Cotacachi, Ecuador | Member Since 2013
Presented as an introductory guide to a vanished human race for the benefit of visiting aliens, "Earth" is a perceptive, tightly written, awfully clever survey of mankind's whole history. It's especially good at leaving unsaid the best punchlines, which immediately form in the listener's mind. With help from others, it is nonetheless mostly the voice of Jon Stewart who--freed from the rather more frantic persona of his TV show--is a skilled and expressive narrator. It's a joy to hear.
A leisurely listen to the account of Steinbeck’s iconic road trip after all these years is pure pleasure, and the wisdom of his penetrating observations is undeniable. Perhaps the best known is, “We do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” There is also compelling reasoning for traveling alone, and in revisiting the haunts of his youth on the West Coast, surprising insights into the true nature of ghosts: they are us.
The most powerful experience is that of his sweep through the racist Deep South of 55 years ago, and it’s enough to make you squirm. As it did him.
I do not know what the voice of John Steinbeck sounded like, but from now on it will be that of Gary Sinise, who provides exactly the right mix of warmth, irony, and—at the end—exhaustion from a marathon observant journey across America.
In this monumental, meticulous work by David McCullough, John Adams is intimately revealed as a passionate, visionary, bullheaded patriot, sometimes arrogant, and at times gullible when others conspired against him, which was often. He was as responsible as any, and more than most, in propelling the difficult birth of a great nation against all odds.
The portrayals in this book can be surprising. In contrast to historical images of bold and thoughtful men working together, there were constant clashes of egos and competing personal agendas among the founding fathers. They were mortals—the irascible and sometimes indolent Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and many more. Hamilton, especially, was a treacherous and self-aggrandizing man whose vicious and false public accusations cost Adams his reelection and ultimately ended Hamilton’s own career. The revered Thomas Jefferson comes off as something quite different from his reputation: a vain, mercurial, spendthrift, self-centered man who can be a trusted friend one day and a scheming, duplicitous betrayer the next. The architects of America comprised a cast of heroes and scoundrels. Many were both.
For those who worry about modern digital messaging consuming too much of our time, have no fear. It was rampant 250 years ago, via quill and ink, when people wrote endless letters and kept daily journals in elaborate prose, rife with literary and scriptural quotations, describing and debating the issues and events of the day. It was oddly formal. Abigail Adams addressed her beloved husband in letters as “My dearest friend.” Any educated person must have written millions of words in a lifetime. It’s difficult to imagine how they had time to do anything else. Parsing them must have been a colossal task for David McCullough, but it creates a history that would otherwise be far from complete.
There are fascinating insights here into 18th century politics. For example, presidential candidates in those earliest years took no part in the campaign, staying home for months and waiting to see what the outcome would be.
Although McCullough himself is also a fine narrator, Nelson Runger does a superb job through all thirty hours.
Adams and Jefferson, in particular, were often at odds and sometimes didn't communicate for decades. But their lives at last converged once more in the years of their retirements, when they carried on a memorable exchange of correspondence on every conceivable subject. And in one of history’s stunning coincidences, both men died in their homes on July 4, 1826, precisely the 50th anniversary of the independence of the nation they had worked so brilliantly to create.
I've read/heard and greatly enjoyed and admired several of Anne Rice's vampire chronicles. This one, not so much. The reading is superb, and for that matter, so is the writing. But the story falls short for me. Although devoted followers of the series will probably disagree--and I didn't come to the book expecting hand-to-hand combat among immortals--after 90 minutes of listening, when nothing whatever had happened, I gave up.
As a resident of the Andes, I thought I’d better learn a little more about the Incas, whose legendary empire encompassed immense portions of South America and established monumental cities and road systems—but really lasted only a century in its full imperial incarnation.
Terence D’Altroy knows his Inca (and pre-Inca) history, and his lectures are lively and articulate. The recording does have some editing errors causing repetitions, and the droning “announcer” before and after each section, with the contrived insertion of one question from an unheard student, recalls the most deadly of voices from the old days of classroom films. But that is cosmetic, and overall, this very accessible series of lectures offers more than almost anyone could wish to know about the lightning rise and dizzying fall of one of the greatest and briefest of the world’s dynasties.
“I have a 4 millimeter camera and thousands of meters of film,” remarks one character. Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction masterpiece doesn’t predict everything with accuracy, whether it’s the evolution of digital cameras or the failed dream of worldwide adoption of the metric system. But it does paint a fascinating future in which the malaise of prosperity and unlimited leisure time leads in an unexpected way to the complete disappearance of professional sports, for example, and most scientific research.
