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Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of Truman, John Adams, and Team of Rivals, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning biographer of Charles Lindbergh, Maxwell Perkins, and Samuel Goldwyn sheds new light on a president and his presidency in a way that redefines our understanding of a tide-turning historical moment.

A hundred years after his inauguration, Woodrow Wilson still stands as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, and one of the most enigmatic. And now, after more than a decade of research and writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg has completed Wilson - the most personal and penetrating biography ever written about the 28th President.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of documents in the Wilson Archives, Berg was the first biographer to gain access to two recently discovered caches of papers belonging to those close to Wilson. From this material, Berg was able to add countless details - even several unknown events - that fill in missing pieces of Wilson's character and cast new light on his entire life.

From the scholar-President who ushered the country through its first great world war to the man of intense passion and turbulence, from the idealist determined to make the world "safe for democracy" to the stroke-crippled leader whose incapacity and the subterfuges around it were among the century's greatest secrets, the result is an intimate portrait written with a particularly contemporary point of view - a book at once magisterial and deeply emotional about the whole of Wilson's life, accomplishments, and failings. This is not just Wilson the icon - but Wilson the man.

©2013 A. Scott Berg (P)2013 Simon & Schuster

What listeners say about Wilson

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well Written & Narrated But Too Much Hero Worship

I thought that this book was extremely well written. I also thought that Jeremy Bobb did an superb job with the narration. The biggest problem I had with the book is that Professor Berg has produced a volume that deifies President Wilson too much and is not critical enough of his shortcomings both as a person and as a world leader. Throughout the book Berg gives short shift to Wilson's weaknesses (his unwillingness to forgive people whom he felt betrayed him, his pure enmity for Henry Cabot Lodge with regard to the Versailles treaty and the racism that came from his Southern roots) while spending way too much time on the good that he accomplished (his Progressive Agenda and his willingness to try to avoid US involvement in World War I until Imperial Germany pushed him too far). In writing this book Berg indicated that he had access to previously unreleased materials (i.e. the letters of one of Wilson's daughters and the letters of Dr. Grayson who was Wilson's personal physician), but in completing the book I am left with the feeling that the addition of these materials did not add greatly to the biography or shed any new light on Wilson than what I already know. If you have never read a biography of Wilson before, this book would be a good place to start in trying to understand him- but I believe that if you really want to understand the man and the times he lived, this book is only a first step.

39 people found this helpful

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A complex man

The last few years I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about World War I. Woodrow Wilson was the President during WWI therefore I have read several biographies on Wilson. In 2012 I read “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography” by John Milton Cooper which I enjoyed. Due to all my reading of Wilson I might have been demanding more from Berg’s biography of Wilson than he could deliver. Berg successfully demonstrates Wilson in all his complexity. The book covered in-depth Wilson’s youth, education process, his early career and his turning toward academe. The book describes his ascent form academia to president. Berg also noted that when he was young Wilson practiced his signature over and over because he felt that someday he would be writing it on important documents. His early goal was to be a statesman and he studied toward that goal. As President Wilson created the Federal Reserve Bank, progressive taxation and the State of the Union address. Berg downplayed Wilson’s faults for example he displayed a southern perspective of racial intolerance and he increased segregation in some government agencies. He also downplayed Wilson inability to forgive anyone he thought crossed him, his womanizing, and his behavior negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. His first Secretary of State was William Jennings Bryant who most people recognize from the Scope Trial and his railing against evolution. I did not care for the bible quotes at the beginning of each chapter. If this is a person’s first book on Wilson remember even thought the book is in-depth coverage in it not unbiased. Jeremy Bobb did a good job narrating the book.

27 people found this helpful

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What to do with Wilson

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The author want to say wilson was great but the facts keep getting in the way

In many ways wilson was the Jimmy Carter of his age
A moral man
A smart man
Not a politician

On the bad side
A racist
A know it all dreamer
A bad Judge of people
A sickly man
indecisive

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

be more objective Giving a a speech is not a profile of courage

What aspect of Jeremy Bobb’s performance would you have changed?

good job

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

there is a movie to be made on his time in office

Any additional comments?

author glosses over flaws and rationalize way to many of them

26 people found this helpful

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Good not great

Woodrow Wilson is an interesting character in an American history. In many ways he led to many of the socialist agendas being perpetuated on America today. Although that is not emphasized in this book. Neither is his racist upbringing or continued thought into his presidency. Even his Christian faith is not discussed in depth. Overall I found this biography to be filled with inconsequential facts it did not take a deep look into the most interesting parts of Wilson‘s life and legacy.

