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December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World Hardcover – December 5, 2011

3.1 out of 5 stars 269 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"This book sounds fascinating to me. I am big history buff and I certainly will pick this one up."
--Dennis Miller
"Offers a rare opportunity to relive that incredible month in a time-travel sort of way, rather than read about it in the hindsight of history. It is a time capsule of the period, and is so compelling it is a hard book to set aside."
--Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
"A timely piece of history."
"Enthralling account of the early weeks of World War II on the home front."
--Fred BarnesWeekly Standard
"Craig Shirley's December 1941 is flat-out terrific - intelligent, hugely descriptive, extensively researched...and passionate in a way so few histories allow themselves to be anymore."
--Steve DonoghueOpen Letters Monthly
"I love historical non-fiction. I read it everywhere, in bathroom, wherever I am. But typically it's written from sort of a distant  perspective. You went through newspapers and magazines, and all the accounts of time. It gives an immediacy that I think it's difficult to find in these types of things."
--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
"I'm confident it'll be a bestseller."
--Don Imus
"It is terrific . . . tremendous report on that decisive month which changed America and the world."
--Newt Gingrich  
"Worth buying. . . really, really cool."
"Excellent book!"
--Jon Meacham, former editor of Newsweek and a Pulitzer Prize winning bestselling author
"Terrific piece of work!"
--Andrea  Mitchell, MSNBC
"Masterful new book . . . Shirley not only transports us back to that tumultuous time, but reminds this generation that denial about an enemy's intentions can have grave consequences."
--Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist
"Fascinating book."
"Folks, if you want a good read this Christmas season check it out."
--Steve Doocy, FOXNews
"Successful attempt to capture the sights and sounds of that long-ago era . . . in impressive detail . . . tells us about the attitudes, cultural mores and prejudices of an America on the eve of entry into the second great war."
--Human Events
"Shirley's day-by-day account manages to shed new light on a critical period in our history."
"Fascinating way to experience the look and the feel, the reactions and the emotion, the strategy, and the painful surprises of those 31 days."
--National Review
"Powerful, thickly researched new book."
"The book also reveals . . . blockbuster historical moment[s]. Shirley. . . takes a new tack in his book about Pearl Harbor. Instead of just writing how it all went down, his book attempts to give readers a feel for how the country felt 70 years ago. He accomplishes that by providing anecdotal information from nearly 2,000 newspapers and magazines."
--US News & World Report
"Craig Shirley, known for creating a you-are-there atmosphere in his earlier books about Ronald Reagan's 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns, has done it again. This account shows us what is possible when the nation is aroused."
--Washington Times

About the Author

Craig Shirley is the author of two critically praised bestsellers about Ronald Reagan, Rendezvous with Destiny and Reagan's Revolution, as well as the New York Times best-selling history December 1941. He is the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. Shirley and his wife live in Lancaster, Virginia.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1St Edition edition (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595554572
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595554574
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Foss on December 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I saw the great reviews this book was getting on Amazon. Because the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor earlier this month had spurred my interest in the topic, I gave the book a try. Big mistake. The editors and proofreaders did not do Mr. Shirley any favors with this one. Typos abound and the editing is careless. In a discussion about how Hollywood was faring financially, the book states "It was raking in millions each week, mostly for the top four studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros." I'm curious as to what the fourth studio was and why it's not mentioned. Then there is this conundrum - On the first of December, Walter Winchell is a conservative columnist; by the second of December, he is a "leftist" columnist. Pittsburgh is either misspelled or the author is referring to one of the Pittsburgs outside of PA, but we aren't told which one. Unfortunately, there are more examples, but you get the idea. I grew so disenchanted with the book that I stopped reading at page 68. I generally don't like to review a book I haven't finished reading, but after looking at the Amazon reviews again and seeing most were based on what appear to be courtesy copies of the book, I wanted to throw in my impartial assessment. Bottom line: I would not recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I, too, thought the premise - a detailed look at the month from the perspective of newspapers and other media, would provide an interesting slant on the subject.

To a great extent, it did. Particularly from the aspect of American society of the time.

At first, the shoddy editing was just annoying. When there were errors in established historical fact, that did it.

An example of where the two combined: Chapter 14, after a paragraph regarding displaced persons stranded with no way forward and no way back, this sentence - "Somewhere, Bogie and Bacall were stuck too, and time went by." The gratuitous joke didn't fit and should have been edited out, but if it must stay, at least let it be accurate to the film.

An editing example: Chapter 7, on the left side of the page, "One of the first people FDR met with after his phone call from Knox was Charles Fahy, solicitor general of the United States." On the opposing page, "Earlier, he'd met alone with the Solicitor General of the United States, Charley Fahey."

Among the factual mistakes: John Magee was not a "Washington native" and did not fly for the RAF, rather the RCAF. Goering's "Meyer" comment was made in reference to Allied bombers striking Germany, not in reference to the Battle of Britain. The war message from the Japanese Embassy had 14 parts, not 13, as repeatedly noted. There are others that I noticed, an unknown number that I didn't.

After taking a highlighter to several chapters, I just quit before Christmas.

Don't buy it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had really high hopes for this book; the time leading up to and immediately following Pearl Harbor encompassed one of the most dramatic shifts American life has ever seen.

However, the errors contained in just the first two chapters are enough to make me put off, if not permanently stop, reading this book. Many of them have been pointed out in other reviews -- such as Walter Winchell changing from a conservative to a "leftist," and the US giving "battleships" to Britain as part of lend-lease. In addition, there's a preposterous statement that the Royal Air Force had 500,000 pilots and the Luftwaffe one million (these may be a reasonable total personnel count for the services at that time, but that's not the same as "pilots"). There's also a reference to Henry Luce's magazines supporting FDR and interventionism; while Luce was an internationalist, he was anything but a fan of the second Roosevelt.

In addition to these factual errors, there seems to be a strong bias against elites, intellectuals, and liberals. Look Magazine is described as being "a downright pap sheet for FDR, the Democrats, and the New Deal," and one Look article's authors are described as having "hopelessly leftist" politics.

The book has a great concept but the factual errors coupled with gratuitous political potshots make it unreliable and unenjoyable.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like many reviewers who preceded me, "December 1941" held some promise as a different approach to the increasingly bloated library of World War II history. The author, Craig Shirley, also did a convincing job in his media interviews that this would be an engaging read. In reality, it was an overwhelming disappointment, and ultimately offended me as a student of history.

I would concede that perhaps I misinterpreted what the book - divided into chapters for each day of the month - would actually focus on. But then again, I think I am giving Mr. Shirley a little too much credit with my use of the word "focus". The chapters meander all over, and don't entirely focus on America as the title would have you suggest. Also, Mr. Shirley was terribly repetitive throughout. Further, he often wrote about incidents and events that were outside the "confines" of the day he was purportedly concentrating on, and most of those were not germaine to the narrative. Worse, the way it was written made me feel like I was reading one of Larry King's old USA Today columns; it just wander randomly from sentence to sentence, and all that was missing were the ellipses between each thought. It felt very lazy and more than a little sloppy.

Contributing to the feeling of laziness and sloppiness were numerous factual errors and inconsistencies. Many of these have already been documented by other reviewers, so they need not be repeated here. Occasionally I will acknowledge the minor lapse in research or writing if there is a relatively mild inaccuracy. However, there are so many of them here as to be a trend, and a few more significant errors are included that make me believe the entire book was poorly researched, or - worse yet - intentionally written that way to bolster the author's agenda.
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