I know the title is greatly over-applied to all kinds of books, but this one really is . . . a life-changer, I mean . . . potential "civilization changer" even ! I'm already sympathetic to the lessons recent progress in medical science and psychiatric studies offer, and I lean to supporting social changes that build upon such lessons; even so, this book of clinical case studies educated me better, and opened my eyes, quite a bit more than any reading has in some time. Don't dismiss my comments as meaning that the author preaches or reveals any sort of social agenda--if there is any, it's very subtle. Even so, I find myself wishing that everyone in the country--or world--could read and seriously consider this book's implications. Some deeply serious thought is needed towards recognizing and dealing with social problems. Even if you're not in the mood to think too seriously right now, you'll find that this book is also very entertaining and the more serious issues are very well-explained for laypersons, educators, parents, whomever might read. In the process--whatever you present state of mind--the questions and reconsiderations that rise in your mind will last a long time.
I read this marvelous book at least twice several years ago, and bought the audible version to get me up to speed for delivering a review. The narration was done years ago (though that's not the problem)--the reader massacres an otherwise superb book. His voice is high and he reads so quickly that for a while I thought perhaps the speed of the original tape had been sped up (I'm still not sure it wasn't). The result is slightly chipmunk-style narration, and in addition, the narrator places the wrong sort of emphasis on the wrong selection of irony, witticism, drama and otherwise marvelous insight. I had so looked forward to hearing one of my all-time favorite books, having mistakingly thought that destroying it wasn't possible. I'm disappointed that no one has noticed this most disappointing delivery and undertaken a more appropriate production. I'm certain that with a quality narrator, COLD SASSY TREE would reembark as an Audible best-seller.
I could probably read this book repeatedly for the rest of my life and end up greatly enriched each time. I suppose I could read anything by Wendell Berry with the same benefit, though it seems I relish his collections of related short stories even more than the novels. They cause healthy reflection about the stories of my own life, and the lives of my fore-fathers, and they cause me to realize (as I suspect Berry intends) that the chronological placement of the various characters and events is not all that important: what matters is the characters and their interrelationships with the land, their community, and the development of understanding.
I noticed that two of the stories in Distant Land were very similar (if not identical) to stories in Fidelity: but I enjoyed them equally in this volume. There is no sentimentality in Berry's writing, though it appears there must be! How does one record stories of a rural homeland with wonderful relationships and even the occasional resolved problem without becoming maudlin? I don't know how this great writer does it, but I'd love to learn: so I continue to order and read (or listen to) his books. As an earlier reviewer states: Berry is a National Treasure.
In addition, Michael Kramer is the most effective narrator possible--I'll likely listen to all the Berry books narrated by him first, and then move on to the others, most of which I admit are also good.
I chose this book on the recommendation of a friend. I didn't think it would amount to much besides blood-curdling description of a crime I've been aware of most of my life. However I learned a great deal in this interesting retelling of the crimes, mindset, and legal processing of the Manson killings. I'm glad I listened to it. I was also pleased that while the necessary details were blood curdling enough, there was no attitude of gratuitous depiction. The only mild complaint I have is that the narrator sounded rather like a newsreel announcer from the early '40s. He was so abrupt, self-assured, and "manly" that I felt I couldn't stand the attorney in charge of this case; in reality, I believe the lawyer/author must have been a bit less pronouncement-minded and more thoughtful.
Though I always enjoy Dicken's novels, The Pickwick Papers was not an all-time favorite. For the first while I was confused and thought the tale was somewhat pointless. However, David Timson's marvelous narration made every minute of listening worth while. I don't believe I've ever heard a reader so adept at capturing a variety of Dickension characters and moods with precise accuracy and no overdone dramatics. Thanks to Timson, I was able to forgive the first hour or so of confusion and get on with really enjoying this collection of tales that comprise a somewhat plotless novel. Highly entertaining, laugh-out-loud humor, beautiful description, and profound insights that sill apply today.
I enjoyed this: it felt light-- but had enough mystery to keep me thoroughly engaged. The best part was the reader / narrator. I shared it with my mother who had given up on reading the book herself; it made everything come to life for her.
I went into school teacher--or rather high school student--mode while I listed to this. I knew--partly from experience--that Lewis is a great writer; I also knew that satire is an amazing--and even entertaining--rhetorical style. I also knew that Babbitt is considered a classic. So, I listened and listened, and listened some more. Then I plodded along a little longer until at last I staggered to the end. I worked the whole time through: I analyzed, wondered, recognized moments of literary flair, eagerly chuckled at stylized and marvelous absurdites from characters and events. I even presented a book discussion to a small group af eager women, who seemed to have appreciated the book and author, too.
