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Jeff

Sonoma, Ca, United States | Member Since 2012

71
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 23 reviews
  • 40 ratings
  • 442 titles in library
  • 51 purchased in 2014
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  • Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Evan Osnos
    • Narrated By Evan Osnos, George Backman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (83)
    Performance
    (73)
    Story
    (73)

    As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.

    cynthia p benson says: "Best overview of the current emerging China!"
    "The Insider's Guide to Contemporary China!!"
    Overall
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    After living in China for four years I didn't think I would learn much from this book, boy was I wrong!

    As a journalist with insider access and as a long-time China hand, Evan Osnos is uniquely qualified to share his insights on what is fast becoming the world's most dynamic country. In this work, he provides striking insights from personal interviews conducted with Chinese from all walks of life, from movers and shakers in China, like Hu Shuli, Han Han, Ai Weiwei and Li Yang, to more obscure individuals, such as nationalistic doctoral students, corrupt officials and aspiring poets moonlightling as street sweepers. At the same time, Osnos brings the listener up to date on most of the major events in China over the past 5 years and makes a solid analysis of why the country has thus far not complied with Western expectations of Democratic reform.

    For me, learning more about well-known figures like Han Han and AI Weiwei was a treat. In China, one could frequently hear conversations about Ai's conviction or Han's latest post, but rarely could I find a local who knew much else about the disidents themselves. I had no idea that Ai became a disident after the government corruption revealed by the Sichuan earthquake I was also pleased to be introduced to some I had never heard about on campus such as the editor of Caixin Hu Shuli. Now I know one more source of Chinese news when I don't feel like reading propaganda.

    It was also nice to get caught up on current events, I used to watch Chinese news every night, but only had a partial picture of what was actually going on due to censorship. Osnos filled me in on all the details I missed from the Tibet protests in 2007 to the fall of Bo Xilai last year.

    The Narrator for most of the book (which is not Osnos!) is a wonderful reader, but I can only give him 4 stars due to his unreliable Mandarin pronunciation. True, he's lightyears beyond most narrators on Audible when pronouncing Chinese propper nouns but he tended to botch the phrases throughout the book. He also didn't do well with some of the names of major characters, such as his annoying habit of pronouncing Han Han as Haan Haan. This could have been overlooked if only Han wasn't mentioned multiple times every chapter. In short, if you are a fluent Mandarin speaker this narrator's occasional mistakes may bother you a little, but otherwise he was a fantastic choice for this production.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rome and the Mediterranean Vol. 1: The Histories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Polybius
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin
    Overall
    (53)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (24)

    Polybius wrote his Histories "to find out by what means and by what political system the entire world was brought under the domination of Rome." Within the short space of about 50 years Rome went from being a provincial leader of an Italian confederacy to become the Mistress of the Mediterranean. Polybius was one of the first historians to attempt to present history as a sequence of causes and effects, based upon a careful examination of tradition and a keen scrutiny of the facts.

    Dylan says: "You have to know what your are getting into"
    "A Tragedy So much is Missing!!"
    Overall
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    Boy was this a treat! As noted, the title is misleading, rather than being a general history of the Mediteranean, this book actually concerns the events that brought the Roman Republic to its zenith--the struggle and eventual triumph of Rome over Cartharge. This work is difficult to follow without more background information, I recommend the listener first try a general introduction to Roman history, such as The History of The Roman Empire, (one of The great Courses), which also happens draws heavlily upon Polybius. With a little more info this book becomes a fantastic listen!

    Polybius recounts events from the aftermath of Alexander's conquests to the end of the Punic Wars in a style that is unmistakably modern. Polybius does tend to ramble and go off and tangents, but his analysis is based on well reasoned, logical analysis. He paints a believable picture of the Mediteranean world, free of warring Olympian gods,flying snakes, racial generalizations, tabloid gossip and so many other quirks present in the works of other ancient historians. Better yet,Polybius makes things fun by sprinkling the narrative with snarky comments about the work of other historians and poignant analysis of what history is and is not. According to Polybius, the true historian reports on the evidence he has, he doen't try to psycho-analyze historical figures, put words in their mouths or paint them as caricatures. Whats more, the true historian actually visits the historical sites in question to get a feel for the terrain and evaluate which of several accounts of events was actually feasible.If historians today followed his advice, I think us history buffs would be a lot better for it.

