Among Guglielmo Marconi's greatest advantages was that he didn't have too much education. He was home schooled and thus spared the mental set of a university education. Marconi was fascinated with electricity and read everything he could find about the experiments of Michael Faraday and Heinrich Hertz. Supported by his wealthy parents, Marconi applied his intuitive intelligence and dogged determination to develop a seemingly supernatural means of communication. But he needed an event to grab the public's attention.
Erik Larson in his book, "Thunderstruck", describes the evolution of early radio in the context of Edwardian England and a notorious crime. Second only to Jack the Ripper, kindly Dr. Hawley Crippen kills his shrew of a wife and buries parts of her dissected body in their basement. He then escapes with his mistress on a steamer to Canada.
Marconi's new invention is used to pursue the doctor. In the process, the press grabs the public's attention by publishing the details of the crime, the doctor's flight and Marconi's wireless. But Crippen is ignorant of all this since the ship's captain keeps the wireless communications a secret. This book is for the omnivore reader who likes to mix science history with human drama.
Like virtually all history books, ???Civil War of 1812??? focuses on a series of events which are both informative and yet too much detail for many readers. A proud American, I also have friends in Canada, several of whom are French Canadians. Although America tried to invade Canada twice, during the Revolutionary War and later the War of 1812, our two countries have moved on and we have a close friendship with Canada along with its relations with the British Commonwealth. It helps that we are the only country with which Canada has a border and a friendly one at that. An expert from Wikipedia, ???[In a 2009 Canadian poll], 37% of Canadians said the war [of 1812] was a Canadian victory, 9% said the U.S. won, 15% called it a draw, and 39% - mainly younger Canadians - said they knew too little to comment.??? So, if you want to learn more about a series of battles between the U.S. and the British along the eastern Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River, then this book is for you.
I'm a lover of related, correct detail and from this book know more about the American / Canadian Civil War of 1812 than many Americans or Canadians.
Clearly read with the right pace.
Following the Treaty of Ghent, toward the end of the book, where the hard feelings between America and Canada started to soften a bit.
I used to be an omnivorous reader which required me to sit and concentrate. Now, with audio books, I can do chores around the house while listening to books, concentrating just as well.
Being a native Californian, I've read several histories of the area and many of them cite passages from Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast". I hesitated to buy the audiobook since I found the English rather archaic, the original book having been published in 1840. But I took the plunge and was pleasantly surprised.
Dana's later, distinguished career as a maritime lawyer came through in his scholarly prose and I came to enjoy his writing style. Why did the Harvard educated son of a prominent Boston family ship out as a common sailor? His book answers this question and hints of his later advocacy for the oppressed and as a foremost abolitionist.
Dana's "Before the Mast" is a vivid account of life aboard a merchant ship from a deckhand's perspective. His descriptions of sail and rigging handling get a bit technical but he does it so well that even I, a landlubber, generally understood the varied and often dangerous tasks of a seaman. And I could see Mexican California as Dana described it.
The narrator, Jim Killavey, did a superb job of conveying Dana's brilliant grasp of events and sensitivity to the human condition. This book is truly a classic.
Charlie Chaplin was born in London in 1889 to a dysfunctional stage family. His first stage appearance was at age five to fill in for his mentally ill mother. His alcoholic father managed to eke out a living as a music hall actor. But Charlie had the drive and genius to evolve into a world-class artist. He eventually used the scars of his childhood as inspirations for some of the many movies he later created.
Charlie toured with several acting companies around Britain and came to the United States in 1910. He made his first films in 1914 for the Keystone Studios and then onto Essanay Studios in 1915 where he created his first great film, "The Tramp." In 1917 Charlie founded his own studio in Hollywood and over the years turned out a remarkable series of movies that are classics today.
Charlie alternated between charming and using people, especially women. He never became an American citizen. Charlie was pro communist which forced him to leave the U.S. in 1952 at the height of the McCarthy era. He lived the rest of his life in Switzerland.
This is a scholarly work about a most remarkable and contradictory person. The reader, Adams Morgan, was also excellent.
Those of us who have "owned" several dogs over our lifetimes usually have a favorite. The author, Jon Katz, refers to this as our "lifetime dog". Mine was Amica who always wanted to be with me, watched my every move and even snoozed next to the couch where I napped. For Katz it was Orson, a border collie totally dedicated to him but with problems.
The book, "A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life" was written by both Katz and Orson. Orson provided the experiences which Katz, a professional journalist, gave narrative. Orson did not take well to the strict training and shepherding competition before he entered Katz's life.
Orson gives Katz a reason to leave suburbia and buy Bedlam Farm in upstate New York. Katz acquires donkeys, sheep and other animals with which he and Orson can interact. But Orson prefers Katz, which is okay until the dog nips and then bites other people. Katz has Orson treated by a veterinarian, a holistic vet and even an animal shaman, but with little lasting result. Katz has to make a decision.
