Outliers has many interesting statistical anecdotes sprinkled throughout, to be sure. My interest was held. But at its core, the book's central theme is simply "successful people are aided in their success by their families, culture, education and other chance factors. They could not have done it alone." This is not exactly a particularly profound revelation. Gladwell repeatedly asserts that most people think Bill Gates-type successes are simply due to that person's raw talent and little else. But is that really the case? Does anybody really think Bill Gates could have achieved what he did had he been born in Botswana, for example? What's more, while crediting these outside factors with making these "outliers" possible, he fails to note that in almost every case, hundreds if not thousands or even more other people had virtually identical birth situations, yet failed to achieve greatness. Gladwell's goal seems to be an attempt to take the shine off of society's great success stories by, in effect, claiming they just got lucky. But I think the formula for producing an outlier is more complex than that. Too often in this book, Gladwell seems to be profoundly stating the obvious.
Gladwell's narration of his own work is generally skillful and an easy listen.
Maybe the printed version of this book has a lot of great diagrams that explain some of the really mind (and space?) bending concepts in this book, but unfortunately most of it was completely unfathomable to me in audiobook format. While I did pick up a few tidbits, I can't recommend this audiobook. If you're a Hawking/astrophysics fan, go for the printed version.
While many pro narrators (i.e. the phenomenal Simon Vance) do character voices much better than Neil does, there's a special sense of authenticity when the author does his own work. You know you're getting exactly what he wanted! Neil's narration is extremely good, particular his sense of pacing, and the soft character of his voice. The story is also pure Gaiman, and fun blend of the quaint, and the mysterious. A very enjoyable, if not too deep, five hours or so.
Orson Scott Card, now infamous as a Mormon zealot and anti-marriage equality bigot, seems to be simply borrowing the Ender "branding" for this novel, which has little or nothing to do with Ender's Game. Incredibly slow-paced and filled with preposterous stuff about religious missionaries running colonies on alien worlds, it manages to pull out a bit in the last quarter with admittedly interesting relevations about the "piggies." I've read plenty of far more interesting science-fiction, including from Mr. Card himself.
The narration strategy is absolutely crazy, with something like seven or eight different talents chiming in at various points. For the most part they're all quite good, but I completely fail to see the point of having so many people involved in the work, especially if you're not going to assign them to specific characters. So three stars for the performances, but only one star for the production of the audio.
Like Kinsey before them, Masters and Johnson were truly groundbreaking, and took enormous professional (and personal) risks to move their work forward. But the book, while extolling the virtues of opening up the country's thinking about sex, succumbs to good ol' tabloid-esque sex expose writing in the latter third as it strives to show off Masters' personal-life failings. It's still worth a read, if you're interested in their revolutionary work.
The narration is solidly second-rate. While the narrator's overall style and voice characteristics are fine, she tragically mispronounces a number of words, which is as much the fault of the director as her. There are segments where she also seems fatigued, and doesn't put as much care into her reading as the earlier bits. That Ms Barton has no other reading credits on Audible is telling.
Tokien and the Hobbit are wonderful, and there's nothing I can say that hasn't already been written. However, Audible.com deserves scorn for the blatant money-grab move of splitting this into two parts just prior to the release of the new movie.
Rothfuss narrative style takes a little getting used to, but once you latch onto it, you'll be treated well. The dual timeline narrative, structured as characters in the present recalling the past, seems gimmicky and the author himself almost drops it completely about halfway through the novel. But the actual story itself is unique and compelling and I look forward to reading the second book.
Degas' narration is astounding! I can think of no narrator who comes even close to him for raw skill with character voices. Sometimes I had trouble believing it was the same man doing the reading!
Now I know why Steve Jobs asked Walter Isaacson to write his biography! I had always wanted to learn more about Einstein, and I don't think you could do a better job of putting a face and heart on the man who changed science than this work. Couple this with Edward Herrmann -- easily one of the best non-fiction narrators alive -- and you have a classic work highly recommendable to anybody who wants to round out their knowledge of one of history's most important figures.
If you're a fan of Roger Ebert -- and I most certainly am one -- you may wish to start your reading of this book at chapter 20. All the previous essays (that's how this book is structured; not as a timeline narrative of his life, but a collection of essays on topics from his life) focus on his family life and youth, and offer nothing of much relevance to understanding Roger the man, or why he became such a great critic. I found it a chore to power through and get to the far meatier second half. Of course, if information about his relatives' cooking skills, or that people he lived with in South Africa had a cute dog and other such personal minutiae are your thing, then by all means dive in.
The task is made easier by Edward Herrmann, the narrator, who is simply superb; probably some of the best work I've enjoyed on Audible outside of Simon Vance's accomplishments.
Even in the second half of the book, I was left wanting for more. We learn that Roger never desired to be a movie critic, that the job was just handed to him. But he offers no insight into how he thought and worked to turn himself into one of America's finest despite having no initial lust for the task. His discussion of Gene Siskel, too, is unfortunately shallow despite that partner being perhaps the one human being we most closely associate with Roger.
We do get entertaining chapters about his associations with several different Hollywood stars, e.g., John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and more, but this is basically classy gossip, and reveals nothing about Roger Ebert, except that he's met some famous people.
Perhaps the most revealing and touching sections were the two poignant chapters about his wife, Chaz, who was a complete enigma to me prior to reading this.
So Roger, please go back and tell us what it was like to be a movie critic!
You're certainly not going to want to attempt this if you're not a science-fiction fan, but you must do it if you are. I'm not sure why Kubrick felt he had to make the final 15 minutes of the movie so muddled and inaccessible; Clarke's vision for what took place is clear and easy to understand as presented here. I almost wish somebody would remake the film, or at least the last 15 mins.
Dick Hill -- who I'd only heard previously once doing Easy Riders, Raging Bulls -- does a great job with this material, displaying a depth I didn't know he had.
Science-Fiction is cluttered with "first contact" stories and this is one of the better ones, exploring man's interaction with a species very, very different from man (but ultimately frustratingly similar in some ways). The cultural norms seen in the humans in this book are quaintly dated from the late 1960s it would seem (the relatively non-equality of women), but it's easy to look over. The book has a few great action sequences, but the end is a bit quiet.
Mr. Ganser's performance is only passable. I've become jaded by the great narrators like Simon Vance who can do a number of character voices making it easy to keep track of who is doing the talking, but that's not the case here, unfortunately.
Recommended for established sci-fi fans. Newcomers to the genre will probably not have a lot of fun.
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