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The Best and the Brightest cover art

The Best and the Brightest

Written by: David Halberstam
Narrated by: David Clennon
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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 As the definitive single-volume answer to that question, this enthralling book has never been superseded.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. 

Please note: This is the abridged edition. An unabridged audiobook is also available.

©1973 David Halberstam (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“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)

What listeners say about The Best and the Brightest

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Jackie
  • Jackie
  • 24-01-09

Unabridged, please

This audio is really only a brief overview of this completely absorbing book. After listening to this abridged version (why abridge a good book?) I had to run to the library for the real thing. A must read (the book, unabridged) for any one interested in politics. Abridged audio will hook you to the book.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ted
  • 30-10-14

Three hours? More of a Podcast than a real book.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A shame and disappointment that this great author was abridged to 3 hours. "Book" was more of a podcast than a book. Audible should not charge the regular price.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • AmazonMom
  • 18-02-17

Why does audible still release abridged books????

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

The books is excellent. I read it years ago and wanted to experience it again in light of the current administration's missteps but when the book raced through details and ended in three hours, I was enraged. This is a huge book. Written in minute detail about complex people and issues. That it was abridged felt like a slap in the face from audible - a service I adore for the most part. This, however, was an absolute waste of a credit.

What was most disappointing about David Halberstam’s story?

It was abridged.

Which character – as performed by David Clennon – was your favorite?

Performance was excellent. I wanted more. Esp his JFK impression.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Rage. Because it was abridged.

Any additional comments?

DON'T. ABRIDGE. YOUR. BOOKS. or Have a special "abridged" section for people that want the Cliffs Notes. I wish I could get a refund. This was so profoundly disappointing.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Nelson Alexander
  • 21-09-09

Brightest and Briefest

Obviously one of the great books George W. Bush never read during his goof time at Yale. Great book, okay reading, but I agree with others, too brief.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Hal Gangnath
  • 17-10-16

Abridged version

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I did not realize that this was an abridged version of the book. I'm very disappointed.

What was most disappointing about David Halberstam’s story?

Not the story, the Audible is abridged.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert Lorbeer
  • 03-06-16

forwards & intros missing from Audible version

I had read this decades ago. I would have been interested in the "new" John McCain forward as advertised. But it is missing from the Audible version as is the original forward and original introduction. These perspectives are essential to understanding the reason for this book. Otherwise it is a mere listing of barely integrated facts and personalities that amounts to pointless diatribe separate from the emotion of the historic moment.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 09-07-12

Excellent history of the politics which led to war

Where does The Best and the Brightest rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Revealing history of the politicians and bureaucrats which led the U.S. into war in Vietnam. Halberstam ferrets out the gross assumptions and motivations which can lead to disastrous policy and decision making.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-08-08

Did not live up to my expectations

Disappointing. Halberstam's a great writer, but I was disappointed with this audible book, which is a superficial discussion of a complex history. Maybe the book is better.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • William
  • 26-03-17

Brutally abridged. Fascinating book, however.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

More of the text! It's not a pocketbook. It's like they decided to read every 8th page.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Best and the Brightest?

Hard to tell. The abridgement is very brutal.

What about David Clennon’s performance did you like?

Clear, fluid, slightly irritating attempts at accents (hint of Kennedy when it's quoting Kennedy, insulting French accent when quoting a Frenchman, etc. etc.)

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Best and the Brightest?

None! Give me the text!

Any additional comments?

I want all the detail. The book is five hundred pages long. The audiobook is about as long as The Great Gatsby.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • David Jonathan O'Shell
  • 10-02-17

Abridged

Disappointed this is abridged. It should state the abridgment more clearly especially considering the cover is the Everyman version, which suggests it is the real deal. Also does not contain an introduction by John McCain as the cover states. Very misleading.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-02-18

a insightful analysis

I thought I knew a bit about the US involvement in the Vietnam war but having listened to this I realise how little I knew and how wrong my understanding was. This an excellent study of how a war that no one wanted came about and I feel still has relevance to present day.