At times inspirational, at times cute, at times harrowing, this book will keep you company and make you smile when you are looking for that little bit of escape to somebody else's memories. No part of it is unpleasant.
Nevertheless, a few of the stories feel a bit banal, as though the respective author received a request for a submission from the editors and responded out of politeness, not because she had anything earth-shattering to share. On the same note, many of the authors are a bit too similar, in style, in story but especially in outlook. The vehicle of a letter to one's 16-year-old self also doesn't work in every case, a few stories bend over backwards to stick with it. These capable writers deserve better.
In the end, the book feels a bit like a pet project of two writers for which they recruited their friends, not something for which I need to give up time that could be spent listening to other inspiring stories - including works by the very authors who contributed to this book.
5 stars for narrator MacLeod Andrews, 3 stars for Julia Whelan. There is a distinct difference in the quality of the narration. While the female authors, read by Ms. Whelan, all sound the same (and somewhat patronizing toward their youthful self), Mr. Andrews infuses every male author with a distinctive voice of his own. They thereby break free from being a generic "person who used to be 16 and has some insights", and become a very specific adult with a very personal relationship with the 16-year-old self he is writing to. His narration clearly implies the idiosyncrasy of every bit of insight delivered. It is through his narration that the audiobook fills the space the editors must have envisioned for it - one of diverse views and stories.
The book is set up as a long series of Frequently Asked Questions - sadly, the answers don't extend beyond the typical FAQ format either. It is a very basic bird's eye view of some of the history, religious tenets and practices in Islam.
Given Professor Esposito's resume, I was hoping for a deeper and more coherent religious and sociological perspective. Instead, he remains at the very surface of belief and history.
In addition, he weaves in a steady undercurrent of perhaps necessary, but just very tired-sounding affirmations of the peacefulness of Islam and of the overwhelming majority of those who practice it. That's all well and good, and probably can't be said often enough (even within a single book), but that can't be ALL everyone needs to know about Islam? I, for one, would like to know more.
(Perhaps this is just not meant to be an audiobook... the questions do not build on each other very much, so a lot of information is repeated in various spots. Maybe a good book to have on the shelf for the odd Islam question that might come up, not a very satisfying listen though.)
Jim Norton takes this classic to a new level. It's a pleasure, likely even a welcome aid in understanding to first-time readers and an exquisite, enriching new experience to those who are well familiar with the text. Think of this audiobook as performance rather than mere narration - much like reading Hamlet will not keep you from enjoying it on stage, prior study of Ulysses does not make this audiobook any less worthwhile (quite the opposite).
At its most basic, The Feminine Mystique read today is a reminder of how fundamentally our society has changed in two short generations, how many perspectives, mindsets and ambitions we take for granted today that might have been deemed actually harmful or even dangerous only sixty years ago. (Of course, it is equally stunning how many of the questions Friedan poses remain open today, though that is more general knowledge.)
Sadly, the narration is not up to par. I wish they had chosen a professional narrator instead of a celebrity. Ms. Posey's voice lacks inflection and is often too casual. A few odd direction/editing choices don't help either.
No matter how often you have read the book, watched the movie, seen the musical - your "The Color Purple" experience and appreciation cannot be complete until you have listened to Alice Walker narrate her own work. The skill with which she captures her characters and their times and the subtlety with which she conveys the changes that define them, make this performance a work of art in its own right. The novel got under my skin all over again.
For linguists, I am sure this is well worth the five hours - for me, it was tough to get through. McWhorter digs deep into a large variety of old European languages and nuances of vocabulary and grammar that go well beyond what I was looking for.
The narration by the author is a huge bonus though because pronunciation of so many very foreign or old words is crucial, I doubt another narrator could have performed this nearly as well. His occasional laughs at his own jokes are unnecessary, but forgivable.
This book goes far beyond what we generally learn about what America looked like "under the hood," especially around Independence, and provides insightful cultural explanations for so many of the inconsistencies and conflicts that plague us today.
Woodard backs up the lines he draws among the various groups of early immigrants with so much background and so many interesting facts that I have been able to impress even astute students of American history with this book. In his persuasive view, our many modern divisions are the harvest of seeds sown long before the Constitution (about which I also learned some surprising facts). The seeds include not only religion and slavery, but fundamentally different views on freedom, wealth and democracy, and even very different experiences as colonies. The differences between New Englanders and New Yorkers, the cultural nuances among the Western states, the kinship between the Coasts, even the regional differences in unionization make infinitely more sense after listening to American Nations.
If you have any interest in how the patchwork that is America came into being, you will devour this book.
Walter Dixon's occasional use of regional or foreign accents are misplaced and sometimes borderline offensive, especially as none of the 17th and 18th century persons he narrates with a neutral accent would sound neutral to modern ears either. He is such an outstanding, funny, intelligent character narrator in fiction, non-fiction just seems to be a waste of his talents.
What distinguishes this book from others is its first-person perspective - on occasion, you realize that the guy talking to you is, in fact, a psychopath. With the behavior, the narcissism and the expectations of one.
That he can explain the workings of the brain as an expert provides a valuable theoretical backdrop. But this book stands out because we start out rooting for the author because we are embarking on a personal journey with him, until his choices leave us disappointed over and over again - just like we are dealing with a psychopath.
If you are interested in the subject matter, do not miss this book.
If you enjoyed Freakonomics/SuperFreakonmics, definitely get Think Like a Freak - it is an update with exciting new stories. I wouldn't call it a guide to a different type of thinking any more than those first two books, but they did a pretty good job getting us all out of the box already. An exciting, interesting new listen.
If you are a listener of the Freaknomics podcasts, this will feel less like an audiobook and more like a long podcast because it is read by Stephen Dubner (which is in no way a negative!). Some of the facts and figures also won't be new to you. The length of the audiobook also includes three podcast episodes at the end which you may well be familiar with.
(Given that subscribing to the podcast is free though, I nevertheless feel good about the price of the audiobook.)
Dog Chet tells this story with so much humor and wide-eyed wonder, you can't help but love every minute of it. As he doesn't quite understand everything going on around him and can't communicate his own findings, the human hero and the reader have the perfect amount of information asymmetry to keep things suspenseful. And did I mention how ridiculously charming Chet is?
The narrator is absolutely outstanding. Chet's confidence, his naivete, his ego and his all over adorable dogness sparke throughout the book, I couldn't tell you if I smiled more at the writing or the narration. They are a perfect combination.
My first of the series, absolutely works as a standalone.
THE essential spy novel - no gadgets, no contrived international plots, just a cocky young spy in love with the lifestyle, keener on the gambling than on his license to kill. Until he learns the hard way that he can't have it all, and becomes the James Bond we know and love. His evolution at the very end of the book is honest and incontrovertible. We're right there with him, poised for his next adventures to start.
This book will NOT ruin the movie for you or vice versa. It has actually heightened my appreciation of the film, which I now understand as a coherently updated version of the same coming-of-age-as-a-spy story. The original Bond is very much a 1953 spy, Daniel Craig is very much not.
Just one note of warning, this 1953 spy novel is also unapologetically racist and misogynist. Take it as a charming time capsule, take it as terribly offensive, just know it's there.
(And on the narration - Simon Vance is incredible! You can practically feel the martini and champagne in his soul here. By sheer coincidence I listened to another book of his right before this and can't believe that this man seems equally destined to read James Bond as Winnie the Pooh!)
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