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  • What Were We Thinking

  • A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era
  • By: Carlos Lozada
  • Narrated by: Christian Barillas
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Summary

In this “crisp, engaging, and very smart” (The New York Times Book Review) work, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic digs into books of the Trump era and finds that our response to this presidency often reflects the same polarization, contradictions, and resentments that made it possible.

It is an irony of our age that a man who rarely reads has unleashed an onslaught of books about his tenure and his time. Dissections of the white working class. Manifestos of political resistance. Works on identity, gender, and migration. Memoirs on race and protest. Revelations of White House mayhem. Warnings over the future of conservatism, progressivism, and of American democracy itself.

As a book critic for The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada has read just about all of them. In What Were We Thinking, he draws on some 150 recent volumes to explore how we understand ourselves in the Trump era. Lozada’s characters are not the president, his advisers, or his antagonists but the political and cultural ideas at play — and at stake — in America.

Just as Trump’s election upended the country’s political establishment, it shocked its intellectual class. Though some of the books of the Trump era skillfully illuminate the challenges and transformations the nation faces, too many works are more defensive than incisive, more righteous than right. Lozada offers a provocative argument: Whether written by liberals or conservatives, activists or academics, true believers or harsh critics, the books of Trump’s America are vulnerable to the same failures of imagination that gave us this presidency in the first place.

In What Were We Thinking, Lozada’s selections range from best-selling titles to little-known works, from thoroughly reported accounts of the administration to partisan polemics, from meditations on the fate of truth to memoirs about enduring — or enabling — the Trump presidency. He also identifies books that challenge entrenched assumptions and shift our vantage points, the books that best help us make sense of this era.

The result is an “elegant yet lacerating” (The Guardian) intellectual history of our time, a work that transcends daily headlines to discern how we got here and how we thought here. What Were We Thinking will help today’s listeners understand America, and will help tomorrow’s listeners look back and understand us.

©2020 Carlos Lozada. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 22-11-20

Useful book

A very thoughtful summary of the writing about the civic chaos of the last four years. The best part is the author's final list of twelve essential books, and his rationale for them.

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  • Lesleigh J. Owen
  • 27-12-20

Intellectual Literature Review for the Trump Era

Any scholar will recognize the lit review format of this book. This is a powerful discussion and synthesis of some of the germinal books to emerge out of the Trump Era. The author divides the themes into chapters like immigration, conservatism, feminism, etc., and then analyzes and synthesizes the many books he read on the topics.
The writing is gorgeous and the author's voice dryly humorous, witty, and incisive. I don't agree with all his analyses, but I respect his breakdowns and subtle editorializing. A spectacular read (or listen).

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  • Shelley W
  • 02-03-21

It lost me

While I was very drawn to the premise and the content--the author had read over 150 books about Trump--I had a hard time following it on Audible. The author is quite the loquacious writer, but the point got lost in the words for me. At the end of a long passage, I couldn't remember what the starting point was! Perhaps it would be easier to follow in print form. I returned the audiobook because I couldn't motivate myself to pick it up again after the first couple of chapters.

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  • Mr. Potter
  • 31-12-20

Power Bar for the Intellectually Indolent

What more can you ask for? Mr. Lozada read 175 books and you get to pick up scores of pithy cocktail party tidbits in just one read. It's like an IV drip of Trump Info. On a broader, and somewhat more serious level... I got so vexed with Trump and the people who support him that I bought a stack of books on the subject. In what is here essentially a "meta study", Mr. Lozada is able sample many learned and diverse views, who all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is (at the end of the day) just a money grubbing white trash showoff who doesn't have an original idea in his bed-head comb-over head. Which, given the fact that we've made him President of our Country, makes him "the most dangerous man in History". (Thank you to Mary Trump for that pithy phrase) Of the varies books I've read on Trump the one that really sticks with me is (surprisingly) "Disloyal" by Michael Cohen. I was no fan of Michael Cohen and completely prepared to hate the book and throw it aside - but he has an very interesting personal story, is earnest and self examining of his relationship with Trump, is contrite and regretful of his many transgressions, and is a damn good old-style New York story teller. (e.g. "Donald Trump never prepares for anything - ever"!) I appreciate that economical style of writing. The big takeaway from "Disloyal" is that we're all overthinking Donald Trump. According to Cohen, it's always about the money. Trump is just a shallow vainglorious shell who judges his and everyone else's worth by their bank account. Putin is the wealthiest man in the world - so he's Trump's biggest hero. And on, and on...

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  • Asarchus
  • 02-12-20

Great Sampler and Critique of Trump Literature

Carlos Lozada, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book reviewer, takes us on a wild ride through the hundreds of books written thus far on the Trump presidency, from fawning works of praise to blistering critiques. Nearly every volume published since 2015 when Trump infamously descended (!) the escalator in Trump tower to announce his candidacy and demean Mexicans is examined. Before you spend your money on a Trump foe or friend's "tell all" book, read Lozada's. You'll thank him for steering you to the few gems in a field of slag.

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  • Dwayne
  • 10-09-21

Nice summary of what we were reading and writing

This title won't be for everyone, but if you'd like a review of a broad array of books during the Trump era, this is a good option. I was intrigued by the premise of looking at what was written during the Trump years as a way to understand what we were collectively thinking. As you might expect, there were some good clear approaches to understanding our national predicament and some wild-eyed not so thoughtful works as well. The intellectual in you will appreciate the broad review, even if you disagree with the authors conclusions. I found myself largely in agreement with the author's thoughtful take on the various publications over this period and the book was a worthwhile investment. I recommend it.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-01-21

Thought Provoking

This boons was written before the 2020 election and subsequent misinformation campaign regarding election fraud. The events that have unfolded only make this an incredibly relevant read.