I am someone who has read dozens of books on other cultures and necessarily their religious practices, and done extensive studies into the Abrahamic traditions. I also realize fully the integral role Christianity played in Medieval Europe. But I am an atheist, and the obvious and overwhelming bias in favor of the church, enormous amount of the book spent discussing the minutiae of the church, and the value judgement inherent in the frequently used terms "sins of the flesh" and such made for an uncomfortable reading experience. At one point Paxton even mentioned taking care to "tread lightly" as after all the figure in question was a saint. I'm sorry, but that absolutely should not matter in the objective academic discussion of events and deeds. Even Ghandi can be, should be, and is criticized by rational adults. Other Great Courses featured professors who treated religion in terms of historicity, and this personally would have made for a much improved experience.
This aside, the information was interesting, the lives were memorable individually, and I appreciate my deeper understanding of the greater geopolitical context. I would have loved if the topics could have been delved into more deeply.
Not the best Great Course but a decent primer.
For anyone educating themselves in history, this book as a great source of historical context, and a wonderful illumination of the threads that connect the past with today.
Allitt could go a little too far into details, dates, and specifics at times, information that no one but real enthusiasts will easily remember, and my mind would start to wander. However, I thought I had, as I think most people do, a reasonable grasp of the industrial revolution, and this course enlightened me to quite a lot of new insights.
It was fascinating to hear the revolution split and contrasted by region, Britain versus the United States, and again versus India and China. What was also very insightful was the the course carried on much longer than I had anticipated, from wrought iron to microchips, drawing a continuity between two revolutions that I'd never considered. Attill does well in demonstrating the importance of certain tiny elements, like standardized threads on screws, to the workings of the whole industrial machine. The information was also quite holistic, illustrating many different factors from cultural attitudes in antiquity to geopolitics.
Allit is clearly an advocate of industrialization, and makes a number of provocative anthropologically based arguments, but does not flinch from the hardships and controversies.
All in all, while this course could occasionally stray into droning, I would recommend it. It taught me much about something I thought I knew, and definitely enriched and deepened my understanding of history and the world today.
As the title indicates, this is unequivocally one of the best listens I've ever had the delight of finding here on Audible!
Knowing a thing or two about anthropology, I had one or two very minor quibbles with one detail or another, (specifically whether pre-Neolithic Revolution life was characterized by fear and suffering, where fossil evidence shows the rampant rise of malnutrition and disease afterwards indicating a lower quality of life for several millennia) but there are always debates in this field. These are, however, far, far, over shadowed by Garland's profound humanity, conscientiousness, and care. There were a number of times his heartfelt compassion for right's of men, women, children, and the disadvantaged literally brought tears to my eyes. There were a few times I think Garland had tears in his eyes! His critiques of the discriminations of ancient attitudes towards sexual identity, culture, class, etc., are canny, and obviously informed by a genuine empathy and open mindedness. They are not the natural insights of someone who is posturing these qualities, and it was refreshing to hear.
Garland himself has a staggered sort of way of speaking, one brought on I think by fervour, and which I found quite charming. He is entertaining and articulate.
The course often employs a second person narrative, and this walkthrough of ancient life was almost like a dramatic exercise or hypnosis. It draws you right along, puts you right in the shoes, and is very effective, absorbing, and quite fun.
The information fed my curiosity for the minutiae of day to day ancient life, while also providing enlightening geopolitical context. It was also lovely to hear such up to date information, including homonids like the recently unearthed Homo Floresiensis.
This course was engaging, educational, entertaining, inspiring and insightful. I can say something of this series which I think to be the truest compliment, that is that I've learned so much by it. I've come away with more from this course than many of the myriad books I've read collectively, and never felt my mind stray for a moment. Garland has only two courses here on Audible, the other of which I gobbled up immediately, sincerely cannot wait for his next.
