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  First Man: Life of Neil A. Armstrong (Hansen)

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Author Topic:   First Man: Life of Neil A. Armstrong (Hansen)
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2003 12:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
by James R. Hansen
On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch 38-year-old astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first person ever to walk on the Moon. Perhaps no words in recent human history became better known than those few he uttered at that historic moment.

Upon his return to Earth, Armstrong was honored and celebrated for his achievement. But he was also misunderstood. As authorized biographer James Hansen reveals in this fascinating and important book, it was the act of flying that had driven Armstrong rather than the pull of the destination, from his distinguished career as a fighter pilot in the Korean War right through to his most famous mission.

Drawing on flight logs, family and NASA archives and over 125 original interviews with key participants, "First Man" vividly re-creates Armstrong's life and career in flying, from the heights of honor earned as a naval aviator, test pilot and astronaut, to the dear personal price paid by Armstrong and, even more so, by his wife and children, for his dedication to his vocation. It is a unique portrait of a great but reluctant hero.

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 18, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 074325631X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743256315

hinkler
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posted 01-31-2003 12:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hinkler   Click Here to Email hinkler     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What great news.
Almost 34 years after Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind," James Hansen, history professor at Auburn University in Alabama, was given permission to write the biography of the first man to walk on the moon.

"It's an ordinary boyhood that became an extraordinary life," Hansen said of Armstrong. "Most people remember him just for the moon landing. What people see is him walking down the ladder. What that is is an icon, not the real person."

Hansen, who can now tell the world about the "real" Armstrong, will become the first person to chronicle the life of the former astronaut in a book.

bruce
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posted 01-31-2003 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bruce   Click Here to Email bruce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is what Chris Kraft was telling me about 18 months ago!

Paul
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posted 01-31-2003 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul   Click Here to Email Paul     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great news! I've been waiting for this to happen for 30 years now, as I'm sure many of you have! It's true, Armstrong is more than just the first man to step onto the lunar surface, he's an icon of aviation and space history!

Thank you, Professor Armstrong and thank you Professor Hansen!

lewarren
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posted 01-31-2003 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lewarren   Click Here to Email lewarren     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WOW - that's probably the coolest news I've heard in a really long time.

sts205cdr
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posted 01-31-2003 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sts205cdr   Click Here to Email sts205cdr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
HALLELUJAH!!! I can't wait to read this one!

WAWalsh
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posted 01-31-2003 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is indeed good news and something to look forward to...

DChudwin
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posted 10-24-2005 10:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just got a copy of "First Man," the long-awaited biography of Neil Armstrong. I quickly read the chapter "Astronaut as Icon," and found some very negative stuff about space collectors.

First, we are included with those nuts who think the moon voyages were a hoax.

Also, the chapter implies that autograph collectors are a bunch of avaricious vultures, eager to turn a profit on someone's signature.

The author extensively quotes (selectively I assume) Robert Pearlman to negatively classify those who dare to criticize Armstrong for not signing anymore.

The author gives market prices, a little exaggerated, for Armstrong signed items — which are so high because Armstrong stopped signing (look at John Glenn, for example).

Finally, the author quotes Charles Lindbergh in l969 as advising Armstrong to never give an autograph. The author then implies that Armstrong was a wimp for waiting 25 years to put that policy into effect. He reaffirms that Armstrong will never change now, even for charitable purposes.

Overall, the he portrays Armstrong as a shy man who is not socially adept, but also not the recluse that some have called him. His schedule was so busy, according to the book, he couldn't find time to take a trip with his first wife Janet (who later left him).

These are just some first impressions. What do you think?

Aztecdoug
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posted 10-24-2005 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
...the chapter implies that autograph collectors are a bunch of avaricious vultures
I had to look that one up...
avaricious - immoderately desirous of acquiring e.g. wealth; "they are avaricious and will do anything for money"; "casting covetous eyes on his neighbor's fields"; "a grasping old miser"
...and on and on.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-24-2005 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DChudwin:
The author extensively quotes (selectively I assume) Robert Pearlman to negatively classify those who dare to criticize Armstrong for not signing anymore.
For the record, I do not feel that Hansen misquoted me; rather I read the specific few paragraphs of the six pages dealing with autographs as highlighting exceptional cases of hero worship rather than a general damnation of all of Armstrong's fans (collectors included).