    The work really shines in its descriptions of the campaigns and final defeat of Hannibal. One can almost feel the awesome fear his rag-tag international army must have inspired: naked Celts decked out in gold chains, swarthy Carthaginians, seasoned African Cavalrymen, Indian elephant riders and Spanish conscripts. Its amazing the man held them together as long as he did. One other treat was the account of Archamedies using mathematical and scientific know-how to fend off waves of Roman invaders.

    Polybius succeeds in coming across as impartial, I finished the book feeling more admiration for Hannibal than for Scipio, which is an amazing feat as Polybius was basically an employee of the Scipio family.

    Charlton Griffin is a master narrator, If i could nitpick though, sometimes he comes across as unecessarily evil-sounding when the text doesn't require it.

    Sadly, while part one of this audiobook is more or less a seamless narrative, part two resembles the leftovers of a newspaper after it was used to light a beach bonfire. While many interesting tidbits do make part two worth listening to, its really quite furstrating to get involved in the narrative only to find the next four chapters are missing.

    A real qualm I had with the book was the total lack of any notes to help modern readers get their bearings. I wish footnotes had been inserted into the text at critcal points, I had no idea where most of the places or barbarian tribes were located and a short (" note, modern day Slovenia") would have been great help . In addition, the essay at the begining was far too critical and made me want to not listen to the book, they should have put it at the end or read one that was more flattering of the work.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers, Second Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Mark Skousen
    • Narrated By William Hughes
    Overall
    (83)
    Performance
    (39)
    Story
    (39)

    Here is a bold, new account of the lives and ideas of the great economists - Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and many others - all written by a top free-market economist and presented in an entertaining and persuasive style. Professor Mark Skousen tells a powerful story of economics with dozens of anecdotes of the great economic thinkers.

    Jeff says: "Don't Let the Author's Bias Scare You Away!"
    "Don't Let the Author's Bias Scare You Away!"
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    Mr Skousen brings us a solid, comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining history of modern economic thought from Adam Smith to the present day. Skousen succeeds wildly in making esoteric economic theories accesible, and draws in the reader/listener with quirky stories about each of the economists: Why did Adam Smith Burn all of his clothes? What was the story behind J.M Keynes's hand fetish? Who fathered Marx's housemaids child? These are just a few of the high points of this work.

    Admitedly, Skousen is strongy biassed towards a Neo-Classical/Austrian viewpoint, and holds some quesitonable ideas, but don't let that turn you away! The author does a great job explaining each Economists viewpoint in a clear, concise, logical way; I was even able to get a good handle on some of Marx's important formulas from Kapital while driving on the freeway. This book is that good! Skousen is very careful to completely present each Economist's bio and arguments first and only then move on to a critique on their more questionable assumptions.

    In regards to the narrator, I have no idea what the other reviewer is talking about. Hughes speaks clearly, pronounces German and French words well ans seems honestly excited in his narration. In fact, to me he seemed so excited that I initially thought it was the author narrating his own book.

    Overall, having listened to some of Sowell's audiobooks and a few of the great courses on Economics, I have to say that this is the best choice on Audible to get readers excited about Economics. Well worth the credit!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
    Overall
    (39)
    Performance
    (35)
    Story
    (35)

    For much of the past five centuries, the history of the European continent has been a history of chaos, its civilization thrown into turmoil by ferocious wars or bitter religious conflicts - sometimes in combination - that have made and remade borders, created and eliminated entire nations, and left a legacy that is still influencing our world.This 36-lecture series from an award-winning teacher and honored scholar pursues an explanation for this chaos that goes beyond the obvious ones of political ambition, religious intolerance, the pursuit of state power, or the fear of another state's aspirations.

    Jeff says: "500 Years That Shook the World"
    "500 Years That Shook the World"
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    Professor Liulevicius gives an engaging overview of 500 years of the politics that changed the course of world history. From the Holy Roman Empire, to the rise of Napolean (and his not so successful nephew) to the emergence of the United States as the dominant "European power". The professor spruces up his lectures with plenty of biographical information and historical anecdotes. Stories about Charles V's obsession with clocks or Frederick the Great's excessive coffee consumption, or even retellings of bizzare events such as the "defenestration of Prague" make the course that much more exciting. Liulevicius is obviously obsessed and his passion for diplomatic history is infectious.

