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D. Littman

history buff

OH | Member Since 2014

1347
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 158 reviews
  • 607 ratings
  • 717 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2015
FOLLOWING
3
FOLLOWERS
177

  • Joan of Arc

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Mary Gordon
    • Narrated By Mari Devon
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    For more than 500 years, the story of Joan of Arc has been an inspiration and a mystery. The least likely of heroines, a peasant girl with no education and no prospects, Joan turned herself into the legendary Maid of Orleans, knight, martyr, and saint. Following a voice she knew was God's, she led an army to victory in battle and crowned the king of France, only to be captured by her English enemies and burned at the stake as a heretic, all by the age of 19.

    D. Littman says: "Very moving book, a debunking of history"
    "Very moving book, a debunking of history"
    Overall

    This book is a great listen. The author succeeds in bringing you into some version of the historical present of the early 1400s in France, & into a speculative but ultimately quite plausible view of Joan of Arc's own mind over the course of her very very short career. She is helped by an abundance of documentary evidence about "the maiden" warrior, much of it from her interrogation & trial, & a bit more from her reaffirmation 25-30 years after her execution. The book lacks the "drama" I recall from film & childrens' book treatments of Joan of Arc that were current in my childhood. But like many things of this kind, the real drama of her life & times is geometrically more interesting & compelling than the distorted portraits in the popular biography realm. I came away from the book feeling that I had "understood" Joan through her intense adolescent passions, manifested in religious ferocity & a peculiar sort of patriotism. But also seeing the complexity & contradiction always present in adolescent passions that helps explain some of the documentary evidence about what happened to her (especially once she was imprisoned & being interrogated). The odd thing about these short-biographies is that I always finish wanting to know more & a bit disappointed with the priority choices the authors must make to keep the volumes within prescribed length. In this volume, the author chose to shortchange the reader on the historico-political context, in my view, & to then include an extended analysis toward the end about how later writers interpreted & distorted the real story. But that section was interesting even though I would have preferred something else. I would advise the prospective reader that even if you are not particularly interested in learning about Joan of Arc, you will still enjoy the book & be happy in the end that you learned about her life & times.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • H Is for Hawk

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Helen Macdonald
    • Narrated By Helen Macdonald
    Overall
    (62)
    Performance
    (54)
    Story
    (55)

    When Helen MacDonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer captivated by hawks since childhood, she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators: the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral anger mirrored her own.

    Scott says: "Genre defying"
    "moving book, I couldn't put it down"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Highly recommended. This book is beautifully written, an interweaving of the author's biography, TH White's biography, the story of falconry & the interaction between the author, in her grief, and her goshawk. My one fear was that it would be gory, gory with the carnivorous behavior of a hunting animal. And another, that it would be a technical treatment of falconry.It falls into neither. The author indirectly & directly confronts the hunting aspect, not disturbing. And the book is not technical even though I came out of it with some sense of falconry but without feeling awash in the techniques of training. The book is poetic too, beautifully crafted sentences.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
    • Narrated By Richard Armitage
    Overall
    (1196)
    Performance
    (1113)
    Story
    (1106)

    It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

    Robert says: "Fantastic whether you like Shakespeare or not!"
    "A great & moving version of Hamlet"
    Overall

    I was unable to put down this audiobook. The underlying book is very moving, it follows the Shakespeare version well, if not perfectly, but fills in the context, or an imagined context, both historical & with respect the the relationships between the characters. It does all this without the Elizabethan language that can mar Hamlet, the play, to the untutored ear. All this gives the audiobook great narrative power. The narration gives it some more. You shouldn't avoid going to the play itself because in the hands of a good group it too has great narrative power, but I loved this audio version just the same. I have already downloaded the Macbeth the Novel availability on audible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jonathan Eig
    • Narrated By Gayle Hendrix
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (27)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (22)

    We know it simply as "the pill", yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig's masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic.

    Mona says: "Important history but repetitive themes"
    "an altogether enjoyable, skillful book of history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jonathan Eig has done a fabulous job bringing forward the little know (to me, anyway, a history buff) of the development of the Pill. Oh, of course I remember when it the scene (fuzzy, I was in elementary school & junior high) and its early appearance on college campuses not long after, but to me, it was as if the Pill sprouted from the ground, did not have a history. That is how all everyday things, things part of the landscape, seem to us. But Eig filled that gap, in a very entertaining way, for me. He does so by weaving together the history the the "sex," family planning (Planned Parenthood), and birth control movements, with the biographies of 4 individuals central to the development, and also drug testing, drug companies, the executives at Searle and so forth. The narration is compelling. I give this book 5 stars for each of the 3 attributes.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 55 mins)
    • By Lawrence Wright
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall, Lawrence Wright
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (86)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (78)

    A gripping day-by-day account of the 1978 Camp David conference, when President Jimmy Carter persuaded Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to sign the first peace treaty in the modern Middle East, one which endures to this day.

    Jean says: "Magnificent"
    "revealing political history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is so revealing about the Carter administration & the post WW2 history of the middle east. I remember vaguely this whole event, the Carter peace initiative, but Wright successfully brings the event, the key characters (not just the principals) & the contextual background to life. The book mixes biography of the key players with the main event. Sometimes this feels a little bumpy - it might play more so this way in the audio version, since listener cannot see chapter headings or other transitions that would appear in the physical book. The narrator is excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Griswold v. Connecticut: 50 Most Cited Cases

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By The Supreme Court of the United States
    • Narrated By uncredited
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Griswold was the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut. Both she and the Medical Director for the League gave information, instruction, and other medical advice to married couples concerning birth control. Griswold and her colleague were convicted under a Connecticut law which criminalized the provision of counseling, and other medical treatment, to married persons for purposes of preventing conception.

