The performer cannot pronounce some pretty basic words. For example, he pronounces the first "s" in "Descartes" and "matrices" like "mattresses". Most European names were butchered. Many technical terms slaughtered. It's extremely distracting and makes the science and the story enormously hard to follow. I strongly recommend reading this book in text rather than listening to the audiobook.
The content is awesome. The reader sounds like he's narrating ghost stories: slow, breathy, and mostly just weird. Use Audible's playback speed feature and set it at 1.5x and the reader's jarring voice becomes a non-issue.
But the book is friggin' cool for anyone interested in how order arises from disorder.
The book would totally baffle me if I didn't do statistics for a living because McGrayne doesn't even give an example of how Bayes' Rule works until about halfway through the book (using the cigarettes study as an example). She merely tells us that frequentists don't like it but don't explain the underly differences between their approaches. But even with all that assumed knowledge, she doesn't talk about any of the underlying math.
Thus the book assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader for the book to be for the uninitiated but doesn't give enough information for the initiated. Who is the intended audience? I can't even tell.
Roberts's sentences can get long, but you hardly even notice because Davidson guide's the listener to the important words merely with the way he speaks. This is a special skill and augments the clarity of the writing significantly.
For an American listener, Davidson's accent is hilarious British but somehow eminently appropriate for the gravity of the subject and the erudition of the scholarship.
The main theme of the book is the "rhythms" of history. His main topic is civilization. His main lens for understanding civilization is the interplay between (political/economic/religious) power and culture, but occasionally throws in insightful tangents on topics such as scientific, artistic, or women's history. Roberts mentions important figures (and dwells on a few of his favorites) but many you would expect (e.g., Da Vinci, Madison) don't show up at all. He starts at the *beginning*, approximately 3 million years ago, and gives a very good impression of just how long man went before the first civilization, and how long civilization had been around before modern times. He holds out surprisingly long before passing judgement on anything at all (with some minor exceptions such as Aztec mass killings), making his tone reassuringly objective, which he breaks only for a moving passage on World War II.
An excellent overview, but had some drawbacks. In ancient and pre modern times, Mediterranean-centric, missing detail I would have liked on India, China, Africa, and Europe. In the modern era, often quite Eurocentric. This all balances out once the story gets to European imperialism, though I would have liked more on South America.
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