    One of the new things I learned from this course was the crucial role of the ubiquitous Hapsburgs in European affairs. It seemed that behind every major turning point in European history there stood a Hapsburg; the family played a major role in events first as Holy Roman Emperors, then as kings of Spain. In addition, the French-Mexican War, the Seven Year’s War and even WWI all started or ended because of tragedy in the family.

    My only complaint is that I wish the course had been longer; treatment of WWII and the Cold War seemed a bit rushed in comparison to his recounting of prior periods. However, at 18 hours, this course is already considerably longer than many of The Great Courses, we can at least be thankful for that.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A History of the Twentieth Century

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Martin Gilbert
    • Narrated By John Curless
    Overall
    (26)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (23)

    Martin Gilbert, author of the multivolume biography of Winston Churchill and other brilliant works of history, chronicles world events year by year, from the dawn of aviation to the flourishing technology age, taking us through World War I to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as president of the United States and Hider as chancellor of Germany.

    Patricia says: "I didn't know that."
    "A Focus on the Facts with Minimal Commentary"
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    What made the experience of listening to A History of the Twentieth Century the most enjoyable?

    Getting a breakdown of events across the globe decade by decade gives the listener a unique perspective on major happenings (mostly catastrophes) of the century. After finishing this work, one can see how difficult it is for modern historians to sort through the sheer volume of information to find some thread of reason behind it all.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of the Twentieth Century?

    As I lover of world history, I was surprised to find so many critical details I had previously missed. For example, other works originally led me to think that WWI was sort of everyone's fault. 'However, after listening to a blow by blow progression of events the Kaiself himself seems to deserve most of the blame. . In addition, I had no idea that so much upheval occurred in the Soviet Union during the interwar period.


    What aspect of John Curless’s performance would you have changed?

    He kind of grows on you after a few hours, but I initially felt that he wasn't enunciating properly. He does well with pronunciation and really deserves at least 3.5 stars.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, its fairly engaging but you really should limit yourself to one decade a day. Otherwise its easy to lose focus and end up Leopold's Congo thinking that the author is still discussing Republican China.


    Any additional comments?

    I think this work should have been shortened to only focus on its strong points_ politics, international relations and war. The terse references to developments in science, art and popular culture also seemed somewhat out of place,One other thing I could have done without was the author's bizarre obsession with automobile-related fatalities for which he provides almost yearly statistics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Martin Meredith
    • Narrated By Fleet Cooper
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (46)
    Performance
    (40)
    Story
    (39)

    Martin Meredith has revised this classic history to incorporate important recent developments, including the Darfur crisis in Sudan, Robert Mugabe’s continued destructive rule in Zimbabwe, controversies over Western aid and exploitation of Africa’s resources, the growing importance and influence of China, and the democratic movement roiling the North African countries of Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan.

    Jeff says: "Africa: Land of Hope and Horror"
    "Africa: Land of Hope and Horror"
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    If you could sum up The Fate of Africa in three words, what would they be?

    Hope, dissapointment, horror


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Fate of Africa?

    The Chapters on the events in Rwanda and how they were misconstrued internationally was informative and incredibly disturbing. The level of cooperation with the genocidaires displayed by Rwandan church leaders was disgusting... an affront to religion itself. On top of all that we sent the belligerents billions of dollars in aid money.


    What three words best describe Fleet Cooper’s performance?

