Audiobook Review: The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt

The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, read by Harry Chase

About the biggest fault that I can find with this book is that the audiobook version I listened to is the abridged 2002 version rather than the unabridged 2010 version because that is what my library offered and no publishers of books on tape have started to send me free audiobooks yet to review as is my custom with other forms of reading.  Other than that, this is a great book, and high praise in particular belongs to the reader, who is able to show a broad command of different voices for the text based on who he is quoting at a given time.  This particular book, all almost 900 pages of it, was not only the first of a series of books the author wrote on Teddy Roosevelt but also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.  One can see why this is the case even in abridgment.  Admittedly, I haven’t studied much about Theodore Roosevelt [1], but this book is one that manages to be both instructive and entertaining, and it is clear that the author gained some striking insights into the development and growth of the book’s subject through his youth and young adulthood.

In many ways, this book is a conventional presidential memoir, done very well.  The author discusses the life of Theodore Roosevelt in a largely chronological fashion, beginning with his birth and early life and ending with the arrival of the park ranger while on vacation in the Adirondacks informing him that he was to be the next president of the United States.  In between the author includes a great deal of insight about Roosevelt’s life.  There is the hero worship of Theodore towards his father, his father’s early death connected to political problems that gave him some major enemies in order to avenge his father’s good name, his own tendency not to be very reflective and to avoid thinking about his failures and pushing on, and his general impatience and inability to settle down.  It is exhausting just how diverse Roosevelt’s activities were, from his simultaneous pursuit of degrees in natural history and political economics at Harvard to his working on careers as a rancher in the West, writer of popular histories on naval and political history, and working politician on the state, local, and national levels at the same time.  One gets tired simply hearing about how much writing and schmoozing that Roosevelt did, all while being at least somewhat disingenuous about his ambitions and drive in order to get his way as unobtrusively as possible.  I wonder if people feel as exhausted thinking about what I’m up to.

Ultimately, what makes this book so good is the way it combines a great historian with a great subject.  This should not be a complicated thing to understand.  The audiobook merely adds by having a great voice that captures Roosevelt’s gimmicky phrases like “swell,” and “bully” that are peppered throughout his correspondence.  If you have not read this book and you have any interest in Theodore Roosevelt as well as the politics of the Guilded Age, this is a very worthwhile book to read or listen to.  One simply cannot go wrong with this book as long as one knows what one is getting into with the depth of material and the engaging nature of its writing.  From what we can see, Theodore Roosevelt definitely managed to grow into maturity, in large part because while he started young into politics, he managed to grow from the early loss of his father, then the loss of his mother and first wife on the same day, a crushing defeat in the mayorial election of New York City in 1886, and time spent as a Civil Service Commissioner, Commissioner of police in New York, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, among other positions, one of which was a deputy sheriff in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt was one of those impossibly complicated and fascinating people that is very broad although not particularly deep, and the sort of person who makes passionate friends and enemies easily.  One would have liked to have known him, as it would have been “swell.”

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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