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Friday, February 28, 2014


Published in 2013 by Harper Audio
Read by the author, Simon Winchester
Duration: 13 hours, 33 minutes

Simon Winchester's sprawling book, The Men Who United the States, tells a history of the United States organized around five themes: Wood, Earth, Water, Fire and Metal. To be honest, I largely ignored the themes and just enjoyed listening to this magnificent, chaotic, rambling history.

Starting roughly with Lewis and Clark (Winchester backtracks a lot), the story of America is told through the tales of the people that made America a more perfect union through their explorations or their inventions. The reader (or listener if you are enjoying the audiobook) is told about Lewis and Clark and the Pony Express and the invention of the telegraph, the first transcontinental rail line, the exploration of the Grand Canyon, the role of New Harmony (Indiana) in the study of American geography,  a con game involving jewels, how George Washington toured the Frontier before he became president, the Erie Canal, the telephone, Edison vs. Tesla, the first plane to travel across America, television, radio, the internet, modern day nuclear silos, the path of the Mississippi River and so much more that I cannot possibly remember it all.

I listen to audiobooks as I drive and this book was like having a history professor just ramble along with the most interesting stories about American history and the interesting places he has been. Like in a conversation, the story meanders but it flows quite naturally almost all of the time as the author throws in lots of interesting anecdotes about his own experiences, the lives of related historical figures or just something that was odd.

The author, Simon Winchester, narrates his own audiobook. It always concerns me when I see that the author is the reader of his or her own audiobook. Frankly, most authors do not have the voice or the skill to pull it off. Winchester's voice is pleasant  and he succeeds with his narration even though his English accent sometimes made for some interesting pronunciations and served to remind me that he is not an American by birth but by choice (he recently became a Naturalized citizen).

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Men Who United the States

Reviewed on February 28, 2014

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