It would be dishonest to suggest that there aren't individuals amongst our community who feel they are entitled to an autograph, going so far as to verbally attack the astronauts, including Armstrong, who do not sign. In that regard, they are very much like the moon hoaxers in their almost obsessive belief in a falsehood.

To Hansen's credit, he spends more time discussing the type of requests Armstrong receives/d than the complaints levied against him. Hansen also distinguishes between the "mad" and "hobbyist" collector, and laments that Armstrong's policy of not signing leaves hundreds of children and teenagers disappointed every year.

I might add that by skipping ahead to read that one chapter it might be taking its content out of context. I, more than most, had a reason to do so and instead resisted the temptation, reaching Chapter 34 in the normal course of reading the book. I would highly recommend reading "First Man" from cover to cover.

John K. Rochester
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posted 11-01-2005 11:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In reading the book "First Man" you see the many ways that Armstrong's and Charles Lindburgh's life were parallel... both felt the most comfortable in an aircraft, both tragically lost children, both became heroes and eventually withdrew from public life. I guess that is the price you pay for being first.

As far as the book itself... I thoroughly enjoyed it. It really gave a greater insight to a great many things about both of his flights. Many of the things were those I had never heard before, even though the 11 mission was the most written about in history. The only negatives for me were at one point where the author called Chris Kraft "the voice of Project Mercury"... that was Shorty Powers... and he also spoke of the time Gus " hung a lemon " on the Apollo Command Module, when we all know by now it was the simulator that was adorned. There were a few other "miscues"... but not enough to ruin the read.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-27-2005 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was reading through some of the reviews of "First Man" that have appeared in newspapers over the last few weeks. Most agree that bringing Armstrong's life to print was a good thing and that its delivery was well executed.

Many praise the detail Hansen used when writing about Gemini 8, Apollo 11 and Armstrong's experiences as an astronaut.

The same reviewers though take issue with Hansen when he applies the same approach to other facets of Armstrong's life. They write that Hansen could have spared readers the fine details of Armstrong's family history, military career and interaction with others.

I personally didn't find the detail to be overwhelming but I am curious what others who have read the book have thought. Were these reviewers correct?

Here are a few links to reviews for comparison:

spacecraft films
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posted 11-27-2005 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I liked the detail on other aspects of Armstrong's life. I especially liked some of the detail because it brought out a trait of character in Armstrong that tends to be missing in many persons in the public eye today.

I would go so far as to say that one of the reasons he's treated as if he is a "recluse" is because of some of these traits of character he exhibits which are different from today's cult-of-celebrity norm. For this reason I found the read refreshing, although admittidly most of my reading is of non-fiction and historical subjects (although I do enjoy a true-crime every now and then).

I disagree with the reviewers who don't find these details important or relevant for the book. After all, focus should be maintained. This is a book on Neil Armstrong, not a book on the X-15, Project Gemini, or Apollo 11.

Given what I have just said, I obviously enjoyed the book a great deal... it was one of those I devoured and then was sad to turn the last page. However, I came away from it disappointed. I know more about what happened to Neil Armstrong now, but I don't feel much closer to understanding him. I was hoping for more insight into what makes him tick. But from the total of what I've seen on the subject, so is everyone else.

SRB
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posted 11-27-2005 08:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for posting links to these reviews of First Man. You might have also included a link to your favorable review of the book.

It took me three weeks to get through the book because of the length and the massive amount of detail about less important matters. Most of the book read like the technical manual of Armstrong's life. However, I liked that Hansen covered Armstrong's early life. But he did not need to list all his friends whenever he could. I liked the section on Armstrong's military career. But Hanson did not need to list the number of rounds fired each month by his squadron. What was badly needed was an editor with a red pencil. The story should have move along much better.

I fully agree with you the parts about Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 were terrific. I think it was because of the natural excitement of the events as well as that these events fit with Armstrong's current wish to talk only from an engineering viewpoint - and no other. Hansen's blessing and curse was that Armstrong clearly would only talk engineering now. No personal feelings, no new insights and no retrospection. It was so bad that Hansen would put in the book Armstrong's reaction to someone else describing the events he was involved in, rather than getting a first hand account by Armstrong.

At the end of the book when Hansen was briefly describing Armstrong's speeches after Apollo 11, they were more human and insightful than anything he would let himself talk about now. Too bad. Armstrong is a hero. His moon landing was heroic. He is entitled to talk only about the the engineering things he is willing to discuss. But it's too bad because it would be nice to know more about why he did what he did and how he felt about it then and now.

