Retired teacher of literature with an interest in religion and in science and in history. I have loved reading for 50 years.
Manchester does an excellent job of whetting one's appetite for more on the late middle ages and the early renaissance with this interesting tour through several centuries that were both more violent, more immoral, more exciting in the sum than one might think. Heroes, real heroes, abound, along with villains that make today's villains look untutored. The rotten Catholic church birthed the reformation and forced honest thinkers into heroism and martyrdom....the lives of most people were nasty, brutish, and short, but still out of that mass of misery came fabulous individuals who changed the world so that today our lives are only nasty and brutish, but not nearly as bad as those of the past.
Manchester gives you the highlights of art, the church, exploration, political chicanery, and science, and you will finish this book intending to learn more about the age that birthed our own.
My only regret is that the book is not four times as long with this masterful storyteller entertaining me more.
Love the book as a window. Shocked by the number of definitions for the word "turn". Widowed and sad, but thankful. Trying hard to be useful. Have 28 years as a step-father to a fantastic grand-daughter and a not so fantastic drug addicted, step-daughter. Oddly focused on the fun of preparing to die well, and help those left behind, while eating, hot springing, and reading for pleasure.
A World Lit Only By Fire was the first audio book I listened to way back in the ninties, and it is still my favorite. I think I've read many of the best books, "Two Years Before The Mast", "Brothers Karamozov", the Sharp novels. This book is different. It makes one ask, how hungry could I get? Do I have any bravery? Have I ever really sinned? If I had the power to force people to do one thing, I would make them read the Magellan section of this book. They would be amazed at the power of human character.
No, this guy is a hack.
If stuck on an island and this was all I had.
Good story teller but light on facts.
Anger, this book was listed as factual.
Even this author admits the label "dark ages" applies as much to our knowledge of the period then of the period itself. If this is your only source then like the author you will remain in darkness.
Let me sum up his thesis:
All of Europe was a social utopia on earth, under Roman rule. There was no disease, pain, slaves, war, starvation or death. Then Rome turned Christian and the next 1000 were nothing but ignorance and want.
Even if you ignore his slant the historical errors are many. None could read and everyone was proud if it.
Another person who, like the author, knows little about history before the twentieth century and harshly judges other times and cultures by 20th century western standards.
He read it so the words were understandable.
Astonishment at the author's lack of information about pre-modern times.
I had read and admired other works by the author about twentieth century people and events but Mr. Manchester lacked even an undergraduate level of knowledge of this book's subject. This book -- so far as I could stand to listen to it -- is full of harsh, uninformed judgments about the people and institutions of that followed the Roman empire. He seemed to use the past as a projection screen to vent resentments.
Say something about yourself!
As far as overviews of the Middle Ages go, I would rank this book in my top 3. History is so much more than names and dates; it's cause and effect, action and reaction spurred by motivation and belief systems. The religious and geopolitical minefield of the Medieval era can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Where some overviews are far too simple to be of any use, and others are far too detailed to be effective as overviews, this book serves that perfect middle ground for both beginners and scholars alike. It's an excellent read that serves to pull all lines of thinking together and highlights some of the giants of the age in the process.
The author does a good job of conveying the utter strangeness and bleakness of the time, but I question the veracity of some of his examples/hypotheses. For instance the myth of the need for spices to disguise rotten meat. This has been debunked and the fact that the author includes it makes me suspicious of his research. It seems to be just a perpetuation of myths with out actually educating a reader about the real middle ages. There are no citations, or at least none given in the audible version, so I suspect that as far as an academically researched book it doesn't quite make it. The performance is a bit dry but that does deliver a deadpan feel that can be quite funny, so the boverall gets a bit of a higher score.
Where did they get this listener? The man really sounds like a computer "text to speech" it is flat, monotone and rushed. Really really dissapointed. I even had to listen VERY carefully to make sure it was not "text to speech" - occasionally I will get a slight variation, lilt or emphasis which will make you realise the robot is indeed a male human speaker, but it is so rushed you will quickly forget what you're thinking about.
SUCH a good book, SUCH a bad recording. I'm very disappointed .... they really need to re-record this.
Oh for a good speaker like Hitch (deceased) but maybe a medieval professor - one that is actually good like Philip Daileader (The great Courses) or Professor Freedman (At ItunesU). Both these medieval professors have a remarkable way of teaching through their speaking. As a qualified speaker and actor, this voice recording is atrociously rushed and without enjoyment. It sounds like he wants to finish the book and go get paid.
As an AVID medieval fan I feel quite revolted as you can probably tell by now.
The author has written a marvellous tome on the middle ages. The words are the best part.
Obviously; The VO artist. Ech.
NO. I'd just get the book instead if I could only Time Travel. In fact if I could time travel I wouldn't go back to the middle ages I'd go back to the time this was recorded and slap the producer for choosing this guy. Who is he, the nephew ? Some buddy? It is a case as Alain de Botton would say of the irony of the meritocracy we live in, where the prole "assumes" the right person has been selected for the job. Oh boy would I fire some people over this. And even worse who signed off on it when it was recorded?!?!!
Trust me. Great Book. Horrible Audio Book.
History, especially original, ancient.
Edit the performance better. The narrator is good, but they spliced in a bunch of the recording and you can tell the difference easily. I found it rather distracting.
Other than that, the overall storyline of the book was a little odd. I'm not sure I fully understood or appreciated what the thesis was. But it's an interesting collection of bits from history.