By now I'm familiar with the impact of social media on our lives. But not everyone who uses it "gets" it. Too many people tack "social media" onto their marketing plans and every interaction is a sales pitch. Clay Shirkey helps us understand the heartbeat of our growing interconnectedness. His book is most compelling when he reviews the research from behavioral economics -- what are our intrinsic motivators? At our most creative and generous online, we are driven by our love of being both autonomous and competent.
Overall, the book encourages us to get involved, to pitch in -- whether it's relaxing games with friends or a project to unite folks for a great cause. Where do we find the time? By turning off the TV, of course.
The reader was fine -- a real pro.
Long, International, Thriller
The book was very engaging but veered off from its promise to be about the world of gaming and cybercrime. Instead it was a fairly conventional (and predictable) international thriller, full of narrow escapes, chases and gunplay. The action was rendered in such meticulous detail that I wound up playing it at 1.25 speed to move it along faster. Still the characters were engaging and I listened to the very end.
It would be fair to say that this audio changed my life -- at at least the way I think about it. I had been playing at the edges of Buddhism, trying to penetrate the concepts from traditional texts but not having much success beyond the superficial. Along comes Robert Thurman. He is able to "explain" Buddhist to the Westerner in a way that is both deep and entertaining. I had many aha! moments during the course of this audio.
The contents are presented as a lecture series, so the style is informal and witty. I was mesmerized. I wound up listening to large chunks at a time, taking copious notes, which I still treasure. I have re-listened to it several times since then. It's one of those great audio investments that keeps on giving.
Thurman is not "selling" Buddhism as a superior or stand-alone religion. He invites people of all beliefs to apply the principles of Buddhist compassion to their lives. He has studied with the Dalai Lama and conveys much of DL's cheerfulness and openness to all people.
This is a book of essays and speeches compiled from various sources, with Gibson's commentary from today's perspective. It's a fascinating journey into a complex mind that begins to reveal the source material for his novels. As a writer, I'm going to listen to it again (and again), with a notebook in hand. In the NY Times book review, Pagan Kennedy says, "Gibson's writing enters the bloodstream like a drug, producing a mild hallucinogenic effect that lasts for hours." Yes.
I was less satisfied with the narrator Robertson Dean. I felt that the text called for someone speaking more conversationally. Dean is orotund and begins to sound robotic. I don't know what Gibson himself sounds like, but I wanted it to be him reading and talking to me. Dean doesn't by any means ruin the experience (so get this book!), but it could have been so much more intimate an experience with Gibson himself.
Goldberg liberates us. I bought the paperback years ago as a writer's guide and found it important and inspirational. I downloaded the Audible edition when I heard some journalists on a podcast say that they listened to a little Natalie whenever they got stuck. Thus, I rediscovered Goldberg not only as a writing coach but also as a spiritual guide. Putting pen to paper can be a spiritual practice as much as a literary one. And the short chapters provide assignments to keep you at it.
I was delighted with Natalie's narration. At the end of each chapter, she gives an informal comment, based on the 30 years of distance since she originally wrote the book. She is funny and wise.
I've read "Heart of Darkness" many times over the years, for the lushness of the writing and the profundity of the theme. However, hearing Branaugh read it expanded my comprehension and brought out all the nuances. I was on a real adventure with him. And I came away with a much better understanding of Marlowe, the corporate tool -- identifying with "the horror" and yet able to turn it into an entertaining tale shared with cronies on a quiet evening.
The best thing about this book is that it brings to life the mystical teachings of St. Teresa of Avila. Myss penetrates Teresa's castle of the soul and interprets it for the 21st century. Teresa's teachings and metaphors are beautiful and inspirational.
Unfortunately, the experience is marred by Myss' scolding tone. She is speaking to a live audience (apparently), which is usually energizing. But in this case, she seems to assume her audience is composed of give-me-a-quick-fix sinners. So, unfortunately, she winds up sounding like a nagging Joan Rivers -- without the humor.
Old-school Catholicism does always seem to start every journey with sin and guilt and the need to embrace humility. As a rogue Catholic, I get it and can get passed it to the heart of Teresa's teaching. My Presbyterian friend, who was listening at the same time, could not.
"American Gods" was absorbing and entertaining, keeping me company through long winter walks. The plot defied predictability. Was the result going to be insight or Armageddon?
The novel is structured as a roadtrip, in which the protagonist Shadow is introduced to the "old" gods, who are being recruited by his boss Mr. Wednesday to fight one last fight to regain their position at the center of American worship. Each stop is full of American folklore, tall tales, and petty criminal inventiveness. There is enough action to keep us entertained without devolving into meaningless car chases or bloody shoot-outs.
Gaiman's writing is vivid. Although the full-cast production was nice, occasionally the switching of voices for "he said" phrases disrupts the flow. Gaiman's writing is so clear that an excellent single narrator might have conveyed the story just as well.
As many have said before me, this book transcends genre -- it's a literary classic.
"Hare With The Amber Eyes" is a perfect book for someone interested in art history, family history, and the stories our stuff have to tell. That would be me.
Author Edmund de Waal is a ceramics artist, raised in a Church of England family. When he inherits a collection of netsuke (tiny Japanese carvings) from his great-uncle Iggy, he sets out to tell their story. This draws him into a two-year "vagabond" in which he explores his mother's side of the family. She is from one of the great Russian-Jewish merchant/banking families of Europe -- the Ephrussis.
The subtitle is "A Family's Century of Art and Loss." When the netsuke collection was acquired in the 1870s, in Paris, the Ephrussis were the toast of the town, mingling with authors like Proust and many of the Impressionist painters. But anti-Semitism lurks beneath the surface. The netsuke are sent as a wedding present to a nephew in Vienna, just as Hitler is beginning his rise.
Nothing remains but the stories. This is the theme, I think. Families come and go. Dynasties rise and fall. A few trinkets get passed along. We want their stories. De Waal does a beautiful job of following his curiosity, walking (as literally as he can) in his ancestors footsteps through Japan, Paris, Vienna, and Odessa. He's lucky in that his family was famous, so there is documentation of them everywhere. But instead of being overwhelmed with the details, he uses the netsuke -- and the family love of art -- to pull together a strong narrative.
The book also explores our attachment to our possessions -- most dramatically when the Nazis march through Vienna seizing property from the wealthy Jews, snatching their works of art and meticulously cataloging them for "Aryan" museums. The meaning of being dispossessed, of losing everything, came home to me. Like it or not, our possessions are us.
I originally downloaded the book on Kindle, but couldn't find the time to settle into it. So I wound up downloading it from Audible. Michael Maloney's reading immediately engaged me.
Great (if horrifying) entertainment. Radulski creates a finely nuanced character that is the essence of corporation-induced bloat and despair. And it only gets worse from there. The writing is crisp and the plot plummets inevitably to...
The audio production enhances the horror experience, which is always a plus.
I hope this novella finds a place among the Kafkas and the Vonneguts. Excellent.
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