    Professional but forced


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Learning about the religious and demographic makeup of Nikgeria and the former Sudan makes it much easier to understand the violent conficlt that has been ravaging those countries for years. In many African states, an ethnically and culturally diverse group of people were forced to coexist within borders drawn by European imperialists. These countries were simply time bombs waiting to go off.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a great work of epic proportions. Meredith divides his history of the continent into periods beginning with the initial euphoria and hope of independence to the power plays of the Cold War era all the way up to the modern day. He focusses mostly on the personality of the leaders_Nkrumah, Haile Selasie, Nasser, Mobutu, Mugabe and Mandela to name just a few are covered extensively in the work. Meredith succeds in making The Fate of Africa into a story about human nature. The lesson that absolute power corrupts absolutely is one that many African states have learned the hard way. Because of this era/personality based approached (rather than a traditional geographical approach to history), I do think it can get confusing with all the jumping around from country to country, but one will eventually start to connect the dots and begin to see how events in one state led to changes in another. This is probably one of those books that would be easier to follow in print. One thing that helped me follow the events of the book was looking up most of these leaders online and connecting faces and maps with the story. The narrator must be commended for his comptency, Meredith's work is packed with words and phrases in various Romance languages as well as a plethora of difficult to pronounce African propper nouns. I would not have been able to even pronounce most of those words. However, I think most listeners will agree with me that many quotes in the books are read with a bit too much sarcasm. The narrator also ocassionaly slips into a lackluster imitation of an African accent when quoting African leaders. Unfortunately the prevalence of quotes in this book made this presentation annoying to listen to initially. However the story itself quickly sucked me in.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Ibn Saud: The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Michael Darlow, Barbara Bray
    • Narrated By Brian Bascle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (13)

    Ibn Saud grew to manhood living the harsh traditional life of the desert nomad, a life that had changed little since the days of Abraham. Equipped with immense physical courage, he fought and won, often with weapons and tactics not unlike those employed by the ancient Assyrians, a series of astonishing military victories over a succession of enemies much more powerful than himself. Over the same period, he transformed himself from a minor sheikh into a revered king and elder statesman, courted by world leaders such as Churchill and Roosevelt.

    Amazon Customer says: "Short-est Way to Learn about the Modern Day Saudia"
    "A Captivating Portrait of the Man and His Times"
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    What did you love best about Ibn Saud?

    This work feels like it was meant for Audible. During the several days it took me to finish listening, I never felt bogged-down by names, dates or factoids. Instead, the author gives us almost lyrical descriptions of the Arabian landscape and paints a living portrait of Ibn Saud as well as figures instrumental in his rise to power. The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes and personal details that help the reader/listener become emotionally invested in the narrative.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I was impressed by how accessible and easy to follow the narrative Was considering the vast scope of the work. Beyond covering the life of Ibn Saud, this work goes into great detail on Bedouin customs, the formation of Islam and the geopolitical climate of the era. Even though they wern't central to the story, I felt like I better understood the importance of figures such as T.E. Lawrence, Churchill and the Hashemite kings in shaping the modern Middle East after finishing this work.


    Which character – as performed by Brian Bascle – was your favorite?

    This wasn't that kind of book, but if I had to pick a favorite person portrayed in the narrative it would be Captain William Shakspear. He seemed worthy of the veneration that figures such as T.E. Lawrence were later to inspire more through publicity than by actual exploits.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, it was that good.


    Any additional comments?


    Certain passages of this work, especially of those related to Ibn Saud's personal religious beliefs and his control (or lack therof) on some of the more fanatical Wahabis in his service seemed a bit biased. But no book is perfect.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The United States and the Middle East: 1914 to 9/11

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Salim Yaqub
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (36)
    Story
    (35)

    At the dawn of World War I, the United States was only a rising power. Our reputation was relatively benign among Middle Easterners, who saw no imperial ambitions in our presence and were grateful for the educational and philanthropic services Americans provided. Yet by September 11, 2001, everything had changed. The United States had now become the unquestioned target of those bent on attacking the West for its perceived offenses against Islam. How and why did this transformation come about?

    Jeff says: "Fantastic Overview of events But Slow Narration"
    "Fantastic Overview of events But Slow Narration"
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    This course is a great introduction to anyone interested in the history of US-Middle East relations which has so shaped the world we live in today. From WWI, the resulting fall of the Ottoman empire, to the Iranian revolution, the Oslo peace failures and 9/11, Professor Salim Yaqub gives us a balanced and insightful narration of events.

    What really caught my interest in this presentation was Professor Yaqub's recounting of the reasons that lead to the Iranian revolution and the extreme feelings against Americans in the region. I was already aware that our strong support for the rather unsavory Shah was a main factor, but some of the finer details suprised me: for example, I had no idea that bad driving by our GIs resulting in ridiculous levels of death by vehicular manslaughter was one of the sparks that set off the proverbial powder keg.

