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Michael

Williamsville, NY, United States | Member Since 2001

122
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 26 reviews
  • 45 ratings
  • 467 titles in library
  • 18 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
9

  • DisneyWar

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By James B. Stewart
    • Narrated By Patrick Lawlor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (635)
    Performance
    (266)
    Story
    (268)

    Once upon a time, one man ruled America's greatest entertainment company. This is the untold story of his triumphs and failures, and of the revolt that cost him his kingdom.

    Christine says: "Utterly fascinating"
    "Compelling read"
    Overall

    An amazing tale of the rise and fall of Disney during the Eisner era. A lot of detail here, including full blow-by-blow accounts of the Katzenberg and Ovitz fiascos.

    It's largely critical of Eisner, but it does give him credit for much of the incredible success of the 80s. It essentially divides the Eisner years into two eras: during Wells' tenure as President, when everything Eisner touched turned to gold, and after Wells' death, when everything Eisner touched turned to lead. Makes you wonder where Disney would have been if Wells hadn't died so tragically.

    The narrator is excellent. Overall, highly recommended for anyone who is interested in Disney and/or corporate politics.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Daniel James Brown
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1924)
    Performance
    (1743)
    Story
    (1754)

    Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

    Janice says: "Do you believe in miracles??"
    "The perfect audiobook"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Steve Jobs

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Walter Isaacson
    • Narrated By Dylan Baker
    Overall
    (11974)
    Performance
    (10372)
    Story
    (10349)

    Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

    Jeanne says: "Interesting man"
    "Fascinating"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    59 of 64 people found this review helpful
  • American Gods

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5383)
    Performance
    (2247)
    Story
    (2262)

    For the three years Shadow spent in prison, all he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.

    Joseph says: "Amazing, powerful book about America."
    "My first Gaiman book, liked it but didn't love it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Lee Smolin
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (288)
    Performance
    (151)
    Story
    (155)

    In this illuminating book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that fundamental physics - the search for the laws of nature - is losing its way. Ambitious ideas about extra dimensions, exotic particles, multiple universes, and strings have captured the publics imagination -- and the imagination of experts.

    Michael says: "Encouraging Physics"
    "Well done, though a little repetitive at times"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Mike Brown
    • Narrated By Ryan Gesell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (396)
    Performance
    (241)
    Story
    (244)

    The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a 10th planet, Eris, slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of its resulting in one more planet being added to our solar system, Brown's find ignited a firestorm of controversy that riled the usually sedate world of astronomy and launched him into the public eye.

    Rickapolis says: "Informative and fun"
    "Loved it"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By John M. Barry
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (1295)
    Performance
    (642)
    Story
    (651)

    No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in 20 weeks than AIDS has killed in 20 years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century.

    Nancy says: "Gripping and Gory"
    "Good listen"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Dean Buonomano
    • Narrated By William Hughes
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (192)
    Performance
    (147)
    Story
    (152)

    With its trillions of connections, the human brain is more beautiful and complex than anything we could ever build, but it’s far from perfect: our memory is unreliable; we can’t multiply large sums in our heads; advertising manipulates our judgment; we tend to distrust people who are different from us; supernatural beliefs and superstitions are hard to shake; we prefer instant gratification to long-term gain; and what we presume to be rational decisions are often anything but.

    Sean says: "Superficial, but mostly correct"
    "Interesting, though a little political at times"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Spin

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Robert Charles Wilson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (3350)
    Performance
    (1129)
    Story
    (1131)

    One night when he was 10, Tyler stood in his backyard and watched the stars go out. They flared into brilliance, then disappeared, replaced by an empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

    Robert says: "A Classic"
    "Loved it loved it LOVED IT"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Brian Greene
    • Narrated By Brian Greene
    Overall
    (813)
    Performance
    (459)
    Story
    (449)

    There was a time when “universe” meant all there is. Everything. Yet, in recent years discoveries in physics and cosmology have led a number of scientists to conclude that our universe may be one among many. With crystal-clear prose and inspired use of analogy, Brian Greene shows how a range of different “multiverse” proposals emerges from theories developed to explain the most refined observations of both subatomic particles and the dark depths of space.

    C. Schmidt says: "Engrossing"
    "Greene is a great writer, but not a great reader"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Outliers: The Story of Success

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Narrated By Malcolm Gladwell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (10412)
    Performance
    (4845)
    Story
    (4862)

    In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

    S Prabhu says: "Excellent book; well adapted for the audio format"
    "I enjoy Gladwell's writings"
    Overall

    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)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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