Most histories of the world focus on political, diplomatic, military, social, or cultural motivations, this work is unique, it approaches world history from the perspective of a commodity that is both our most important necessity and our most widely recognized luxury: food. In the 21st century we often lose sight of the fact that until 100-200 years ago food was the most important motivating factor in people's lives, for the poor it was a matter of life and death, for the rich it was one of the few real luxuries available and, along with one's clothes and one's estate, the defining element of their social status. This book details how food launched the age of exploration, fueled the industrial revolution, threw the world into war, and brought about the fall of communism. A fascinating fresh take on human history.
As an American who loves and grew up with Baseball and has since come to love the game of Cricket, I jumped on this audio book when I first came across it, it seemed a fascinating thesis. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. It got bogged down in fundamentals and technical details. I guess the technical details make sense for the intended audience, those who may be well versed in one of the games, but not the other; though for someone who is familiar with the rules and game play of both Baseball and Cricket, this became a little tedious at times. The best part of the book was the opening paragraphs, which featured enthralling descriptions of the end of the Cardiff Test Match in the 2009 Ashes and the turning point of Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, these were what I had expected out of the book along with more culture and history about the respective sports, their literary impact, and how they relate (after all, it was subtitled, 'Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life'); there was a little of this, but not as much as I hoped. Unfortunately it was more of a Cricket 101 for Baseball fans and Baseball 101 for Cricket fans combined in one book. The performance was passable, but could have been better, switching back and forth between two narrators made it seem a little disjointed at times, it might have worked better if they had switched off between chapters (or 'innings' as they call them, in a nod to both sports) and a few of Lomke's lines should probably have been re-recorded before the final release of the audio book, but it wasn't too distracting.
I've rated the book overall a little higher than the story or the performance, because I think this might be a good book for the intended audience, someone who's only familiar with one of the two games and want to learn about the other. But for those who are both Baseball and Cricket fans, don't get your hopes up too much.
It's a great shame that the other leaders of the great powers were unable to publish their own memoirs following the Second World War, but if we had to chose one to do so, it would have inevitably been Sir Winston Churchill. In many ways, this is the definitive allied history of WWII in Europe, Churchill discusses the Pacific, but that largely wasn't his fight. It was written by the man who was not only involved in the war, but was at the very center of it and was written with all the Churchillian style we've come to love. The insights are invaluable, he not only chronicles the events of the war, he also explains the importance and motivations behind them with an authority no historian could ever hope to match. He even strives to present the war in the most objective manner possible, giving credit to German commanders where due, no easy feat for one who had just lead a nation through six years of so much hardship and suffering, though he is unabashedly anti-fascist and spares no criticism of Hitler's Nazi regime. It is not a comprehensive history of the war, as mentioned above, but it is an essential one, no one's understanding of WWII can be complete without reading this great work.
The Proud Tower opens with a description of the British Parliament, which had changed little since the end of the English Civil War and later it goes on to paint a picture of an equally archaic German near-absolute monarchy, it chronicles class divisions that would not have seemed unfamiliar to a medieval lord. But it also discusses the rising impact of liberalism, communism, and anarchy, the social forces that were spawned as a result of the industrial revolution. This book is ultimately about the clash between these forces, between the old world and the new. It demonstrates, though not intentionally, the dangers posed by both extremes and the benefits of compromise; but it also demonstrates that compromise was not always possible and, because of this fact, the eventual inevitability of the Great War. It is a story about the birth of modern western civilization and the pains we went through in achieving it. In many ways a prequel to her monumental work The Guns of August, I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest either in the Great War or in our modern cultural, social, and political institutions and how they came to be.
This was the work that cemented Barbara Tuchman's reputation as a world-class historian, it is political, diplomatic, and military history at its best. In great detail, Tuchman relays and connects the diverse political and social forces at work in August 1914 and how the assassination of the Austrian Archduke set off a powder keg that ignited the world into war. As she demonstrated in another phenomenal work, The Proud Tower, Tuchman had a deep understanding of the social, cultural, and political forces at work in the world on the eve of the Great War and this depth of understanding and knowledge shines through in this classic work. But after hostilities begin, she demonstrates that she is more than a great social and cultural historian, she proves to be the equal of any military historian. The movement of armies, early skirmishes, and the desperation of the defense of France are retold with all the suspense one may have felt watching them in real time. The worst part about this book is that it ended with the closing days of August, leaving you wishing she had continued for another 10,000 pages to cover the entire war; though, I suppose, that would be asking a bit much. If you only listen to one book on the great war, this should be it.
