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Concerned Reader

Michael

Stamford, CT, USA | Member Since 2003

144
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 28 reviews
  • 37 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 14 purchased in 2014
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FOLLOWERS
3

  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson
    • Narrated By Dan Woren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (416)
    Performance
    (333)
    Story
    (334)

    Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

    Ryan says: "Important themes, with blind spots"
    "Inclusive vs exclusive societies"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Why Nations Fail in three words, what would they be?

    defended thesis


    Any additional comments?

    The authors provide an Interesting insight into exclusionary versus inclusionary societies. Plenty of historical and current examples provide support for their thesis that the most successful and sustainable societies are those that include more of their populations in decision making as well as a greater share of the economic pie. It???s an interesting view in light of a presidential election year casting a more inclusionary vision with an exclusionary one (albeit masked in propaganda of offering ???freedom??? in exchange for less government). With the US having become less and less a country of class/economic mobility, an educated electorate would do well to catch up on what???s happened historically as well as currently when a small percentage capture more and more of a country???s wealth and income.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Martian

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andy Weir
    • Narrated By R. C. Bray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5942)
    Performance
    (5647)
    Story
    (5657)

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

    Brian says: "Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped"
    "Interesting Application of Science"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Imagine being stranded on Mars. How would you survive? Andy Weir imagined it and he did so w/o miracles or divine intervention. Mark (the stranded astronaut) uses science to solve problems. Thanks to NASA’s high quality equipment, redundancies galore and a cache of potatoes Mark figures out each problem he encounters. Is it all plausible? Yes, plausible enough to have kept me very much engaged. There’s plenty of interesting scientific insights and maybe some exaggeration on the survival abilities of stranded Mark but things work out to make an exciting listen as long as you are interested in science and haven’t visited the creationist museum recently.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Istanbul Passage: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Joseph Kanon
    • Narrated By Jefferson Mays
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (243)
    Performance
    (185)
    Story
    (188)

    A neutral capital straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul has spent the war as a magnet for refugees and spies. Even American businessman Leon Bauer has been drawn into this shadow world, doing undercover odd jobs and courier runs for the Allied war effort. Now, as the espionage community begins to pack up and an apprehensive city prepares for the grim realities of postwar life, he is given one more assignment, a routine job that goes fatally wrong, plunging him into a tangle of intrigue and moral confusion.

    Maine Colonial says: "What choice do you make when all options are bad?"
    "Post-WWII atmospheric spy v spy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Warning: there is a description of a Holocaust atrocity in this book. Personally I tend to avoid books with details on atrocities. If you can get past that the book is strong on atmosphere replicating in print and in Istanbul the ambiance of the movie Casablanca. It’s post WWII and spy vs. spy is undergoing changing allegiances. Leone, an occasional hired hand of the US consulate conducts clandestine operations. He is asked to pick up and deliver freight.” The freight is a Nazi with information of interest to the US. The intrigue begins and gets complicated but easy to follow. The writing style is a few notches below literary and is at times melodramatic. Occasionally it skirts the edge of pulp fiction before scampering back to first rate descriptions of Istanbul. The ending is a bit drawn out with a surprise that many readers will surmise prior to its revelation. All in all the book is not a bad rendering of the first freeze of the cold war in a colorful setting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Little Failure: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Gary Shteyngart
    • Narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (100)
    Story
    (102)

    After three acclaimed novels - The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far.

    Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result is a resonant story of family and belonging that feels epic and intimate and distinctly his own. Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart' s prose.

    HRD says: "I loved this book - funny, sad, all that nonsense"
    "Kvetch!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    This book might work as a half hour monologue that would be funny for five minutes. As it is Shteyngart drones on and on about a character (himself) that is at once repugnant and boring. Do you want to listen to hours of complaining punctuated by an occasional admission of nasty behavior such as torturing another little boy a la Winston in 1984? If so you might like this book. I could not finish it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Doris Kearns Goodwin
    • Narrated By Edward Herrmann
    Overall
    (655)
    Performance
    (581)
    Story
    (581)

    Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the "muckraking" press, Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business. The rupture led Roosevelt to run against Taft for president, an ultimately futile race that gave power away to the Democrats.