    Really the one qualm that I had with this presentation was the Professor's extremely slow reading speed. Even at 1.5X speed the recording still seems to run at a pace slower than normal conversational speed. He could have gotten so much more information in 12 hours.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A History of the Arab Peoples

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Albert Hourani
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    Overall
    (199)
    Performance
    (61)
    Story
    (64)

    Despite the turmoil of Arab nationalism and fundamentalism, Middle Eastern wars, and oil crises, the history of the Arab world has been little known and poorly understood in the West. One reason may be that, for more than half a century, there has been no up-to-date single volume work that chronicles the story of Arab civilization - until now.

    Tim says: "Daunting quantity of information!"
    "Great Content, Balance, but Terrible organization"
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    Its hard not to approach Middle East studies without one bias or another, but after finishing A Concisce History of the Middle East and other titles that appeared to (forgive my bluntness) give an Islamic fundamentalist version of events in the Arab world, I was overjoyed to hear the more balanced treatment of the subject by Mr. Hourani. For example, Mr. Hourani gives us differing versions of stories surrounding the prophet's early angelic visitation, explains why many Hadiths may not be reliable accounts of Muhammads life and explores the probable links between Sufism and Eastern monasticism. All aspects that many Middle East hitories simply ignore. More importantly, the Author's ability to tie individual life stories from all over the Muslim world into the larger historical narrative made the sory so much more personable.

    While the incredible amount of information and fair perspective provided in this historical account put it far above many other availiable titles, the general organization of this book leaves much to be desired. In many chapters, the narrative without warning jumps between historical events, geographical elements, sociological analysis and philosophical discourse. I often found it almost impossible to stay involved as within 10 minutes the narrative switched from Algerian architecture to politics in Tunisia Lybia, and then morroco. This is something that A Concise history of the Middle East does much better.
    Nadia May gives a generally good narration, but it seems she caught a cold sometime during the production.

    In conclusion this is a book that requires several listens and probably a few other supplemental audiobooks on Middle East history to really understand. I think its worth the effort, but I wish the information was better organized.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Michael B. Oren
    • Narrated By Robert Whitfield
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (837)
    Performance
    (438)
    Story
    (437)

    In Israel and the West, it is called the Six Day War. In the Arab world, it is known as the June War or, simply, as "the Setback". Never has a conflict so short, unforeseen, and largely unwanted by both sides so transformed the world. The Yom Kippur War, the war in Lebanon, the Camp David accords, the controversy over Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the intifada, and the rise of Palestinian terror are all part of the outcome of those six days.

    Patrick says: "Great overview of Middle East troubles"
    "The Definitive Blow by Blow Account of This War"
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    What did you love best about Six Days of War?

    The extensive use of first-hand accounts from participants on all fronts of the war whether millitary or diplomatic was what made this audiobook great. First hand accounts of the horror experienced by the Egyptian Airforce pilots sprinting through the desert after 3/4 of their planes were suddenly destoryed, the frustration of Israeli politicians as international pressure drove them to the brink of insanity, the tragic attack on the USS LIberty, the brutal hand to hand combat on the Golan Heights . Accounts of all these events were peppered with snippets from testimonies, diaries and memoirs that helped paint a brutal and believable picture of this highly controversial confilict.


    What does Robert Whitfield bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Mr Whitefield's reading is crisp and clear, his correct pronunciation of most propper nouns also adds credibility to the story and keeps the listener from getting distracted.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The plight of King Hussein in Jordan was particularly saddening. Hussein was treated as an enemy by virtually everyone involved in the conflict despite all his attempts at reconciliation. The fact that he managed to hold his country together despite the loss of the West bank and most of his army is amazing.


    Any additional comments?

    The sheer number of people, places, and events appearing in this work made it sometimes difficult to follow the story. Although I found the details on the political powerplay that went on before and during the conflict fascinating, I often got frustrated trying to follow the blow by blow accounts of what felt like every skirmish in the war. History and millitary buffs will love this book, Anyone without a real interest in the Israeli-Arab conflict will probably feel that the story moves too slowly and that the author goes into too much detail on minor points.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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