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Charles

Wonderchuck

USA | Member Since 2008

140
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 31 reviews
  • 325 ratings
  • 467 titles in library
  • 33 purchased in 2014
FOLLOWING
1
FOLLOWERS
19

  • The Selfish Gene

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Richard Dawkins
    • Narrated By Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward
    Overall
    (1625)
    Performance
    (1216)
    Story
    (1197)

    Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands to rethink their beliefs about life.

    J. D. May says: "Better than print!"
    "A pearl of great price"
    Overall

    I had long heard of this book, it is oft cited and praised in other scientific works for the lay man. Because of all this notoriety, I had high expectations when I began listening. I was not disappointed at all, it managed to exceed my expectations. I finished listening 20 min ago, and as I write this, I am still riding an emotional high that comes from increased insight and understanding. I cannot recommend it highly enough, there is more to be had here than (perhaps) any other book I have ever read.

    55 of 63 people found this review helpful
  • Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Eric Kaplan
    • Narrated By Sean Runnette
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    In Does Santa Exist?, Kaplan shows how philosophy giants Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein strove to smooth over this uncomfortable meeting of the real and unreal - and failed. From there he turns to mysticism's attempts to resolve such paradoxes. Finally, he alights on comedy as the ultimate resolution of the fundamental paradoxes of life. Kaplan delves deeper into what this means, from how our physical brains work to his own personal confrontations with life's biggest questions.

    Charles says: "A blast at cocktail parties"
    "A blast at cocktail parties"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I was intrigued by the opening storyline of this book. A mother cancels a playdate at the zoo because she is afraid that while looking at the reindeer a conversation about Santa will begin, and she doesn't want her son to know that there is no Santa. If this were to happen to me I would boil over with anger and resentment. Eric Kaplan is a better person than I am however, and after this happened to him he decided to write a book that would help him come to understand this mother better.

    There is little in philosophy that this book doesn't cover. The buddha, kabalism, as well as christianity all get tied up in the Santa conspiracy. The author would be a blast at cocktail parties; all sorts of intellectual challenges with laugh out loud humor made the book very entertaining. There is a section on comedy as a philosophy, an argument I had not heard before.

    I will probably always feel that anyone who portrays Santa as anything other than make believe is doing more harm than good. This book is probably the best argument out there as to why I'm wrong.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By James M. McPherson
    • Narrated By Robert Fass
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. His cause went down in disastrous defeat and left the South impoverished for generations. If that cause had succeeded, it would have torn the United States in two and preserved the institution of slavery. Many Americans in Davis's own time and in later generations considered him an incompetent leader, if not a traitor.

    Jean says: "Interesting"
    "Jefferson Davis remains unknown"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Jefferson Davis is a captivating figure. I have often wondered how I would feel about him if the South had won the war. I bought this book because I wanted to get a feel for Davis like I have for Lincoln; to see his personality and his relationships. I was a little disappointed in this book precisely because it largely ignores those aspects of his life. I need to curb my disappointment a little however, because it is clear that this was not the intention of the author. This book only covers Jefferson Davis as commander in chief, there is no biography about his life before or after the war. Neither does it delve into pressures outside of his office during the war; the death of his five year old son only gets a sentence and his wife is rarely mentioned. I didn't feel like there was a lot in this book that wasn't in battle cry of freedom, or other more general books about the civil war.

    That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who knows little about the civil war, and is looking for a view of it from the South's perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Nick Bostrom
    • Narrated By Napoleon Ryan
    Overall
    (42)
    Performance
    (33)
    Story
    (32)

    Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life. The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful - possibly beyond our control.

    Gary says: "Colossus: The Forbin Project is coming"
    "A must read that must be read slowly"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There is not much math in this book, not many pictures or tables. Usually this is a good indicator that I'll be able to follow along in an audio version. That was not true of this book. I listen to audiobooks while doing menial tasks involving infrequent and brief moments of concentration, with most books I am able to do this easily, but this book requires some pondering and digestion. Any distraction seemed to be enough to miss something important. Perhaps some of this was due to narrator's smooth baratone which - for reasons I don't know - I didn't like. I plan on getting the hard copy and reading this one in silence. This book is definitely a must read, but it also seems it must be read slowly. Put it down, think about it, talk about it with your friends, then and only then on to the next chapter.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Tim Butcher
    • Narrated By Gerard Doyle
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (5)

    The Trigger tells the story of a young man who changed the world forever. It focuses on the drama of the incident itself by following Princip's journey. By retracing his steps from the feudal frontier village of his birth, through the mountains of the northern Balkans to the great plain city of Belgrade, and ultimately to Sarajevo, Tim Butcher illuminates our understanding of Princip and makes discoveries about him that have eluded historians for 100 years.