I must admit that I’m not a serious science fiction fan, though I do appreciate a good story. And my conclusion is that this is a better story than it is spellbinding prose. The plot, despite those occasional holes, is inventive and often surprising. It covers a lot of territory, sometimes in dramatic leaps, after a bit of a slow start. The writing, however, is stilted and formal in style, and so is the narration. But the story carries the day, as it must, and the result is a good listen to a seminal work.
David Sedaris, like most entertainers, is usually at his best before a live and appreciative audience. He is a very funny guy, and the invariable audience response electrifies the experience.
“Naked” is a different kind of recording, but no less engaging and maybe even more so. It’s a studio production, with no audience. There are a few staccato jazz bridges, and multiple characters briefly and brilliantly voiced by his sister, the extraordinarily talented actress and writer Amy Sedaris. And David reads his writings as only he can.
The sometimes cringe-inducing title piece comes at the end, having to do with visiting a nudist community, but the entire performance is an intimate, candid self-portrait, in which David reveals as much about himself as he has always done to his siblings, to their frequent dismay. It’s very funny—I laughed out loud countless times while listening—but also deadly serious. As such, it’s a fascinating audio achievement to be enjoyed and admired.
By now, Stephen King has produced such a variety of books that he is increasingly difficult to pigeonhole. Fans of horror will find something closer to a classic detective story in “Mr. Mercedes,” and a good one. There’s the hard-bitten cop (retired), a truly demented criminal, and a range of characters who populate the twists and turns of a complicated whodunit. But in fact, we know whodunit pretty early on. What happens next, and what happens after that, is a nonstop series of surprises building to a heart-racing finale. Horror fans will find some pretty horrifying scenes, too.
A great story, and narrator Will Patton is up to the task. The subtle shading of his voicing for each character, even when not reading their actual dialogue, is a work of consummate skill.
If, like me, your childhood memories of Twain have dimmed, and you tend to think of Huckleberry Finn as “Tom Sawyer (continued),” you’re in for a treat. Tom Sawyer came first and often comes first to mind, but many consider “Huckleberry Finn” to be Twain’s real masterpiece. It’s a true opus of dialogue and social documentary, cloaked in grand boyish adventure on the mighty Mississippi at the peak of the steamboat age.
Elijah Wood is a fine actor who brings to Huck’s first-person story the credible voice of both innocent youth and hardscrabble cunning. Huck can plan an elaborate raid worthy of a general, yet fall for every superstition and witches’ tale that comes along. The book is peopled with a lively cast of dozens of accomplices, con men, doting relatives, townspeople and slaves and they, too, are all Mr. Wood.
And the fine hand of Mark Twain is there throughout, weaving more plot twists and unexpected developments than any other adventure book or movie ever could, always with his trademark humor. An excellent read of perhaps the greatest story by the best-known author America has ever produced. How can you go wrong? I really like this Signature Classics idea.
Wolf’s Head is an engaging story that combines some familiar characters with several new ones in a fresh take on the forest legend. Since Robin Hood’s real historical origins are shaky at best, it’s hard to question the accuracy of the plot. There is a wicked sheriff and more than a few evil noblemen, along with a host of villagers, relatives, and tradesmen who are only too willing to collaborate with the colorful outlaws. The action is often more brutal than the childhood versions we remember.
Steven A. McKay’s writing is colorful and descriptive, but often falls victim to ponderous adverbs that hamstring its flow. The plot moves briskly most of the time. Sometimes the prescient insights of Robin and others approaches the level of magic, but there is no Merlin in this story. Nick Ellsworth gives a warm and enjoyable reading with a light touch throughout. Wolf’s Head is the first in a series, so some threads are inevitably left hanging at the end.
Someone asked, “Why 1927?” The answer, of course, is, “Why not?” What may seem at first like a random year drawn from a hat is in reality a summer of superlatives, achieved by legends like Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth. But there’s also a wealth of surprising insight that’s new to most of us, about Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, Henry Ford and the greatest flood on the Mississippi in its history—not to mention scores of colorful eccentrics you never knew existed but will not soon forget. When the author reels off the fates of all his characters in the epilogue, you realize you've been following a cast of thousands.
Bill Bryson delivers a deeply researched and endlessly fascinating account as only he can, finding quirks and unearthing indelible meaning in one eventful season between the Great War and the Great Depression. It was a time like no other, and if America could get through it, it just might survive anything.
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.