This book will have very special meaning for anyone who has or had a lifetime dog.
My mother was a recovering alcoholic and took me to her AA meetings when I was ten years old, back in 1952. Augusten Burroughs attended his first AA meetings in the mid 1990s, over forty years later. Listening to his book, "Dry: A Memoir", I was amazed how little AA has changed over the years. Even the Serenity Prayer as remained a mainstay: "God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Yes, "Dry" is funny but it deals with a potentially tragic subject. Virtually everyone has an addiction or two. For most it's an ingrained habit, such as coffee, talking too much or the Internet. These are tension relievers and not life threatening. But then there are alcohol and drugs. These can be killers.
For most readers, "Dry" is an entertaining romp through Burroughs' life style, his rehab, AA and beyond. The story is well written and narrated by Burroughs himself. I suspect there are some readers who have a substance abuse problem and the book's message could very well save their lives. I highly recommend "Dry" as a fun read. Likewise, I recommend "Dry" to anyone needing an introduction to AA.
Jules Verne was fascinated by the technological innovations of his time. He read about the construction of the American transcontinental railroad and the Suez Canal, both completed in 1869. The railway crossing the Indian sub-continent was near completion and the White Star line began its trans Atlantic run with fast steamships in 1871. Verne wondered if a person could travel around the world in three months. How about 80 days?
Verne answered this question with his classic, "Around the World in 80 Days". The work was initially a series of newspaper installments, ending on December 22, 1872, the date Phileas Fogg is supposed to return to London. Fogg, a wealthy gentleman of leisure, makes a wager with his fellow members of the Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. Fogg is precise about how long the trip will take, consistent with his obsession with clocks and regular routines. The club members think he's crazy and they'll win the wager.
Off Fogg goes with his manservant, Passepartout. Of course, this is much more than a routine trip. Fogg creatively deals with delays and cliffhangers as the days fly by. To boot, a Scotland Yard detective pursues Fogg on suspicion of having robbed the Bank of England. This is Verne at his best.
Like many highly successful people, CNN reporter Anderson Cooper is driven to compensate for inner conflicts. Unlike many successful people, he reveals this discord in a best selling book. Some of these conflicts are fully disclosed, such as putting himself in dangerous situations to compensate for two childhood tragedies. Others are superficially alluded to, inviting the reader to do some interpreting.
Cooper's book, "Dispatches from the Edge" at first glance appears to be an autobiography. But only a small part of his life is covered in any detail. In fact, he claims to have forgotten most of his childhood before age ten. He clearly remembers the death of his father when Cooper was ten and the suicide of his older brother when Cooper was 21. Maybe too clearly.
Cooper tells us that he has few vices except for one: he's a workaholic. He enjoys the company of many associates but has no really close friends. He can't relax and is in his prime on the chase for a story. If the story is a war, famine or natural disaster where he could be killed, all the better. All of this culminates as he reports on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Seeing how people cope in the worst situations gave Cooper some insight into his inner self. And motivation to write this book.
Eight Nazi commandos landed on the American East Coast in June of 1942. Hitler’s plan was to bring the War to mainland America through acts of sabotage. Rather than execute their mission, the leader surrendered the commando group to the FBI.
“In Time of War”, by Pierce O’Donnell, tells of how President Roosevelt was in tune with the public’s fear of German domestic sabotage. The president decided that the commando operation was a military matter and that they should be executed, both to satisfy the public and let the Germans know that we would not tolerate espionage.
The eight commandos were tried before a secret military commission. One of their appointed lawyers presented a writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court whom denied the motion and six of the defendants were executed. The author contends that the court was unduly influenced by President Roosevelt and they denied the defendants their most basic legal rights.
The first half of the book does an excellent job explaining how civil rights are often sacrificed in time of war. The second half is too long, although it makes some interesting points about the Bush Administration denying the basic rights of Guantanamo and other terrorist suspects.
As a youth, William Smith wondered where fossils really came from. The common belief was that God grew them in the rocks to demonstrate His omnipresence. Smith’s search for more mechanical origins gave birth to the science of geology.
“The Map that Changed the World” by Simon Winchester, chronicles Smith’s life as geology’s first hands-on scientist. Born in England in 1769, Smith came from a yeoman’s background. The diligent youth acquired the skills to become a land surveyor so as to earn a living while studying the earth’s geology. Smith was an excellent geologist but a poor businessman and eventually ended up in debtors’ prison.
But persistence paid off in the form of Smith’s series of handsome, geological maps of England that conveyed his understanding of fossils and the geological strata in which he found them. This knowledge paved the way for such greats as Richard Owen, who coined the term dinosaur, and Charles Darwin.
Simon Winchester, his own reader, does an excellent job of describing not only Smith’s life but also such things as how debtors’ prisons worked and how Smith created his maps. This book is for those interested in the history of science in its sociological context.
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