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Sean

BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States | Member Since 2014

313
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 58 reviews
  • 88 ratings
  • 331 titles in library
  • 5 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
28

  • The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Sam Kean
    • Narrated By Henry Leyva
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (327)
    Performance
    (272)
    Story
    (276)

    From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean come more incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA. There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking.

    Traci says: "So much to think about!"
    "A book about the history of DNA"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Apparently, there was a violinist with a really strong thumb. It may or may not have had to do with his genes. That's the level of insight you can expect about "Lost Tales of Love, War and Genius."

    The book is an excellent history of the science and discovery of DNA. He also talks about the controversies surrounding the human genome project. However, I was expecting more information about how our genes shape our behavior in interesting ways. Something like "so-and-so discovered an argument gene prevalent in lawyers..."

    The performance is engaging and the history is complete but the book was not what I was expecting.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • The Industrial Revolution

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Patrick N. Allitt
    Overall
    (107)
    Performance
    (93)
    Story
    (92)

    From electric lights to automobiles to the appliances that make our lives easier at work and at home, we owe so much of our world to the Industrial Revolution. In this course, The Great Courses partners with the Smithsonian - one of the world's most storied and exceptional educational institutions - to examine the extraordinary events of this period and uncover the far-reaching impact of this incredible revolution.

    Quaker says: "Incredibly entertaining, balanced, comprehensive"
    "Wonderful review"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really enjoyed learning about the history and personalities that drove the Industrial Revolution. The author does a good job of breaking down the material into manageable chunks of information. He also managed to make production and labor tension consistently interesting.

    He has a nice English accent and the pacing is good.

    I would recommend this to anyone seriously interested in the history of global industrialization.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By James L. Haley
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii is the only one to have once been a royal kingdom. After its discovery by Captain Cook in the late 18th century, Hawaii was fought over by European powers determined to take advantage of its position as the crossroads of the Pacific. The arrival of the first missionaries marked the beginning of the struggle between a native culture with its ancient gods, sexual libertinism, and rites of human sacrifice and the rigid values of the Calvinists.

    Joanna says: "Biased History at its Worst!"
    "A balanced perspective"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    An in depth look at Hawaiian history from all sides.

    Most histories either vilify the white man or explain how the natives got what they deserved. The author does a good job of portraying the major characters as real human beings warts and all. Still, one comes away with tremendous sympathy for the native Hawaiians.

    He clearly demonstrates that the native monarchs were just as complicit in commercializing the islands as the sugar barons or sea captains. And they did it with full understanding of the consequences of their actions.

    He dispels the myth of the "good old days" by pointing out that in pre-contact Hawaii 9,999 out of 10,000 natives were essentially serfs subject to human sacrifice or capital punishment at the whim of the rulers.

    He makes no apologies for the annexation movement condemning it in the harshest terms. But he is also quick to quell historical "what ifs" by pointing out that the next most likely fate for the islands was to become a Japanese protectorate--a bullet dodged.

    I enjoyed the performance but I dislike the current trend to perform audiobooks as opposed to reading them. A Scottish character--break out the Highland brogue, a Spaniard--rev up the RRRRRs. I wish they would offer a straight reading along with the performance version of these books.

    I would recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in Hawaiian history, but it is detailed so don't expect to get through in on a plane ride to your island vacation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Great Minds of the Medieval World

    • ORIGINAL (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Dorsey Armstrong
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (34)
    Story
    (31)

    In this gallery of extraordinary minds, you’ll encounter the leading lights of a world-shaping era, including figures such as Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Abelard, and Francesco Petrarch. Professor Armstrong goes to great lengths to bring these historic figures to life, revealing both the great intellectual contributions and the personal strivings, challenges, and triumphs of some of history’s most remarkable human beings.

    Benoibe says: "Prof Armstrong at her best!!!"
    "Discovering new heros"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I liked learning about many influential thinkers that I had never heard of before. Many of their ideas were encapsulated or recapitulated by later thinkers, so there were no flashes of insight. Nevertheless, hearing who first engaged some of society's thorniest problems provided a very interesting read.

