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Publisher's Summary

Martin Gilbert, author of the multivolume biography of Winston Churchill and other brilliant works of history, chronicles world events year by year, from the dawn of aviation to the flourishing technology age, taking us through World War I to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as president of the United States and Hider as chancellor of Germany. He continues on to document wars in South Africa, China, Ethiopia, Spain, Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia, as well as apartheid, the arms race, the moon landing, and the beginnings of the computer age, while interspersing the influence of art, literature, music, and religion throughout this vivid work. A rich, textured look at war, celebration, suffering, life, death, and renewal in the century gone by, this volume is nothing less than extraordinary.

©2001 Martin Gilbert (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Shane
  • Australia
  • 29-05-2016

Strange but Well Done

The format of this book was really unique. It is continuously read almost as a news cast with no analysis or input from the author besides what was actually happening. I'm really glad I read it even if I'd probably prefer a more conventionally written book most times.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Douglas
  • 20-08-2016

Entertaining. Worth reading.

This was an interesting book. Entertaining and it contains a lot of information that I didn't already know.

One thing that confuses me is that in the wrap up of the audio book it says that you have just finished reading "the condensed version of Martin Gilbert's 3 volume work." In the description of the book it clearly says unabridged. I don't know what condensed means if it doesn't mean shortened. Also, if the book was indeed abridged that would help explain a few mysteries which I had earlier chalked up to either an omission on the author or a case of me spacing out during portions of the book. There were a few times when it seemed like certain individuals were referenced without ever being introduced. Also the author covered the space race a lot, but then there was no mention of the moon landing.

Long story short: this is worth buying, but it's possible that you aren't getting the whole book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jeff
  • 08-10-2014

A Focus on the Facts with Minimal Commentary

What made the experience of listening to A History of the Twentieth Century the most enjoyable?

Getting a breakdown of events across the globe decade by decade gives the listener a unique perspective on major happenings (mostly catastrophes) of the century. After finishing this work, one can see how difficult it is for modern historians to sort through the sheer volume of information to find some thread of reason behind it all.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of the Twentieth Century?

As I lover of world history, I was surprised to find so many critical details I had previously missed. For example, other works originally led me to think that WWI was sort of everyone's fault. 'However, after listening to a blow by blow progression of events the Kaiself himself seems to deserve most of the blame. . In addition, I had no idea that so much upheval occurred in the Soviet Union during the interwar period.

What aspect of John Curless’s performance would you have changed?

He kind of grows on you after a few hours, but I initially felt that he wasn't enunciating properly. He does well with pronunciation and really deserves at least 3.5 stars.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, its fairly engaging but you really should limit yourself to one decade a day. Otherwise its easy to lose focus and end up Leopold's Congo thinking that the author is still discussing Republican China.

Any additional comments?

I think this work should have been shortened to only focus on its strong points_ politics, international relations and war. The terse references to developments in science, art and popular culture also seemed somewhat out of place,One other thing I could have done without was the author's bizarre obsession with automobile-related fatalities for which he provides almost yearly statistics.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Patricia
  • 11-11-2011

I didn't know that.

I have always been a history buff, but this has opened my eye to a lot of 'hidden' history. I have not managed to listen to the whole book yet, but I currently live in Ukraine and have surprised some of my Ukrainian friends by knowing more of their history than they do. Also taking the history year by year puts things into proportion.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Caleb
  • 06-08-2018

Wide ranging, but lacking.

Gilbert's work is far reaching and full of information, but it's really a chronicle of the 20th century rather than a work of historical analysis. As such the significance of most events is largely lost in the tide of dates and names. The book also suffers from a lack of footnotes and sources in the print and Kindle versions (I bought this with Whispersync for a class), which is all the more problematic since there are multiple inaccurate and misleading statements throughout, especially early on.

John Curless's narration was pleasant, if a bit dry, but I guess that's to be expected given the material.

All in all it's an easy read and does help give a broad, if shallow, understanding of the events of the 20th century, but inaccuracies and a lack of sources and analysis leaves a lot to be desired.