But . . it was a long, correctly executed journey. I didn't hate it--not at all: I could recognize its worth and even its very modern applications. . . . But why didn't I enjoy it? It had a story line that worked . . .yet it went on endlessly.
It's just me, but I'm wondering if perhaps satires are most successful as short stories. I think most people either "get it" (the satire and wisdom) quite soon . . . or not at all. Alas, no amount of beating us over the head will often change our opinions one way or the other. And I guess that's the novel's one flaw: it goes on and on long after the reader should have gotten the point and learned the lessons. Lewis keeps beating us with satirical joy and despair long after we've had our fill of chuckling and internalizing.
Still . . . I strongly recommend reading Babbitt--it will do you good! (that's me as a teacher teacher speaking)
The Scotland Street series just gets better with each new addition. The only very slight criticism I can come up with is that most issues get a little too easily addressed by the end; still, there is the unsolved--as yet--worry I carry about Bertie and his very odd mother, and the somewhat benign concern that Bruce will never truly reform, so the series never becomes tiresome. I am so spoiled by Alex. Smith's storytelling that--even though I have a fairly full library of as yet unread books--I keep coming back and checking to see if there's another Scotland Street sequel for me to try. I laughed out loud many times as I listened to this one, and could hardly wait for a new opportunity to keep going.
Joseph Marshall is an excellent writer, storyteller and intellectual. I've read him before--I believe it was a collection of Lakota stories that had been passed to him by relatives--so I expected this to be good as well. I wasn't disappointed, but I was somewhat astonished at just how much there was for me to learn. Like many non-Indians interested in Native America, I guess I must have assumed I already knew most of what there is to know about the Lakota struggles to preserve their land and way of life. But while I knew the gist of the Crazy Horse story, I certainly did not know him as a "real" person--a son, brother, husband, humble man, and somewhat reluctant leader. I also did not realize how close his legacy and character still are to modern, living people.
I say Marshall is intellectual--and he is--but much of his understanding comes from his upbringing and closeness to loving family members who were, of course, older and closer in time to Crazy Horse. It's apparent when I think about it that Marshall is also well educated in more formal, book-and-classroom sort of ways, but these sources are not distinguished by him. He appears to feel that there need be no distinction between highly formalized and more informal learning because knowledge and understanding, whatever their source, are good.
I'm grateful for the lessons learned here. Even though I'm not of Lakota heritage, I feel that Marshall shares what he knows in the hope that any reader can both enjoy and learn from what he tells. I come away from this book entertained, sobered, more respectful, and desiring to keep learning. I'm pretty sure that anyone who listens to this book will come away greatly enriched.
I knew about the great Dust Bowl, of course . . . but it turns out I knew very little. I'm so glad I listened to this book, and it's likely that I will read it again . . . and again. It's not that it's so riveting in every aspect, nor that the characters breathe and live as in a novel, but the story relates in as interesting a way as I believe nonfiction can. Egan alternates between stories of one character or set of characters and another so that it feels that the reader is moving through time as a surveyor of a distinct world filled with hopeful, naive, all-American characters who inhabit a pivotal time and place in America's history.
The sequence of events begins with an excellent background explaining the settlement and farming of the heretofore untouched (by plows) grasslands. While lack of understanding within the American Government and its Land Settlement beneficiaries dulls their guilt to some degree, the consequential rape of the land with no effort for understanding leads the reader to reflect on a myriad of horrified realizations and judgements that eventually brings on, at least, a determination to help prevent this sort of appalling foolhardiness from being repeated.
The style of the narrative itself, however, is not one of disdain or anger, and I'm grateful to the author for his self-control: it's after finishing the book and reflecting on it that the tragedy of the whole event became really apparent to me. While reading, I felt for the inhabitants and wished that their endeavors to settle, farm and make good lives for their families would all turn out. ( I wish too that the former inhabiters of the area could have had all things they hoped for turn out well, but that's another story.)
Reading this book has provided me with an education that feels almost palpably empowering. I can't stop talking about it--in purposely tiny snippets--to family and friends. I've resisted any lecturing--partly because I so admire the author for also resisting that tiresome urge. But I do feel that this is among the top 10 most important books I have ever read.
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