Lastly, some of Hansen's detailed work to correct prior errors was interesting. But, a lot of it also seemed very defensive.

Overall, First Man is an important document because of the many details provided about this historic figure. However, if you want to enjoy a book about Apollo, read something else. Mike Collins' Carrying The Fire is far better. In fact, for enjoyment I would put First Man pretty far down on the list of astronaut biographies.

DChudwin
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posted 11-28-2005 06:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I first posted to this thread I had not read the entire book. I have finally plowed through the 769 pages of "First Man" and want to give you some further opinions.

On the positive side, the author did an incredible amount of research, interviewing almost everyone alive who had a significant role in Armstrong's life (the main exception is his son Mark). Hansen approached this daunting task with the thoroughness of the historian he is. He also sifted through hundreds of documents, files, and other material. He also was granted extensive interview time with Armstrong himself, who does not usually do one-on-one interviews with journalists (more on this later).

Secondly, Hansen is not afraid to broach controversial or painful topics, a practice not always the case with authorized biographies. He explores how the emotionally-challenged Armstrong approached the tragic death of his daughter from brain cancer, and how and perhaps why (emotional distance) his first marriage broke up. Hansen discusses the bad rap (unjustified in my opinion) that Armstrong and Scott could have salvaged the Gemini 8 mission by using different procedures when a thruster was stuck open.

Third, there is a lot of new information, at least to me. For example, Deke Slayton offered to replace Aldrin on the crew with Lovell if Armstrong felt uncomfortable with Buzz (Neil decided to stick with Buzz). Also, a few days before Apollo 11 there was a "sim" concentrating on computer alarms. When Steve Bales made the "Go" calls on the actual landing it was because the team had practiced the situation. There is also a brief discussion of what Armstrong brought in his PPK to the moon-- a subject of much speculation.

On the negative side, the book is too long. Details of the Armstrong family tree and of some of the Korean combat could have been omitted. On the other hand, Armstrong's 9 years at the University of Cincinnati are just given 6 pages.

The writing style is uneven. The author tries to be lyrical at times and in other parts he is mired in "techno-speak."

The organization is generally chronological but chapters or segments are interspersed at unusual moments. For example, the chapter on astronaut wifes is oddly placed. Also, the discussion of the astronaut's PPKs is suddenly dropped in after recounting CBS's commentary on the landing.

My biggest criticism is that Hansen does not, at the end of the book, assess Armstrong's historical role and legacy. While this is often best done at a distance after the subject is gone, an interim assessment from Hansen would be interesting.

After reading the entire thing, I still believe Hansen "disses" space collectors by grouping them with UFO and hoax-theory types. He does not explore why people might want to collect space (other than the monetary aspect he focuses on). (Robert: did you expound your views on this when he interviewed you?)

The book shows that Neil is not a recluse, but that most of his speeches have been to obscure trade and industrial groups (who have the dollars to pay speaking fees).

Matt T
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posted 11-29-2005 08:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reading between the lines Armstrong seems to have set a policy of not discussing his personal life outside of how it affected his work. There is no direct quote from Armstrong about his feelings on his daughter's death, the loss of his parents or his divorce. These sections of the book rely heavily on the opinions / experiences of others who were affected. In that respect it is not truly the 'life of Neil Armstrong', more the 'career of' with background history.

Form mirrors content of course; the constrained picture that the book affords us of Neil Armstrong is in keeping with the personality shown within. My own reading of the book left me feeling that Armstrong's separation of emotional life from his work borders on the almost sociopathic. Of course, that's why he's survived numerous situations where other men would have emoted all the way into the ground...

randy
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posted 12-30-2005 01:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm almost done with 'First Man', on chapter 30. It has given me new insight as to why Neil is the way he is. The one thing I don't like about the book so far is the way it puts down anyone or anything that disagrees with the author or subject. I don't particularly care for that. Other than that, I've found it to be a good book.

Crsh4Csh
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posted 02-03-2006 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Crsh4Csh   Click Here to Email Crsh4Csh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't recommend "First Man" enough... I'm not much of a book reader, but I must say I started to read James Hansen's book and couldn't put it down. From cover to cover, Mr. Hansen gives a thorough overview filled with all sorts of interesting details and perspectives, all while writing with an easiness and plain-speak that even a non-bookie guy like me could enjoy.

You all must give it a read. Robert, and collectSPACE, is pretty prominently mentioned in the book as well, and if you are an Apollo 11 fan, then it is a MUST read.

