The first chapters (up through Ferguson's elucidating chapter on how insurance works) is a wonderfully clear account of how financial systems evolved and how they work. Unfortunate, Ferguson gets on a few obvious personal hobby-horses in the last half of the book and if you don't agree with his politics (he makes a point of calling American Republicans idiots, which immediately alienates half his audience to no purpose, especially on a subject such as this. One supposes he is attempting to keep his academic Facebook friends list from going down). In any case, there are some excellent insights and generally good writing throughout and the book is definitely a worthwhile listen.
Wow, this is a challenging book. I was tempted to stop listening at various points, but it was usually there that Penrose dropped in a gem of insight or an utterly fascinating speculation on the nature of the universe, and on I went. I finally settled in when I realized that I was listening to a unique book: it is written for the general reader, but it doesn't try to soft pedal any of the complexity of thought that leads to the conclusions. In the end, I loved it.
What is the book about? Penrose is proposing an admittedly conjectural notion of universal cosmology. He is, in fact, making a new argument for something like the balanced beauty of the old Steady State idea of the universe's orgin and life while using all the new stuff on black holes, the cosmic background radiation and black holes. He's attempting to reconcile the Big Bang with a steady state by arguing that at the extreme end of things -- the heat death of the universe after all the black holes have evaporated and all that remains are mass-less protons, gravitons and such -- the geometry of the universe will match the geometry necessarily in place at the time of the Big Bang. And things could, thus, start all over again or, as Penrose puts it, bounce. We could be somewhere in the midst of an endless cycle of expanding and "bouncing" universes.
Whether or not you buy Penrose's conclusion, the road there is hard, awe-inducing and fascinating.
I highly recommending downloading his cool illustration packet, many handdrawn, and referring to them from time to time, as well.
A directly written account of most of the major episodes in Rumsfeld's political and business life. It becomes more interesting and less hagiographic toward the end, which is clearly still simmering in Rumsfeld's mind at the time of writing. Interesting inside takes on the inside politics of the Bush admininstration--or at least it will be interesting for those who are not wearing ideological blinders. Rumsfeld isn't. This should be a test for leftie listeners and for those who defend Bush policies without even thoughtful reservation due to the left's decade of slime and ad hominem attack--are YOU as open-minded as Donald Rumsfeld? I felt challenged by this obviously self-written memoir. Rumsfeld is a good leader of a particular Midwestern cultural stamp and someone whose intelligence and forthrightness ought to be an example to all politicians.
A touching couple of hours of reminiscence from an English football great. It's a bit twee at times, but overall a great piece of history for anybody interested in the history of soccer or Manchester United, the greatest team of them all.
John Muir provides a wonderful description of the Yosemite valley and paints a picture between the lines of the delightful and adventurous time he spent living there. The high point of the essay is his description of Yosemite Falls in different seasons. Love his claim to have seen a "moon-bow" hovering in the spume! A great portrait of a place, a time, and a very unusual, perceptive, athletic and fearless writer.
A simple thesis: socialism inevitably leads to totalitarianism, whether this is intended or not by those who advocate and enact socialist policies. Totalitarianism crushes the individual and eventually destroys all individual rights. This is the most important book on political philosophy and economics of the twentieth century. Good thing I was listening, because if I were reading and underlining the succinct, telling and amazing lines of this work, I would end up underlining the entire book.
An extended argument that human intelligence and the well-being it allows is created, collected, maintained, distributed and extended by trade. Trade is "ideas having sex." Ridley builds his case with point after point then examines all the usual counterexamples and objections, taking them out one by one. It's a wonderful book. Of course it helped that he was preaching to the choir with me. What's most delightful is Ridley's goodhearted skewering of pessimists -- the technological and environmentalist Jeremiahs in particular -- with the most obvious of weaknesses is their flimsy cases. He's almost embarrassed for them. Ridley is a bit repetitive at times, but maintains a wry humor and lighthearted tone throughout, which makes his writing all the more effective. He's a good writer and he's right about everything.
Good stuff with much new thinking for those of us who last visited this subject decades ago. Old English studies have really moved ahead in recent years! I also enjoyed Drout's other lecture series on the history of the English language and his excellent lectures on the literature of science fiction and fantasy.
I was very surprised as how far DNA analysis has come in the past five years. The book is a call to action to do something with your own DNA (which is now fully accessible for a few hundred bucks), and Collins makes an extremely convincing case for doing so. More a compendium of resources and anecdotes than a coherent book (and the fully-read web addresses make for some extremely trying listening), but fascinating new information about what you can do with your DNA to improve your health and consider choices you may or may not have to make in your life.
First, I'm not sure what to say about previous reviewers disliking the narrator, Wolfram Kandinsky. I can only assume they didn't give him a chance. I thought he was not just wonderful, but inspired. He doesn't have a Ken Burns narrator voice, true, but this is a novel with large sections that are the main character's thoughts. My goodness, some NPR announcer voice would have been entirely snooze-inducing! So not only did I not mind the reader, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the book because of Kandinsky's reading of it. That said, this is a landmark novel of the 20th century, one of the best books written in the last 100 years. Moses Herzog, thinking man's lover of women and semi-tough guy intellectual, is entirely unique and specific and yet utterly representative of a very smart man, and a very American man, figuring out how to live and find meaning in the modern world. Any thinking person who has found him or herself confused, bemused and even confounded by the modern condition will find much to take identify and take pleasure in via Bellow's marvelous, sometimes pathetic, always whimsically-profound creation, Moses E. Herzog. As a plus, you'll probably find sentences, phrases, conceits and images from the book echoing through your mind and heart for years to come.
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