Thoroughly recommend this book. Pleasantly read, researched and written. Not too long, but packed full of information. Every chapter is good. Takes you around the world in a brilliant concept. I have a hard time selecting a highlight. But the argument that coffee launched the Enlightenment is very thought provoking. Not too much can really be said. Either you are the kind of person who likes food history, or history told from creative, specific angles, or you are not. Similar to Kulanski with "Salt" and "Cod", or the "Botany of Desire".
You will laugh, gasp, learn how to successfully and unsuccessfully poison people (team it up with "The Poisoner's Handbook", the story of the first metropolitan modern toxicology labs for more there). This one is a digest that keeps amusing and amazing. The periodic table is not as dull as you remember. Its a short book that can be listened to repeatedly, and actually, its about time I spin through again. Too many tidbits and tales to pick any highlights, unless its the kid trying to build a nuclear reactor in his toolshed and his mom being mad at the authorities for shutting it down and dampening his enthusiam at a sensitive age.
I had several false starts with this book. Another one read by a very deep voice which is not typical and hard to tolerate at first. Powerful and seems to overwhelm the ears, but once I settled in, this was not a distraction and the book is very strong. Probably more depth of knowledge and specificity than most general listeners will want. It is a target audience sort of thing. Not sweeping, it goes into great detail. And that is what I wanted for this period as it intrigued me and I knew little about it. This might be the definitive study of the campaign and era. Loved the stuff about the Scythians. And there is vivid detail on battle: so if you are squeamish then just know heads will roll, but is certainly not a gore-porn book that makes splatter the focus.
Apparently this is going to be a big budget movie with lots of effects. Seems unecessary to me. The author describes everything so poignantly that seeing it on screen could not improve the images, for me anyway. I trust Hollywood to ruin the thing anyway. This narrator is picture-perfect, and I love the book. Will definitely need to explore this author more in the future, when I find the time. Some people do not like the ending...I am unsure why. I thought that was great too. Such a unique story, and it is so difficult to produce something this strange and new, seemingly, these days. Fantasy on the high seas and castaway literature is a genre though I guess, so its not wholly new. But great adventure and details on zoos and animals.
This book was very good for quite a while, though there is not much of a natural history of cancer until modern times. Brief mentions of it were made by Galen and others from ancient eras, which are blurbed in an early chapter. Then you get an exhaustive and extensive history of cancer in the last century. The chapter on breast cancer was amazing, with mad scientist horror stories, and a pulp comic sort of feel to some of these procedures that were done to poor women. The chapter on the Jimmy Fund was informative and entertaining, as it was long before my time, but I liked hearing how the radio fund drive was invented and hit it off. And all the little tricks like renaming a boy Einar, "Jimmy" to make him sound more all-American. But the latter chapters just felt tacked-on to me. I wanted more brevity than detail by the end. Narration is good. I did finish the book by mixing in some other books to reduce listener fatigue, and admittedly, I have to do that with many if not all books, when listening more than a few hours each week. So its certainly worth the listen.
It has been a while but I am reviewing this before I close the account for future readers. I know I liked this book and it skips about like the old show "Connections" (not that old), where it flits from idea to idea like a butterfly to flowers. So if that is going to bother you, and you want in-depth on a single subject, then look elsewhere. I have liked all this author's books and this one is narrated very well with a "normal" reading, not stuffy, no strange voice, no over-drama, no monotone. How novel of an idea, no? General intellectual interest with flairs of history and science, this one felt more like a survey if I recall correctly and touches on the author's previous topics (Dr Snow and Priestly). Of the 3 books I have read by this author I prefer the book on Priestly "The Invention of Air" best and would rank "The Ghost Map" second if not for some super-baritoney narration.
I think of the two Taleb books I listened to, I prefer this. Both are interesting, with inspired and creative thought experiments and new ways of looking at problems and such, but the actor here did a better job of being likeable, and not coming off as vain and pretentious and holier-than-all. So it was easier to listen to and I think truer to who Taleb probably is. Other books of interest might be the "Freakonomics" books if you like this or wonder if you will like it. This does not guide you on how to get rich or predict the future, if that is what you are looking for. Its just a general interest intellectual book.
A well-researched and eye-opening book that I think makes fair arguments and puts forth a bold hypothesis. Something of revisionist history but all grounded in facts. A strong book about environmental impact and how people and culture think generally and never see the catastrophe coming. Pertinent and would be interesting even if one does not believe in global warming. The opening about Montana was devastating to that state. I'd have thought he had a vendetta against Montana, but again, it was all just plain researched facts about their economy and how the state is run. It has been awhile so I do not remember every chapter, but I know it touched on the Mayans and I remember finding the Easter Island chapter a highlight. The book is well-narrated though the actor's voice is so deep and unique it takes some getting used to. The type of voice used on 15 second promos for bloody made-for-TV dramas is maybe not the best for a longer work, but he does a good job and eventually anything is normal, even an ice cold swimming pool, you know?
Love all these collections. Great performances, good selections of stories that aren't basic tenets of high school that will call up bad memories. Very diverse and entertaining. Been listening to them while hiking on low volume so the bears don't get me. They have greatly improved tedious long trails. Also great just sitting in an armchair.
Cannot recommend this one highly enough. All the stories have been excellent. Funny often, witty, everything you could want, with a great mix of authors and narrators- all well matched. Huge scope and variety. These are not ones you'll get necessarily everywhere else but they are perfect as short stories. They really show what the form can do. But without relying on those few short stories you'll have been forced to read in every grade at every school. Head and shoulders above other collections I've tried so far. Even the eras are mixed- older to modern. Congratulations to the compilers, producers, and narrators for really doing justice to great authors! And my thanks.
A good mix of stories, but with heavy sound effects mixed in with the narrations, sometimes bad sound quality, and it is quite brief. Mostly this is fun if you are studying short stories and want to see how the Chinese variety vary from more familiar British ones. The first story was my favorite I suppose, and there is one about a canary that is told in a repetitive predictable and dull fashion. Its a pretty lean production in that you get few stories for your buck, and on the whole, I'd advise actually to just go to a library and find a volume of Chinese stories to peruse if you are curious. Not a bad buy necessarily.
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