Yes, there were so many details about even the most minor characters that The Iliad should probably be listened two at least twice.
The aspect that I liked most about the story is the author's attention to heroes on both sides of the battle and his depiction of the heart wrenching side of war. Instead of just saying that so and so's spear smashed into such and such's head, there is often a good paragraph of information about the victim. For example, Homer tells us how the man is a loving father, the husband of a noble wife, the only son of upstanding parents, or how he always treated travelers well etc. and then ends with an incredibly gruesome description of him clawing in a pool of his own blood. The listener/reader finds himself pitying the fallen men on both sides and getting (I think) a truer picture of how horrible war really is. In addition, the Greek gods as portrayed in The Iliad are absolutely hillarious. While all the mortals below simply assume that the gods have a plan and their best intrests in heart they are woefully mistaken. Apollo is a total jerk, Ares the god of war isn’t that great in battle, Hera is a foolish blabbermouth and Zeus is the most promiscuous male in heaven or earth. Instead of being holy and wise, all the actions of the gods show them to be selfish, arbitrary and fickle, doing more harm them good to both the Greeks and Trojans.
Zeus is letting the Trojans win the war and Hera cant take it, so she seduces him to give the other gods a chance to sneak off and help the Greeks. Poseidon goes off to demolish the Trojans while Zeus and Hera go to bed, but not before Zeus tells her how much more beautiful she is then all the mortal women he cheated on her with, listing off all their qualities.
Stanley Lombardo does an excellent reading of his translation and Susan Sarandon's summaries of events at the beginning of each book (chapter) are helpful.
Hope, dissapointment, horror
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.
Professional but forced
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, it was that good.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Professor Brier is obviously obsessed with Egypt and everything related to it. His passion for the subject will rub off on you and makes this course so exciting that you won't want to stop listening. His description of the process of human mumification, which he himself has ACTUALLY PERFORMED is probably the highlight of this course.... even if it does make one a bit queasy.
My favorite Pharoh as related by Professor Brier was probably Ramses the Great, His youthful bravado, monument building and mysterious midlife crisis (which according to Prof Brier may have been related to the exodus) made the story of his life one of the more fascinating sets of lectures included in this course.
One thing that did worry me slightly during this course was tendency of Professor Brier to expound his own personal theories as opposed to strictly analyzing historical documents or archaeological evidence. However, I'm sure most listeners would agree that his theories are generally both captivating and logically sound.
One important point that he stresses is that the Egyptians had a tradition of excluding negative events from their official records. Thus, we can't expect to find wall paintings depicting the Israelite exodus or millitary defeats. This doesn't mean that these events didn't happen. Additionally, Thousands of years separate us from the ancient Egyptians and papyrus doesn't keep well. In all, we can't expect to be completely certain about every aspect of ancient Egyptian life but Professor Brier has given us a thoroughly belivable picture.
Taliban is definetely an audiobook that demands at least two listens. Its easy to get lost with all the places people and events that are discussed in this work. I almost felt like I needed a detailed map of Central Asia in my hand to grasp what the author was trying to convey.
Is this really Wanda McCaddon? Why does she sound exactly like Nadia May? Anyway, whoever the narrator was she did a fantastic job. She has obviously spent a considerable amount of time learning how to correctly pronounce Arabic and Turkik propper nouns. Her professional and journalistic tone also added much to this presentation. My only complaint was that she tended to brutalize pronunciation of the few Chinese place names mentioned in this book, a very minor flaw.
This book was published in the year before 9/11, so its already quite dated considering everything that's transpired in the Middle East and Central Asia since then. That being said Mr Rashid's warnings about the coming era of international terrorism as a consequence of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan seem almost prophetic. Looking back, if we hadn't been so concerned with keeping Iran and Russia in check at all costs， and had instead taken good care of the people that WON THE COLD WAR FOR US the Taliban probably wouldn't have been able to come to power and Osama Bin Laden and others like him wouldn't have had a haven to run to.
It was really intersting to learn about the humble beginnings of the movement as well has how Taliban doctrine differes from other Islamic sects. The detailed history of Central Asia was also informative. It seems cruelly ironic that a group of Afghans born, raised and imbued with radical Islam in Pakistan, would return to conquer and rule their ancestrial homeland, a place they didn't really understand.
The apendix at the end which included original translations of Taliban decrees was a priceless resource. The original interviews and with players on all sides of the pre-2001 Afghanistan conflict also provided great insight. This is definetely a book with years of field experience behind it and is an excellent tool to understanding area polics even today.
Yes, the research that went into this book and the details provided are astounding. Any history afficianado will want to give this a few listens.
I found the book informative, entertaining and well-researched. Mr Weatherford makes an interesting point in the connections he draws between Mongol policies and modern practices. I plan to listen to it again in the near future. However, while Mr. Weatherford shows an extensive knowledge of Mongolian history language and culture he shows weaknesess in other areas. For example, he makes the bizarre claim that China was not a unified country before the Yuan dynasty, he bases this statement on the fact that China has many dialects. This is true even today! Many spoken languages existing within the borders of one country does not mean that a county isnt unified. Any student of Chinese history knows that China was a unified country over a millenium before the Mongols came. Mr Weatherford also glosses over the racial caste system and mass genocide of Southern Chinese civilians enacted by the Yuan rulers.The author also apparantly has a bone to pick with Christianity and repeatedly fails to distinguish the attrocities comitted by misguided zealots from a relgion that originally promoted love and equality. At the same time, he fails to condemn evils comitted in the name of Islam or Buddhism. in a similar way . No book is perfect.
While sometimes reading more like a rennasance manual on field tactics than a phillosophical treatment on the subject, The Art of War fills in the gaps for those who wish to understand more about the world that sparked Machiavelli's ideas in The Prince. Why did he hate mercenaries so much? What were the historical stories (or antecdotes) that were behind his political policies? What was his view as an experienced millitary man about the rising importance of firearms in battle?
The narrator does a pretty good job on all the characters (the book is arranged as a Socratic dialogue) and also includes two long-winded and somewhat controversial essays before and after the book. I feel listening to the essays helped me understand the book better. However, despite any evidence to support this claim, the writer of these essays tends to go off on sensationlist tangents about how the real enemy Machiavelli was fighting against was Christianity. That and maybe the overly- detailed army camp and formation plans were really my only complaints with the book. In conclusion, read The Prince first, if your still interested, listen to this next.
Augustine's personal accounts of his struggles with desire and his coming to the faith have wonderful lessons for any Christian protestant or catholic.
To tell the truth I've attempted several times to sit down and read The Confessions, but always found myself unable to process the language. Mr Vance actually succeeds in making the language sound natural and easy to follow. I found myself easily comprehending and actually enjoying this archaic language. Fantastic performance!
Augustine isn't shy about sharing his heart with the reader, I found myself sympathizing with him, even crying sometimes as his accounts inspired remembrances of my own failures.
The Confessions, in addition to being an account of Augustine's life and conversion, is also at times a philosophical treatise. Because of this, some parts may be difficult to follow while driving.
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