    The professor has a thorough understanding and genuine affection for her subject and it makes the lectures very easy to listen to.

    Because there was no separation of church and state the figures are heavily involved with the Catholic Church. There's no escaping that in a book like this, but if you are not interested in the medieval church you may not want to invest your time here.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Star-Spangled Men: America's Ten Worst Presidents

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Nathan Miller
    • Narrated By Andy Caploe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (8)

    Picking America's best presidents is easy. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt usually lead the list. But choosing the nation's worst presidents requires more thought. In Star-Spangled Men, respected presidential biographer Nathan Miller puts on display those leaders who were abject failures as chief executive. With pointed humor and a deft hand, he presents a rogues' gallery of the men who dropped the presidential ball, and sometimes their pants as well.

    Sean says: "Entertaining and factual"
    "Entertaining and factual"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The author critiques his ten worst presidents with humor and insight. He backs up his criticism with facts while acknowledging that other interpretations are valid. The piece is relatively light in tone and makes easy listening.

    He has Democrats and Republicans on his list and there does not seem to be any agenda he is pushing. For example, there are bad isolationists and bad expansionists. His idea of "badness" is mostly (lack of) character driven e.g. Nixon, but overall (lack of) performance also makes someone a target, e.g. Carter.

    I would recommend the book to anyone interested in a critical look at American politics without a demagogue's screed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 36 Revolutionary Figures of History

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Professor Bob Brier, Professor Dennis Dalton, and others
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (34)

    Alexander the Great, Jesus, Darwin, and Churchill are just a few of the many politicians, religious leaders, scientists, philosophers, authors, inventors, and generals who transformed our world in ways that still resonate today. Now, with this unique collection of 36 lectures from our extensive course catalog, meet the remarkable people without whom the world would never be the same.

    Sean says: "A hodgepodge"
    "A hodgepodge"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
    Overall
    (183)
    Performance
    (156)
    Story
    (159)

    Step into the real world of the spy with this detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of espionage and covert operations. While most of us associate this top-secret subject with popular fiction and film, its true story is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine. These 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes.

    Christopher says: "Learn About the History of Spying."
    "Entertaining and informative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Age of Pericles

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Jeremy McInerney
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    The career of Pericles, the leading Athenian politician and general from c. 450 to 429 B.C., is a prism through which to view the "Golden Age" of Greece, a brief but remarkable era when Athens experienced a cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture. These 24 stimulating lectures present a well-rounded portrait of almost every aspect of Athenian life during the Golden Age.

    Sean says: "Unflinching look at the Golden Age of Athens"
    "Unflinching look at the Golden Age of Athens"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Dave Richard Palmer
    • Narrated By Lynn Benson
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    From 1775 through 1777, George Washington and Benedict Arnold were America's two most celebrated warriors. Their earlier lives had surprisingly parallel paths. They were strong leaders in combat, they admired and respected each other, and they even shared common enemies. Yet one became our greatest hero and the other our most notorious traitor. Why? Author and military historian Dave Palmer reveals the answer: character.

    Sean says: "Insightful look at the Revolution's generals"
    "Insightful look at the Revolution's generals"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Rise and Fall of Intelligence: An International Security History

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Michael Warner
    • Narrated By Robert J. Eckrich
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    Historian Michael Warner addresses the birth of professional intelligence in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and the subsequent rise of US intelligence during the Cold War. He brings this history up to the present day as intelligence agencies used the struggle against terrorism and the digital revolution to improve capabilities in the 2000s.

    Sean says: "A random walk through the Cold War and beyond"
    "A random walk through the Cold War and beyond"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Decoding the Heavens

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Jo Marchant
    • Narrated By Julie Eickhoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (7)

    In Decoding the Heavens, Jo Marchant tells for the first time the full story of the 100-year quest to decipher the ancient Greek computer known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters and explores the deep roots of modern technology in ancient Greece and the medieval European and Islamic worlds. At its heart, this is an epic adventure and mystery, a book that challenges our assumptions about technology through the ages.

    Sean says: "Very satisfying account of an ancient mystery"
    "Very satisfying account of an ancient mystery"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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