    Cynthia says: "Makes You Forget You Live in the 21st Century Good"
    "A (Too) Big Listen"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Doris K-G makes the Roosevelt & Taft years come alive. Names change but politics in a capitalist society stays the same. There are those who are eager to serve the very wealthy, make excuses for them, and pass legislation that increases their monopoly rents while claiming it is for the good of all. Roosevelt was the great reformer seeking to limit the power of the monopolists, first in New York State where those in power sought to park him in the least influential position, the vice presidency, and then in the White House when McKinley was assassinated. Teddy was a superstar in his day, commanding huge audiences and positive relationship with the press including the muckrakers. He worked hand in hand with reform minded journalists in effect creating a bully pulpit. Taft yearned for acceptance and praise. He did well in his stint in the Philippines but he preferred making judicial decisions. K-G describes how the two became fast friends and collaborators in the reform movement so much so that TR saw Taft as his successor. Things did not work out so well. Taft was an easy mark for the enemies of reform who found him open to manipulation. Roosevelt grew so disgusted with Taft that he ended up forming the Bull Moose Party in 1912 allowing the Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency against a split Republican party.
    The book is a sprawling work with lots of background details on the historical figures. At 800 pages it tips the scale a bit too heavily toward too much detail. Nevertheless it is an insightful book. It would probably be better read than listened to since skipping some of the voluminous details would be easier to do in the print version.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Circle

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Dave Eggers
    • Narrated By Dion Graham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (850)
    Performance
    (775)
    Story
    (785)

    When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users' personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company's modernity and activity.

    Darwin8u says: "A solid, just not great social network dystopia"
    "1984 Updated and Revisited"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Dave Eggers The Circle is an updated look at a not so distant future when an omniscient overlord is all intrusive. Is it for good or evil? Unlike 1984 where the omnipresent TV eye was the government these eyes and ears are corporate aided and abetted by all those in the Circle. The Circle is a ubiquitous Facebook infused with a religious fervor summed up with the phrase “privacy is criminal.” Mae is so enthusiastic about letting people into her life she “goes transparent” wearing a camera and microphone broadcasting to the world except for bathroom breaks. Her wrist sensor in addition to monitoring all bodily functions also tracks how many people are watching. Stamping out privacy becomes a crusade for her. Mae’s ex-boyfriend is completely disgusted with the hive like mentality of the Circle and tells her he is going to live in the woods, off the information grid, hidden. No such luck. With the ability to capture millions of people’s attention and their support in locating him, Mae finds him in a few minutes. He’s angry. Not unlike the savage in Brave New World, he rejects the "modernity" of completely open access of a linked life.
    This an interesting book. Sure, it’s a rehash of quite a few ideas and books but it is original in using a linked and transparent world through an internet medium to demonstrate that Google’s “do no harm” vision can have the opposite impact. Think of all those Google vehicles cruising neighborhoods taking pictures of everything being replaced by personal $59 cameras placed everywhere with 2 year battery lives on all the time. The world is live, there is no privacy. Closing the Circle is the aim of the coterie of Circle founders. Unlike Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of a connected world leading to a super organism in Childhood’s End closing the Circle is a much darker vision more akin to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Goldfinch

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7327)
    Performance
    (6715)
    Story
    (6720)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
    "Dissipation Triumphs?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Theo starts his dissipated life well before the explosion in the museum. He manages to keep his head above water and in the end just barely avoids the same exit his father took when in a jam albeit Theo was going to be considerate enough to say goodbye and leave a paper trail.
    Boris, Theo’s fast friend he meets in the hinterlands of exurban Las Vegas during his Nevada exile plays a major role in his drug use and the fate of The Goldfinch painting. Boris is somewhere between amoral and immoral. Theo knows he’s screwed up but can’t seem to set things right. The whirlwind and violently decided conclusion spins Theo very close to the edge. It is only by a bit of ungainly plot twist that he is rescued enabling him to serendipitously rescue Toby’s reputation and business. Yes, art is a key to the tale. The creation of art provides a glimpse of immortality that can spill over into art appreciation. That spark can be extinguished or at least dampened in the desultory business of art, particularly the illegal side The Goldfinch exposes.
    Some of the over the top philosophizing near the end of the book could have been left unsaid as could the perambulations of Theo setting aright his fraudulent conveyances. On the whole the book is a fast paced coming of age tale that sets up a denouement and redemption.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs)
    • By Alan Weisman
    • Narrated By Adam Grupper
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (27)

    Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth.

