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Robert

Encino, CA, United States | Member Since 2003

96
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 12 reviews
  • 48 ratings
  • 342 titles in library
  • 15 purchased in 2014
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  • The Selfish Gene

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (1625)
    Performance
    (1216)
    Story
    (1197)

    Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands to rethink their beliefs about life.

    J. D. May says: "Better than print!"
    "A reluctant fan."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Dawkin's arrogance is matched only by his brilliance. I find it hard to listen to him, but his ideas are so compelling that you can't not listen. I decided to ignore his persona and stick with the content. This is a seminal book and should be viewed as a companion to the Origin of the Species. Dawkins lays out the framework of evolution through the unit of information called the gene (which has a special definition in this work--not quite what we think of as a "gene" today). I decided to read the Selfish Gene after reading James Gleick's wonderful book "The Information," which has a chapter that draws on Dawkin's theory in The Selfish Gene. While Gleick gives you the essential high points, there is no substitute for following Dawkins through his tight-nit, intellectually disciplined, and detailed support for his theory. I am glad I listened to this book, but it took more commitment than other science audiobooks. I suppose that is because unlike many books that try to popularize science or treat it as historical biography, The Selfish Gene is itself a scientific work in which Dawkins sets out his theory of the gene as the fundamental unit of evolution.

    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Martian

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andy Weir
    • Narrated By R. C. Bray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8682)
    Performance
    (8257)
    Story
    (8272)

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

    Brian says: "Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped"
    "Not perfect, but really fun. Worth a listen."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is far from perfect, but its flaws will be entirely overlooked when you become engaged in the story. It is a fun, enjoyable, and sometimes compelling listen. If you listen for pleasure, this book delivers.

    To help you get past some of the elements that I found off-putting, I note that it took a while to realize that the sometimes sophomoric tone of the protagonist was not bad writing, but rather, was consistent with the space-cowboy, engineer-botanist-geek persona of the hero. A more introspective, sensitive and emotionally intelligent narrator would have rolled up into a ball and died alone on Mars instead of looking at impossible situations and developing perfectly plausible solutions. So it works. The stilted and painfully obvious dialog of the NASA / JPL scientists on Earth never gets better, so suffer through it. It advances the plot. Some of the explanations of the science involved in the hero's Rube Goldberg fixes go on longer than necessary, but if you love science, you will find the solutions ingenious. If not, let the excess detail pass; the story gets better with each new chapter and drives the narrative.

    Don't let these comments dissuade you from purchasing the book; they are meant only to temper outsized expectations based on other reviews. This isn't the best science fiction writing ever, but it will likely become one of your favorite science fiction books based on the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Sean Carroll
    • Narrated By Professor Sean Carroll
    Overall
    (146)
    Performance
    (133)
    Story
    (132)

    Time rules our lives, woven into the very fabric of the universe-from the rising and setting of the sun to the cycles of nature, the thought processes in our brains, and the biorhythms in our day. Nothing so pervades our existence and yet is so difficult to explain. But now, in a series of 24 riveting lectures, you can grasp exactly why - as you take a mind-expanding journey through the past, present, and future, guided by a noted author and scientist.

    Michael says: "Get From Eternity to Here instead"
    "Familiar Ground, But Well Told"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Having read / listened to a number of "popular science" books (Greene, Hawking) that address the origin and fate of the universe, the concept of time and the role of entropy are familiar and central concepts in those books. It was about the third lecture of this series before I thought I learned anything new, but by slow accretion and careful explanation by Sean Carroll, I began to have a deeper understanding of time and why it is, indeed, still such a mystery Carroll has an earnest, engaging style. He does a good job of maintaining a coherent narrative through the lectures, so it is easy to follow his development of the topic. Not much math here (good from my perspective) except when he lays out Boltzman's equation for entropy. All in, I recommend this course. Like many of the concepts in modern physics, the ideas are counter-intuitive and elusive--at least to this former English major. Revisiting them from time to time is helpful in solidifying central concepts--and entropy / time is certainly one that deserves re-examination. Like all "Great Courses" lectures, these are survey level courses, so if you are someone who is calculating the trajectory of the next NASA probe to Mars, move along, there is nothing for you to see. But, if like me, you have a general interest in science, you will find this course worth your time and an enjoyable listen.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Gary Taubes
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    Overall
    (1809)
    Performance
    (1147)
    Story
    (1136)

    Building upon this critical work in Good Calories, Bad Calories and presenting fresh evidence for his claim, Taubes now revisits the urgent question of what’s making us fat—and how we can change—in this exciting new book. Persuasive, straightforward, and practical, Why We Get Fat makes Taubes’s crucial argument newly accessible to a wider audience.