I was happy to read about a scientific phenomenon, the EMP, so rarely discussed. The scenario depicted in the book, the collapse of our technological infrastructures, is a real danger that we expose ourselves to increasingly everyday, and one I have often found myself thinking about.
My only complaint is that the melodrama did seem buttered on pretty thick at times. While those in need of special medication would indeed be imperilled, I simple can't quite buy that the tragedy would be a societal devastation on a greater order than a Black Plague. A little heavy handed, a little sappy, caught myself saying "Oh brother..." once or twice, but it was kind of part of the fun. Would have to agree with a fellow reviewer on the TV movie of the week feel.
As a hopeless, helpless, unrepentant addict of every technology, device, and media, I know I'd go out of my mind in seventy-two hours. So on that, and many other levels, it was indeed an effectively frightening tale.
Exactly what a primer should be! Linguistics is of course a highly specialized field, just the thought of the world's six thousand individual languages is mind numbing, but John McWhorter does a wonderful job at selecting the really fascinating key points. Stimulating, comprehensive, and funny!
I had the pleasure of recognizing McWhorter's voice from Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and he is clearly a master. He is charming and a little nerdy. I sense he seems to think he can be terribly wicked, when really he's about as devious as Ned Flanders.
This was a wonderful primer in being, again, so comprehensive. The lectures covered the genesis of language, but also the extinction of language, artificial languages, creoles, etc.
I am a tour guide by profession, sharing information in long format over days, and I know just how easy it is to lose an audience getting too far into specifics, dates no one cares to know or remember, etc., which is another reason I really tip my hat to McWhorter.
A great read!
Since joining Audible a year ago I have chewed through the classics and contemporaries like a wood chipper.
That being said, I say this:
Moby Dick is not just a great book, it is the best book I have EVER read.
None too familiar with it before tackling the read, I'd always for some reason thought it would be stuffy, dusty, old world reading. Nay, my friend. It was saucy, salty, and American.
The subject matter is absolutely riveting to the imagination. The deep inner thoughts of the characters are poetic and stirring. The manic, unresting, hungry intelligence of Ishmael illuminates a world I'd have never known existed, the intimate inner workings of an industry, and the beauty of the experiences had by men who might be dismissed as uneducated and rough. The stories are so spectacular, so grippingly entertaining, I'd often stop what I was doing while listening, hands stilled in their motions, and half smiling and wide eyed, waiting to hear what came next. And sometimes all I could say was, "No, freaking, way."
Treat yourself to Moby Dick.
I downloaded these because I was bored and in desperate need of something to fill the silence, but all the while harbouring the honest feeling that Sherlock Holmes was a little culty and geeky and I'd never really get into it. So wrong.
What a joy this series was. Engrossing, exciting, perplexing, funny, and, in the later years, even a little racy! I truly felt drawn into the world of the 19th century and actually feel like I learned more than I ever expected to about an era gone by.
The performance is phenomenal; Griffin can fulfill any accent, any character.
Holmes has enjoyed a real spike of popularity in the past decade and I often overhear debates over the "best Sherlock ever." I can honestly now say that the best Sherlock ever, WAS Sherlock, no updating or sexifying required. There's a reason these books are still favorites.
I was surprised to discover I didn't find Tina Fey's book as funny as I thought I would. As a formerly obese adolescent truly versed in what it is to be loathsome and outcaste, I didn't really buy her self deprecating humor, and all the stories and characters she seemed to take as knee slappers and whacky, were just kind of not all that special. There were parts that were motivational, and the book really picked up once she got into the SNL years, but if you're REALLY looking for a tears running down your cheeks, aching at your sides hilarious read, go read anything by John Hodgeman.
Lisa Reneé Pitts' voice is so sweet, and the writing so lush, this story became what I looked forward to most about getting home! As someone with hardly one cultural tie to speak of with African American history I found this a real education, and as such an impassioned first hand account, made it incredibly relatable. Would absolutely recommend!
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