I had read this collection of stories in high school and loved it. When I saw it came out in audio, I snapped it up. It's even better than I remembered it. This collection has it all: from quirky romance to thought-provoking sci-fi to biting (and sometimes hilarious) political satire.
This collection also includes one of the most disturbing short stories I've ever read: the haunting war tale "All the King's Horses".
All stories are well read, by a collection of very capable narrators.
I have listened to well over a hundred unabridged audiobooks, and I count this one as the best combination of great writing and narration. The story is beautifully written. Brown juxtaposes the beauty of rowing with the turmoil of 30's America (the Depression and Dust Bowl) and the terrifying rise of Hitler. It doesn't matter a bit that we know the ending, because this story is all about the journey: the United States' journey through its worst decade since the Civil War; Germany's descent into madness; and most compellingly, the unimaginably difficult early years of Joe Rantz, one of the heroes of "The Boat" that shocked Hitler and the world.
And Hermann's narration is absolutely perfect. Usually, in the course of listening to an unabridged audio book, I inevitably hear defects in the narration: mispronounced words, mistaken emphasis, etc. But not from Hermann. His voice, tone and pacing are perfect throughout, enhancing the already compelling material. I wish all audiobooks were done so well. (And you can bet I'm going to be looking for more books read by Hermann).
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I listened to the entire book twice already, and I can envision returning to it again in the future. It's that good.
If you've ever wondered what Steve Jobs was really like, this book is for you. Isaacson's holds nothing back in describing both the genius and the jerk that was Steve Jobs. Overall, despite the brutal honesty regarding Jobs' MANY quirks, I think the book was favorable to Jobs. I came out of it admiring him as a visionary, but also thankful that I never had to work for him.
Steve Jobs is our generation's Walt Disney: a brilliant innovator who beautifully blended art and technology while building some of the most enduring and iconic companies in human history. Other parallels to Disney: they both had complete control over their companies' direction; they were both highly visible spokesmen (even icons) for both the company and the brand; they both left behind a changed world (Disney with animation and theme parks, Jobs with the iPod/iPad/iPhone/Pixar); they were both astute businessmen in addition to being visionaries; both were pioneers in revolutionizing animation in feature films; and of course, sadly, both died too young of cancer. I've also enjoyed Disney biographies, particularly the ones, like this bio, which took an honest look at the flaws as well as the genius.
I am not a huge Apple fan but I loved this book, and I love Steve Jobs; not because of who he was but for what he did. His greatest achievements -- iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Pixar -- were all revolutionary inventions, literally creating something new out of nothing. What would be the state of portable consumer devices today without Jobs? Would we still be using clunky flip phones with atrocious software? Would we have elegant graphical interfaces on our computers or devices?
And what about family films? Would we be taking our kids to see abysmal Disney movies like Treasure Planet, rather than beautiful, inspired, emotional epics like the Toy Story trilogy and Finding Nemo?
Even for those of us who aren't "Apple people" can thank Jobs' vision for pushing our culture in the direction of beauty and quality.
This book highlights Jobs' vital role in all these revolutions. Particularly compelling are how Jobs was able to conquer both the music studios AND Eisner-led Disney in the span of a few short years. The details of those conquests are priceless, and this audiobook is worth it for those two tales alone. I also liked the details of his relationship to Bill Gates, and how it evolved through the years (hint: it was not as contentious as I'd always believed).
But there is also much more. I found myself thinking "what a jerk" one second, and "what a genious" the next -- and then quickly back to "what a jerk" again. He is a study in extremes. I came into this book not knowing WHAT I'd think of Jobs in the end given some of the shocking excerpts in the press. I thought it was a good possibility that I'd hate the guy. But Isaacson effectively shows the humanity behind the insanity, and by the end, I can honestly say I genuinely liked him. I was even a little choked up by his cancer plight. It's so sad that the pre-eminent visionary of our time was taken from us in his prime -- not unlike Walt Disney was taken from us almost 50 years ago.
So I guess in the end, Steve's impeccable taste served him well. In choosing Isaacson and giving him open access to his past, Jobs succeeded in putting out one last perfect product: a lasting image of himself that perfectly demonstrated his humanity, his deep flaws, and his enduring genius. I think he would have loved the result, and I did too.
Dylan Baker's narration is excellent. Baker has a little sarcastic twang that I think is perfect for this man, and for this material. Wise choice.
I had not read any Gaiman before. The story was sprawling and epic, and for the most part I liked it. But I didn't love it... maybe a few too many characters ("gods") and events to digest in an audio book. I found myself drifting often, having to replay large sections.
