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Wilson Hardcover – September 10, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 329 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* His name is customarily listed in the category of “great” when historians rank the U.S. presidents. Woodrow Wilson was, it will be recalled, chief executive during WWI. He kept the U.S. out of war in his first term, but in his second, he propelled the country into a conflict that had gone global. Berg, author of such highly acclaimed biographies as Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978) and Lindbergh (1998), renders Wilson with an astute, sensitive understanding of the man and his presidency. Berg’s research is deep and thorough and—important for a wide readership—comfortably couched in a graceful, smooth presentation. Wilson was unique among presidents in his rise through academe, his prepresidential résumé including a professorship at and then the presidency of Princeton. His only real political connection before entering the White House was a brief tenure as governor of New Jersey. In the highly dramatic presidential election of 1912, Wilson defeated the incumbent, President Taft, and a third-party candidate, past president Teddy Roosevelt. The Allied success in WWI prompted Wilson to travel to Europe for the peace conference; the first sitting president to leave the country, he was determined to see that a peace treaty would include a charter for a League of Nations. But the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty, the U.S. never joined the league, and Wilson’s heart and body were broken. With a year left in his second term, he suffered a stroke and spent the last months of his presidency in seclusion, with his wife, Edith, effectively running the executive office behind closed White House doors. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A national author tour, radio interviews, and an extensive advertising campaign support the publication of one of the major biographies of the season. --Brad Hooper


Praise for Wilson
“A brilliant biography that still resonates in Washington today.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Telling the story of [Wilson’s] life, his visionary ideas and his legacy has occupied four generations of American historians. But until now, no one has gotten him quite right. Not until A. Scott Berg, with his landmark biography “Wilson.” In a meticulously researched and generously written new biography, we have an appraisal of the 28th president that is neither diminishing nor hagiographic. Rather, Berg, one of the pre-eminent biographers of our time, has placed Wilson in his correct place in our nation’s history. In many ways, he accomplishes for Wilson what David McCullough’s biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams did for their subjects: It secures Wilson’s place among the top tier of American presidents.”—Louisville Courier-Journal
“A. Scott Berg’s new 800-page biography, Wilson (**** out of four), spares no detail. It takes a certain quixotic passion to give us Wilson…with such thorough fact-sifting that we emerge, stunned…Wilson is [Berg’s] most ambitious if least sexy undertaking, scripturally dense, a codex that richly explains Wilson’s policy revolution while establishing the man’s full humanity, his flaws and failings…Berg mines the record in all its complexity and tragedy.” USA Today, 4 star review
“Magesterial . . . at once intimate, sweeping and authoritative.”--Los Angeles Times
“Breathtaking…Berg gives Wilson a fresh look, restoring him to the place he occupied – the idealist in politics – before recent biographers wrote him off…Now, thanks to Berg, we know a more fully rounded Wilson.” Boston Globe
“Mr. Berg is a terrific researcher, and ‘Wilson’ exhumes hundreds of fresh quotes and details...A very good work of history.” –Wall Street Journal
“Berg tells the story of Wilson, the man, very well indeed…he has a novelist’s eye for the striking detail, and a vivid prose style.” –New York Times Book Review
“A splendid look at [Wilson’s] life and legacy…In this majestic biography, [Berg] succeeds in capturing Wilson the man as well as Wilson the politician…With the sweep of his narrative, the wealth of his detail, the clarity of his prose and the breadth of his vision, Berg has produced an insightful and intimate work that is likely to stand as the definitive biography of one of the nation’s most  consequential leaders.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Wilson remains unique among American presidents and A. Scott Berg has written a superb biography of him. It provides an account of Wilson's life and presidency rich in detail and moving in its finer moments of narrative.”—The Australian
“For readers coming to Wilson for the first time, Mr. Berg’s biography tells the story of this singular man thoroughly.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Berg is a masterful biographer…[Wilson is] absorbing.” –Miami Herald
“Marvelously detailed.”  –Washingtonian
“A work of spectacular artistry and objective workmanship…should be required reading for any course of study that examines American history after 1865…Berg’s illumination of the president’s humanity is riveting…[A] treasure” Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“By far the best single study of Wilson’s life and times…Berg’s study should remain the standard biography of this tragic figure for a long time.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“Succeeds magnificently in elucidating Woodrow Wilson the man. Quietly, methodically, intuitively, the author examines almost every aspect of his subject’s life, from the religious to the sexual and almost everything in between. His account…is nuanced and revealing.” The Washington News
“The same penetrating illumination, meaningful insight and readable prose that Berg brought to his biography of Charles Lindbergh is on display throughout Wilson, and readers can walk away with a profound and unique perspective on the man, offered by one of our most gifted biographers.” Deseret News
“No previous biographer has told [Wilson’s] story so well…Unlike his scholarly predecessors, [Berg] actually convinces you to like the man…[An] always graceful portrait.”The Daily Beast
“With the prescience that all truly great biographers possess, Berg discovered in Woodrow Wilson a figure who would understand Washington’s current state of affairs.” – Vanity Fair
“[Berg] renders Wilson with an astute, sensitive understanding of the man and his presidency. Berg’s research is deep and thorough.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Accomplished biographer Berg emphasizes the extraordinary talents of this unlikely president in an impressive, nearly hagiographic account . . . Readable, authoritative and, most usefully, inspiring.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A thorough, entertaining account of our 28th president . . . [an] excellent biography.”—Library Journal (starred review)
Rraise for A. Scott Berg’s Lindbergh

