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San Jose, CA, USA | Member Since 2003


  • Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Anthony Pagden
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the tradition of Jared Diamond and Jacques Barzun, prize-winning historian Anthony Pagden presents a sweeping history of the long struggle between East and West, from the Greeks to the present day.

    The relationship between East and West has always been one of turmoil. In this historical tour de force, a renowned historian leads us from the world of classical antiquity, through the Dark Ages, to the Crusades, Europe's resurgence, and the dominance of the Ottoman Empire, which almost shattered Europe entirely. Pagden travels from Napoleon in Egypt to Europe's carving up of the finally moribund Ottomans - creating the modern Middle East along the way - and on to the present struggles in Iraq.

    Tad Davis says: "Great story, with a lot of unfamiliar names"
    "Excellent historical survey"

    This is a hugely worthwhile survey of east-west relationships if, like me, you didn't specialize in "Oriental Studies". This seemed a balanced political history overall. Gigantic chucks of information are jettisoned in any history; more so one encompassing 2,500 years. Of the periods and traditions I've studied, I can attest that the author covered most well enough to maintain the narrative without sacrificing too much detail. There's nothing about the Viking expansion into the region, and the Russians get short shrift. Never mind. Pagden did a brilliant job at constructing a fascinating, coherent, and challenging essay on the ties and fractures in euro-asian relationships.

    I had just finished this a day before President Obama's Cairo speech. Pagden's history and analysis gave me background enough to hear nuances I would have never heard.

    Oh, and the narration is excellent as well.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • 1968: The Year That Rocked the World

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Mark Kurlansky
    • Narrated By Christopher Cazenove
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this monumental new book, award-winning author Mark Kurlansky has written his most ambitious work to date: a singular and ultimately definitive look at a pivotal moment in history.

    Eugene says: "Don't let this reader near a foreign word"
    "History by Time/Life, Narration From Mars"

    I have read all of Kurlansky and thoroughly enjoyed all of his works. This, however, is a flop. It seems to be written for extraterrestrials as becomes evident when read by Cazenove who is evidently from a different planet (he matriculated at Oxford and is a sterling example of an upper-class twit, which, I suppose, comes to the same thing).

    I am roughly the same age as both author and narrator, so the events are, as youthful events always seem or ought to be for us old codgers, fairly lively. Mr. Kurlansky seems not to have remembered much, so this is not a personal history.

    The political events and biographies of key figures are available from a number of sources, but Mr. Kurlansky seems to have researched social events perusing Time/Life archives. Neither magazine has improved much over the years, but at the time they were treated as laughably clueless by those of us who were the subjects of their screeds. So, ignore the social history: it is truly banal.

    The political history is generally acceptable, but there are other, better sources. Listen to all of his other books and give this one a pass.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Charlemagne

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Richard Winston
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin

    Charlemagne was easily one of the most fascinating figures in Western civilization, as well as the most heroic and romantic. The 47 years of his reign marked some of the most significant and far reaching events of the Middle Ages. Undoubtedly, it was his enlightened vision for Europe that resulted in the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of cultural flowering that never really ceased to develop, and which led in a straight line directly to that period of astonishing achievement we now call the High Gothic.

    Frank says: "A wonderful biography"

    This is a classic bit of historical biography. The text survives the narrator. (Someone please explain to Griffin that reading historical writing is no excuse for sounding like such a pompous ass.)

    3 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • A History of the Middle Ages

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Crane Brinton, John Christopher, Robert Wolff
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin

    A History of the Middle Ages is the amazing story of European man in transition. It is a dramatic chronicle of 1,000 years of political, social, and economic transformation beginning with the dissolution of the classical Mediterranean civilization and ending with the first flowering of the Renaissance. It is also the story of two new religions, Christianity and Islam, both of which were destined to dominate the mind of every person in those new civilizations arising in their wake.

    Theresa says: "A Stunning Achievement"
    "Avoid this crap"

    This is a superb example of how not to write history. Aside from the shoddy research, worse writing, the blatant bias of the authors compels them to continuously whitewash Church history. This isn't history. It's propaganda, and not particularly good propaganda at that. The narrator is comically pretentious. It seems to be an attempt at giving the yokels a bit of pseudo-intellectual flimflam to mask the True Romance text and World Book research. If you're looking for a literate history of the early Middle Ages, try Winston's Charlemagne on audio, or try The Teaching Company for some excellent courses.

    20 of 45 people found this review helpful
  • From Dawn to Decadence, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Jacques Barzun
    • Narrated By Edward Lewis

    Master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500. And when he rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the normal close of great periods and a necessary condition of the creative novelty that will burst forth - tomorrow or the next day.

    Bruce says: "An essay in liberal arts"
    "Don't bother"

    Cultural history as reflected upon by an arch conservative Catholic is interesting to a point. Reflections on cultural history as read by someone inhaling helium is an epic adventure. Barzun's thesis is nothing new (aside from bending truth a bit so as to make some rather famous atheists out to be religious after all), but his narrative talent is highly engaging. The historicity is tame stuff until post WWII by which time the good professor seems to have been gathering most of his cultural knowledge from Time magazine. To make the reading more interesting, the narration sounds as though the sound technicians were going for the chipmunk affect. If you think William J. Bennett an intellectual, you'll enjoy this right to the end. Otherwise look elsewhere.

    17 of 24 people found this review helpful

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