Whether he's being lovingly critical or unabashedly admiring of English quirks, Byrson is always amusing -- never crass, just constantly chuckling at the English as I chuckle and sigh at the doings of a favorite aunt. Priceless writer, doesn't lose his charm on second or even third listening.
In this well-researched, detailed but highly interesting story, Scott Anderson travels back to World War I and the tottering Ottoman Empire to set the stage for the Middle East we know now. Lawrence of Arabia has a large role, but it's not primarily his story -- it's the story of how war, oil, greed, imperialism, chicanery, empty promises and personalities interacted to fertilize the creation of Saudi Arabia, Israel (then known as Palestine), Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and their neighbors.
T.E. Lawrence is the flywheel of the story, and his deeds lubricate the story, but there is oh so much more, from a wide range of Zionists to the scion of the family that founded Yale, to the Turks and Arabs and military leaders who had a hand in the battles and negotiations. Lawrence isn't idealized -- in fact, no one is idealized. It's not the David Lean movie! But it *is* fascinating.
I found Malcolm Hillgartner a terrific narrator. He uses voices, but he uses them so smoothly and carefully that it's not jarring. (I tend to like my narrators to read rather than dramatize, but Hillgartner's approach could please everyone.)
One note: I found myself often referring to a map. You'll likely find that having one to consult occasionally is helpful.
This isn't a heavy-duty history-class survey but a refreshing zip tying together many of the events and actions we learned in history classes. It focuses on East as well as West, on Africa, China, Japan and South America as well as Europe and what would become the U.S. The approach covers blocks of centuries. It's neither as silly as the cover suggests, nor as dry as "world history" implies.
I didn't know anything about "Mental Floss" works (still don't) but the sections are leavened with humor and insight, brisk detail and factoids. When I studied history decades ago, classes focused on subsections of history: Western Europe, U.S., English social history, Ancient Mesopotamia, etc. I never got a good sense of how these sections were linked in time. I could not have told you what was going on in much of the rest of the world when Jesus walked, or where the Visigoths, Vandals and Saxons came from.
I recommend this with a smile. Now I'm going to go back to re-reading heavier history with a new perspective....!
This book has little to do with Julia and Paul Child, and I found that disappointing. The main focus is on a woman whom they knew in the OSS who was quite a character and interesting, but the title and cover had led me to believe I'd learn more about the work both of them did.
The book is rich in detail of the OSS work, at least in how women were allowed to perform it during the war. It also paints an interesting portrait of post-war paranoia rooted in the Red scare, and offers explanations via examples of how the U.S. executed its Southeast Asian policies as the region's colonial empires collapsed.
But when you are expecting to hear more about the Childs, it was a shock!
I have no patience with Kinsella's shopping books, but this saga reassured me that I do have a sense of humor, especially with a well-painted heroine, tight story and intriguing tale. It's a perfect vacation listen when the sun is too bright to read or you're on the couch with the flu. AND it has a happy ending -- which sometimes I yearn for!
Before I read this, all I knew about Burr was that he had fought duel with Alexander Hamilton. The author points out that having no children or surviving family, there was no one to give voice to Burr's thinking and his multitude of achievements during the establishment of the nation. The book is an intriguing look at how a man's reputation is shaped by "winners" in the telling of history.
I suggest this book if you love history and quietly enjoy knowing things that most others don't know. You may not end up liking Burr or siding with him, but you will probably have a better understanding of the challenges facing the early nation from this portrait that paints him as a multi-dimensional human rather than a cardboard figure.
I gave this 4 stars because I'm fascinated by the English language (my native tongue). I suspect many would find this book very dry -- I did in places, even though I cherish it overall. I think it's a book that would appeal to the curious, rather than those who want "a good read." I would love to sit next to this author at a dinner party -- for 30 minutes at a time. He really does trace the beginnings of the language and describe its development in great detail. But I would recommend it only for those who have an insatiable curiosity about the language and a deep love of it.
I enjoyed listening to this much more than reading it, perhaps because the performance encourages me to get into the spirit of the wise servant and his twit of a "master." Even so, it makes me so happy for the Declaration of Independence!
Wilde was devastatingly witty, and this production and the "vocal acting" bring out the best in this play. An endearing play enlivened by an engaging cast. Just the thing to listen to on a long night flight to England.
This was so graphic in its description of torture and other barbarities that I couldn't finish it. I know it reflects a barbarous time; I just couldn't deal with it.
I like this series, but the "Poland" entry didn't offer much depth. It reminded me of a college freshman Western Civ overview textbook.
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