Peter S
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posted 02-03-2006 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter S   Click Here to Email Peter S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree... wonderful book, and long overdue.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-31-2007 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Auburn University release
Auburn University Professor James R. Hansen's book, "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," has been named by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 2006.

Choice, the publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, listed Hansen's book in its January issue among the top 10 percent of more than 7,000 works reviewed last year.

"My challenge in writing the Armstrong biography was composing a book that would serve the dual purpose of attracting and satisfying readers from the general public while still living up to the highest standards of academic scholarship," said Hansen, a professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts. "It is extraordinarily fulfilling to receive this confirmation that I have somehow managed to do both."

Hansen's book, published by Simon and Schuster in 2005, is the first authorized biography of astronaut Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. It spent two weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has also won the Gardner-Lasser Aerospace Literature Award, presented by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts, and the Eugene M. Emme Prize in Astronautical Literature, awarded by the American Astronautical Society.

Reviewer John Carver Edwards of Library Journal said the book is "a Herculean effort" and that Hansen "succeeds in penetrating his subject's seemingly enigmatic personality. This impressively documented and engagingly written biography will stand the test of time."

Choice magazine editors selected its Outstanding Academic Books based on a variety of criteria, including overall excellence in presentation and scholarship, value to undergraduate students, and importance in building undergraduate library collections.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 11-06-2007 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"First Man" is a great resource to learn from. I did not think of it is an entertaining book, such as "Carrying the Fire." However, you can find just about any factoid in "First Man." I liked that aspect.

I believe the book is a reflection of Armstrong's true personality. He is very matter of fact and scientific. That is not what most reporters want to hear, but it is his true style. He is a detail oriented person. That makes him a great astronaut and engineer. I admire his ability to analyze such details.

"First Man" is more fun to read if you find a section that you are curious about, then maybe put it down and read it again. It is full of facts and was a primary reference source for my new book.

Jurg Bolli
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posted 11-06-2007 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just loved the book and was also sad to reach the end.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-08-2008 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Waterstone's video

cspg
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posted 10-23-2012 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A new paperback edition is due on November 27, 2012.

onesmallstep
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posted 10-24-2012 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice that they're using the shot of him in front of the X-15, as he liked talking for hours on end about the engineering aspects of the program.

Tykeanaut
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posted 09-04-2014 12:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if Neil Armstrong signed any copies of the book, perhaps just for James R. Hansen at least?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-04-2014 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Hansen, Armstrong did not sign a copy for him or, to his knowledge, anyone else.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-20-2014 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Auburn University release
Hansen achieves New York Times bestseller status a second time

College of Liberal Arts history professor James Hansen's book, "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," is now a two-time New York Times bestselling book.

Hansen's biography of the first man on the moon was a New York Times bestseller when it was first released by Simon and Schuster in 2005. Now, the updated edition from 2012, subtitled "The Essential Biography," has made the Times' list again in connection with the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission for which Armstrong served as commander.

cspg
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posted 01-28-2018 07:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another paperpack edition is announced (a reprint of the first one?):
Soon to be a major motion picture, this is the first — and only — definitive authorized account of Neil Armstrong, the man whose "one small step" changed history.
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Simon & Schuster; Reissue (May 29, 2018)
  • ISBN-10: 1501153064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501153068

dom
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posted 01-28-2018 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just relieved the publisher hasn't put a picture of Ryan Gosling on the cover!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-28-2018 12:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The new cover is the same as the previous softcover edition, but with the addition of a second call-out (after "The New York Times Bestseller") to note "Soon to be a Major Motion Picture."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2018 01:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From James Hansen on Facebook:
Yes, a new edition of "First Man" has just come out from Simon and Schuster. It has a new Preface and the concluding chapter of the book has been extended significantly to cover Neil's last seven years of his life, his death, and his legacy.

A few other things are added here and there. But overall the book is quite a bit shorter, with significant compressing of the early chapters. There is also an additional group of photos covering his last years of life and his death.

Some 20 foreign countries are translating the book, including into Russian, Polish, Czech, Romanian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Malay, Sinhala (Sri Lanka), Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Greek.

A movie tie-in edition of the book will be published in October.

David C
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posted 06-04-2018 03:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
...overall the book is quite a bit shorter
Obviously, I'll be getting this. I wonder what drove the trimming of this scholarly work? Glad I own a first edition.

cspg
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posted 06-05-2018 01:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Brilliant marketing...

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