Although spiced with some tasty nuggets of ideas, the overall texture of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" is "half baked." He repeatedly over-generalizes and oversells his points, disregarding or discounting the impact of individual moral agency. For example, if Gladwell's theory regarding the "power of context" was as powerful as described, crime in New York in the late 90s would not have just dropped precipitously-- it would have stopped. He also stretches epidemiological principles to fit his hypotheses of social epidemics.
I liked the science and I liked most of the characters. I also liked yeoman reader John Lee; his pacing and voice inflections (though a bit clipped) were easy to follow. But I wouldn't recommend "Pushing Ice." The main problem was that the author just couldn't resist tossing ideas and plot developments out like candy at a Mardi Gras parade. So often, I caught a shell of an idea or a thread of character development only to find that the story moved on without me. The secondary problem (for me at least) was that the decades-long implacable hatred of the character Svetlana for her former best friend Bella Lind seemed unrealistic. Overall, if you like big ideas and don't mind a paucity of development, you'll love this book. Me, I'm afraid I'm going to give Mr. Reynolds a pass in the future.
Perhaps this is a good book, but after being hit with four shots of swearing just 15 minutes into the book, I had to abandon ship. I wish Audible provided a language warning in descriptions, so I wouldn't waste a credit. If you don't like audiobooks swearing into your ears (or into your car or kitchen or family room), stay away!
I loved the idea behind this time travel/alt-history story, but I disliked the hero's overheated narrative style. I wish I could quote some of the language, but it was pretty thick to the point of being funny without intending to be.
Mr. Brooks starts well but seems to be stretching for some of his "13 Things." I was particularly thrown off by his flat assertion that men do not have "free will" because a couple studies showed that humans are not fully aware of all aspects of their volitional decisionmaking (at least I think that's what he's saying). This assertion seems patently ridiculous; I don't completely understand how an internal combustion engine transfers power to my automobile wheels yet I would be a fool to assert I am not driving the vehicle when I turn the key and move forward.
"Killing Rommel" presents a straightforward personal account of one limited-scale special operations campaign in North Africa during WWII, written in the style of a memoir. Mr. Pressfield presents the unassuming courage and emotional conflicts of one man in a way that enlightens without seeming overbearing. He also portrays perfectly the true randomness of armed conflict. The pacing was just right and the Kiwi, British and German characters were believable. This is a great listen if you are looking for inspiration in the face of trying circumstances.
Perhaps I should have listened to the afterword first. In it, Alan Weisman clearly states that his purpose in writing was to convince humans of just how bad we are for the earth. In the afterword, he seems to advocate a voluntary version of China's "one child per couple" policy, not stopping even to consider that a family with brothers and sisters brings value into the world and into individual lives. Admittedly, the research is thorough, and wide-ranging. Often, in the details, it is fascinating. But a morality of hopelessness pervades. "Surely," Mr. Weisman seems to say, "mankind's greed and lust are inevitable, so we must withdraw into ourselves, stretch out with a cup of (nonproductive for humanity) coffee and a bottle of (nonproductive for humanity) booze in front of our (nonproductive for humanity) big screen HDTV and just die." Inarguably, mankind must radically revise its assumptions about how to live well as stewards of this wonderful planet, but to assume that it's not even worth trying-- that the world would be simply better off without us (or at least without so many children) I found teeth-grindingly depressing.
Most of the book is a fascinating mix of Victorian English social history and medical detective story. The last quarter changes gears dramatically to become a paean to urbanization and the power of mapmaking in sociological study. Pretty incongruous. Still, it's worth it-- especially if you need a shorter book.
Wex gives a "warts & all" look into eastern European Jewish culture through its language. The first part of the book made me laugh out loud much to the surprise of fellow commuters. Unfortunately, he soon descended into scatology and profanity.
I've long rated Hemingway as my favorite author. In the part of the book, "Islands" delivers the crisp, intense writing I count on with Hemingway. But by the last part it loses its punch. It is ironic because the end of the book involves the most action-oriented story, yet it is flat. It is also filled with profanity, so watch out if you like to avoid foul language.
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