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Publisher's Summary

“Ever since the spectacular success of Chang’s Wild Swans we have waited impatiently for her to complete with her husband this monumental study of China’s most notorious modern leader. The expectation has been that she would rewrite modern Chinese history. The wait has been worthwhile and the expectation justified. This is a bombshell of a book.” (Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, in The Times, London) 

Based on a decade of research and on interviews with many of Mao’s close circle in China who have never talked before - and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him - this is the most authoritative life of Mao ever written. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned and blackmailed to get his way. 

After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao’s rule - in peacetime. 

Combining meticulous research with the story-telling style of Wild Swans, this biography offers a harrowing portrait of Mao’s ruthless accumulation of power through the exercise of terror: his first victims were the peasants, then the intellectuals and, finally, the inner circle of his own advisors. The listeners enters the shadowy chambers of Mao’s court and eavesdrops on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao’s character and the enormity of his behavior toward his wives, mistresses and children are unveiled for the first time. 

This is an entirely fresh look at Mao in both content and approach. It will astonish historians and the general listener alike. 

©2005 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday (P)2006 Books on Tape

What the critics say

"Sweeping." (Publishers Weekly)

"Chang and Halliday cast new and revealing light on nearly every episode in Mao's tumultuous life…a stupendous work and one hopes that it will be brought before the Chinese people, who still claim to venerate the man and who have yet to come to terms with their own history...." (Michael Yahuda, The Guardian

"Boasts a monumental marshaling of detail and historiographically overturning revelations." (Booklist

What listeners say about Mao

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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could not get through this

too many names and so confusing. eventually I gave up . very detailed and wordy.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent

If you have read other great summaries of terrifying regimes, like the Gulag Archipelago, then this book will well surprise you in its effective and clear storytelling and its periodic reflections on the bigger picture. I was so grateful to listen to such an important story in its highly transparent writing style. It truly lets everyone be a historian, without major jargons or overly-detailed accounts. Details are given high importance, but they are much better chosen than any other major historical account I have interracted with. Thank you so much, dear authors, for this brilliant oppurtunity to learn more and more truth.

1 person found this helpful

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Essential reading

This is true history, the facts of which have been distorted and concealed by the Chinese for decades. We never knew how evil he was and how terrible were the lives of the Chinese people. Now that their shackles are unlocked and their potential can be realized, watch out.

1 person found this helpful

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Important story_But biased perspective & too long

The story of Mao is integral for everyone to learn. He was the most influential leader this world has ever seen, yielding absolute power over nearly 1/4 of the world's population for 30 years. In his time as leader of the People's Republic of China, he was responsible for an authoritarian regime that claimed over 45 million death of his own citizens. Every person today should know his story. However, the secrecy of his regime makes it challenging to obtain a non-biased history. Chang and Halliday's narrative do a decent job of exposing the dark side of Mao. It is a deeply detailed book, which was too long for me to stay engaged. And it is definitely biased against Mao, making it a less holistic history.

1 person found this helpful

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Good reading, bad pronunciation.

the narrator is very good put pronunciation of Chinese names and places is consistently poor. As this is a book about Chinese people and places this significantly affects the narrative.

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great story!

Really well told and certainly worth the read, although it was a little too long

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this book should be required reading for everyone

i loved it..amazimg insight into one of the worst humans of the past 100 years.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jenna
  • 2008-03-08

Well written, well read & VERY interesting

Enjoyable even for someone like me who knew NOTHING about Mao or China prior to diving into this book. The book is lengthy and I have to admit that I did zone out in a couple places but this in no way detracted from my enjoyment or understanding of the story. There's a lot to take in here, but rather than being daunted by the length and detail of the book, I would highly recommend giving it a listen and taking in what you can.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jene
  • 2006-08-07

Fills many gaps! Very good..but!

I find this book fascinating, because it is detailed and complete. I am an American and a friend of the late Helen Snow, have lived in China off and on for many years, and am knowledgeable of China's recent history,culture and some of the players. This book answers many questions I have had. The only problem - and it is disturbing - is the narrator. His pronunciation of the Chinese names is so far off the mark that I had to stop now and then to ask myself, "who is he talking about?" Or I would find myself thinking, "Oh, he means ___" This is disturbing. Even though many non-Chinese liseners might not know the difference, it is such a fine presentation, backed by years of painstaking research, the narration is irritating, and falls short in this one area. It seems important to me that the narrator know how to pronounce the names of the recognized leaders of modern China. But this is the only limitation I find- I am listening slowly to get every word! Thanks!

