I loved this book. It had me laughing out loud in my car.
The book is not a treatise on Atheism. I think the author would be the first to say others are more qualified to do that. Rather, he presents various anecdotes which testify that one can live a moral, purposeful, fulfilled life without religion. Early on he mentions the frequent criticism that atheists must be sad, empty people. He refutes this with stories from his life rather than theoretical arguments.
Yes, there is a lot of swearing, but no more than an R-rated movie and I wasn't put off by it.
The stories about other magicians show how important integrity is to the author and they are entertaining and not just filler. The sex stories show that without baseless guilt you can have a very happy life (I didn't find them particularly exhibitionistic because most of them portray him performing under par).
The book is well paced, insightful, unflinching and hysterical.
This is an anthology of lectures pulled from other Great Courses. Apparently, someone decided on a list of revolutionary figures and then went in search of lectures that mention those people.
Unfortunately, the lecturers do not know that they are supposed to be talking about how or why these people were revolutionaries. Also, since the other courses vary in topic from art, history and politics it gives a very uneven feel to the work.
I couldn't finish it and would not recommend it.
This book is much better that Michael Warner's recent "The rise and fall of intelligence." He starts each lecture with a clear premise--"now we are going to discuss signals intelligence in WWI" and gives clear, complete examples.
The text is not technical, but he still manages to convey how technology and politics interact with the espionage community.
It is a concise and entertaining survey of espionage.
Anyone can tell you that Western civilization owes much to the ancient Greeks. But few people can give you the insight of this lecturer. He gives an in depth tour of ancient Greece in the 400s BCE and he does not attempt to hide the ugly aspects of a society that used slave labor. He uses the Persian and Peloponnesian wars as bookends for his examination.
He gives a detailed portrait of life for generals and politicians as well as everyday citizens and foreigners. In doing so he covers the historical and cultural events that shaped the city.
Finally, he discusses how the ancient Greeks were similar and different from us in their conception of ideas of freedom and democracy.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for an in depth look at the ancient Greeks, but you do need some familiarity with the material to get the most out of it. I would not recommend it as a first book about the ancient world.
I found this a very interesting look into the personalities of arguably the two best known American revolutionary generals. After demonstrating many similarities in their upbringing and career trajectories he shows how they ended up on paths to fame or infamy.
The pacing is well done and he weaves in important history without slowing the narrative. There is a genuine sense of excitement as he relates various campaign maneuvers and sieges. He also telegraphs just enough information to keep you oriented without spoiling the story.
I enjoyed the performance and felt the overall production value is high.
I found the book surprisingly dull and lacking insight. The author talks about how "intelligence" has been important to many historical events, but he is not interested in telling any stories or giving even brief biographies. The result is a random walk through the last 100 years of history from several different perspectives at once.
He will talk about China, Viet Nam, Northern Ireland and Central America in the same paragraph with the only common thread being secret information passing from person to person. He does not describe any covert operations or historical events from beginning to end which leaves the reader constantly adrift.
The author does not have any particular thesis about how intelligence grows or works, so you are never really sure why he chose a particular episode or technology to discuss.
He also assumes a fairly detailed understanding of 20th century history. He provides no context for events such as "Roosevelt and Stalin at Tehran" or "the Troubles" so it's not for historical dilettantes.
The performance is very dry but I am unsure if the reader was hamstrung by the material. Still, he should know how to pronounce "McAfee."
Being neither a collection of real life thriller moments nor an academic contemplation the book fell into a no man's land that I could not enjoy.
The book describes the finding and investigation of one of the most enigmatic ancient artifacts. Many theories have swirled around it (Aliens!) but in 2006 a group of math, astronomy and imaging specialists finally determined the purpose of the existing fragments.
She does a great job of describing the initial find and the first enthusiastic but erroneous interpretations of what the device was. All of the standard academic personalities are here--the Dreamer, the Enthusiastic Amatuer, the Double-crosser, the Possessive Curators, the serendipitous encounters.
I was particularly impressed by how she explained the subtleties of translating irregularities of lunar and solar motion into clockwork. Her descriptions of the actual bronze fragments were less clear, but since they are apparently barely recognizable as gears this is easy to forgive. She also describes future possibilities for investigation since there may have been more to the device than was recovered.
I was less happy with the performance. The reader has a whimsical delivery that the text really doesn't support, but her reading is accurate and easy to understand.
I would recommend this to someone interested in classical Greece and science history in general.
As someone with an extremely limited knowledge of music I have always felt intimidated by classical compositions. I could not tell you the difference between a symphony and a concerto, but after listening to these lectures I have a much better appreciation of them.
The lecturer's delivery is a cross of Lewis Black and George Will--authoritative but wickedly funny. He actually made me laugh out loud a few times. His passion for these works comes through in every lecture.
The format he follows is a brief bio-sketch of the composer followed by snippets of music and commentary. When he says "notice how the composer uses dissonant harmonies to convey struggle" you can actually hear it. Each lecture is meant to be complete in itself allowing you to jump around, but I found listening beginning to end to be most convenient.
This is an ideal work for an audio book.
This is a well researched book but it could be half as long if he didn't repeat himself so often.
He presents many nuggets of video game lore. Often he has found the original sources for stories that have become myths. This allows him to tell the myth and the real events that generated the story. This is not the repetition I am complaining about.
When presenting details of a story his style is like this:
They started having problems with their chips around this time. "Our engineers said that there was a problem with the chips."--Joe CEO. "I was working as an engineer at that time and we encountered several problems with the chips."--Jim Engineer.
Each iteration of the information adds nothing to the story and it becomes very frustrating to listen to.
This appears to be the definitive work on video game history, but the writing makes it difficult to get through.
There have been many recent advances in sleep science and the author takes you on a slightly dreamy tour of them. The performance assaults your ear with bad foreign accents an unnecessary caricatures.
The material is disjointed and the author repeats himself in different sections--possibly because he expected people to jump around to the chapters they were interested in. Not being a scientist he makes the various sources understandable for the layperson. But this also makes it difficult for him to analyse the material and he often presents conflicting points of view without any effort to say which is more likely to be correct. He's basically serving up everything he read and letting you sort through it.
I had to skip certain sections because the reader adopts a nasal, whiny voice whenever he's quoting a study or an interviewee--even ones that are clearly authoritative or completely correct. It's like he's saying "this is how all geeks and nerds talk." He also feels obliged to use British, French and Austrian (Freud) accents if the source material allows.
Without good synthesis or a critical eye for the data you could do almost as well for yourself by Googling "sleep science."
This is an excellent book about Richard Feynman's contributions to physics over his long, storied career. It is not a biography, although one has a great sense of the man by the end.
The author discusses his contributions to theoretical physics in detail and a basic familiarity with the concepts of relativity and quantum mechanics are required. There are no equations, so math skills are not required but if you are not already acquainted with the fundamental problems of modern physics there won't be much for you to enjoy.
The performance was excellent. I was genuinely surprised at the end to find I had been listening to the author the whole time. I suppose the text required someone well versed in theoretical physics but his performance is engaging and inflects and enunciates better than some professional readers I have listened to.
I would highly recommend the book for someone who is a fan of Dr Feynman's and wants a better understanding of why he is such a legend in the world of physics.
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