Having just completed listening to the Audible.com version of this work, I can’t say enough good about either the quality of the book or the quality of the reader. Amazing to me that in the books 1200 plus pages, my interest in the narrative never flagged.Lion is more than a biography; it’s also a detailed history of the Second World War. While listening to Lion, I have been reading No Ordinary Time (Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1995) , which covers roughly the same time and the same characters. I’m enjoying Time, but it doesn’t compare favorably with Manchester-Reid’s book. Surely part of the charm has been the reading. When speaking Churchill’s words, Nelson Runger sounds like Churchill—all you’re missing is the static.
I can’t help speculating that the publishers made a conscious decision to include in the biography a great deal of peripheral information about the war and the times that Churchill lived in. The only instance I recall in which the authors refrained from inclusion was in following into the future the creation of the European Union—an objective that the great man had in view decades before its birth.
Finally, and perhaps because this period of time—the war years—were so dramatic, I thought this volume far surpassed in engaging my attention and capturing my imagination the earlier two Manchester volumes on Churchill’s life. Indeed, I next will listen to yet another Churchill biography in the hope that it can approach the quality of this one.
Have you had the experience of reading Dickens’s Oliver Twist and then watching a two-hour theater production of it? If you have, you may recall thinking, "Gee, everything is happening so fast!" You’ll get the same feeling if you’ve read Manchester and Reid on the life of Churchill and then found yourself reading Keegan’s book. "Gee, everything is happening so fast!" To give you a feel for the speed of the thing, notice that years 1941 through 1945 are covered in a single chapter of 20 pages.
I didn't read the book; rather, I listened to it. The reader, Richard Matthews, did a good job, although, not (in my opinion) the job Clive Chafer, the reader of the third volume of the The Last Lion, did. Chafer was a hard act to follow.
If you’re looking for a brief overview of Churchill’s war years, this might be the book for you. Having just read the Manchester-Reid volume, Keegan’s book, but for its final chapter (“Apotheosis”) felt like a waste of time. That last chapter, though, was well worth the price of the book. Essentially, it was analysis of the extent to which we ought to admire Churchill. The author concluded that he was indeed worthy of the greatest admiration; most anyone familiar with the great man is sure to agree.
Blind Watchmaker was read by the author and his spouse—wonderful readers both. The book appealed to me because I had enjoyed The God Delusion and hoped for a similarly enjoyable and educational experience. I had also read The Selfish Gene, which seemed to me harder to read than Delusion. Watchmaker turned out to more like Selfish than Delusion. All good books, but if you don’t come to Watchmaker and Selfish with a burning desire to understand Darwin, you may, by the end of your reading, grow numb, as I did, with the details.
By way of pointing out the elements I found most enjoyable in Watchmaker:
1) The author’s reasoning skills are impressive. He has thought and researched deeply about every subject presented. Dawkins plainly announces that he means to convince his reader that Darwinian evolution presents the only rational explanation of the world’s complexity. Dawkins is anything but dispassionate.
2) Dawkins often presents a view of things that seems to me non-intuitive, yet correct. A brief example: He states that cheetahs are the enemies of gazelles and that gazelles are the enemies of cheetahs. My reaction is, No they’re not. Gazelles don’t hunt cheetahs! Dawkins goes on to say that, from the point of view of the cheetah, if the gazelle can out run the cheetah, the cheetah starves to death. The success of the gazelle, therefore, brings about the extinction of the cheetah, which is the cheetah’s definition of “enemy.” Another: Are cows the enemy of grass? Well, yes, I suppose. In fact, no. Grass has a more formidable enemy than cows—weeds are that enemy. Cows eat grass, but also eat weeds. Voila. I hadn’t thought of that. And on and on.
3 The description of a bat’s ability to hunt and navigate is worth the price of the book. And then Dawkins postulates humans from the bat’s point of view. Almost laugh-out-loud funny.
I read Delusion when it was first published in 2008—the first of his books I had read. Perhaps it too had its more detailed elements, now not recalled, elements that I might have found tiresome—not that the fault was with Dawkins, but rather with a reader, not so interested in the details as he might or should be.
So, a very good book, although not one to be enjoyed in its entirety with a merely passing interest in evolution.
Blink was an ideal choice for an audio book. Although it presents a central theme—the exploration of thought before consciousness of thought—the episodes of the book are virtually discrete. The reader encounters an ancient item of sculpture that tests well, but that a handful of experts know at a glance is a copy; gamblers who know, before they can say why, that one deck of cards rather than another contains bad news; a fireman who senses that the conflagration he is sent to extinguish is not in the kitchen, as it appears to be, but rather hidden in the basement; a psychologist who predicts with near perfect accuracy on the basis of mere minutes of overheard conversation at the next table, that the marriage between the speakers will not survive. I don’t recall a book that, so often, imparted so many ideas that I had either not thought of or had thought of inaccurately.
Which isn’t to say that I believed everything I read. In isolated instances, I wondered if all relevant causes of a given phenomenon had been explored; yet, for the most part, I enjoyed lots of how-about-that moments.
The explanation of non-intuitive causes.
Easy to follow.
The music was annoying and insulting. I didn't need music to tell me that the author was summing up or drawing conclusions. Yuk!
People who believe everything they think.
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