If you enjoy 20th century history, this is a good book to pick up. Much of what we think we know about the end of WWI (and thus later 20th century history) is not always completely accurate. Prof. MacMillan breaks it all down in an engaging and clear way. This is probably one of the best audiobooks I've ever listened to. Really enjoyed it. And, I feel like I'm coming away with a much better understanding of what was to happen in later history, right up to the present day.
I confess, I didn't know who Janis Ian was when I chose the book. It was recommended by Audible. I googled her name and then decided to give the book a try. What a pleasure! I couldn't wait to listen to the next installment.
In the intervening months, I've found myself thinking of her story often -- not just for the cruelties and indignities she suffered over the years (and they are legion), but also for her willingness to keep right on living and singing in the face of it. You don't imagine a successful performer is living on next to nothing, hardly scraping by, but if Ian is to be believed, it happened to her and she kept her senses about her despite it all -- and made it through.
Ian tells her own story with warmth and honesty. You get the feeling that she's an old friend you just haven't met yet. People who know her personally must be very lucky indeed.
If you aren't among Janice Ian's friends, you can at least listen to her audiobook and come to admire the woman telling the story. I know I have.
What a delightful book! Since I finished listening to it, I've found myself thinking a lot about how interesting English actually is from a grammatical perspective and not just a lexical one.
Let me confess that I'm not coming at this as a newbie. I am fluent in French, German and Dutch in addition to English (my mother tongue) and I've studied Spanish and Scottish Gaelic. I even did reasonably well in a Junior Honors History of English class when I studied abroad in Scotland (many years ago.) I've read a lot of the classic materials on the history of English. I've even taught students the official line: the power of English lies in its ability to absorb words so easily.
McWhorter blasts through a lot of those myths with wit and charm. He does a pretty good job of pronouncing things in the European languages I speak. ( I can't speak for Danish, etc. He does hand off to a Mandarin speaker once. Probably a good move.) He has a lot to teach those of us who've been handed a story of English that, well, doesn't quite add up.
It's a short book, so I won't share here any of what I learned. You've got to hear his arguments and his evidence, then judge for yourself. I assure you, this will not be a rehash of things you already know.
I'm a scientifically-literate, liberal arts graduate (magna cum laude) and I'm not afraid of struggling with something until I understand, yet this lecture was a challenge for me. I almost gave up at one point. I'm so glad I didn't.
The instructor is engaging and enthusiastic and does his best to make the material accessible to non-specialists. At one point, he suggests going back and listening to the previous few lectures if you're feeling overwhelmed. I did and it helped. (There are times the instructor is referring to things the live audience can see. I suspect that would have made following the lectures a little easier, but it's not impossible to follow with just the audio.)
In a previous iteration of my review, I started listing all the things I learned and for the first time, I was aware of just how much I'd come away with. ( I deleted it all when I realized how meaningless it would be to someone who had not listened to the lectures yet.) Suffice it to say, this is a lecture series that requires concentration and a willingness to occasionally go back and listen again until you really get what is being said. You've also got to be willing to be a little confused: this is not intuitive stuff.
The world of physics has changed drastically since the early 20th century. If you are someone capable of an intellectual challenge, you owe it to yourself to see what it's all about. I feel like a lot of popular discussions of Quantum theory are just justifications of Post-Modernist philosophy. This lecture series is definitely not that. I found it immensely rewarding and I highly recommend it ... but, to be honest, I'm glad I've finished with it so I could listen to some less challenging material for a while.
It often feels like we have to choose between a free-market capitalism winner and centrally-planned communism, which, having lost first, is clearly the loser. Ha-Joon Chang lays out why that dichotomy is false to start with. He busts a lot of myths that seem self-evident in a world so dominated by free-market ideology.
I think in order to get anything out of this book, you've got to be willing to consider that free-market economics must be measured against the real world, just as communism was in the end, and not just against our good ideas for others and our imaginative notions about them combined with a murky knowledge of our own (Anglo-Saxon) economic history.
This is definitely a book to listen to more than once.
I got sick of this book before it was over. Near the beginning, the author explains the foundations for the kind of therapy she conducts. I found it helpful to consider that adults need reliable emotional attachment as much as children do. But once we got past the conceptual grounding, I lost interest.
