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You Talkin' To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama [Paperback]

Sam Leith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2012

Rhetoric is what gives words power. It's nothing to be afraid of. It isn't the exclusive preserve of politicians: it's everywhere, from your argument with the insurance company to your plea to the waitress for a table near the window. It convicts criminals (and then frees them on appeal). It causes governments to rise and fall, best men to be shunned by brides, and people to march with steady purpose towards machine guns.

In this highly entertaining (and persuasive) book, Sam Leith examines how people have taught, practised and thought about rhetoric from its Attic origins to its twenty-first century apotheosis. Along the way, he tells the stories of its heroes and villains, from Cicero and Erasmus, to Hitler, Obama - and Gyles Brandreth.

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You Talkin' To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama + Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Winning Arguments: From Aristotle to Obama - Everything You Need to Know About the Art of Persuasion
Price For All Three: 19.70

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683169
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Leith is a freelance writer and critic. A former Literary Editor of the Daily Telegraph, he now writes regularly for the Evening Standard, Guardian, Spectator, Wall Street Journal Europe and Prospect. He's 37 and lives near North London's picturesque Suicide Bridge with his fiancee Alice, daughter Marlene and son Max. His cat is called Henry.

Product Description


"'Reading this book is the equivalent of lounging in a leather club armchair, wreathed in cigar smoke and a couple of whiskies down, alongside a companion who's being funny and clever about Homer and Hello! magazine by turns.' (Charlotte Higgins, Guardian) 'Entertaining... You finish this book more than ready to rock a first in rhetoric.' (Hermione Eyre, Evening Standard) 'This is the best available analysis' (Boris Johnson)"

Book Description

A witty, elegant enquiry into the art of persuasion

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Let me persuade you' 16 May 2012
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Some say we live in the age of communication so it seems odd that the study of rhetoric seems antiquated and neglected - part of an irrelevant classical tradition.

In a introduction which starts with a funny and apposite scene from The Simpsons, Sam Leith says 'So although rhetoric is all around us, we don't see it. Indeed it's precisely because it's all around us that we don't see it. Explaining rhetoric to a human being is, or should be, like explaining water to a fish.' He goes on to say 'We use language to cajole and seduce, to impress and inspire, to endear and to justify. Language happens because human beings are desiring machines; and what knits desire and language is rhetoric.' At that point I was sold - my interest was piqued. What kept me reading was his clear style and wonderful examples from Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost to The Simpsons, from Churchill to Obama.

The book is structured according to the Five Parts of rhetoric
1) Invention
Ethos, pathos and logos

2) Arrangement
For example narration, proof and refutation

3) Style
For example, decorum and jokes

4) Memory
some top tips on using a memory house

5) Delivery

and then he explores the three branches of rhetoric:
Deliberative Rhetoric
Judicial Rhetoric and
Epideicitic Rhetoric

Don't be put off by the classical terms. If you have an important presentation or speech to give then this book will be very useful, but it's also something that can be dipped in to with pleasure and will reward and enrich the everyday communications.

Sam Leith has pulled off that very difficult balancing act with his book which is entertaining and inspiring as well as informative and educational. It is a master class in rhetoric.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant smartness 21 Oct 2012
By Mrs. R.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fabulous book. Fab-u-lous.
Why's that? Because reading it makes you feel intelligent.
A real expert can explain comlicated things so that people new to the subject can understand them too. That's what this book does.
Rhetoric. I didn't really know what that was, but I thought perhaps it was boring. It turns out that it's fascinating, or it is when Sam Leith writes about it.

I spend a lot of my working life trying to convince business people that they don't have to use words like contextualisation or phrases like integrated stratigic teaming to make themselves look clever. Aiming to show that if they can explain something complicated so people can understand it, they'll get better results. I'm going to take this book with me to all my workshops from now on. I used to take a geology book called Understanding Earth for the same reason, but this one's smaller.

Sam Leith has made me smarter. I didn't learn Latin at school, but that's OK because Sam explains it for you.
But as well as using Aristotle and Obama, he quotes South Park, Kurt Cobain and Billy Connelly.
And it tells me that I could probably have rearranged this review to have a stronger impact. Buy it anyway. Even if you don't intend to write a speech or make a speech. Even if you never write anything.

