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Saturday, July 1, 2017

BUNKER HILL: A CITY, A SIEGE, A REVOLUTION (audiobook) by Nathaniel Philbrick

Published in 2013 by Penguin Audio
Read by Chris Sorensen
Duration: 12 hours, 58 minutes

Nathaniel Philbrick's Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution is mis-named. While the battle is in the book, it is only a part of the story. In reality, this book is a history of Boston from the 1750s and 1760s right up to the Declaration of Independence.

In a lot of ways this book is much more of a biography of Dr. Joseph Warren, one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty movement, along with Samuel Adams, John Adams and John Hancock. Warren is often overlooked nowadays because he died at Bunker Hill (which was really mostly fought on Breed's Hill). The excessive focus on Warren was, in my mind, one of the great weaknesses of the book. Philbrick spent too much time worrying over Warren's alleged personal failures and not enough time getting on with the story. It just bogged things down.

Philbrick does not gloss over the warts of our Founding Fathers, noting that some had mixed motives and some profited from the independence movement. There is plenty of emphasis on the British side of things, something I admire about the book.  

The arrival of Washington in Boston, sent by the Continental Congress to take command and in effect nationalize the militias that surrounded the British troops in Boston, is not explained well. Philbrick does not go much into the goings on of the Continental Congress besides noting that certain people left Boston to attend. Because of this, Washington's arrival comes with very little explanation (much like it may have seemed to some of the militiamen). As the narrative continues, Philbrick does not give Washington much credit for anything around Boston but bad ideas, impatience, a negative attitude and lucky timing.

Chris Sorenson's reading of the audiobook was excellent. 

In short, while there are things to admire about this book, there are problems as well - not problems with the research but problems with choices about what was included (excessive focus on Warren's personal life) and what was left out (the Continental Congress).

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution.

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