I think if you need couple's therapy, then you should probably seek out a practitioner. This book might be helpful in deciding whether you'd like to try Dr. Johnson's approach. I don't think the book is a replacement for the keen listening and the feedback a real life therapist would provide.
One thing I found kind of annoying with the reading is that there are conversations between a LOT of couples. Having the narrator do men's and women's voices so often got repetitive. (The men all sounded a little like John Wayne.) I suppose it makes an audio book too expensive to produce, but I think in this situation, it would be better to hire actors to read the actual dialogues.
No doubt about it. The protagonist here is a ditz. She cannot seem to take an obvious next right action even when her life depends on it. So she makes a mess around her. If you think watching someone suffer through a self-fabricated disaster is suspenseful, this is the novel for you.
That said, I didn't give up on it before it was done. If something is really not to my liking after about an hour of listening, I always trade it in. I generally cared about the characters, even though I was never really on the edge of my seat. I think the author is probably stronger at creating characters than she is at constructing plot.
It's kind of a woman's novel. Even the mess the protagonist makes has the feeling of mothering-instincts gone awry. I'd bet some female readers would enjoy this more than most men would.
The reader did an amazing job with accents from all over the globe. Even so, I just found that I couldn't keep track of what was going on and eventually gave up. It's a really long book. After a while, it felt like I was just slogging through, not really paying attention. I have a feeling that if I had seen the names of people from India/Pakistan instead of hearing them, I might have had an easier time keeping track of them. Maybe one day I'll try again and update my evaluation.
Hawaii has always been a mystery to me, a Midwest native. The rest of Manifest Destiny seems as reasonable as spilled milk spreading over the surface of a table. But islands in the Pacific? Well, now I know a great deal more about Hawaiian history than I do about, say, Oregon history.
Sarah Vowell has the kind of voice that you either find a pleasure or you don't, I suppose. Fortunately, I do. I often don't like when authors read their own works because writing and reading aloud are not the same skills, but Vowell definitely knows how to do both. She writes with a sly sense of humor and has the timing to make it work in an audiobook. There were moments I laughed aloud.
She does an excellent job of bringing the history to life and linking it to the present with her own time spent on the island. What a great gig, huh? Write a book about Hawaiian history. Spend a couple of years there researching. I wish I'd thought of it.
So, why do I give the story only 3 stars? Well, I think much like the history of Hawaii itself, it goes out with a fizzle more than a bang. There's not much even an author of Vowell's caliber can do with the material. Those hooeys just end up taking power from the natives until there isn't much for the Polynesian natives to do but eventually go along with it, much like native Americans. The sexy story is when the natives fight back, not when they've given up, by choice or by force. It's like that in Hawaii, too. A handful of people in the present protesting that they aren't Americans is nothing compared to someone killing Captain Cook on his way back to the sailing ship.
I would hope those 3 stars wouldn't discourage anyone from choosing this book. It is beautifully written and you'll come away with a richer awareness of the history of Hawaii.
You do know all that stuff you learned about American history in school was simplified, right? And, in a certain sense, it was propaganda: a narrative intended, in this case, to give young people the feeling that they are heirs to a righteous cause, whether we were opponents of tyranny, barbaric natives, evil slave-owners, socialists, or you-name-it. We were always on the right side of history and history can be understood as an epic struggle between we good people and our evil enemies.
Furthermore, even as adults, we tend to look back on events of the past with our own understanding of what followed or the way things are now and assume that we are in a position to understand. (How many times in a given month do we hear two groups invoking the Founding Fathers, for example, drawing wildly different conclusions about what that means? Or, hear that appeasement is a terrible idea and as Chamberlain demonstrated with the Nazis, only gives the enemy time to amass strength for an inevitable conflagration?)
We don't necessarily bring any new knowledge when we draw these conclusions, but when they seem to match our beliefs about the world, we assume they must be accurate. Those mistaken conclusions (and assumptions) become difficult to let go of, even when we are presented with new opinions of working historians who find new, compelling information that contradicts us. This lecture series is for adults who are ready to let go of the storybook history in exchange for a more complex, nuanced understanding of history.
I loved this lecture series. I looked forward to the next time I could sit down and listen to one of them. Each one was full of the context I needed to understand why what I had always believed about American history may not actually be what historians, with the fullness of time, have come to believe about it. I also found the Professor's presentation enthusiastic and easy to follow. Excellent lecture series all around.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.