The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, narrated by Robin Field, is 29 1/2 hours long. This is not the type of book (or audiobook) that you knock out in one sitting, but it is an outstanding book. Grant, as one of the most well-known Union generals during the war, does an outstanding job writing his own memoirs, and Robin Field’s “old midwestern” accent is a great accompaniment.
Grant covers his early life and career in the military with a strong helping of self-deprecation. Far from pumping himself up as some kind of military genius, Grant repeatedly jokes about dumb things he did early in his military career and points out some of the silliness on the front lines. At the same time, he makes no light of the horrors of war. There’s no jarring “Ha ha and then they die” moment, as Grant is both far more humane than that.
The memoirs cover two major periods in Grant’s life: before the Civil War (including his time in the Mexican-American War) and then during the war. It was interesting hearing Grant’s thoughts on antebellum politics, and as befits his personality, he’s willing to admit when he was wrong. Then, we get a rather detailed recounting of Grant’s time during the war. Important to remember is that this isn’t a history book in the sense of trying to recount everything of interest. He covers a lot, as you’d expect from two volumes of this length, but it helps to have a background of other historical works.
One downside to the audiobook version is that you don’t get to see the maps. On the plus side, because this book was published prior to 1926, you can find the print book in the public domain, and so you can read it on Project Gutenberg. If you’re looking for a long book to keep you company in December, this is absolutely worth the read, not only for the historical value but also for the writing value.
Also, Grant was an excellent general and I won’t countenance otherwise.