4 people found this helpful

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Who remembers Wilson? I do no and so worth it!

Woodrow Wilson is almost forgotten. He was a brilliant, moral, if flawed man and this book can't be put down. Scott Berg has exceeded even his biography of Lindberg here. The book is mesmerizingly read aloud and a joy to go back and walk around in Wilson's time and see him struggle and mostly prevail.

4 people found this helpful

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Disappointingly worshipful

In more than 100 Audible books I have never been more disappointed. This is a terrible book in so many ways, but mostly because it is worshipful of Woodrow Wilson to the point of being constantly grating and sometimes unreadable. Berg assures us that the President who segregated Washington, DC and the federal government, to give just one example, displayed but “genteel” racism and told “Darkie jokes” that similarly “genteel,” because they merely depicted African Americans as “stupid and lazy” rather than evincing the “racial hatred” of other leaders of the period. What are we to make of these ridiculous and pointless attempts to canonize a man rather than delve into his strengths and weaknesses with decent balance and perspective? Please do not waste your time as I did wondering if this apologia would ever get better. It pains me to write this as I had expected so much better and have never been as disappointed with a much-acclaimed writer.

2 people found this helpful

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Horrible Biography and Waste of Time


Narrator: Good and Very Good

The Book: The book is not a good Biography. If you read Ron Chernow, HW Brands, TJ Stiles, David Nasaw, or Jon Meacham…they are fascinated by the subject, but they are not lovers of the subject.

Chernow gets into the gory details of Washington and Hamilton. Brands gives you details on Reagan. Stiles gives you 360-degrees of Vanderbilt. Meacham Jefferson is not 100% complete, but way more complete than “Wilson”

The entire battle with Henry Cabot Lodge is reduced to petty rivalry when the issue was much deeper than that. Wilson's war economy is given a “pass” and the author says that the railroads were “run better by the government”. This is 100% false. It ruined the great American rail system, can you say Amtrack.

Then there is Wilson totalitarianism at Princeton. He wanted to control the social order and became enraged when he could not do it. How about just administering classes and staying the heck out of people’s lives.

Then there is the mysterious Colonel House in WWI. The author fails to explain why Wilson claimed neutrality in every way but put the USA at war at all times. A complete biography would delve deeper into Wilson potentially being a puppet to Wall Street bond holders with British ties. Particularly, the House of Morgan. Even the Morgan's bragged about duping Wilson in Mexico, WWI, and China

Then, the author spends hours on the details of Wilson’s boring love life, but no real detail on the Federal Reserve. The monster that still plagues America was created by Wilson’s administration – In this book, it is basically less important than Wilson’s delight in visiting Scotland – to spend time with the George Soros of his day, Andrew Carnegie.

2 people found this helpful

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A Well Written Journey

Terrific biography written with great understatement and attention. Gave me a much better appreciation for the man and his times.

2 people found this helpful

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An inspiring narrative, an insipid narration

Would you consider the audio edition of Wilson to be better than the print version?

I would, if it was narrated by a different narrator.

What other book might you compare Wilson to and why?

Insofar as it is a biography of an American President, I compare this book to John Adams by David McCullough, Thomas Jefferson by John Meacham, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Founding Rivals by Chris De Rose.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Jeremy Bobb?

George Guidall, Simon Prebble, Chrisotpher Hurt, Suzanne Toren, Edward Hermann, Nelson Runger, or George Wilson.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I have to think about this one.

Any additional comments?

Although the narration is dull, monotone, and tedious, the biography is well-written and wonderful. It is a must-read for anyone even mildly interested in the United State's presidential history.

2 people found this helpful

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Well Written

I am working my way through at least one book on each President. Wilson has been the best written and narrated so far. I found myself having a hard time taking a break from the narration. I often felt as though I were in the room as events unfolded. Well written. Very well narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Barry
  • 10-11-21

Great biography of President Woodrow Wilson

Still not quite sure how he made it to president so quickly- except perhaps he was a politician in all walks of life. Fascinating character. Yes, looking back - as racist as many of the time. But this does not eliminate good he did - women's vote, 1st world war, post ww1 negotiations, development of Princeton.

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  • Tommy
  • 12-17-15

Epic biography ignores racism & Versailles folly

I enjoyed listening to this epic biography, masterfully written and excellently narrated, but over time I have long pondered the author's efforts to downplay both Wilson's obvious racism, and that of his administration with its Jim Crow laws, and also the wretched victor's justice that he insisted on doling out at the Treaty of Versailles, a major factor in the rise of Hitler.

Would the world have been a better place had Wilson never been born? A. Scott Berg sadly never asks this question.