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Ben ji

BELLINGHAM, WA, United States | Member Since 2010

  • 26 reviews
  • 90 ratings
  • 271 titles in library
  • 6 purchased in 2015

  • Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Lars Brownworth
    • Narrated By Lars Brownworth

    In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell - or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another 11 centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire's existence.

    Cinders says: "Just a delight for anyone interested in history !"
    "Brilliant History"

    History is one of those things that an Audible Book really makes come alive. This book is one of the best. The author and narrator has a great grasp of the historical sequence of events and presents them in a way that is both fascinating and entertaining.

    In high school, I hated history with its emphasis on dates and events. If only history texts were written like this. The individuals come alive and their actions are both fascinating and horrifying. The book is especially strong when it comes to presenting the political realities of the time and explaining how they propelled events forward.

    After listening to this book, I have a much greater understanding of how we got here and why the world is the way it is. It is also, in a larger sense, a cautionary tale. Our leaders are as misguided now as the rulers were back then (with the exception of the frequent murder of competing family members).

    Every book we listen to is an investment of time. This one gives a lot back. Well worth every minute.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Inferno: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Dan Brown
    • Narrated By Paul Michael
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust...before the world is irrevocably altered.

    Cidney says: "I Guess Dan Brown Never Read “Children of Men”..."
    "Dan Brown doing what Dan Brown does"
    What did you love best about Inferno?

    This is a gripping story that combines modern thriller/chase themes with the history of Italy and the plague. The story is thoroughly engaging with characters that you grow to care about. You always want to know what happens next, and after that, and after that. I found my self listening for hours at a time...usually when I should have been sleeping.

    Mr. Brown writes beautifully about history and his ability to blend the ancient and modern is incredible (having avoided it in high school, I am now determined to read Dante's Inferno).

    Perhaps, it is good to remember that this is entertainment not literature. There are some twists and turns that sometimes seem a bit strained and facile. The ending is emotionally engaging but strains credulity.

    On the other hand, who cares. This was a ton of fun. Highly recommended.

    What other book might you compare Inferno to and why?

    Obviously, anything else by Dan Brown. He has a style that is consistent and consistently interesting. Reading "Justinian's Flea" would give the reader a valuable background on the fascinating history of the plague. And of course, Dante's Inferno would be great as well.

    Which character – as performed by Paul Michael – was your favorite?

    Sienna - a wonderfully complex character was rendered with skill and tenderness.

    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The scene in the underground cistern.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Narrated By Joe Ochman

    In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.

    Liz says: "big fan but what is up with the bleeps?"
    "Changes your way of seeing the world"
    If you could sum up Antifragile in three words, what would they be?

    Innovative, fascinating, life-changing

    What other book might you compare Antifragile to and why?

    Freakonomics - because they both challenge our view of the world and show how what we think might be true, frequently isn't.

    What does Joe Ochman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His style is unusual although well matched to the book. I enjoyed it and as with the best Audible books, the experience of listening to the book has far more impact than reading the book.

    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    That chaos breeds flexibility.

    Any additional comments?

    I listened to this book 4-5 months ago and I find myself still thinking about it. There is a lot of very profound insight here and it is a book that I will re-listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By David Graeber
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner

    Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems - to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods - that is, long before the invention of coins or cash.

    Chad says: "There's nothing here but a very long angry rant"
    "Who knew debt could be so interesting"
    What made the experience of listening to Debt the most enjoyable?

    While I am all too familiar with the experience of being in debt, I had no idea that the history of debt was so rich and varied. He presented the concept of debt and then showed how it changed over time while both reflecting and influencing politics, the military, and social order.

    This is one of those books that will change the way you view history. There are wonderful insights here and an immense span of history is presented with clarity and humor.

    What was one of the most memorable moments of Debt?

    I particularly enjoyed learning about the way cultures have gone back and forth between systems that relied on barter and coinage. There is a fascinating relationship between slavery, mining, and a financial system that relied on coins. Brilliant.

    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    Very steady and listenable. Just the right presentation.

    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    That the middle ages were more diverse than I expected and that they were a factor in India as well.

    Any additional comments?

    This is a long book, but the thoroughness with which the author presents his subject is wonderful. It never gets tedious and every chapter presents something new that I had never considered before. Well worth the time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By William Rosen
    • Narrated By Barrett Whitener

    The emperor Justinian reunified Rome's fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals. At his capital in Constantinople, he built the world's most beautiful building, married the most powerful empress, and wrote the empire's most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome's fortunes for the next five hundred years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed 5,000 people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.

    joan says: "More history than Disease"

    This is an insightful and entertaining history of the plague mixed with an insightful telling of the history of Justinian. I think of it as the unexpected intersection of biology and politics. Both are covered in fascinating and always entertaining detail. The author has clearly mastered his subject and he relates his insights with ease and wit.

