What I liked best about this book was the narrative thread, and the way the author (who I think is a journalist, not a historian) developed his 'arguments' (really, his 'story') with an eye to keeping the reader interested.
What I liked least was that he spent very little time justifying his positions, providing sources, or describing any uncertainty about facts or interpretations. My own background on this period is limited, but some of what is baldly presented as 'fact' here, even I know is controversial (e.g., China's wealth in the 16th century, China's naval power). If you are considering reading this book, you should understand it is not a scholarly work, but is instead a journalist's attempt to synthesize and popularize scholarly work.
And Random House -- 'King' dynasty? Really? Can't you give your narrators a pronunciation guide?
I've read other accounts of Scott's expeditions, including Scott's own works. But I learned a lot from listening to this book, and I found Ranulph Fiennes insights unique, authentic and valuable.
Fiennes is also a very good reader. If (like me) you have hesitated to buy this book because you are afraid the narration might be a little bombastic, you'll be surprised by his sonorous & reasoned tone.
One of the things I like best about this book is that I think it presents a balanced view of Scott's accomplishments in the context of that time. People who praise Shackleton and denigrate Scott because of the survival rate of their respective expeditions do not, in my opinion, understand how those gentlemen themselves understood the value of what they were attempting to do as military officers. Fiennes makes it clear that risk was not only inherent in the undertaking, but an essential part of what made it valuable. I think Shackleton himself would have been very surprised at the comparison modern day 'organizational psychologists' have made, and the conclusion that Scott 'failed' because so many in his expedition died. I think Fiennes' book makes a significant contribution toward correcting that, and other, misconceptions.
This is the best history I've ever read. Foote has a real talent as a story teller.
The Narration is also top notch.
I'm not a professional historian, so I cannot judge the quality of this work from that viewpoint. But if you are a casual reader who wants to know more about the Civil War, this is probably as good as it gets.
Connie Willis is my favorite SF author, but I had the feeling she let this story get away from her.
The story she tells about the blitz is great. But the plot seems to ramble. It's just too long for what it is. Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of The Dog are both better books, IMHO. I think this would have been a better novel if it were combined with Blackout, and cut to half the length.
I would recommend this book, but not if it is your first Connie Willis book.
I didn't look at all the reviews, but I was surprised that more readers have not complained about the way this book treats the Turks. Whatever the Turks did after taking Constantinople, it was not worse than what the crusaders did in (and on the way to) Jerusalem, and was not unusually barbaric compared to what 'Western' civilizations did to conquered enemies (the Turks did not plow the city under and salt the ground, for example, as the Romans did in Carthage). The author represents Turks as cartoon bad-guys, without context or motivation.
Also, while the nasty politics of Constantinople are mentioned (at least at the end), the system that has left us with the adjective 'Byzantine' gets off a little light, IMHO.
Since I do not know that much about this period of "Roman" history, I cannot really comment on the accuracy of this work. But I would encourage you to look carefully at the reviews which criticize the author's accuracy. The author is good at telling a story, and the narration is fairly good. It is entertaining, but I'm not sure its good history.
This course is an attempt to cover a number of 'lives' in the manner of Plutarch.
From the first, I found myself comparing it unfavorably to both Plutarch, and Dr. Fear's other course on Churchill (which is top notch). His lives of the Gracchi are good, but IMHO, Plutarch's lives of the Gracchi were better and more thorough. Funnily enough, I enjoyed his life of Hannibal the best. The worst was probably his lives of Scipio (elder and younger). Dr. Fear's uses a rhetorical device (the father walking the son down a row of statues of their ancestors) which might work in a real classroom, but was confusing and even a little silly on this audio book.
Also, this format isn't really a good one if you are simply looking to learn more about Roman history. The transition from kingdom to republic is hardly mentioned, and the expansion of the republic is also glossed over. It may be possible to cover Roman history via a biography of its great men, but it would have to include more biographies, and be a great deal longer.
Still, if your only exposure to Roman history was in high school, you will probably find this interesting.
The idea of a world survey of 1913 was great, but there is no strong theoretical thread, nor narrative thread in this work. It seems like a series of postcards, but the postcards aren't those funny or interesting ones we liked to get (back when people actually sent postcards), but are instead those common cards that show the 'important' buildings, or the local celebrities.
Stillwell has a great voice, but his mispronunciations become more and more distracting.
I would have liked skimming through this book in a paper or electronic version. It doesn't have enough continuity to sustain a lengthy listen.
I agree with the critics -- this is outdated and biased. I enjoyed reading the review from the Marxist historian who disowned this book -- evidently it doesn't even live up to the 'standards' of Marxist history. The performance is also so bad that it is almost funny.
Having been told I could receive the WSJ as a part of my membership, I was disappointed when audible made the unnanounced change to the service so that only subscribers who paid extra could stream the content. Downloading is less convenient for a morning newspaper. Today, audible seems to have a technical glitch that prevents downloading too.
This is part of a downtrend in service I've noticed at audible in the last couple of months. I hope it doesn't continue to slide...
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