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Extended Audio Sample Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point Audiobook, by David Lipsky Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (558 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David Lipsky Narrator: David Lipsky Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2004 ISBN: 9780739312810
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As David Lipsky follows a future generation of army officers from their proving grounds to their barracks, he reveals the range of emotions and desires that propels these men and women forward. From the cadet who struggles with every facet of West Point life to those who are decidedly huah, Lipsky shows people facing challenges so daunting and responsibilities so heavy that their transformations are fascinating to watch. Absolutely American is a thrilling portrait of a unique institution and those who make up its ranks. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Although confined to one geographic area, Absolutely American covers a vast sociological, political and psychological landscape. . .neither an institutional hagiography nor a scathing, Seymour Hersh-like exposé, [this] is an assiduously researched, evenhanded examination that focuses on the changing value systems of the institution and the people who experience those changes. Lipsky has written an important, insightful book on the current state of our premier military academy and on the intrepid first West Point class to enter the War on Terrorism. Houston Chronicle
  • A sunny portrait of group of young men and women. . .[Lipsky] is effective as a chronicler of personality. The New Yorker
  • “Freshman could learn a lot by reflecting on a book that suggests that the main problem with traditional American values is that we do such a poor job of living up to them. So could we all. Charlotte News & Observer
  • Goes inside the walls of the academy to discover and portray the cadets and the officers who train them, giving civilians an up-close look at the real West Point experience. [Lipsky] captures the language, emotion, history and motivation of the extraordinary people he profiles. Illuminating. . .captivating and compelling. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
  • “[Lipsky] followed [the cadets] into mess halls, barracks, classrooms, bars and training exercises. He watched them do push-ups, polish their shoes, get drunk, cry, trhow up and grow up. Lipsky chronicles it all. . . [it] reads like a novel. Alabama Mobile Register
  • "Highly Recommended Library Journal (starred review).

    “The latest, best, and I hope the last of its kind. Shows what West Point does. . .taking apathetic and uncommitted young people and developing them into talented, capable officers, sometimes in spite of themsleves…. Illuminates the real, human complexities of the Military Academy.
  • "Lipsky takes up the problems of maintaining West Point's unique culture--the military squared and cubed--in the face of a general culture that offers a host of temptations....Outstanding. Booklist.
  • [Told in a] breathless narrative fashion that routinely builds each anecdote to a climactic finale. This formula provides some of the most memorable passages in the book. These vignettes [can] sound like clichés, [but] the message here is that in an age of irony and cynicism, West Point proudly embracés such clichés, and Lipsky ear for dialogue and his eye for specific detail breath life into these chapters. Lipsky’s book stands out as the most accurate and engrossing look at West Point, warts and all, as it exists today. Pointer View
  • Lipsky is fascinated by the rigors of the academy and how a divers group of young men and women struggle with its challenges. He achieves the impressive feat of writing from inside cadet culture.Unusually complete and perceptive. . Lipsky’s understanding of their lives is remarkable. Chicago Tribune
  • Wonderfully engaging, a surprisingly nuanced portrait of these cadets. The Atlanta Journal-Consitution
  • Most will be delighted to find a new twist on the subject of military education. This book shows that West Point thrives under resilient leadership and a class of future officers that is human, while still being moral, real and enthusiastic. In short, this book is "huah. San Antonio Express-News
  • "A once-skeptical Rolling Stone writer spends four years watching teamwork, hard work and self-sacrifice gain meaning for fledgling Army officers, children of a society that glorifies consumerism, individualism and instant gratification. Providence Journal-Bulletin
  • Whether Lipsky is trudging through the woods with tired and hungry cadets or sitting in on barracks-room bull sessions, he marvels at the sense of duty he finds. Wonderfully upbeat. . .a charming book. St-Louis Post-Dispatch
  • An unprecedentedly in-depth examination . . . [at a time] when all the lessons and discipline, which seemed anachronistic in the sunny days of peace, prove suddenly, vividly necessary. Men’s Journal
  • A richly anecdotal portrait of West Point during one of the most dramatic transitional phases in its 200-year history. The Onion
  • "Superb Publisher's Weekly