    This is one of those books that I mark as a must to re-listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - but Some Don't

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Nate Silver
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger - all by the time he was 30. The New York Times now publishes, where Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters. Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data.

    Scott Fabel says: "Learn About Statistics Without All The Math"
    "Not just statistics"

    I became aware of Nate Silver during the last election and was amazed at his sensible, no nonsense approach to polling. I had expected this book to be technical and statistics oriented, but it turned out to be a particularly fascinating insight into his life, how he got to where he is now, and of course a lot of explanations about statistics, how they work, and how things can so easily go wrong.

    It was a great listen. His style of writing is excellent and he tells a good story. Well worth the time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Bee Wilson
    • Narrated By Alison Larkin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Since prehistory, humans have braved the business ends of knives, scrapers, and mashers, all in the name of creating something delicious - or at least edible. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer and historian Bee Wilson traces the ancient lineage of our modern culinary tools, revealing the startling history of objects we often take for granted. Charting the evolution of technologies from the knife and fork to the gas range and the sous-vide cooker, Wilson offers unprecedented insights.

    Amazon Customer says: "Intriguing history of everyday utensils"
    "What fun..."

    A charming book that tells the history of what we eat through the tools we use to prepare it. The book is written with great charm and good humor and the narration is just right.

    History is most often told through politics and commerce. This is history of a different sort, told through the kitchen.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • A History of the World in 6 Glasses

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Tom Standage
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period. A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola.

    Stoker says: "Fun and Informative"
    "An amazing perspective on world history"

    There is a brilliant insight here...the history of the world as seen through the sorts of drinks that predominate in each time; beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, and Coke. It is a story that is absolutely fascinating and wonderfully told.

    This is just the sort of book that relaxes you - interesting, new, original, insightful....I could go on, but if you have a notion to listen to this one, just do it. You won't be disappointed.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Stephen T. Asma
    • Narrated By Tom Pile

    There have been a lot of books that have made the case for Buddhism. What makes this book fresh and exciting is Asma's iconoclasm, irreverence, and hardheaded approach to the subject. He is distressed that much of what passes for Buddhism is really little more than "New Age mush." He loudly asserts that it is time to "take the California out of Buddhism." And he presents a spiritual practice that does not require a belief in creeds or dogma.

    Adrian Lucas says: "Buddhism for the real world"
    "Superb presentation of Buddhism in a modern world"

    This book is exceptionally well written. The author takes a vast and complex subject and presents it in a way that is both fun and interesting. The author tells his story and gives his insights with humor and charm, always taking great care not to be preachy or dogmatic. Although the narration was a bit breathless and some pronunciation suspect, the book is enjoyable to listen to and I found myself staying up on more than one occasion to listen to just one more chapter.

    Buddhism is presented as being eminently practical for our modern world. Perhaps unique among religions this is one which makes pretty good intellectual sense. Partly that is due to the skill of the author and the thoroughness with which he has mastered his topic.

    If I have a criticism it is that, in my opinion as a lifelong Hindu, he misinterprets, and misunderstands the nature of karma, the evolution of the soul and the importance of mystical experience. That may sound harsh, but it should be a positive reason to read this book. His eloquent arguments get you thinking and in the process you end up with greater clarity about how you feel.

    Absolutely one of the best books on Buddhism out there.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Simon Winchester
    • Narrated By Simon Winchester

    In 1793, William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology on its head. While surveying the route for a canal near Bath, he noticed that the fossils found in one layer of the rocks he was excavating were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following these fossils one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped, rose and fell, clear across England and clear across the world.

    Jody R. Nathan says: "Who knew rocks could be so deceptive?"
    "An amazing book!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Map That Changed the World the most enjoyable?

    Who would have suspected that a book telling the story of the birth of geology as a science in England would be so fascinating and full of intrigue and drama! This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, well written and beautifully presented. Clearly the author has a feel for the subject matter and presents it with charm and style.

    What other book might you compare The Map That Changed the World to and why?

    If you like history and science, just about anything that answers the question; how did this get started will do. Audible science offerings are full of books like this.

    Which character – as performed by Simon Winchester – was your favorite?

    William Smith of course!

    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes in terms of being able to maintain my interest. But I found myself listening to some chapters over just to enjoy the story and writing more.

    Any additional comments?

    I suppose it takes a certain leap of faith to listen to a book about geology. But really...this is good stuff. Interesting and even exciting.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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