This is perhaps the best purchase I've ever made on Audible. I've tried every conceivable genre of audiobook from poetry, to fiction, to drama to speeches and everything in between. But this collection of radio reportage from WWII era material is simply astounding. There are live broadcasts of battles occurring, with radio journalists doing their best to describe what is happening and other clips which stopped me in my tracks.
The material is woven together so well that there is no need for narration most of the time and overall the breadth of war time experiences one is exposed to in this documentary is so much more than anything you would hope for from a single audiobook.
I thoroughly recommend this and the companion volume The BBC War Reports: The Second World War: The Home Front. Together these works represent just about the pinnacle of radio documentaries and therefore top class audiobooks.
Jamie Milton Freestone.
One might think that a book of brief essays on a series of hackneyed topics (love, death, happiness, etc.), comprising little more than some brief thoughts from the author, always backed-up by cherry-picked examples from ancient and modern texts, would be boring and unsatisfying. But this work is actually a distillation of the wide but well chosen 40 years of reading by one of the world's top philosophers. Grayling made his name in technical philosophy working on epistemology and occasionally logic too; he's no lightweight when it comes to analytical bona fides. But he has made his name by writing popular works and ceaselessly contributing columns to an impressive number of publications.
The Meaning of Things is certainly not rigorously argued, which leaves one thinking that it could be the advice column of any hack willing to pontificate on what they think about life — and there are surely no shortage of those. What makes this better is not only the hinted at rigor which Grayling surely brings to his technical work, but also a mixture of assuredness and humility which accompany his thoughts on all the topics covered.
Grayling has reached that stage of reading and study that anyone who pursues the humanities is striving for. He has read and understood a vast array of books and has incorporated the knowledge into his view fo the world. Pleasantly we find that this has allowed him to confidently dismiss ideas when they are evidently bunkum and to preserve awe and humility about the many things no one can be sure of, even well read, distinguished philosophers.
I've made this one of the rare works that I listen to more than once, often going straight back to the start when the book finishes. Any time I listen I feel somehow more courageous and am left with not only a desire to do good, but a sense of equanimity at the knowledge that doing so will be hard. I can't say more for any book.
There are too many memorable moments. To pick one here, merely because it is currently occupying my thoughts, is his essay on ambition, which tempers good advice to try hard with a fantastic couplet from Dryden I can quote from memory thanks to so many listens: Wild ambition loves to slide not stand / And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land.
Grayling's gentle, almost absurdly civilised, colonial accent (he grew up in modern day Zambia) at first sounds silly — at least to my Australian ears. But once the image of a spritely wizard is banished, one is simply soothed by his soft voice and precise diction.
Everything about this audiobook is great. As a collection of stories Sum is unique and benefits from being written by a fiction virgin in neuroscientist David Eagleman. His work on the brain and personal responsibility, among other topics, has made him one of the most fascinating young non-fiction writers in the world. But such are his annoyingly numerous talents that he is able to produce a series of speculative shorts on the theme of the afterlife that is both artfully written and intellectually playful.The stories follow no particular stylistic or narrative tradition, which makes them free to be open-ended, thought-provoking, metaphysical aperitifs, if I can be so prolix.
Some of the scenarios dreamed up in this work will stay with you and for those who are worried, it's not overtly religious or even theistic at all really. It's kind of an agnostic's meditation on what the afterlife could be like and what we mean when we say "afterlife". I'm not at all religious and although I don't think any of the scenarios are literally possible, they are intellectually possible, inasmuch as they are primers for thinking about mortality, consciousness, time, religion, parallel universes, eternity, etc.
The cast of multiple narrators worked very well and they are all great readers, particularly the always lovely and eloquent Stephen Fry, the lachrymose Nick Cave and the sportive Emily Blunt. Eagleman himself even displays his skills as a reader on this recording ??? even more reason to resent this multitalented upstart.
Highly recommended as a fresh approach to short fiction, which works particularly well in the audiobook medium.
1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge ??? Rime of the Ancient Mariner
2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge ??? Frost at Midnight
3. John Donne ??? The Good-morrow
4. Thomas Hardy ??? Afterwards
5. Thomas Hardy ??? In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"
6. Thomas Hardy ??? At Castle Boterel
7. Thomas Hardy ??? The Sunshade
8. John Donne ??? Song: Go and catch a falling star
9. Thomas Hardy ??? At Castorbridge Fair
10. John Donne ??? Song: Sweetest love, I do not go
11. Thomas Hardy ??? The Souls of the Slain
12. John Donne ??? The Sun Rising
Richard Burton's reading on this volume is exceptional. Although the sound quality of the recording is not particularly good, Burton's stage experience, enunciation and naturally sonorous voice put most of the other poetry recordings I've heard to shame.
Some reviewers have complained about a lack of notes ??? or even titles ??? to introduce poems. That is a genuine oversight by the producer. (Hence my inclusion of a complete list of the poems, although I don't have time signatures for them Im afraid.)
The reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which accounts for about half of the recording, is superby dramatised and would make a great bedtime story for precocious children. As for the rest of the material, I happen to like Hardy and Donne (I recommend Burton's collection devoted exclusively to the work of Donne if you too are a fan) and so I am happy to dip into the recording at any point on my iPod and hear a poem I'll enjoy. If you don't rate Hardy and/or Donne then I still feel the collection may be worth it solely for the Coleridge. I can also attest from experience that, purely in terms of voice work, this recording is unsurpassed in the realm of audiobook poetry collections. There aren't many classically trained actors around these days who could declaim the poems the way Burton does ??? maybe Patrick Stewart or Sir Ian McKellen? In terms of Americans, maybe Kelsey Grammer? In fact John Lithgow's pretty good.
In any case, despite production flaws, I recommend this thoroughly to anyone who likes the above mentioned poems, or to anyone who appreciates a beautiful speaking voice delivering verse.
Jamie MIlton Freestone
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