51 people found this helpful

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  • Walter
  • 2011-10-24

The Definitive Biography

Forget everything you learned in school about Chairman Mao! This book corrects countless misconceptions and reveals the unvarnished truth about one of the most evil leaders in world history.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Walter
  • 2013-11-17

The Missing Manual for China and Chinese

In 1998 I started reading 2 books on Chinese History or Chinese Cultural per year. For a long time the only affect seemed to be that I usually knew more Chinese history than almost all Chinese under about 55 (and quite a bit less than many over about 65). It didn’t even endeared me to Chinese; it was much more likely to lead to arguments about revisionism, often devolving towards the absurd.

About 3 years ago I had my first significant breakthrough in this implicit quest when I read, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Mao: The Unknown Story completes the Genghis Khan book. The Khan dynasty and the Mao indulgency are the Yang and the Yin of the hard to see thing that differentiates China, Chinese Culture, and most modern Chinese from the rest of the world. Americans for example are incapable of this degree of dichotomy with respect to anything, but especially with respect to our leaders. (The only plausible expectation is dichotomy with respect to ourselves (individualism seems to facility a greater capacity for dichotomy with respect to ourselves)).

If you read both books back to back and then try to fuse the insights you’ll understand most of Chinese history, a lot of Chinese Culture, and a great deal more than you did about modern Chinese.

Notes:
1) IMHO this book is better than Wild Swans.
2) I have trouble recommending this book to others as strongly as its actual impact, because it’s such a painful reed.
3) Both Genghis Khan and Mao conflated history and propaganda to an extent that most of the rest of the world cannot. Although Genghis Khan may have believed in secret non-propaganda histories for their strategic value.
4) I think the first step in understanding these two books is to embrace the More is Different principle. All peoples, cultures, and governments have their moments and their dark sides, but orders of magnitude simply matter. Some numeracy with respect to scale is required to even start to understand.

21 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Steaven Chan
  • 2012-06-09

Terrible narrator!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

There is nothing more criminal in butchering a good book by a lousy reader. The narrator couldn't pronounce a single Chinese word properly, it is so hard to follow sometimes when you have to think twice who the heck he is talking about. Like "Zhou Enlai" was read as "Chao" that's so wrong, it should be more like "Joe" and "Chiang" was read as "Chang" so it gets really confusing. Even as simple as "Jiang qing" was read as "Jiang King" and I won't even start with places. That's another disaster to listen to.
Long and short of it, the book is good, I like the detailed insights and story, but the narration gets into my nerves. Sorry. my rating is Story 4 stars and Narration 0 stars (If I could).

What other book might you compare Mao to and why?

Wild Swan. Book is written by the same author and goes along the same format. I like it.

How could the performance have been better?

Learn how to read Chinese pinyin first before recording the book.

Could you see Mao being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

No comment

Any additional comments?

Please make sure the book reader knows how to pronounce chinese words before reading the book.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Keith O'Loane
  • 2010-10-23

Frightening but worth the listen

If anyone ever tells you they think Mao is a person to look up to you might want to think again about that person. Mao was a total despot and one of the worst people to ever live. The things described in this book are frightening. It puts a lot of history into context, namely Korea and Vietnam and how this guy used those wars for only personal gain, he didn't care how many Chinese or others died. Not to be listened to with the kids, but excellent if you want to learn history and thus not be doomed to see it repeated.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Greg Skoog
  • 2007-08-11

Excellent book, lousy narration

The book is marvelous. The narration is appallingly bad. There are so many mispronunciations of Chinese and Vietnamese personal names that it's hard to believe this narrator has every listened to international news.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • L. Jay
  • 2007-07-21

Well worth the time

This is an amazing book. It gives you an entirely new perspective on China. Mao's leadership was horrendous. It is hard to conceive of anyone with less concern for human life and suffering. I came away from the book with the realization that China be a much greater economic threat to the United States today if it had not been victimized by Mao.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris Nagel
  • 2011-05-01

good book

One cannot say that one enjoys this book. It is a book of the destruction of very many lives, and disrespect of what many readers may hold dear. Reader beware. But it is well written and tells the story of a powerful man in world history.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • brian
  • 2014-02-23

Shatters the Mao myth.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would for the history mostly.

What other book might you compare Mao to and why?

I can't think of one.

What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Great narration. Being blind, audio books is how I tend to 'read'.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No extreme reaction.

Any additional comments?

None.

2 people found this helpful