I've long admired Bacevich since I read his The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. Politically speaking, we are almost at opposite poles, but perhaps they are opposite poles of an honest, ethical conversation. Bacevich is a West Point graduate, has been a serving officer and holds a PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University. He lost his son in 2008 in Iraq.
Breach of Trust takes a very thorough and deeply critical look at the evolution of America's professional (as opposed to a conscripted) military. From its inception after the Vietnam war to the present, he examines who has benefited from its evolution, how it has shaped the rise of the industrial military complex, fed and grown a voracious bureaucracy and enabled disastrous foreign policies and defense strategies.
The book takes acidic aim at a population that pays only superficial lip-service to 'honoring' those who serve, while demanding the right to sacrifice nothing and continuing to consume with relish while lives are wasted on foreign adventurism that is not only unsuccessful, but does little if nothing to ensure the security of the US.
It is essential reading for any American who truly cares about their culture, their democracy and principles of fairness. Its implications stretch far beyond the constitution of a military and address questions of what it means to be a citizen - its benefits and its responsibilities.
By necessity it covers certain parts of history in depth in order to build the author's arguments. When he offers examples to illustrate his point, he doesn't settle at one - he lists many - and because of this, there is a certain tone of academic writing to the text. This does make for dense, but it is all the more rewarding and persuasive for it.
This is a very interior novel. It has some lovely literary elements to it and I did enjoy it. The atmosphere is seductive and gripping, and the character is nicely developed.
However, I found the narration hard to cope with. The Scottish brogue is thick and unremitting and, to my ears, somewhat artificial. Reynolds does Irish and Northern English accents very well, but his Scottish burr leaves something to be desired.
I suggest you listen to the audio sample provided to see if it works for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and restructuring of Hamlet. I began listening with moderate expectations, knowing the play well and expecting it would just be a fleshing out of the original, but it was so much more than that.
The authors have done a wonderfully creative job of approaching the tale from a fresh, very lateral perspective. Lesser events and characters in the play are brought to the fore, and a wonderful layer of Machiavellian political intrigue suffuses the story. The same is true of the play's original paranormal elements. The authors have developed it into a lush political and psychological thriller.
I didn't give the story five stars only because I found the villain of the piece (I won't tell you who it is because that would be a huge spoiler) a little underdeveloped and cardboardish. That being said, this was more than a retelling of the play. If you like historical mysteries or alternate histories, you'll love this. It's rich and atmospheric and wonderful.
The narration was outstanding.
I do owe Foster a thanks for introducing me to the world of 'preppers', and giving me something to chew over when it comes to why there are so many people looking forward to the apocalypse. However, as a novel, this is poorly constructed.
As with many fetishists, Foster makes the common mistake of believing his readers will share his obsession with preparing for the looming apocalypse. Consequently, he offers no insight for the mainstream reader into the hows or whys of people who have caught the 'prepping' bug. There's no context to the characters. In fact, there is very little effort to examine any of the characters' motivations. The plot flits around, clumsily interrupted with recipes, hints on prepping, and long digressions on different types of ammunition. The whole novel is dripping with a curious sort of schadenfreude towards the non-prepping majority, and there is no sense that the author was even aware of this.
Consequently, I was relieved when it was over.
It is a deep shame that the Financial Times' critique of Piketty's data is going to put some people off from buying and listening to this book, because a few quibbles about a very small amount of the data (on the UK only) doesn't detract from the validity of this detailed piece of analysis. It won't matter that many other well-respected economists defend Piketty's use of the data, or the robustness of his argument. For the readers of the FT, for those who represent the top 10% of weathholders, or those who aspire to be one of them, this book is a fundamental threat to their plans.
It's a long book, and it takes some concentration to listen to. Looking at the linked PDFs help to bring the stats and numbers to life. But I found it incredibly worthwhile. The central argument - that R>G (capital always trumps growth) is successfully and persuasively argued six ways from Sunday. And that is something not even Piketty's most vehement detractors can argue against.
Nor did I find Piketty's conclusions and suggestions even close to being the 'radical marxist' ones that he's been accused of holding by the press. He's conscious of the fundamental value of entrepreneurship, of a vibrant market.
When all is said and done, this book will polarize its readers along ideological lines. Because ultimately he's asking the question: what do we want our society to look like? He argues very persuasively that many of the ways we have sought to establish fairness and meritocracy in society have been ineffective in the long run.
This book threatens those who continue to perpetuate the myth that there are even playing fields: that financial success is based on merit, that opportunity is available to everyone, that trickle-down economics works, that education is the great leveler. There are good reasons why certain groups find this book threatening. It erodes the very thin veneer that the free market is truly free.
But it is also a very optimistic book. Piketty offers some very 'unradical' solutions for how to mitigate the problem of rapidly accelerating wealth concentration. It's not a 'downer' at all.