    D. Littman says: "nice companion to reading about the case elsewhere"
    "nice companion to reading about the case elsewhere"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This new series on audible looks to be a cool gold mine, although this is the first I've listened to. Griswold vs Connecticut is one of those cases you should know about as a non lawyer. I first heard of it from my late grandmother in law who used to shuttle women in need of birth control from CT to NY due to the medieval CT laws. This Oyez recording is a great piece of history. But it needs to be supplemented by a bit of side reading about the case. In the Supreme Court Q&A there is a lot of back & forth about constitutional arcana that is hard to follow without outside knowledge.

    The sound quality isn't terrific. You can hear the 2 lawyers very clearly but often cannot hear (or identify) the justices. The lawyers do most of the talking so that was acceptable. I am sure the written transcript is available on the internet to fill in the blanks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Industrial Revolution

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Patrick N. Allitt
    Overall
    (124)
    Performance
    (108)
    Story
    (107)

    From electric lights to automobiles to the appliances that make our lives easier at work and at home, we owe so much of our world to the Industrial Revolution. In this course, The Great Courses partners with the Smithsonian - one of the world's most storied and exceptional educational institutions - to examine the extraordinary events of this period and uncover the far-reaching impact of this incredible revolution.

    Quaker says: "Incredibly entertaining, balanced, comprehensive"
    "weak, unfortunately"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have read or better said, listened to, numerous Teaching Company courses. On the whole they are terrific, even if on topics that are only on the fringe of my main interests.

    Unfortunately this is one of the weaker courses. The professors is somewhat annoying in his accent & diction. And he seems confused about whether to be superficial or deep on the subjects he covers.

    The problem here may be with me, since I know quite a bit already about the subject matter.

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • One Summer: America, 1927

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1689)
    Performance
    (1517)
    Story
    (1505)

    One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country - a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive.

    Mark says: "Why 1927?"
    "Life is like a box of candy, so are Bryson books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Bryson books are like confections, like a box of candy with multiple, surprising fillings. This book is no exception although it is the first I have listened to out of the Audible stable. Bryson tells & interweaves many stories to keep the otherwise too long narrative fresh & interesting. This book focuses on many personalities of the period, among the major ones Lindbergh, Harding, Coolidge & Ford. Lindbergh & flying is a particular focus as are the [now] minor or forgotten colleagues in flight of the period. Bryson's works are not deep, not analytical. I might say "shallow" but I never feel that way when reading his work. I know I can find other works (indeed he often refers to those other works in the text) if I want to dig deeper. I am pretty familiar with the 1920s & with his main characters but I did not find much to complain about in his narrative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Svante Pääbo
    • Narrated By Dennis Holland
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (52)
    Story
    (52)

    A preeminent geneticist hunts the Neanderthal genome to answer the biggest question of them all: what does it mean to be human? What can we learn from the genes of our closest evolutionary relatives? Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pbo’s mission to answer that question, beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in his sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2009.

    D. Littman says: "Excellent, human-scale, book about science"
    "Excellent, human-scale, book about science"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to Neanderthal Man the most enjoyable?

    The author (& protagonist/narrator) made the hard science in the book very easy to listen to. He interweaves the drama & the process of science with the personal ambitions of scientists, annals of his own life & career. It all makes the science portion exciting, without the reader having to know all of the details he goes over. The narration is excellent. And I found it hard to put down my iPod throughout (thereby accumulating lots of podcasts, science-centric & otherwise, that I could enjoy when the book was done).


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Selected Shorts: Funny Business

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Simon Rich, David Schickler, Joe Meno, and others
    • Narrated By Wyatt Cenac, Isiah Sheffer, Kirsten Vangsness, and others
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    From wild and wacky to knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud fun, these humorous tales represent some of the best of recent seasons of the hit public radio series Selected Shorts. Comedian Wyatt Cenac gives a killer performance of Simon Rich’s hilarious tale of woe from the point of view of a condom in a young man’s wallet. Alec Baldwin gives a delightful over-the-top performance of James Thurber’s wonderfully silly classic tale of the day everybody in a small Ohio town thought the dam broke.

    D. Littman says: "Some very entertaining, some not"
    "Some very entertaining, some not"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you try another book from the authors and/or the narrators?

    Probably not. A whole book on a subject, including a comedy book, suits my taste better. These stories were of variable quality. A few hilarious, a couple just awful, very please when I got to the end. The narration of all the stories, excellent though. Sorry to sound like a curmudgeon on this volume.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, Rob Reiner (foreword)
    • Narrated By Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, and others
    Overall
    (1669)
    Performance
    (1518)
    Story
    (1511)

    From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

    Anne Morris says: "I don't normally write reviews but..."
    "very entertaining"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Very entertaining audio book for Princess Bride aficionados. People who haven't seen the movie wouldn't get it. It is largely from Cary Elwes point of view, but others -- the director, producer, screenwriter, & most of the players have greater & smaller roles (& have speaking parts. The book is a little uneven, with sections that are fall down funny, just interesting & a few portions that seem like filler. But altogether it is an enjoyable listen.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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