Read this because it makes you a more intelligent listener.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Ross Maynard VINE VOICE
I enjoyed "You Talkin' to Me?". It provides a very accessible and readable introduction to what could be the very dry subject of rhetoric. There is a good deal of history there (but not too much) and good explanation of the key elements of this useful skill. What I felt the book lacked was sufficient examples of these elements. There are simply not enough extracts of great speeches in there, and (in my view) not enough great speakers highlighted. So, for example, there is a chapter about Churchill in there but only a few lines of his actual speeches. President Obama does a little better, but overall there are just not enough examples of this fine art. Even if the author included a list of great speeches with web page addresses so we could look them up, that would be useful.

I found the book interesting and engaging, but I wanted to read more examples of the art.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction to rhetoric 23 Jan 2012
By Mark Shackelford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"You Talkin' to Me?" explores the history of rhetoric from the ancient Greeks, to the modern daya - right up to Obama.

The book shows how important rhetoric is to anyone - from our everyday workplace, to the way a salesman con(vince)s us to buy their product, through to the ways that politicians manipulate us - all through the use of rhetoric.

We meet the original Greek and Roman experts - Aristotle, Plato and Cicero - and then trawl through history - from Lincoln to Churchill.

The author laments that our schools no longer teach rhetoric - but provides an excellent course in the subject - explaining the various styles and rules of rhetoric.

Much is (as often) common sense - plan what you are going to say, practice it and deliver it - but this witty, amusing and intelligent book is a useful primer on this important technique.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I think this book does for rhetoric what 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' does for grammar. It provides a highly readable and hilarious guide to the history and practice of rhetoric.

Everyone knows what a rhethorical question is, i.e. one that suggests its answer rather than demands it. The book shows that the subject is about a series of tricks in which arguments are made to persuade others to come to the point of view of the speaker. Of course, it is just a prevalent in writing.

The thing that is clear is that people talk and think rhetorically almost by instinct and respond to it even without knowing. This book gives a very quick and highly readable account of how rhetoric works and begins with Aristotle's formulation of the rules and then looks at some of the finest [and infamous] orators who have mastered rhethoric, including Cicero and Demosthenes, Abraham Lincoln, Churchill and Hitler, Thatcher and Reagan and in our time President Barack Obama. On the way, he also uses examples from pop songs, advertisements, comedy sketches and film and plays.

I think it is very useful for everyone who communicates to know about rhetoric. Use of rhetoric can make your written work become more colourful. Use of rhetoric can make your speech more persuasive. Understanding of rhetoric can also make you recognise where you are being bamboozled and manipulated.

Immediately after finishing this book, I was asked to give a talk at a staff meeting about some work I had been doing. It is normally a tedious part of the meeting when most people switch off - other people's work not being as interesting as their own. Just for fun, I thought I would apply some rhetorical techniques to my talk, such as anaphora and tricolon. I thought more carefully about the order and choice of words for their effect on the listeners. I had so much fun playing with the material that the talk went down really well and I even managed to raise a few laughs.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read
Superb reading using examples on Obama, Maggie Thatcher and Winston Church Hill,if you want to use a couple of typical speachs made by great leaders then this is the bool.
Published 17 days ago by Dean
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really for me
This book was very well written and it is my fault that I was not too keen on it . It was just a bit too heavy going for me, but for anyone needing to speak to others a very useful... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A BIG DIPPER
I dipped in and out of this book over weeks if not months before I finished it. I largely overlooked the technical jargon --- which I didn't find helpful but I suppose every... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richie
3.0 out of 5 stars Serious read
Interesting to start with, making some good points about rhetoric, but goes on a bit and gets a bit heavy.
Published 3 months ago by Helen Mackie
3.0 out of 5 stars I am not sure why this did not click with me
I am not sure why this did not click with me. It might be the style or it might be the exemplars.
Published 3 months ago by peterbbb
4.0 out of 5 stars Good service
Arrived promptly. Well packed. Haven't read it but highly recommended and looks interesting. Dipped on and think I will enjoy.
Published 5 months ago by Eileen Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Once you start reading this, the TV news becomes far more interesting. The use of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, by both media types and politicians is clear to see. Read more
Published 5 months ago by WILLIAM FLAHERTY
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Why was this book disappointing?

The reason was that I was expecting so much more when I ordered it from here. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Scruff
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointing
Usually, if a writer is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, I find myself drawn in. Well, Sam Leith knows and cares about this subject, but somehow, and I'm not sure why, he failed to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by GeordieReader
3.0 out of 5 stars NOT READ YET
NOT completely READ YET
As far as the delivery is concerned it is good. Is the book content/Kindle readablility OK? Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr. M. L. Tortolano
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