I just finished this lecture and this morning started to listen to Charles Mann's "1491." About three hours into the Mann book, I thought I'd somehow pressed a repeat button, because I was hearing the exact words I'd heard yesterday - until I remembered that yesterday I was listening to D'Altroy's lecture, not Mann's book. Coincidence? I think not.
For the most part, this course is entertaining for those who enjoy fine details of how languages develop and why they are so different. The depth of detail and the speaker's knowledge of so many language structures, and his ability to reproduce sounds, is remarkable.
I have one objection. In his efforts to be entertaining as well as informative, he speaks glibly, and occasionally incorrectly, about how or why some language oddity came to be. I particularly noticed this in the lecture on genders. He jokes quite a bit about the seeming absurdity of assigning masculine/feminine/neuter genders to inanimate objects, and even (in one example) assigning a neuter gender to the German word for "little girl." But he surely knows - and should have emphasized - that the le/la or der/die/das "genders" are merely grammatical markers for various classes of nouns that have nothing to do with a perceived sexuality of that object, and that some grammarian hundreds, even thousands, of years after the fact assigned the terms "masculine/feminine/neuter" to those markers as a way of naming the noun classes. One perfect example of this is the use of "das" for the German word for "little girl." He tosses off the assumption that the Germanic culture perceives little girls as being without sexual identity until "a certain age." This is absurd. The word is neuter because any German noun with the diminutive suffix "chen" or "lein" is automatically assigned the noun marker "das," regardless of the gender of the original noun. A linguist, or at least an etymologist, would know this and should not imply otherwise.
Beyond that occasional problem, however, the course is quite comprehensive and very easy to listen to.
Food: A Culinary History covers foodways from the Stone Age to the modern vegetarian and organic movements. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and Prof. Albala certainly covers a lot of ground. For me, it was a bit too much ground. At several points, I felt I was listening to a rapid-fire list of foods, as he attempted to provide as complete an overview of each culture's foods as possible. Peacock's tongues! Pickled goldfish! Gold leaf! Overwhelming detail.
I think I would have enjoyed it more if he had talked a little less in each culture about the exotic foods the upper classes ate and picked one or two foods that each culture contributed or excelled in and talked in detail about that (as he did with French haute cuisine). More depth, a little less breadth. I've just finished the lecture series, but I would be hard pressed to remember many important details - it seemed like a flood of details, with no strong focus. He clearly knows his material, I'd like to read more of his writings, but preferably on a single topic.
To The Last Man is truly one of the most riveting history books I've ever read. It portrays the war not through statistics or battle accounts, but through the eyes of four men who fought and (in the case of two) died during the war: Gen. Pershing, Baron von Richtofen, Raoul Lufbery, and Roscoe Temple, an American Marine. Shaara has kept the stories personal enough to engage the reader, but broad enough to expose the politics behind the tactics of various pieces of the war. He glosses over nothing - not the carnage, not the loneliness, not the filth, and not the stupidity.
Special mention must be made of the narrator, Paul Michael. He is exceptional. He glides among various regional American accents and European accents easily, and provides the only credible German accent I've yet heard in narrations.
The book could have been twice as long, as far as I'm concerned. It's top-notch.
Numbers are fascinating, and I was expecting to be fascinated by the author's intriguing revelations concerning the universe and how it unfolds mathematically. Instead, the book seems more like unconnected ramblings, a series of short stories about the author's life and some significant events in his life that are connected to his view of mathematical proportions. The author's dialect (speech impediment?) makes the book difficult to listen to. I found myself counting the number of consonants he cannot pronounce, instead of becoming fascinated with - counting. It could be that the book is much more interesting if read at one's own speed, and in one's own "head" voice, rather than listened to at the narrator's speed, and speech.
This book and its author have received so much press and air time over the last month that I wanted to read it if for no other reason than to see what all the noise was about. the subject fascinated me as well, because the church in which I was raised never taught anything about the historical background of the New Testament, and I was hoping that this book would fill in the blanks.
It did not disappoint. The story of the centuries-old conflict between the Romans and the Hebrews was new to me. Yes, I know about Egyptian slavery, but had no idea of Rome's governing principles concerning its conquered nations and how their treatment of the Jews differed. I had no idea of the religious and daily culture of the Jews and how they clashed with the Roman way of life. The background that Aslan provides helps to fill out the historical picture. I found it absolutely fascinating.
I have two criticisms. One is that I would have liked the book to be at least twice as long. I want more details, more background, more of this riveting picture of ancient life. And the other is that the book really should have been narrated by a professional reader. Aslan isn't bad, but he succumbs to the common problem of a single rhythm and intonation that becomes distracting. It wasn't bad, though - I still found the book fascinating.
As a reader of many biographies of American political figures, I found this one to be very disappointing, not so much for what it includes as for what it doesn't. The author does a good job of describing Wilson's actions, but I came away from the story with no real feel for the inner man and what motivated him. There was almost nothing included from Wilson's journals or private letters (could this scholar really have written so little?) and no interpretation on the author's part as to how various events in Wilson's life, or how his "inner man" influenced his actions. I kept recalling Jack Webb's famous line, "Just the facts, ma'am." But I look for more than that in a biography. I want the insight of McCullough, I suppose, and it was simply missing here. There is almost nothing about Wilson's childhood and virtually no details about his relationship with his parents or siblings. The death of Wilson's first wife, Ellen, was dispatched with in, if printed, must have been about two pages. The public's reaction to his second wife is still a mystery. This book needs more heft, more "personality." It was very dry.
That said, I have to say that the narrator did a fantastic job. If I'd been reading the book instead of listening, I would probably have not finished it. But the narrator was so easy to listen to that I stuck with it.
I'm not sorry I listened to it, because the availability of Wilson biographies through audible is pretty scarce. But I really would like more information than this book provides.
Probably not, only because once you know the story, the elements of suspense and surprise are missing, and they are close to the heart of the story, but I will definitely recommend this to all my friends.
The scenes of death during an air raid in London.
The very last one, because it was such a complete surprise to me. I expected the book to be finished after the scene before it. The fact that it wasn't takes the book's message in an entirely different direction, at the absolute last moment.
This book doesn't make you laugh or cry. It makes you stare off into space and wonder.
It is dark without being tragic.
I liked the detail - lots of information most people don't know about Steve Jobs personally.
I suspect I would have liked this a lot better, had it been read by someone else. The narrator is really bad. He sounds amateurish, has a sing-song lilt that becomes annoying quickly, and sounds like a practiced high school reader. It gave the book a feeling of being amateurishly written, and I don't think that's the case.
I was looking for insight into how the Obama administration manages its policies and how the insider politics and deal-making influences the results. the book does not disappoint and in fact presents a more objective view than I'd expected. I was anticipating a very pro-Obama, hero-worship. Instead, the book seems to be pretty straightforward about what is handled well and what is not.
"Obama's Wars," not for its tone but for its accurate detail of administration power plays, struggles, conflicts, and reasons behind actions.
His reading doesn't work on my nerves as much as it does other listeners, but the book would have gained by having a professional reader. Corn rushes words, mispronounces words ("stimulus" is always "stim-liss," for example), and is not as well modulated as a professional, which makes the book harder to listen to than it would be with a better reader.
It's a good book to read for background information before the upcoming presidential elections.
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