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Summary

In When America Stopped Being Great, veteran reporter and BBC New York correspondent Nick Bryant reveals how America's decline paved the way for Donald Trump's rise, sowing division and leaving the country vulnerable to its greatest challenge of the modern era. 

Deftly sifting through almost four decades of American history, from post-Cold War optimism through the scandal-wracked '90s and into the new millennium, Bryant unpacks the mistakes of past administrations, from Ronald Reagan's 'celebrity presidency' to Barack Obama's failure to adequately address income and racial inequality. He explains how the historical clues, unseen by many (including the media) paved the way for an outsider to take power and a country to slide towards disaster. As Bryant writes, 'rather than being an aberration, Trump's presidency marked the culmination of so much of what had been going wrong in the United States for decades - economically, racially, politically, culturally, technologically and constitutionally.'

A personal elegy for an America lost, unafraid to criticise actors on both sides of the political divide, When America Stopped Being Great takes the long view, combining engaging storytelling with recent history to show how the country moved from the optimism of Reagan's 'Morning in America' to the darkness of Trump's 'American Carnage'. It concludes with some of the most dramatic events in recent memory, in an America torn apart by a bitterly polarised election, racial division, the national catastrophe of the coronavirus and the threat to US democracy evidenced by the storming of Capitol Hill.

©2021 Nick Bryant (P)2021 W F Howes

Critic reviews

"Nick Bryant is brilliant. He has a way of showing you what you've been missing from the whole story whilst never leaving you feeling stupid." (Emily Maitlis)

"Bryant is a genuine rarity, a Brit who understands America." (Washington Post)

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Disappointing

Why is this book read by an Australian? My objection is not based on an opinion of Australian readers, but this book is meant to be the specific view of an English journalist who has lived in the US, and his reflections on that country. So having it read in an Australian accent is poor. There are only so many times you can hear him pronounce Iraq as eye-raq.
The shane is that this is a good six hour book. The shane is that it takes twelve hours to get through it. What this book needed was a good editor and a good producer.
The conclusion is interesting, making some strong arguments, and more's the pity that more of this analysis did not appear in the preceding text, which reads too much like a politics text book.
I was disappointed by this book, and its conclusion hinted at more interesting analysis

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A fair and frightening assessment of post war Amerca.

Protect an outsider‘s perspective to give the fairest perspective. Nick goes to the last 50 years of American white houses and their occupants.

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Great book, careless narration

Putting aside the oddity of an Australian reading a book by a British BBC Correspondent in America (who you can hear when he stands in for John Sopel on BBC’s Americast), although he was in Australia for a time, there are for too many careless errors of pronunciation generally and of British and American place names.e.g. Mobile and Salisbury, both of which made me wince. Why not make the effort to check and why such poor editing? The book is great however on the decline in functioning democracy in the USA but I could do without being regularly irritated at the narrator.

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The Australian reader destroys the book

The book is badly written - in journalistic language with a lot of hype rather than a measured considered tone .
The guy reading it hypes it up even more and destroys any remaining credibility.
It is painful to listen to or think about.

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Good book; discordant delivery

Nick Bryant knows the USA & presents a comprehensive analysis of the sources & repercussions of the disharmony that has existed since independence. The final result is undermined, in the audio version, by the discordant reading from an undoubtedly talented actor, but one who uses ‘Americanised’ pronunciations throughout & can’t do French phrases justice. What a pity.

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Brilliant!!

This book is a must-read for anyone wondering how Trump (and later Johnson) got elected. The narration is good and the analysis is informed, well-researched and balanced.