    “An exhaustive and very human account of West Point and its cadets.
  • A superb description of modern military culture and one of the most gripping accounts of university life. . . . Powerful. . . . Wonderfully told. The New York Times Book Review
  • David Lipsky's up close and personal account of life at West Point is a national service. It takes the reader deep inside one of America's most important institutions. Tom Brokaw
  • Addictive . . . a story that could inspire even nonmilitary buffs to follow the cadets’ careers like those of their favorite sports heroes. Newsweek
  • A fascinating, funny and tremendously well written account of life on the Long Gray Line. Take a good look: this is the face America turns to most of the world, and until now it’s one that most of us have never seen. Time
  • “Immesely rich. . . . A genuinely evocative and wonderfully detailed portrait of an absolutely American institution. Newsday
    “Wonderfully engaging, a surprisingly nuanced portrait of these cadets.
  • "Duty, Honor, Casual Sex: Plain American hedonism is powerful at West Point, David Lipsky found, but so are discipline and self-sacrifice . . . A superb description of modern military culture, and one of the most gripping accounts of university life I have read. This book must have been extremely hard to organize, and yet it reads with a novelistic flow. How teenagers get turned into leaders is not a simple story, but it is wonderfully told in this book. David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review
  • “A labour of love. While Lipsky’s friends back home wrestled with nagging, existential questions, he steeped himself in the demanding yet salubrious routines of cadet life, reveling in the youngsters’ comaraderie and marveling at their commitment to the academy’s core values, “Duty, Honor, Country.” The result is an immensely rich collection of portraits of young men and women put under very adult pressure by an insitution that itself must constantly adapt to the society around it. Lipsky [establishes] a dramatic tension that holds for the next 300-plus pages. [A] genuinely evocative and wonderfully detailed portrait of an absolutely American institution. Newsday
  • “A fascinating, funny and tremendously well written account of life on the Long Gray Line. Lipsky approaches the cadets like an anthropologist stalking the elusive Yanomamo tribe, and with good reason: he’s in a weird, weird place. Take a good look: this is the face America turns to most of the world, and until now it’s one that most of us have never seen. A mesmerizing and powerfully human spectacle Time Magazine
  • Masculinity has traditionally been associated with the military. Absolutely American, which vividly traces West Point cadets through their four years at the Academy, deals with both sexes and tells a lot about the changing definitions and conditions of masculinity and femininity in the new century. Elaine Showalter, The Washington Post Book World
  • “Illuminating. . .Lipsky has done a distinguished service to a proud school. Entertainment Weekly
  • A 2003 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katy Guthrie | 2/20/2014

    " One of my all time favorites. This books provides the reader with the best parts ofilitary and college life when your adult life is just getting started. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cameron Hackett | 2/12/2014

