First off let me say that going into this book I did not have a really good understanding of Arab or Muslim culture. Now that I'm done I feel like I got a really good basis with which to understand these cultures.
This book doesn't explain in-depth the rise and fall of specific governments and nations, but rather details and profiles the peoples that populated them. It dives into the religious and social development in the Muslim countries. At this point I feel like I need to read a lot more books on more specific histories.
My only real critique of this book is that it's hard to keep all of the terminology straight in my head (Thank goodness for Wikipedia). It was really easy to zone out to this audiobook. The way it was written made it hard to pick back up and figure out what had been going on.
Probably the biggest plus of this book is that it doesn't feel like it's written from a western perspective. I would highly recommend this book as a good dive-in immersion experience.
The most salient part of this book is the exploration of the switch from a mathematics dealing with discrete numbers, to a mathematics that could deal with continuous and infinite numbers. In other terms this book explores the rise of calculus and its repercussions on the world. My expectations of the book were different than what it delivered. The publisher's summary stated very succinctly, "The Clockwork Universe is the fascinating and compelling story of the bewildered geniuses of the Royal Society, the men who made the modern world." This is maybe less than half of the book. In fact the depth of biography and place setting was very superficial at best, a mere tangent on the surface as one might say having read this book.
I must admit that I came into this book having read Neal Stephenson's enormous "Baroque Cycle". What amazed me was that "The Clockwork Universe" confirmed plot point after plot point of fictionalized events in Stephenson's series. However, "The Baroque Cycle" painted a beautiful and elaborate portrait while "The Clockwork Universe" merely pointed out those plot points. On top of these points, nearly a third of the book dealt with Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler's work. Again, I enjoyed the detour, but it felt a little off from the way the book was sold.
Those quibbles aside, Edward Dolnick delivered a very easy to read look into the rise of calculus and classical physics. I took high school and college level calculus, but I never got a good sense of what it was good for. Dolnick describes in very easy terms why these tools were (and are) extremely important to modern society. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the subjects I had studied back in school, and I am appreciative of my newfound understanding. It was very nice seeing the cultural setting that these ideas sprung from, and how it led to an age that Isaac Newton probably would have abhorred.
In conclusion this novel was a good read on science and math, but too superficial on painting an in-depth portrait of the times. It hit a lot of interesting points, but I'll probably be re-reading "The Baroque Cycle" soon.
I didn't have any real preconceived notion about what this book concerned or if it was any good. I ended up absolutely loving every part of this book. It was written in 1844 but has an almost contemporary feel in the way it was written. It was a real page turner with the suspense, intrigue and engaging characters.
The book is structured as if it were a series of connected short stories. As I am a big fan of that format, it made for a great novel. There were a lot of intriguing characters that I would love to go back and find out further what happened with them.
I would highly recommend this book. Plus they couldn't have found a better narrator.
I was hoping for something a bit juicier, but this is a very shallow overview of the Cold War that would suffice for a sophomore high school level class. There wasn't really any analysis. John Lewis Gaddis provided the basic facts and some conclusions, but there really wasn't enough meat to the writing.
I guess that's the nature of the book that Gaddis set out to write. He wrote a quick look into the Cold War, but at such a short length it left me unsatisfied.
A great book that reads like a spy novel come to life. It was really interesting seeing the process of this secret war and all the political machinations and wheeling and dealing. This book is also really pertinent with our on-going war with Afghanistan and the Middle East's view of the US.
I think from now on I need to exclusively read biographies to illuminate parts of our history. The journey of the life of Alexander Hamilton provided a narrative element that really made the early American historical events personal and life-like. I felt a connection with the character and his tumultuous life. Chernow did an excellent job capturing his personality and many contradictory sides. He definitely picked a multifaceted character to spend such a long book examining from every angle.
A Legacy of Ashes tells you the bias right from the beginning. The only thing that I think is misleading is that part that says "The History of". I was really hoping for more of an open ended analysis and look into the workings and history of the CIA. Unfortunately this book is really an op-ed about the failings of the Agency. It's very obviously written from the perspective of a reporter, and I got the sense that he was very proud of his connections and reporting that he has done over the years. Unfortunately the writing was very much in the style of whistle blowing and attention grabbing reporting rather than historical analysis.
I'm not saying I disagree with a lot of the conclusions, but I think the book could have been much more nuanced in its look at the CIA. I feel like a lot of the context was absent for the actions of the organizations and people in the book. It's really easy to sit in an ivory tower and look back at the many failings.
Despite all of the bias it still worked as a survey of the failings and scandals that have plagued the Agency. It really is mind boggling all of the ineptitude and botched operations. I really wanted another look at the CIA after reading Charlie Wilson's War which was fairly pro-CIA (at least pro to their ideals) and The Looming Tower which was anti-CIA. I'd still recommend this book, but with certain misgivings towards the author's blatant angle.
This book is an in-depth vacation without the expense! Rob Gifford did a great job of presenting the many sides and often contradictory nation that is China. He provides enough explanation of the culture and history of the country, along with his own personal insights to his interviews from the road to make them really engaging, informative, and poignant.
I think he also does a really good job of expressing his emotions with the nation, without forcing them on the reader. This book is very personal and about his own experiences with the nation.
I really didn't know that much about the Roman Empire before listening to this lecture. It provided a fairly good survey from the end of the Republic to the start of the Byzantine Empire.
It was an engaging listen, with lots of interesting events. My only real complaint is that occasionally it gets bogged down in the names and people rather than concentrating on the big picture. But still the overall events still shine through.
I'd recommend this lecture to other people.
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