A decent book with interesting ideas on the anatomy of fads and ideas, but not a lot on what to do with those ideas. I think Gladwell's later books, Blink and Outlier, are better.
As another reviewer has stated, this novel falls more along the lines of historical romance than anything else. I give it four stars for the lush writing, descriptions of the time and places, and vividly developed cast of characters. The narration is an added treat--Sneha Mathan does some of the best voices and accents I have ever heard.
The chief strength of The Twentieth Wife lies in its lively depictions of a very different culture and attitudes from the present day, while at the same time illuminating universal themes such as ambition and romance. I found Mehrunnisa's struggle with the limited role of women especially sympathetic, and her frustration was all too understandable. Her desire to enter the royal zenana had a ring of truth in that context, since it would open the doors to the kind of influence and power closed off to most women of her time.
That said, I confess to not liking the titular character or her romance all that much. This dulled my enjoyment of the book despite its excellence, hence the lack of a fifth star. It just seems a little too pat and easy that the love of Mehrunnisa's life and the man who could give her riches and power beyond imagination were one and the same. That really triggered my cynicism about the purported romance, a problem I have with all Cinderella tales. Furthermore, due to the limitations of the times, the only way Mehrunnisa could achieve her ambition was by pleasing a powerful man. That is very much in line with the reality of the period, and it was nice that she had the intelligence, drive, and luck to do so well for herself. It's just that the kind of "true love" that also happens to make you filthy rich and extremely powerful poses no interesting conflicts or dilemmas, so I could have done without all the gushing about love. If anything, it seems like a story of love of riches and power--something universal and understandable, but not particularly admirable in itself.
This is an excellent overview of the basic questions in philosophy. My own interest lies more in political and legal philosophy, but learning about these fundamental problems and particularly the thought processes of working on them helped me become a better teacher and hopefully a better thinker.
Since listening I find that I encourage my students to think for themselves instead of trying to give them the "right" conclusion. I see my role as laying out the questions and making sure they don't confuse themselves on the concepts. It is that spirit of inquiry and independence, on the solid basis of logic and clarity, that lies at the heart of all intellectual endeavor. I have gained a new appreciation of philosophy, which is at base curiosity about the world and ourselves--truly a love of knowledge.
The great content of the lecture series is only enhanced by Professor McGinn's warm narration and beautifully clear intonation. I highly recommend this lecture series.
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