    " This book, written by David Lipsky, is a series of stroies that confront a lot of issues that cadets face at West Point. The stories are told through cadet life and how it affects them. One of the issues is professionalism. In the late 1990s the Army began experimenting with ways to improve retention among junior officers and noncommissioned officers by reorganizing according to business models. The rationale is that this will help the Army to compete with higher-paid professionals in the civilian world. But some are dissatisfied, believing this approach is counterproductive to recruiting and retaining selfless leaders. The academy has recently tried to make West Point a school where the cadets can become successful after their military duties. However, this is at the expense of turing them into trained leaders of character who can lead men as officers in the United States Army. Lipsky also aims at presenting a comparison of West Point and other institutions. One major issue confronting the cadets is dating, and in a broader sense, the role of women in the Army. The men seem to dislike the social reengineering of the military at their expense, as the women are caught up in the militaristic ideals and also with wanting to start a family. Usually the issue is resolved in one of two ways: The men either date the women or ignore them. David Lipsky wrote this book because Some believe that there is a growing gap between the American military and the civilian world. To address the concern, Rolling Stone's David Lipsky wrote an article about the young people matriculating to the United States Military Academy at West Point in the fall of 1998. That assignment sparked his imagination, and soon he was living in an apartment off campus, experiencing one of America's most enduring institutions. As a child, Lipsky's father told them to stay away from the military, so Lipsky took caution towards this book. All in all, the theme of this book,Absolutely American, is about the transformation of teenagers into leaders. But the real story is not about the cadets, it is about the transformation of David Lipsky. The one career field that his father prohibited was the military, and in the preface Lipsky admits that when he began the book, he did not realize that soldiers are people too. Lipsky is representative of many Americans today, to whom the military is strange and foreign, something associated with World War II, Vietnam or the nightly news. But watching the lives of these remarkable young people brings us closer to the elite world of West Point. By graduation, these cadets have been changed forever, and the reader cannot help but feel pride in the people who have walked, and those who will one day walk, the long gray line. I would recommend this book to a reader. I think that it shows that soldiers are people too even in today's world. I think that it clearly shows that West Point is not a prison and the cadets there face many of the same problems normal students do. The stories told through the cadets are interesting and keep the story going. Sometimes, the stories are suspenseful and leave the reader dying to know what happens. Overall, this is a good read for people who wish to see the true side of West Point and its overall mission for the cadets. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 MJL Dosh | 2/12/2014

    " One of the best books I have ever read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Craig Peterson | 2/11/2014

    " I heard the author interviewed while my son was in the process of applying for admission to West Point and bought it for him to gain a better understanding of life as a cadet. After he finished it, I read it. Then I read it again after my son's second year at West Point. That second read was much more relevant to me, having seen what my son had experienced to-date. My son graduated from West Point in 2008 and is now 4 years into active service in the army. I've been approached by a number of parents for advice about their child's application to West Point. I tell them that Absolutely American should be required reading for their child as well as themselves. Even if you don't anticipate ever having a direct connection with West Point, this book is a great way to gain insight into the average life of a student at a military academy. After reading it, you'll never look at those cadets on TV during the Army/Navy game in quite the same way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 2/3/2014

    " I was curious about this book from the get-go. I had just finished a book about The Citadel and was interested in how this compared. Another interesting feature was the author, David Lipsky who wrote for "Rolling Stone" and how he would write such a book. those in the Academy at this time were the first class to graduate after 9/11. that event changed everything in the lives of the cadets to the institution itself.It was a great read. We are blessed with such dedicated men and women who serve our country during this dangerous time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy | 1/18/2014

    " Fascinating read. Sept 11 changed the game for everyone, but especially these cadets. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 1/16/2014

    " Quite interesting. Reads almost like a novel. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carin | 12/18/2013

    " a riveting in-depth look at West Point, the author follows two classes, freshmen and senior, for 4 years. It's hard reading it after September 11, when in 2000 the kids are talking about how they're probably going to Bosnia, and yet you know better that they're going to Afghanistan, and their lives, their futures are shortly going to be changed forever, much more so than most of the rest of us Americans. I have always found high school and college a fascinating time-period, as kids learn so much, grow so much during this years, and these kids are no different, just because they're in the military. The author has no agenda. Initially West Point wouldn't let him come unless he would allow them to vet his writing ahead of time, he said absolutely not, they let him come anyway, and they so liked his story in Rolling Stone, that they had no problem with him staying on for 4 years, which is certainly impressive for West Point's administration. You see these kids fall in and out of love, struggle academically, push and pull against parents and teachers' expectations, and debate their place in the world and their future careers. This is a very impressive book, about some extremely impressive young men and women. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 claire | 12/16/2013

    " I really liked this book. It was an eyeopener into the goings on at West Point. The style of writing was a little muddled at points but the overall message made up for it "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa Cuevas | 12/10/2013

    " I found this one during writing a book about a young woman who attends USMA, and it was one of the finest looks into the ambiance and lifestyle of the Academy (And I read quite a few of them). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 12/2/2013

    " I looked into attending West Point for college and actually had a very good friend that went there. This was very in-depth of what happens here and how cadets are formed from entering freshman to graduating officers in the military. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kgraham | 11/15/2013