Guidall's narration is magnificent. I am a big Guildall fan since I listened to the Stephen King Dark Tower series. His character voices are spot on without being over the top, and his tone is always perfect. For some audiobook narrators, even good ones, there are times when it's obvious that the narrator never read the text, or perhaps didn't really understand a sentence when they read it. But never with Guidall. It's as if he's telling the story, not reading it.
I don't know much about the state of Physics research, so I don't know if Smolin's complaints have merit. But in my experience observing the state of science in general, Smolin's complaints resonate.
His main beef is not with string theory *per se*, only with the pervasiveness of string theory in physics research. Sure, he has some problems with the theory itself, mainly that it has grown so large and complex that it is practically unverifiable by experimental means. But more importantly, string theory has become so popular that it has squeezed out practically every other area of research. Smolin advocates that physics departments take on more risk and start investing in more esoteric lines of research. He uses a financial analogy: venture capitalists take on a certain amount of risk KNOWING that they will lose some percentage of their investments, but that some other percentage will win big.
Smolin advocates a similar strategy for physics: more "investment" in riskier lines of research, which have a greater chance of failure, but which can also provide the next great breakthrough. Smolin thinks that too much research is vested in the "safe" string theories, and hence growth (in terms of new theories and new knowledge) has practically stalled for an entire generation of physicists.
He makes a compelling point. Very interesting listen. One complaint though: he occasionally gets repetitive in his arguments. This book could have probably been 1/3 shorter without losing anything.
This book is about the death of a planet, and the birth of a family. I loved the way Brown juxtaposed his explorations of the universe with his own personal experiences building his family. It works. We see Brown the brilliant astronomer, and Brown the doting husband and father. We also see how those two roles sometimes conflicted, like when the early arrival of his beloved daughter almost jeopardized his planet discoveries.
Nicely read as well. Highly recommended.
Very interesting history of the influenza epidemic, juxtaposed over the turmoil of WWI. I found the details about the flu virus, and why it is so difficult to vaccinate against, fascinating.
I usually don't like Scott Brick, but he was OK here.
I love the material presented in this book; the details about how the brain works down to the level of neurons was fascinating. My only complaint is that the author sometimes got too political. For example: implying that supporting certain presidential candidates is considered a "brain bug". Even if I may happen to agree with you on those particular candidates, there is no need for that kind of stuff in a book like this. All it does is cheapen the otherwise very compelling arguments.
Ironically, for an author who seems to abhor religion, his political remarks make him sound downright preachy.
Still a worthwhile listen, but it could have been so much better.
This is one of the most imaginative science fiction stories I've read. The concept is very intriguing, with a mysterious cosmic event occurring suddenly and without explanation. Wilson deftly lets the mystery unfold during the course of the novel, which is told non-linearly -- the narration jumps back and forth between past and present, as the narrator recalls events from his life.
I found the ending VERY satisfying. Throughout the book I wondered how Wilson would tie it all together, but he did so masterfully, providing an explanation that explained it all in a way that was as imaginative as the initial concept.
Nested through all this is a personal story involving a wealthy (but dysfunctional) family who played a key role in both the narrator's life and the post-spin world events. I found some of this interpersonal drama to be a little tiresome at times -- not really bad, just overdone -- but overall it did not detract from the story.
Scott Brock is not my favorite narrator (I've HATED some of his work on other books, where he was often overly dramatic) but he was good here.
I have read several physics books (including some written by Greene) so I have some background in the topic, but I am far from understanding it all. Greene does a very good job of making insanely complicated concepts (like multiple, folded, hidden dimensions) accessible to someone who doesn't have a Ph.D in math. He frequently uses real world analogies to bridge this gap, and even though the concepts are still daunting for a lay person, Greene makes them a little more accessible.
However, whatever his talents as a writer, Greene should leave it to professional readers to read his material. I found his voice and presentation very irritable, especially over the course of a long unabridged audio book. I almost stopped listening, it grated on me that much. Listen to a sample before downloading, and you may decide to read it instead of listening.
I know there are some who are critical of Gladwell for glossing over facts and oversimplifying conclusions, but I have enough of a brain to be able to draw my own conclusions, some of which differ from Gladwell.
For example, Gladwell stresses the role of hard work and chance in those who find great success, but I think he underemphasizes the role of talent and natural ability. Sure, hockey players in Canada have a better shot at greatness if they're born in certain months, but you still need size, speed, skills, and even competitiveness to succeed. That fact sometimes get lost in Gladwell's analysis.
Having said that, I still very much enjoyed this book, the third I've read of Gladwell's (Blink, Tipping Point). I like his style of writing (and reading)
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