“Berg’s book is an extraordinary achievement. In his authoritative chronicle, Berg has allowed the inconsistencies, nuances, and tribulations of Lindbergh’s life to speak for themselves without judgment or speculation. In doing so, he has given us the definitive account of a dramatic and disturbing American story.”--Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Charles Lindbergh is the ultimate American life, and Berg’s new biography is the ultimate exploration of that life. In an astonishing biography of a man who personified the future tense, no sentence is overwritten, no passage overwrought.”--Boston Sunday Globe

“Berg’s monumental new biography is a richly detailed and deeply nuanced examination of a historic life in all its complexity. This is fall’s must-read biography.”--Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Berg turns that historic flight into a cogent and thoroughly gripping account that conveys all the magic, danger and courage of the young pilot’s achievement. A similar narrative prowess informs Berg’s account of the 1932 kidnapping of Lindbergh’s infant son and the subsequent trial of Hauptmann – an account that reads, at once, as a  harrowing thriller and a sobering study in the unreckoned consequences of fame.”--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A superb biography.”--Time Magazine

“The most outstanding piece of nonfiction that I have read this year. Berg does a spectacular job of establishing why Lindbergh proves such a powerful icon for the 20th century. A substantial piece of history that illuminates an important figure in world history. It’s the kind of book that took almost a decade to create. And it’s worth it.”--USA Today

“Berg brings us about as close as I suspect we will ever get to the man himself.”--The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399159215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399159213
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is obvious from the opening paragraph that Scott Berg holds Woodrow Wilson in high esteem. However, it also becomes apparent that he is quite uncomfortable with the more unsavory aspects of his subject. Another reviewer observed that Berg makes a very conscious decision to avoid making editorial commentary whenever possible, and contrasts this with Jean Edward Smith's willingness to give his biographical subjects a good working over (his recent Eisenhower biography being a very good example). By avoiding (for the most part) any actual analysis of Wilson and his policies, Berg is able to allow the narrative, enhanced by the details he selectively puts forward, to guide the reader to his desired conclusion.

In all fairness, I am not a fan of Wilson, and so am not predisposed to respond well to a favorable biography in any case. But my problem with Berg is that he doesn't even allow a true debate about Wilson to enter the arena. There are certain aspects of Wilson's personality, particularly his opinions on race relations, which are so unavoidable that even Berg must address them, but still it feels as though he is continually pulling his punches and putting the best spin on what is a considerably unappetizing legacy. The "everyone was a racist" and "others were even worse than Wilson" comments (my paraphrasing) become extraordinarily tiresome after a certain point. It is almost as though Berg would like the whole race issue simply to go away, so that he doesn't have to write about it.

And there are plenty of things which Berg doesn't write about, because he can get away with it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A. Scott Berg has written a biography of the 28th President of the United States that Woodrow Wilson himself might have approved of. What you think that says about its quality will depend on your ideas about biography, and about Wilson himself. I wasn't a fan to begin with, and am much less of one having finished the book. But my problem with Berg's work is not that he clearly thinks a great deal of his subject; most biographers do. The trouble is that, despite his breathless admiration for Wilson's intellect, Berg has no evident interest in doing any thinking of his own. Uninterested in whether Wilson's individual decisions were sensible or coherent with his ideals, he's happy to present Wilson as the man presented himself: driven solely by a rational, intellectual sense of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The result is an eminently readable biography, with a solid sense of pace and a fine balance among historical background, quotation, and narrative detail, that has nothing meaningful to say about its subject. Its flow as a story and its sense of the tragic arc of Wilson's personal life mean that it's not entirely without value. Readers unfamiliar with Wilson's life and looking for a hefty but accessible overview should pick it up. But if you think of biography as something more than artful arrangement of facts, WILSON is sorely lacking.

One gets the sense that Berg wants readers to draw parallels between Wilson's time and the present day-- for example, between Wilson, perceived as an intellectual, beloved by liberals for his rhetorical gifts, loathed as a socialist by obstructive conservatives, and Barack Obama, perceived, beloved, and loathed on the same terms. But Berg disrupts his own presentation here.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Few presidents have experienced a tenure as momentous as that of Woodrow Wilson. Taking office as the chief executive of a prosperous but somnolent nation, Wilson championed measures that transformed the national economy and the role of the federal government within it, then dealt with international conflicts from which the United States emerged as a world power. In his biography of Wilson, A. Scott Berg seeks understand the man behind such events, giving his readers a sense of who Wilson was and how he shaped the events of such a pivotal point in American history.

Few writers today can match Berg's abilities as a biographer, as readers of his previous works on Samuel Goldwyn, Charles Lindbergh, and Katherine Hepburn can attest. This book demonstrates his skills to full effect; the narrative is lucid, perceptive, and engages the reader. Most of it is focused on his two terms as president, with his long pre-presidential years as an academic and governor occupying only a little more than a third of the book. Yet while Berg provides a good narrative of Wilson's life and career, his examination of the broader historical context is lacking. Here the book suffers by comparison with John Milton Cooper's Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, which offered an insightful analysis of Wilson's life within the context of the larger movements and events of his times. As a result, while people seeking a readable account of Wilson's life will find much to enjoy in Berg's book, anyone seeking a deeper understanding of his significance to American and world history would be better served by turning to Cooper's biography instead.
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