I must start out by saying that I was prompted to write this review because the two reviews on the Audible website were quite negative. I am nearly halfway through this book and I am thoroughly enjoying it. For an audio book, though, it is a bit of a difficult “read” because of the depth that the author goes to in her discussion of the subject matter.
As mentioned by one of the other reviewers, the author cites numerous experts, authors, and studies in the book. When listening to a study that the author is describing to present a point, one must focus carefully on the details to fully understand and appreciate the implications of the study and how that fits into the larger argument that the author is presenting. I must admit that with this book I find myself rewinding and reviewing the material far more often than I have with other audio books to fully understand the ideas presented. In some respects, this book might be better read than listened to in order to easily comprehend the material. But, I find it difficult to read a book while I am doing aerobic exercises, walking the dog, or cleaning the house.
Despite the difficulties cited above, this is a book that I would certainly recommend to others. I find the organization of it to be logical and the author’s presentation to be coherent and interesting. If you are curious about how we think and come to what we believe is the truth and how we deal with errors, it is certainly worth a few minutes of your time. I should also note that the author is currently writing articles on matters related to the materials in the book in Slate (on the web) which I also enjoy.
This book covers roughly the first millennium of European History. The author is a scholar of European History and it is obvious that his primary audience is fellow scholars to discuss and promote various theories concerning the migration of various peoples and cultures through that time period. If you are not a part of this audience, it can be a very difficult book to follow in an audio format.
In doing an audio book that depends so much on the changing political geography of Europe over the first millennium, the very least the author could have done is made available a PDF detailing the changing map of Europe over that time and the movements of the various ethnic groups that are central the narrative of this book. Further, an appendix detailing the various ethnic groups who are the central characters of this book would be extremely helpful. Rick Atkinson has a website for his three book series on WWII that is extremely helpful in understanding the troop movements and battles of that period. The author of this book would do well to try to develop a similar site for this book.
Anyone trying to read this book to those who do not already have a good background in this subject area would have a difficult time keeping their attention. If you don't have a good background in European geography, it is very difficult to follow and keep track of the various ethnic groups that the author describes as they make their way across Europe.
If you do purchase this book, I strongly advise that do a search on You Tube for Barbarians. There are numerous free videos that do a wonderful job of putting some flesh and warmth into this topic.
The great disappointment of this book was the focus on the minute details of the marriage of the Duke and his wife and the consternation their marriage caused in the Austrian Royal Family. While some of this was interesting, it became extremely tedious after numerous descriptions of what the Duke's wife wore to various social engagements or verbatim quotes of letters from members of the Austrian aristocracy to each other.Another disappointing aspect of the book is the lightly hidden collaboration between the authors and the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Duke and his wife to restore their reputations. The authors make a very strong argument that the behavior of Austrian Royal Family to the Duke and his wife was despicable. But I couldn't help but be put off by the decedents of the Duke and his wife seeming to cling to titles of Prince and Princess when such titles were part of the social order that permitted the mistreatment of their grandparents.The last part of the book partially makes up for these deficits when it launches into detail about the immediate events surrounding the assassination of the Duke and his wife. What I felt was left out, though, was more information about the politics in the Balkans that caused such hatred of the Duke. Why did the Eastern Orthodox Slavs hate the Catholics and Muslims? The book is very shallow in providing the reader with an understanding of why the Balkans were, and remain, an area of viscous ethnic conflict. This would have been far more interesting than digressions on the type of feathers the Duke was wearing on his hat on a certain day.
A very large portion of the time when I am listening to audio books, I am working out or walking the dog. Unfortunately, this audio book is ill suited to those types of activities. The material is interesting and well presented, but frequently too abstract when you have to compensate for frequent minor distractions. It would be best listened to with the accompanying PDF in front of you and the rewind button easily at hand to review what the author has written when he presents examples. Despite the, the book is a good listen if you are interested in probability, statistics, economics, and psychology. I will very likely borrow a written copy of the book at some time in the future to review the sections that were just too difficult for me to fully understand in the audio format.
The key problem I found was that the author frequently presents several types of statistical comparisons at once and then asks the listener to compare them. This may be simple in a written format, but in a audible format it can be very difficult, especially without a rewind or stop button easily available. As in most technical books with a little bit of depth, one often needs a little time and review to fully understand the concepts an author is presenting. Saying that does not discredit the author, but means that the listener is going to have to spend a little more time, effort, and preparation to understand what the author is sharing with the listener. Again, listening to the book with the accompanying PDF in front of me and my finger on the index button would have likely made a huge difference in my experience.
I had no idea of what was going on in 200 A.D. in the area of north Africa and southern Europe until I listened to this superb book. Hannibals exploits are absolutely amazing. I now have a much greater appreciation of how intelligent, creative, and brave people were over 2200 years ago.
Both the author and the narrator are suberb, to the point that I immediately listened to Alexander of Macedon, which they also did, after I completed this audio book. I strongly suggest that if you do listen to either of these titles that you do a web search to find some more information, especially maps, to provide a better understanding of the travels and adventures of Hannibal and Alexander.
Easterbrook has many compelling arguments that although the culture of complaint and pessimism are seductive, an optimistic and kind demeanor towards life and others is far wiser. He cites voluminous statistics concerning how things are improving and studies that demonstrate the benefits to those who follow a philosophy of optimism and compassion.
I have familiarity with some of the literature Easterbrook cites and as a whole his arguments and logic are stronger than those of the individual authors he discusses. After listening to the book, it is more difficult for me to think and act in a pessimistic fashion. This alone makes the book worthwhile
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