These are the collected stories of Dave Barter, an avid cyclist from the UK and read by another Brit. He started his cycling on a mountain bike and then branched out into road, cyclocross, touring, single speed, virtual commuting, and various other combinations. Obviously a pretty good amateur cyclist, he writes in a self deprecating manner that mostly seems truthful, particularly as it comes to his tendency to poorly prepare, or face an awful lot of pretty lousy weather. Of course, cycling almost year round in the UK, and also doing some lengthy tours, I guess there is no way to avoid some nasty weather.
As to whether others will enjoy this book, I should admit that I listened to 100% of this book while on my bike, either on my commute to/from work or on a weekend ride. And I also got back into riding on a mountain bike and have also gone to some of the places he visited, even though he rarely mentions his trips to places like Moab (the reader pronounces it Mobe) except a story about being stuck in Denver while trying to get out there for some riding. This actually gives a picture of the book, in that many of the stories involve humorous stories about trying to get to the ride or get the bike in shape, etc. I can't say it was a laugh-out-loud book, but there were many time when you could relate to the situations he describes.
He did some impressive rides, and clearly had some years when he trained hard for particular events, with a particular focus on riding up hills. So if you are a cyclist, there are some inspiring stories, particularly given that he covers so many different types of riding in places that most riders will never get a chance to visit. Hats off to his wife Helen as she has an unusual amount of patience, as cycling obviously took over his life--the title is pretty accurate.
The book uses some fairly stereotypical characters and incidents to point out real tradeoffs between more and better information and the potential tradeoffs associated with all that information. Not all the action or plot makes sense as some characters seem to be able to exist in the Circle without any video or photo evidence, yet the world outside the circle seems to be blanketed by the end of the book. However, the author uses the characters to frame some tough choices such as greater safety, less crime, greater political transparency, greater knowledge against the potentially significant privacy costs associated with each. It doesn't take long to see those same kinds of choices popping up in your everyday lives, so the book does make you think.
As to the narration, I find the narrator's efforts to portray different voices, particularly female voices, to be irritating and gets in the way of the story. I am not sure if a female narrator would have been better, but some of the voices are so comical you you become conscious of the reader rather than following the action.
This is similar to the other Gladwell books with well researched anecdotes and links to social science litereature and experiments. And in the prior books, I was comfortable that the author was telling a complete story. However, in this one, I just got the sense that he was trying so hard to tell a compelling story that he was shading the facts a little too much. Some of this was in the regular visits from Captain Hindsight, where he takes a highly successful specific person or event and then goes back to trace out some of the characteristics of those persons, and then links those characteristics more generally to success. Pretty flawed, but not horrible.
However, in one of his stories later in the book where he tries to demonstrate that the three strikes law in California did not lower the crime rate, he deliberately glosses over some really important information. First, he carefully dissects the argument that those considering crimes are rational and that the threat of longer sentences would be a deterrent.
I thought the logic here was pretty sound, pretty convincing, and pretty long, particular in comparison to the next step in his argument where he addresses the argument that the three strikes law may not have deterred crime but it did keep some violent criminals off the street. In this section, he 'debunks' the argument by saying that the average criminal convicted on the third offense is in his 40s, and by that time, criminials are already long past their peak crime days. That is about it for that part of his argument.
Well, Gladwell is a really smart guy and he also hangs around with a lot of social scientists, and so he clearly knows that just by saying that the 'average' criminal is in his 40s overlooks the fact that there are also many younger--and likely repeat offenders--who are going to be kept off the street, However, he glosses right over this fact because it doesn't fit the theme he is trying to suppport (u-shaped curve ...)
I think he crossed a bright line here in his journalism by deliberately skipping over information he knew was relevant and contrary to his argument. Maybe he feels pressure to keep up the string of successful books and wants to find compelling stories that support his point, but for me, there is a big difference between finding examples that help support a story and deliberately overlooking evidence.
I won't be reading any more Gladwell books.
This is not your typical airport economics book where an author applies economics to a few selected issues, but a textbook in audible form. My recollection is that the first 18 chapters were micro and the second half of the book covered macro, trade, etc. Most of the chapters were not particularly long, and there were no obvious cases where I felt the material was wrong, and a few situations where the examples might have been better chosen. For a book of this length, that is probably a pretty good record. In addition, one of the biggest challenges in producing a textbook in audible form is that you can't use graphs or charts to support the explanation. Surprisingly, that was not much of a problem in this text, as most of the explanations of concepts were pretty clear in audible form. I will say that any explanation of supply and demand curves, with movement along the curves vs. shifts in the curves is going to be difficult without seeing a few examples, but I am not sure that is the fault of the author or narrator.
As to the narrator, the pacing was pretty good and the reader did not get in the way of the material. In summary, about as good as a textbook can get in audible form; I find it hard to call it 'a great read'.
The author picks the worst developments of the last decade or so to make the point that everything is worse than ever. It is the availability heuristic in a book. I wasted a credit.
A frustrating listen. This book just doesn't cut it without visuals--which makes this a frustrating listen. The listener constantly is thinking that it would be great to look at a map or illustration to aid in visualizing the author's explanation. This is particularly true in the opening sections when the topics are about voyages, seasonal weather patterns, geographic features, etc. In his own words, "... a map of these seas is central to a historical understanding ..."It is possible that someone who really knows the geography of this region would do fine without the visuals, but somehow I don't think that makes up a large share of the possible readers. Sure it is possible to consult a few maps while reading the book, but that doesn't work well for me since I listen on my bike commute. Instead of moving this book into audible, the book should be featured as an ipad or other book that could take advantage of maps, illustrations, photos, etc. As to the content of the narrative, I found it a reasonable slice of the world to include in a single book, and the author has significant insight and has done a good job of making this into a sweep of history in a way that informs the current situation. So it is still worth the listen, particularly as some of the content covers nations and political movements that are not common topics in the Economist or other news sources.
The sections when the author talks about the history of specific rulers and nations, the solid research and narrative work well.
Pruden is an ideal narrator as his voice has expression but never gets in the way of the material.
Good reader, and many interesting stories about persons whose injuries allow a closer examination of those parts of the brain that control habits and other behaviors. And some of the other stories well researched (London Subway Fire, Rosa Parks boycott, etc,) and were interesting.
No. This is a collection of stories looking for a theme. In fact, it seems like he had to work hard to find a theme to fit his stories. The longer I read, the thinner the connection.
In the final section, the author sets up a comparison between two individuals (a sleep walker who killed his wife and a gambler who spent all her family's money) and set up a red herring suggesting that habits out of their control forced their actions and they should have been treated equally. The weakness in the argument was so apparent that it was just irritating when he finally came around to make the obvious case that the gambler had many opportunities for intervention and the sleepwalker who acted once. So while I learned some things about habits early in the book and then listened to some interesting stories in the middle, the longer the book went, the more it became obvious that anything in this author's world could be easily explained--and included in--a book about habits.
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