The narration is good for such a long and complex book. Well chosen to be easy on the ears but still engage the concentration. I found it well worth the credit and the time I spent on it.
I loved the premise of this novel: serial killers, psychic investigators, forensics. As a fan of detective fiction, murder mysteries and a bit of the paranormal, I was so looking forward to reading this, especially since it was the first in a series. I really wanted to like it.
I found Walker's writing very hard to stomach. He head-hops in mid-scene (switches from the POV of one character to another), which is disorienting enough in text form and almost vertiginous in audiobook form.
There are incredibly long passages of diegetic (telling) narrative in which we are told rather than shown the story. I'm not opposed to 'telling' and enjoy stories with a certain amount of interior dialogue and reflection to add an emotional dimension to the story, but this goes on and on, making the story feel sluggish, claustrophobic and boring.
I was also not terribly crazy about Ted Brooks' narration. He's fine when he's not trying to do women's voices. But when he does, they sound so much like a man trying to sound like a women, it becomes comedic and distracting.
Perhaps I've read one too many of these zombie apocalypse books and have just hit the wall on them, but overall, I found this book frustrating and annoying.
I found the main character very hard to engage with from the beginning. I can see that Wright was trying to write a very 'everyman,' unremarkable character for his main protagonist in the first part of the book, but Nick Adams is SO unremarkable, I sort of kept hoping he'd get bitten and die off fast.
Also, both he and the main character in the second part of the book keep seeming extraordinarily stupid and doing extraordinarily stupid things just to build artificial tension. All of this seems a bit of a shame since the one good thing about post-apocalyptic zombie novels is that the tension is really built in. You can write really smart, capable characters and still have tension galore.
I found the story, on the whole, unoriginal and dreadfully formulaic. The sub-characters were stock and 2 dimensional.
Patterson's narration is fine, but not outstanding. Sometimes a really good narrator can rescue a mediocre story and Patterson didn't succeed in doing it.
Hartmann's book is a very good, plain language look at the history of economics and the pendulum swings from liberal to conservative economic policies. It's a far easier read, but makes similar points to Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. So, if you peeked at that but found it daunting, this is a more accessible book that focuses specifically on the US.
Like Piketty's book, it argues that, far from hindering economic growth and stability, high levels of taxation of the super rich were directly responsible for the enormous growth of the middle class and dominated during the US's most prosperous decades. And that we now find ourselves in a second 'gilded age' where a small percentage holds the overwhelming bulk of the wealth. Both books use incontestable, factual data to show that trickle-down economics never worked, that high taxation of the rich never stifled economic prosperity for the vast majority of Americans, and that any policies that enable and perpetuate the vast accumulation of wealth in the hands of a very few spells economic misery for the many and, in the case of Hartmann's book, threatens the fabric of democracy as we know it.
The let down in this book is Hartmann's repeated use of the word 'royalists' to represent supporters of the unregulated, anti-taxation, free market forces. I found it distracting and annoying dogmatic. To call them 'royalists' is misleading. There is no monarchy being ideologically defended here. Royalists, at least, hold an ideological belief in the responsibility of a monarch to rule in the best interests of his/her nation. These people are oligarchs (or aspire to be oligarchs) in a lawless, ethic-less anarchy where the only thing that is good is greed.
I decided to revisit this book in memory of Gabriel Garcia Marquez who just passed away. It brought back all the reasons I've loved his writing. Complex characters who evolve with the story, incredible descriptions that pull you into the settings; they become characters in their own right.
Marquez reminds us that love is not benevolent. It is a wasting disease. But we wouldn't be human without it.
I've just spent the most delicious, rich16 hours with this audiobook course. This course is organized around the central theme of American individualism - its presence and absence in the texts, the making and breaking of persona, the way it plays into society and the way society affects it. It's a nuanced, deep dissection of how that has played out in the American novel and other ancillary writings.
Prof. Weinstein offers some vibrant new ways into reading some familiar, and some not so well-known pieces of American literature. I'd buy any course he taught.
Prof. McWhorter's lectures were outstanding I learned so much that I didn't know about the origins, the structure and the evolution of human language. It really opened up a whole new world on a subject I didn't even realize I was all that interested in.
I found his continuous dismissal of the effect of culture on language a little ...um... questionable, but this is his take on it, and he resides in a field that doesn't have a lot of time for cultural criticism, so that's okay. I took it on board that this is one way into the subject, and one I didn't know a lot about.
I'll never listen to dialects or accents the same way again. I'll never bemoan the eclipse of certain words in my language, or the addition of new ones I find silly again. It's language growing and changing and without it, a language dies.
Wonderful. This is a keeper. I'll be listening to it again.
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