke’s life in all the nitty-gritty details. For a man that accomplished so much in diplomacy, it's amazing to see how undiplomatic he was throughout his life. Not a surprise that he didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, though he definitely deserved it. Incredible read!

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Haunting

I didn’t know much about Holbrooke, I’m too young to have known of him in Vietnam, and while I recall hearing about him frequently on the news about Bosnia and Pakistan after that, I never really understood who he was. That’s kind of the story the book and of Holbrooke, a man who wanted greatness, but fell short. After listening to this book, I feel that those blanks in my education have been corrected. Packer is harsh in some ways, making it difficult to understand how Holbrooke did as well as he did, and yet it’s a sympathetic portrait too. In the end it left me unsettled; many of us fail to achieve all our goals, but few have goals as lofty as Holbrooke. I’m not sure if that says more about him, or the rest of us.

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Breathlessly, unrelentingly good.

This worked on so many levels: an intimate portrait of a man; an Insider's view of the making of American foreign policy. Highly recommended.

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  • CB
  • 06-23-19

Good although parts boring.. could have been great

Good book / bio / history, cultural commentary, etc. Interesting barratorial p.o.v. which unfortunately didn't quite 'gel.' When it worked it was great. Not sure what the problem was. Maybe the personal friend narrator p.o.v. suffers from inevitable comparison with great literary ones. The narrator's voice is great, but pace (non-stop) almost ruins the intimacy. The writer, too, jams so many facts in that it tends to overburden the form. At times lyrical. Could have been alot better. May try reading the book in order to control pace and skip some of the too many details.

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Highly recommended. So much more

Than the story of one fascinating man’s life. Such a compelling look at foreign policy—I never thought I would be caught up. Sounds like hype but “Shakespearean” poignant. Behind the curtain glimpses of famous people. it is as billed: it says so much about America maybe in decline. So American. I’m so glad I read this book.

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A Brilliant, funny, addictive book wonderfully narrated

This is as good a history of a flawed, tragic genius of a diplomat and America’s disarrayed foreign policy as you’ll ever get. The narrator sounds as if he’s giving you marvelous personal secrets of the powerful right in your kitchen. Sensational!

2 people found this helpful