    Igor N. says: "Are you looking for an attachement for the book?"
    "Worthwhile listen -- maybe a better read?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I am a long-time Audible subscriber and frequently listen to and read the same book. Often, I conclude that listening is equal to or better than reading the book. This is a valuable work; but some might find it easier to read the book than to listen to it. To his credit, the author is meticulous in laying out his premises, illustrating his point, and summarizing his conclusions. But--it can get tedious. If you were reading, you might skip past the fourth example, or gloss over the same point made for the fifth time in a slightly different way. BUT--I think this book is important for many people, so if you are interested in the subject and you are not likely to find the time to actually read the book, by all means listen to it.


    Any additional comments?

    The author deserves credit for embracing the scientific method in laying out his thesis. He says many things that are not part of the popular wisdom of dieting today. At the outset, he invites the reader to remain critical in evaluating his assertions. He lays out the science on which he relies and clearly explains how he gets to his conclusions. He does not rely on hocus-pocus or "you can do it, trust me" arm-waving to distract the reader. So, in the end, you feel like you understand why he gives the advice contained in the book--regardless of whether you agree with it. Having listened to the book, I feel better educated and better prepared to read other books -- like "In Defense of Food--with a more critical eye.One more point: to his credit (again), the author sets forth his thesis in the first ten minutes of the book. It would be a mistake to stop listening at that point. The remainder of the book is an explanation of why carbohydrates so dramatically affect our blood chemistry and drive our tendency to gain weight. Understanding those principles is at least as valuable, maybe more so, than simply knowing them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Parmy Olson
    • Narrated By Abby Craden
    Overall
    (410)
    Performance
    (361)
    Story
    (365)

    In late 2010, thousands of hacktivists joined a mass digital assault by Anonymous on the websites of VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal to protest their treatment of WikiLeaks. Splinter groups then infiltrated the networks of totalitarian governments in Libya and Tunisia, and an elite team of six people calling themselves LulzSec attacked the FBI, CIA, and Sony. They were flippant and taunting, grabbed headlines, and amassed more than a quarter of a million Twitter followers.

    Adam K says: "Awesome book. Felt like a hacker fiction novel!"
    "An important and educational story, well-told"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you are like me, you followed the story of Anonymous in the popular press. If so, you know about 10% of the story, most of which is completely wrong. This book tells the story of an important, emerging phenomenon that will shape our society for good or ill for many years to come. The book is well-researched and the story well-told. It is interesting and occasionally compelling. While the notion of a narrator reading chat-logs from the inner sanctum of Anonymous sounds boring, it is not. The author tells the broader story of the Anons who organized the most famous "operations" or attacks / hacks on Paypal, Scientology, HB Gary etc. The narrator brings the characters to life reasonably well, although the narration is occasionally marred by mispronunciations ("kern" for "CERN"). Oh, and also, this book will scare the stuffing out of you. If you think anything on your computer is private any longer, you couldn't be more wrong. Ironically, the "leaders" of Anonymous made that same mistaken assumption--a fact that drives the narrative to its conclusion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By James Gleick
    • Narrated By Rob Shapiro
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (784)
    Performance
    (486)
    Story
    (494)

    James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Ge­nius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.

    Ethan M. says: "Brilliant book, heroic reader, better in print?"
    "Worth listening to --even if you've read the book!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I won't heap additional praise on this remarkable book. It is a must-read for anyone interested in . . . almost anything having to do with modern life.

    I am adding a note to say that I read The Information in hard copy first, then listened to it, as I frequently do with books I really like. I was surprised by the amount of additional insight and understanding that I gained from listening to The Information. Many of the concepts discussed in the book are elusive and counter-intuitive -- think about the first (or twentieth) time you thought you understood relativity. So, don't be put off by the "should I read it or listen to it" question. The answer is "yes."

    And a nod to the narrator, who takes challenging material and makes it more understandable with a pitch-perfect style that neither condescends nor assumes that the reader has a sophisticated background in information theory.

    OK, I will add one additional heap of praise on the book itself -- despite the technical subject matter and explanations, Gleick is one hell of a story-teller. This book is full of surprises, which is another way of saying it is jam-packed with information.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The True Story of Butterfish

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Nick Earls
    • Narrated By David Tredinnick
    Overall
    (15)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    When Annaliese Winter walks down Curtis Holland's front path, he's ill-prepared for a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl who's a confounding mixture of adult and child. After years travelling the world with his band, Butterfish, he's not used to having a neighbour at all. So when Curtis receives an invitation to dinner from Annaliese's mother, Kate, he is surprised when he not only accepts but finds himself being drawn to this remarkably unremarkable family.