    " The fascinating part of this story is how the writer (who writes for Rolling Stone Magazine) is surprised by what he finds among the Cadets at West Point. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brian | 9/26/2013

    " A sympathetic and intimate look at a cohort of West Point cadets as they go through the academy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Todd Johnson | 8/19/2013

    " Interesting insight into what the military academy is really like. An interesting read if nothing else. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sue | 3/10/2013

    " Well writeen, humorous and insightful....loved reading ti before Jon headed off to West Point! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lexi | 12/26/2012

    " This was a really interesting read, a behind the scenes glimpse of a world I would never otherwise get to see. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liz | 11/29/2012

    " Fairly interesting journalistic piece on West Point cadets. It has not made me admire the military any more, though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Matt | 10/15/2012

    " Great book about what it takes to get through West Point and the diverse cadets who enlist. A tribute to tradition, honor and sacrifice. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ruth | 9/1/2012

    " It was interesting to learn about a U.S. institution with which I am so unfamiliar. The book was easy to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becca | 8/12/2012

    " I do think this is a good book, but I only gave it 3 stars because it brought back bad memories of West Point!! Plus, some of the featured cadets are my classmates and big dorks. However, it also brought back funny and entertaining memories of West Point... which is why I liked it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bryan | 3/29/2012

    " read this not too long after 2001 and it was awesome. having taught about 10-15 West Point officers and gotten to know a little about them, this helped me understand. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel Brown | 3/7/2012

    " Absolutely fantastic prose, and a deft hand with characterization and setting, too. An excellent book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Carpender | 12/10/2011

    " Great insight into west point. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shea | 11/30/2011

    " I just couldn't get into this. I kept thinking about how different a book it would have been if written after September 2001. I did learn a lot about West Point which I knew almost nothing about. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joe Alexander | 8/7/2011

    " The author portrays West Point as a somewhat unpleasant experience that you really have to dedicate yourself to in order to make it through, but which offers a valuable payoff in the end. The book was a little like that too..........except for the payoff at the end... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katy | 6/12/2011

    " One of my all time favorites. This books provides the reader with the best parts ofilitary and college life when your adult life is just getting started. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 MJL | 12/14/2010

    " One of the best books I have ever read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Virginia | 11/9/2010

    " Saw an interview with the author talking about this project, fascinating book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elese | 8/15/2010

    " Another 3.5 starring book if half stars were available. Started off slow and then picked up: 3 stars for the first 150 pages and 4.5 stars for the last 150. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna | 5/11/2010

    " A good understanding of West Point, but its sequence of events can get confusing at times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gail | 2/8/2010

    " If you or your child is interested in, or is attending, a military academy- this is a must read. Interesting,insightful and funny. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liz | 2/7/2010

    " Fairly interesting journalistic piece on West Point cadets. It has not made me admire the military any more, though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kgraham | 1/27/2010

    " The fascinating part of this story is how the writer (who writes for Rolling Stone Magazine) is surprised by what he finds among the Cadets at West Point. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 10/4/2009

    " A fascinating and very readable look at what brings students to West Point, and what it's like once there. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jean-Marie | 7/18/2009

    " This is a wonderful book regardless of your opinion of war, military school, etc.
    The author was a Rolling Stone reporter who went to WP kicking and screaming to do a story, and ended up living there; hence the book.
    "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 claire | 7/7/2009

    " I really liked this book. It was an eyeopener into the goings on at West Point. The style of writing was a little muddled at points but the overall message made up for it "

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About the Author
Author David LipskyDAVID LIPSKY is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.  His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Magazine Writing, the New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publications.  He contributes as an essayist to NPR's All Things Considered and is the recipient of a Lambert Fellowship, a Media Award from GLAAD, and a National Magazine Award.  He's the author of the novel The Art Fair; a collection of stories, Three Thousand Dollars; and the bestselling nonfiction book Absolutely American, which was a Time magazine Best Book of the Year.