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Publisher's Summary

David Halberstam’s masterpiece, the defining history of the making of the Vietnam tragedy, with a foreword by Senator John McCain.

"A rich, entertaining, and profound reading experience.” (The New York Times)

Using portraits of America’s flawed policy makers and accounts of the forces that drove them, The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country’s recent history: Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did we lose? As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded. It is an American classic. 

“The most comprehensive saga of how America became involved in Vietnam.... It is also the Iliad of the American empire and the Odyssey of this nation’s search for its idealistic soul. The Best and the Brightest is almost like watching an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.” (The Boston Globe

“Deeply moving... We cannot help but feel the compelling power of this narrative.... Dramatic and tragic, a chain of events overwhelming in their force, a distant war embodying illusions and myths, terror and violence, confusions and courage, blindness, pride, and arrogance.” (Los Angeles Times

“A fascinating tale of folly and self-deception... [An] absorbing, detailed, and devastatingly caustic tale of Washington in the days of the Caesars.” (The Washington Post Book World

“Seductively readable... It is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking that is fully matched by Halberstam’s performance.... This is in all ways an admirable and necessary book.” (Newsweek

“A story every American should read.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

©2002 David Halberstam (P)2017 Random House Audio

What listeners say about The Best and the Brightest

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If you are in to detailed political history - this is the book for you

Comprehensive analysis of the political barometer, atmosphere and climate of the USA in the 1960’s.

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  • Chiefkent
  • 12-06-2017

Preparation for Ken Burns

I first read this book some 45 years ago and decided that it was time for a refresher with Ken Burns' series on Vietnam coming up on PBS. Scary part was how much I'd forgotten about the LBJ period of self delusion. The historical background from WWII up the JFK period, (missed opportunities), is absolutely fascinating. FDR had no intention of allowing the French to regain possession of Indochina post-war. Sadly all his plans died with him. Even then, the US was against French reoccupation but the British were kind enough to rearm the interned French forces prior to leaving for Burma and Malaya. Instant civil war with the Viet Minh who had been fighting the Japanese. Unfortunately this war coincided with Korea and de Gaulle convinced the US that Indochina was an extension of Korea. American assistance followed.

The most interesting aspect of the book for me was the historical dichotomy that trapped JFK to even pay attention to Vietnam. The convergence of domestic political history and the historical geopolitical circumstances placed JFK in a no-win situation that he was barely juggling when he was assassinated. He was poorly served by his advisors, including RFK as the deaths of Diệm and his brother amply demonstrated. You need to listen to this tome, (and at 37 hrs., it IS a tome), but Mark Bramhall's voice makes it enjoyable, without detracting from the verbiage. Five Stars across the board!!

41 people found this helpful

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  • Matherton Horowitz
  • 01-06-2017

Before there was "groupthink"

Anyone with interest in what is happening *now* would do VERY well to pick up this $56+ masterwork for a credit or free trial w Audible. The book is 37 hours long, never boring. The facts contained here are jaw dropping, literally. Halbertam's body of work is generally amazing. This book is that book where I must use the M word: MASTERWORK. The delivery is duly dry and inspired: reader lets the facts do the work. Probably the best value four a credit I've used in 14 years w Audible.

21 people found this helpful

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  • TL
  • 12-02-2018

Exceptional enlightenment

As a Vietnam combat veteran I found this book to be exceptional. The narration was outstanding.

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  • Kevin Warren
  • 28-10-2017

Outstanding summary of US involvement in Vietnam

This is a classic for a reason. It's extremely well written and provides an excellent summary of the lives and actions of the major US players in Vietnam. I've read and listened to hundreds of books on Vietnam and I don't think any single one can compare in terms of wealth of information.

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  • Peter G
  • 09-11-2017

Superb

I first read this in 1973 and it has lost none of its potency or relevance. The narration is excellent and clearly evokes many of the players, especially LBJ.

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  • aaron
  • 26-11-2020

Quite Possibly the Greatest Audiobook on War EVER

I was blown away by the sheer breadth and quality of this audiobook. I was looking for a little primer on the Vietnam War, and what I got was the single most impressive masterclass on ANY subject I've ever come across.

This book is on par with Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

It is so well-researched, so detailed, so magnificently narrated; it's one of the few books out there where, no matter what your topical interests or curiosities may be, I'd tell you in a heartbeat this is a MUST-LISTEN. Yes, it's just that good.

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  • Rex Michael Dillon
  • 08-02-2018

The Tragic History of Where America Went Wrong

This book offers not only portraiture but deep background on the men that led the US to war in Vietnam.

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  • M-Lander
  • 21-01-2018

should be required reading for all Americans.

What is our Govt capable of? Read this book and relive the reality and tragedy of the decisions that led to our involvement in Vietnam.

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  • Meeno
  • 13-12-2017

How all the Best and Bravest were lost to History.

What a marvelous tomb built out of tight and intimate character sketches. These were the men that Kennedy assembled to fill his table at Camelot. These were the same men Johnson kept on to help him shepard in his Great Society. These were the, mostly young, men with their panache and style and computer sharp minds who had ushered in a new way of thinking about bureaucracy and armament and diplomacy and helmsmanship of the American craft of State. And these were the very same men who lied their way into the barbarous and genocidal folly that was the beginning of the end of America’s greatness in the century that was otherwise hers, the Vietnam War. This huge book, so well sourced and thought through, such a rollicking tour of duty through the halls of government and all its winding back alleys, so vast in its perusal of persuasion and its insights into invective, left me with a pressingly prescient notion for our current corrosive state of affairs: when power only tells power what it wants to hear, then power often proudly makes the sagest of mistakes. McNamara’s IBM was only as wise as the lies fed into it.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-08-2017

Shaking my head

A marvelous and tragic story of how the US stumbled into Vietnam. So many squandered opportunities to avoid the quagmire and so much dissembling and dishonesty on the part of the government.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-05-2019

The sadness, lies, delusion and hubris.

Required reading for anyone capable of thinking for themselves. Tragic and absolutely riveting.
Supreme Halberstam.


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  • Barry J Mooney
  • 19-04-2018

Wonderful read

Incredibly in depth review of US involvement in Vietnam which was always fascinating and never boring.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-09-2020

Utterly brilliant book

This book is sensationally good. One of the best uses of 34 odd hours of my life. Rich narrative, profoundly convincing, deeply sad. Definitive book on the Vietnam War and how the US got bogged down in it and the failings that led to that.

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  • N. Bowdren
  • 23-04-2019

fascinating

It's hard to believe that America did the exact same again in regards to Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction. only this time they sucked the British with them . It seems history does repeat itself.

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