    Anne-Marie says: "Recommended: amusing, affectionate and real."
    "An enjoyable listen."
    Overall

    Having just come off a jag of science, history and 'serious' fiction listens, this book seemed like a pleasant interlude. And it was. The over-the-hill rocker protaganist is likable and endearing as he assesses the mess he has made of his life and relationships. The dialog is smart, true-to-life, and slightly humorous without being over the top. I think many readers will view the characters in the book with affection and recognition--of themselves, their teenage kids, out-of-touch friends, and former spouses. None of them are perfect, but all are decent people trying to make the best of the places they have landed in their lives. If you liked Ron McClarty's "Memory of Running" (an Audible original), I think you will like Butterfish as well. It has much the same feel -- an ending that is neither story-book nor heroic, but in the direction of affirmation and second-chances. I liked it enough that I am going to check out other titles by this author.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Let the Great World Spin

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Colum McCann
    • Narrated By Richard Poe, Gerard Doyle, Carol Monda, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1222)
    Performance
    (548)
    Story
    (559)

    A Pushcart Prize-winning author and contributor to the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and GQ, Colum McCann is renowned for his carefully constructed character studies. No exception, Let the Great World Spin follows the fortunes of a menagerie of New Yorkers through a day in 1974 - the day of Philippe Petit's death defying tightrope walk between the newly built Twin Towers.

    Robert says: "An essential addition to your Audible library."
    "An essential addition to your Audible library."
    Overall

    This is a book of beauty and grace. The writing is astonishing. The descriptions and insights are sometimes so deep and true that you will stop to savor the thought. While the book looks at life in an unblinking manner, it is redemptive and affirming. It will affect your outlook on life, in a good way.

    But what makes this book great is that McCann has brought to life multiple characters whose lives have been touched by observing a common event in New York in 1974. As soon as I started to listen to this book, I had to buy the hardcover version--which I did and which is a magnificent work.

    BUT--the Audible version is better than the hardcover. This is a book of voices--in much the same way that Dylan Thomas wrote "Under Milkwood" as a play for voices on the radio. Each chapter in the book is narrated by a different character. In the audio version, each chapter (and character) is narrated by a different actor. The narration is superb and adds a rich and fullfilling dimension to the book that makes it all the more impressive and enjoyable.

    If you cherish the great listens in your Audible collection as I do, this is an essential addition. I know that I will listen to it again.

    37 of 37 people found this review helpful
  • The Windup Girl

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Paolo Bacigalupi
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3536)
    Performance
    (1923)
    Story
    (1934)

    Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman.

    Marius says: "Al Gore nightmare meets Blade Runner."
    "Thought-provoking; well-written; superbly narrated"
    Overall

    This book is well worth your time. Like all good science fiction, it is a meditation on the present. It is a thought experiment in which trends and technologies that are accepted today are taken to their logical conclusion: agri-businesses move from genetically engineering crops to intentionally releasing blights to destroy native plants. When those blights spiral out of control and all that is left is genetically engineered food, who controls the world? Food companies. And when the entire world is on the edge of starvation, what is the most valuable commodity? Calories. But far from being preachy, this book brings that alternate world vividly alive as four characters struggle to survive in a country that is teetering on chaos. The book compares very favorably to Oryx and Crake, and is far superior to Cormac McCarthy's dismal "The Road." The book has some great writing, and falters only when it focuses for long periods on cinemtatic-action sequences as opposed to character development and its fascinating description of a frightening future that may be closer than we think. The narration is superb. You can skip the sex scenes and violence; they don't advance the plot except to establish that in desperate times, life is cheap and human dignity is a luxury available only to those who are well-fed and safe.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Amir D. Aczel
    • Narrated By Kent Broadhurst
    Overall
    (450)
    Performance
    (64)
    Story
    (62)

    The product of research around the globe and interviews with dozens of prominent scientists, God's Equation tells us it is almost as though Einstein were God's mouthpiece, revealing the most fundamental truths about our larger environment, truths scientists are just now confirming.

    Robert says: "More biography than science"
    "More biography than science"
    Overall

    I was somewhat disappointed with this book, although I am otherwise a fan of this author. I purchased the book hoping for a history of the most famous equation in physics, but found that it was a somewhat disjointed history of Einstein's struggle to develop general relativity. While the insights into Einstein as a person are interesting, approach this as biography, not science.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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