This is a worthy addition to the true crime genre, though I would have wished for more details about, perhaps, fewer characters. The book also ends very abruptly and rather shapelessly. I don't need to know details about Queen's life, but I do want to know more about how he reintegrated over time.
Also - and this isn't giving anything away - high-ranking Mongols are suspicious of "Billy" from the start. We're shown how he gets in with them, but we never hear why they were so suspicious, whether other prospects face the same scrutiny, nor what their reactions are when the undercover operation is over.
This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking guide to the thoughtless and bloody (living) legacy of religion. Mr. Harris is an expert writer and social critic; this is him at his finest. There are controversial passages - about the ethics of torture, for example. But as a clear-eyed challenger of nonsense, Harris has few peers. If you count yourself among the intelligent and critical of the species, read this book.
Hochschild has proven himself a master of the sweeping historical narrative. This account of those who, during WWI, fought on the side of peace is a powerful series of character sketches. The people who supported the war were often closely related to those who vehemently opposed it. The hawks' sons died alongside the doves'. Drawing on every kind of extant source material imaginable - love letters, court transcripts, philosophical pamphlets - the author manages, in my estimation, to recast a world that is in so many ways lost to us.
The narrator is more than competent. I enjoyed listening to this book the first time, and am enjoying it just as much the second.
Shilts managed to write three of the most important works of nonfiction touching on gay people in the twentieth century. This book is one that is so carefully researched and intelligently presented that it really brings one into the complex mindsets that pervaded the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
It's broad in its geographical scope, yet stunningly personal, too. It shows us that the people who fought for the rights of people with aids often fought bitterly among themselves. It reveals the horrendous complacency and silence of the Reagan administration that might well be characterized as criminally negligent.
Shilts himself would succumb to AIDS not so many years after the events chronicled in this book. It stands as a living monument to his intelligence and humanity. It's a book everyone should read.
...to an extremely complex subject. Reitman has done her homework and has come out with a fair-minded yet damning excoriation of one of the world's strangest phenomena.
This is a lucid and readable (listenable?) account of Scientology that is, fascinatingly, heavy on facts. Her discussion of the Lisa McPherson case is useful both for its examination of a shocking incident and for what we can infer from it about Scientology and its relationship to its adherents - and to truth.
Lawrence was an enigma; at the height of his fame he retreated from the public eye. Korda captures the complexity without explaining it away. He presents Lawrence's life without simplifying it. The tone of the book is one of deep pathos and an ineluctable pitch towards disaster, but it's a lovely thing nonetheless.
I do wish we had had the option of an unabridged version.
Hitchens may not be to your taste. If you're like me, he's a bit intimidating. His intellect can scorch his humanity now and then. But I think he is among our greatest public intellectuals. I have never heard nor read him without thinking that I need to work and think and write and speak with more dedication. When I don't agree with him, I still want to be a better person.
"Hitch-22" is scintillating, maddening, hilarious, touching, and entertaining. The sixties and Oxford come alive, as do his family and friends. I have given it three listens so far, but I'll keep coming back to it.
This was a bit of a snore-fest for me. Some lives interest me, others apparently not so much. Maybe it's a cultural thing. I had a bad case of buyer's remorse halfway through "Love & Louis XIV."
This is a stunning book and it's not easy to decide how best to praise it. Mantel has elucidated a world in brilliant detail. The underlying psychological tissue of the story is so compelling, lightly rendered yet tightly woven that I am left with the impression that we can really understand Thomas Cromwell in some meaningful way. If on the other hand Mantel's Cromwell is merely an artful illusion it is of no importance. She has given life to one of the great characters in modern literature, along with a world for him - and for us - to inhabit.
It would be hard to overestimate the level of fascination Thomas More continues to generate. I found him at times completely medieval in outlook and at other times thoroughly modern. His particular faith was the least compelling thing about him from my point of view, though the interaction of his beliefs with those of Henry VIII set the stage for More's greatest hour: his silence in the face of lengthy persecution, and his pungent revelation of his views in the moments after his conviction. More's life and mind are worth our time.
This book is a fine introduction to the life of the most overexposed and misunderstood character in the English-speaking world. Endlessly entertaining but, whenever possible, following the historical record. That's not to say it doesn't take some dramatic liberties. I enjoyed the writing and over-the-top narration very much.
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