The only thing I knew about Hitch, as close friends tend to call him, is that he is a master of the written English word. I came to admire his essays on the American political scene during the 2008 elections and found that his scalpel-sharp wit and keen twist of phrase made otherwise mundane subjects exciting. I don't even agree with many of his political or anti-religious views, but his self-effacing intellectual analysis is worth a listen. In this Audible book, Hitchens narrates his own tome, and it adds to the experience. He delivers his written words with deadpan sincerity, as if he were recounting his life over a scotch and some cigs. It is a credit to his writing that he could read his own text and still have it sound almost like a conversation. For American readers, his memoir is also an interesting peek inside the European perspective on the Boomer generation, the Cold War, and the 1960s.
Taubes is a writer for the NY Times who has done in-depth research on the science of obesity for almost 10-years. He wrote a detailed book on the subject in 2007, but this slim volume is especially written for the layman and casual reader. He uses historical fact to prove that "fat" is not man's enemy, but refined "carbs" are.
Taubes documents how medicine, from the late 1800s up through the 1950s, had correctly identified overconsumption of starches as the principal cause of weight gain. Then, so-called "modern" medicine began to attack dietary fat as the chief cause of heart disease, and carbs (flour and grain products, especially) were pushed as healthful. Over the past 50 years, the campaign against fat has ravaged our nation's health, by unintentionally shifting humans away from even "good" fats to consume more sugar and refined carbohydrates. We now have a nation with obesity rates going from less than 20% in 2000 to more than one-third today, leading to rampant diabetes and other weight-related ailments. Taubes's analysis carries an important message for policymakers, educators, and our loved ones -- in order to stay thin and healthy we need to lose the carbs, not the fat.
Steve Jobs is an enigma that Walter Isaacson skillfully unwraps, and Dylan Baker's masterful narration adds to the experience. Isaacson covers Jobs' genius and his darker elements. He follows Steve's journey from a humble start as an adopted child, through his hippie years as a college dropout who liked to drop acid, and into a driven, persnickety technophile and business mogul who made Apple a business sensation. We may never "figure out" Steve Jobs, but this book helps us appreciate the inner conflicts and quirks that helped Jobs forge a unique marriage between technology and art. It is the kind of well-told story you will want to hear again.
The author's intriguing topic gets lost in the thicket of in-depth patient profiles. I didn't want to hear a narrative of his patients' therapy sessions, but to learn about his novel approach to the "science of personal transformation." Sadly, chapter after chapter goes into in-depth patient profiles. Illustrative examples can illuminate a point, but here they smother it.
Mamet's trademark writing style adds punch to this personal expose about how the Liberal Left's blind devotion to moral and cultural relativism has frayed the very fabric of this country by abandoning the fundamental Truths on which America was founded. The narrator does such an excellent job with Mamet's manuscript, that you'll think the author is there sharing these important life lessons. Every citizen, especially educators and politicians, should read this book; it offers major food for thought that transcends our present problems to pose important questions about the important role of morality in a free society.
This sprawling autobiography is a long, rambling assortment of Samuel Clemens' observations and recollections on his life. What I didn't know going in was that this huge volume is an academic attempt to connect all of the author's autobiographical essays into a multi-volume edition. I learned this from an interview with one of the editors on NPR. The editor explained that a reader could open to any chapter of the tome and have a cohesive read. Of course, that is harder to do on audio, and perhaps that's why the book seems so disjointed and rambling here. There are definitely sparks of that old Twain charm, especially when he writes about his youth. But the way the book meanders about, it is more of a chore to audit, and not as satisfying as I expected. I think the editors would do everyone a favor if they actually do some editing and give us a more cogent, concise picture of the man rather than the kitchen sink.
I have loved the Stones almost since the moment I first heard them on a friend's LP (remember those?). Richards proves to be an incredible storyteller, painting vivid pictures of his modest boyhood and love of music, and growing up in post-war England in the 50s and 60s. His account of his discovery of the Blues and his own, mostly self-taught education in music is mesmerizing. Johnny Depp's narration is fantastic; you never feel that you are being read to, instead you a there in the moment, such as when Richards is first approached by Mick Jagger on a train ride into London one day. The two teens bond instantly over their love of Check Berry, Muddy Waters and others, spawning a friendship that will a few years later upend the rock world and lead to the "Greatest Band in the World." His "Life" is articulate, honest, and enthralling.
This is high pop pulp, well executed. If you accept the book at this level, as a guilty pleasure, this is an lengthy and mostly entertaining read about late-20th Century society in America and one of its top media stars. Given Oprah's tight circle and heavy use of nondisclosure terms in contracts with everyone who works for her, Kelley's thoroughness is impressive. (Kelley's forward offers a persuasive defense for the unauthorized biography as an important genre, which is worth a read by itself.) The book is a long unvarnished portrait of the gutsy poor girl whose immense drive and talent propelled her to worldwide fame and a billion-dollar fortune. Kelley narrates the book herself, delivering an extra level of catty admiration in the audio edition that makes this an entertaining listen.
Being a fan of Martin's joyful comedic talent ever since he put an arrow through his head on SNL, I hoped to learn how this creative genius honed his talents to become such a standout stand-up comic. This book is well-written and crisp in presentation, but it is really no more than a colorful chronology of events in his life. Martin's memoir discloses little of the "how" or "why" in his art. The lack of reflection and insight on his art leaves the book more hollow than fulfilling.
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