    Greg Peterson says: "Arduous at best, yet there are redeeming qualities"
    "Our Overly Reproductive Species"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    Recently in a class I teach a student summed up an article that concluded climate change could lead to a 2% decline in food production each decade of the 21st century. The article and the student proposed solutions that were all predicated on the premise that food production had to be increased to feed the increasing human population. Neither the article nor she proposed doing something about population. Countdown makes the case that humans may be about as intelligent as algae in a pond about to suffocate themselves with overpopulation. If people don’t do something about population nature will intervene. The combination of a (perhaps) climate change induced superstorm in the Philippines and the population of that island nation is a case in point. Weisman discusses the Philippines intransigence to population control and the involvement of the Catholic Church as a bulwark of opposition. The Philippine population was 7.9 million in 1900. By 2010 it has exploded to 94 million and projected to grow to 150 million. Seven children per woman is not unusual. The TV footage of the typhoon destruction and the narrative brings up examples of women who lost 5, 6, 7 children. Our DNA pushes us to reproduce ourselves creating a tragedy of the commons. Weisman illustrates that well when he compares the prolific ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel with the Palestinians urged by Arafat to overwhelm Israel with population growth. In recent times worldwide access to family planning has improved but is it too late? Male driven cultural imperatives to have large families also are slow to change. Enraged social conservatives in the US are intent on limiting and even abolishing abortion rights while curbing access to contraception. This all ties into climate change as a corollary to Paul Ehrlich’s formulation that implies an impossible technological leap would be required for projected global population to avoid food shortages and the very real prospect of warfare and civil unrest. Is there hope? Weisman points out reducing birth per woman to 1.5 children would bring global population down to 1.6 billion by 2100. Are we heading there? It seems unlikely. China has reversed its draconian one child policy though economic constraints will probably keep child bearing below replacement. Religion and tradition are impediments to controlling persistent population increase. And, of course, our capitalist system that demands growth. The source of that growth is largely a growing population. We need to rethink our economics and our cultural norms or we’ll be proving Malthus was correct but his timing was off by a bit.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The People in the Trees

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Hanya Yanagihara
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey, William Roberts, Erin Yuen
    Overall
    (27)
    Performance
    (26)
    Story
    (26)

    In 1950, a young doctor, Norton Perina, signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price.

    linda says: "Warped Perspective of an Anti-Heroic Scientist"
    "Know thyself takes a backseat to science"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    This was an interesting story but more so a profile of a scientist who seems to have lost track of his moral compass. Exploration and discovery trump other considerations when intruding on a newly discovered culture. When the possibility of some ostracized members of this culture having attained a physical but not mental immortality or at least a long life arises Norton, the scientist narrator, pulls out all the stops in an attempt to figure out how they’ve attained such a state. Once word gets out and the pharmaceutical companies descend on the island paradise it is reduced to combed over rubble. Norton wins the Nobel while adopting a great many of the island's waifs. How he fares as a father and why he is imprisoned for going astray conclude the book. While clearly able to apply analysis in the scientific world, Norton lacks such perspicacity when examining his own actions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • May We Be Forgiven

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By A. M. Homes
    • Narrated By Andy Paris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (70)
    Performance
    (63)
    Story
    (61)

    May We Be Forgiven, a darkly comic novel of 21st-century domestic life, stars Harold Silver, a historian who's always been jealous of his successful brother, George. But when the hot-tempered George is institutionalized for committing a violent act, Harold finds himself comforting his brother's wife and children. What follows is a scathing examination of a family so fractured it may never be whole again.

    Jill says: "Give this one a try!"
    "Just ok"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?


    This book seemed a bit contrived at points. The reading was fine, the story was a satire (I suppose) of life in these fast paced, hectic times. Harold as an adjunct professor forever writing the definitive book on Nixon makes for some interesting juxtapositions but these are also occasionally a bit much. Harrold’s sudden sex life crosses the borders of male fantasy and passes the village of absurdity when he is handcuffed by a couple of unhappy children.
    The story keeps moving, along with Nixon flashbacks but I’m not sure I would have finished what would be a very long book had I taken it out of the library.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • In One Person: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By John Irving
    • Narrated By John Benjamin Hickey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (508)
    Performance
    (428)
    Story
    (430)

    A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World According to Garp.

    Ella says: "Literary Porn"
    "A tale of gender bending historical significance"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Any additional comments?

    John Irving is very ambitious in In One Person: A Novel taking on gender roles and taking them on mainly though not exclusively through his gender bending protagonist, BIlly. The story is LOL at times until AIDS appears later in the book when reality is considerable more somber than playful youth. Billy is in love with the town librarian who appears to be a woman but appearances in this book are often not what they seem. Cutting across the sixty something lifetime of the prep school narrator Irving provides a tour of 20th century gender identification morality and the multiplicity of changes it goes through courtesy of his characters. Cross dressing is a given in Billy’s family with his grandfather eager to take on female roles in the town’s theater group. His birth father’s whereabouts and his legendary and eventually questionable qualities as a lady’s man are part of the finale that wraps up multiple gender shifting roles played by many characters in the book. Dad emerges near the end with a link to a story Billy remembered from a feverish visit of his youth involving a shipmate reading a novel perched atop a storm tossed commode. There is a bit more coming-of-age antics than I would like but Irving’s ability to tie these youthful discoveries to the child being the father of the man give it depth. Altogether a good read and well written as are all of Irving’s books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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