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  • 1985musicboy
  • 26-05-2018

More interested in war than economic development

Very informative in terms of human rights and the balls wars and conflicts of the twentieth century. However, if you're interested in consumerism, living standards, and disposable time and income, this book is a disappointment.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew Bettencourt
  • 22-03-2017

Solid Review of the 20th century

I really appreciated the author's attention to detail and coverage of so many different events, figures, inventions, and countries in this very significant century.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • NYCShopper
  • 14-05-2016

A monumental achievement.

Where does A History of the Twentieth Century rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Certainly among the tops. World history is covered year by year, and recounts many of the most significant events and cultural milestones from across the globe. If you like history, this is a terrific work. The reader is excellent.

I have a couple of criticisms specific to the audiobook production:-- It's hard to keep track of what year is being covered, which is a real issue given that the book deals with 100 years. This wouldn't be a problem in the print version, but it's a very distracting issue in the audio version. I'm constantly rewinding to find the year mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. a task complicated by the fact that audio chapters don't correspond to book chapters, and there's no labeling in the audible chapter list. It's aggravating, and adds a lot of unnecessary time. I wish there some sort of reminder added in along the way, e.g., "Also in 1923..."

[BTW, I am always annoyed by the lack of chapter labeling in audiobooks, but one rarely contends with 100 chapters.]. Often the transition from one story to the next is too quick, so from time to time, you'll be part way into the next event before you realize you've moved from one country to another. Given that the reader's pace is very well modulated, I suspect that this was a time-shaving editing decision.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author, for having the talent and patience to successfully make sense of 100 years of world history.

What about John Curless’s performance did you like?

Clear, with a really good sense of what to highlight emotionally.

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

Massive wars, revolutionary technologies, a world communicating for the first time in history... here's the story of the century that changed humankind.

Any additional comments?

It's hard to think of another source that covers so much in such a concise and understandable way.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Carlos
  • 11-04-2016

Clear and concise description of history.

Provided a clear and concise description of history in methodical manner. Of course their were aspects of historical significance left out, but covered the bulk of the most significant and not so mentioned (car fatalities) aspects that shaped our modern time.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Shane
  • 29-11-2015

Super Straightforward

Would you listen to A History of the Twentieth Century again? Why?

Absolutely. The book is pretty dense so there is room for a few listens here.

What did you like best about this story?

This was one of the most unique audio books I've ever listened to. There is absolutely no analysis. Instead it is a complete narration of events as they occurred. While this can be a bit strange at times it really does give a unique feeling of how the century progressed. It was kind of like watching a news reel.

What about John Curless’s performance did you like?

His unwavering, almost monotone voice was perfect for the style of this book.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Emily Berg
  • 20-09-2015

We get it. The roads are dangerous.

The book was interesting, there's no denying that. However, I thought it was quite odd what the author chose to include and exclude. The part about the Korean War was excellent and is often excluded in books of this nature but statistics for road deaths are included at least 10 times, despite having no relevance to the story. Idi Amin, Amelia Earhart, FDR's health, and just about anything happening in South America or Africa weren't included at all or were given less than two minutes. I loved the format of the story but wish it wasn't so Eurocentric and so focused on wars as opposed to important cultural moments, which got almost no attention past the 1920s. Additionally, I had hoped the author would spend more time on stories that weren't so well known so I could have listened for 30 hours and come away feeing like I learned something.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • MR
  • 11-01-2013

Factual and grim

Don't expect any light relief. This book is a chronological account of atrocities and disasters. There is very little commentary or analysis. It does, however, contain an immense amount of information and certainly identified and filled in the blanks I had. I do recommend it, but be aware of what you're letting yourself in for - it's not for the faint-hearted.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Marcus
  • 15-12-2011

An extended timeline

The author decides to give us a year by year account of 20th century history.  This means that you end up with a set of very brief sketches of events.  There is no depth and little analysis.  Often there are interesting facts to be heard, but if you have a decent knowledge of 20th century history then this is little more than a revision course.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • 03-11-2011

A century of massacre and slaughter

Martin Gilbert's view of the 20th Century is the most dismal I have read or heard. Was it really like this?
This century was dominated by religious fanatics, meglomaniac dictators, tribal conflicts and human misery. Nothing good has come of it. Listen to this book and then kill yourself. Or go out and do something about it.

3 of 8 people found this review helpful