Today, many of us Americans can look back to WWII, with our isolationist past an even more distant memory than the war itself, and wonder why we were so slow to come to Britain's aid, why we were being so deliberately naive about the realities of the world and the threat posed by fascism. This book is the story of three highly influential Americans who were asking these questions in 1941 as German bombs fell around them in London. It conveys the frustration of Murrow, the head of CBS's London news bureau, the unenviable dilemmas faced by Winant, the American ambassador, and the challenges encountered by Harriman, the lend-lease coordinator; but it also details the close relationship these men formed with Churchill and his family, especially his daughters. Though two of these men were personal representatives of FDR and the other was nominally an objective news commentator form a neutral power, all three functioned more as personal aids to Sir Winston Churchill, not out of any sense of disloyalty to the United States, but rather in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. They understood that, at this point in history, the interests of the United States and those of the United Kingdom were one and provided invaluable counsel to Sir Winston to help coax along a skeptical American government. In doing so they became part of Churchill's inter circle and formed relationships with the British political, business, and military communities that would not only define the relationship between the two nations for the duration of the war, but have also defined the relationship between our two peoples for last 70 years following the war.
I was quite surprised at how effectively this book immersed me in 14th century England, largely by simply changing the tense of verbs and writing in the second person. I've heard this book described as a 'gimmick', apparently unbecoming of a professional historian, but it turns what could otherwise be a rather dry history of tax ledgers, merchant inventories, archaeological insights, city codes, and business regulations into a fascinating picture of the world our ancestors lived in 700 years ago. Make no mistake, this is a professionally researched and highly accurate social history of the 14th century, the amount of research that must have gone into it is astounding in its own right. But it is presented in such a way as to be both useful to the professional historian and quite entertaining to the average reader. You will learn a lot from this book, though it is never a chore; but more than simply learning about the period, you will come to understand the hopes, fears, and concerns that motivated the people who lived through it.
I'm not sure what I enjoyed more about this book, the history of manuscripts and the lengths of adventure one had to go through in order to discover them in the middle ages, the insights into the philosophy and worldview of a certain class in Roman society, or the fresh view on the birth of the Renaissance. But one thing that is certain is that I enjoyed all these aspects in this performance. In some ways this book is a hodgepodge of diverse subjects from the history of free thinking to the history of ancient manuscripts, but it never feels disjointed. It was one of those works that, when it ended after nearly 10 yours, left you yearning for more. After finishing this audio book, I went on to read Lucretius' 'On the Nature of Things', the rediscovery of which was the topic of this work, which was also a fascinating work in its own right, but not nearly as fun or as riveting of this superb performance.
This is not a modern academic work of history, it's something more. From time to time it lacks the precision that we have come to expect of books on history written by academic historians, the careful balancing different points of view, and objective commentary. This work is Sir Winston at his best, with all his quirks and ideals. He offers unabashed praise of the English Speaking Peoples, their laws, their customs, their history, and their values and; in this world of politically correct 'objective' academic works, it seems a breath of fresh air. It was written by a son of the English aristocracy who makes no apologies for his views, his ancestors, or his past. And, yet, don't think that it's a politically incorrect or biased work, it's not, he's simply indifferent to these concerns. This indifference grants him the ability to comment freely on the events of history and this commentary is where the book really shines. Churchill makes connections between events throughout history that help tie together a thousand years of our past and help to explain events that might otherwise seem unrelated or inexplicable. Some of these connections are the type that modern historians would require an entire book to justify, Churchill simply asserts them, you are free to form your own opinion about their value or veracity. More than relaying history, Churchill explains history and this fact will likely ensure that this work is read for centuries to come.
Having heard a couple different performances of this Book, this one is far and away the best, in fact it's the only one I've managed to listen to all the way through. Jim Dale captivates the audience and keeps your attention, even though I had read the book years ago, I ended up listening to this audio book in one sitting. Though originally published in 1873, it was written for a popular audience and is still very accessible for modern audiences. When originally published it was a fun, if unlikely, fictional travelogue with a perchance for good-hearted stereotypes. But today it has become much more, it's a first person look into the world, especially the United States and British Empire, as it was 140 years ago, or at least how it was seen to be by a French playwright. It captures the optimism of the era, when steam and the opening of the Suez Canal were making the world a smaller place and expanding the possibilities of mankind.
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