    Charles says: "Good, but not what I was looking for"
    "Good, but not what I was looking for"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is not what I thought it was going to be. From the title, I assumed that there was some sort of hunt after Gavrilo Princip. I was expecting a carefully plotted assassination, followed by a daring escape and concluding with some brilliant detective work to bring the man to justice. In reality Gavrilo is caught immediately. There is no hunt. Instead the author uses the word hunt as a metaphor for his journey to understanding about Gavrilo Princep and modern Bosnia. I think that more than half of the history in this book has nothing to do with WWI, or Gavrilo, and instead is more about the 1990s and the civil war between the Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. If you are looking for a book about those things this is the book for you; it is well written with good emotion and many interesting insights. The narration went unnoticed, which is a compliment. In the end the author does tie everything back to Gavrilo Princip, which was fascinating, but on the whole this is not the book I was looking for.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Alex Beam
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (20)

    On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail in the dusty frontier town of Carthage, Illinois. Clamorous and angry, they were hunting down a man they saw as a grave threat to their otherwise quiet lives: The founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They wanted blood. At thirty-nine years old, Smith had already lived an outsized life. In addition to starting the Church of Latter-Day Saints and creating his own "Golden Bible" - the Book of Mormon - he had worked as a water-dowser and treasure hunter.

    Charles says: "All religious histories are not created equal"
    "All religious histories are not created equal"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I think that Mormonism has one of the most unique histories of any major religion and I am surprised that the story of Joseph Smith is not more widely known; his name is recognizable, his institution is still politically influential, and his history is fascinating. This book captures the emotion that surrounded Mormonism's first prophet. He was loved and hated arduously, and both camps had good reason. He was at once manipulative and loyal, pious and promiscuous, forthright and secretive, democrat and autocrat, and it is precisely all the contradiction that makes this book such an enjoyable read. That said, his story is more tragedy than comedy, for all his faults he did not seem to be violent and his death can only be described as murder. The return of his corpse to Nauvoo was a poignant scene that the author described beautifully and sympathetically. If you have not read anything about Joseph Smith this book is an excellent place to start.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Deborah Heiligman
    • Narrated By Rosalyn Landor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (18)

    Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.

    Robert B. Golson says: "I'm ape for this book!"
    "Anthony and Cleopatra have nothing on the Darwins."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin should not be a good book. There are no secrets, no lies, no affairs - was there even a quarrel? Normally reading a book about two people so totally devoted to each other would be at best boring, more likely, nauseating; but this book is arresting and uplifting. This view of the Darwins is unique, its a personal narrative with only a little science instead of the other way around. It is not without tension, but is full of deep emotion that held me for the duration. The last paragraph is perhaps the most touching and poetic thing I have ever read in a biography of any kind.




    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Reza Aslan
    • Narrated By Reza Aslan
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1444)
    Performance
    (1301)
    Story
    (1292)

    From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history's most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor.

    Charles says: "Palastinian Politics 4 B.C.E. - 70 C.E."
    "Palastinian Politics 4 B.C.E. - 70 C.E."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The title of this book is provocative and in your face, and just it was supposed to do - it drew my attention. I did not feel, however, that the book itself was all that confrontational. Whatever your persuasion, the author's overview of the apocalyptic fervor in Palastine, particularly Galilee, is helpful for understanding the time period. His account of the life of Jesus is well written, but familiar to most secularists I imagine, but the history of Christianity after the death of Christ and before the destruction of Jerusalem was not something I had heard before and I enjoyed it immensely. This book is probably best described as an overview of the politics of Palastine before, during, and after the life of Christ, and how those interactions influenced Christianity.

    I always prefer to have authors read their own work. I'm not sure what it adds, but I like it better. Good narration.

    39 of 44 people found this review helpful
  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Brian Christian
    • Narrated By Brian Christian
    Overall
    (317)
    Performance
    (201)
    Story
    (194)

    The Most Human Human is a provocative, exuberant, and profound exploration of the ways in which computers are reshaping our ideas of what it means to be human. Its starting point is the annual Turing Test, which pits artificial intelligence programs against people to determine if computers can "think". Named for computer pioneer Alan Turing, the Turing Test convenes a panel of judges who pose questions - ranging anywhere from celebrity gossip to moral conundrums - to hidden contestants in an attempt to discern which is human and which is a computer.

    Roy says: "A Wedding of Computer Science and Philosophy"
    "Build a better human"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I have often heard speakers use humans for inspiration in their attempts to build better A.I. - this is the first time I have heard an author use A.I. as a modus for building a better human. The erudition in this book is staggering, but it is never used boastfully. Instead the ideas get layered one on the other, building an artful and logical thesis. I was particularly inspired by his comparison of chess games to daily conversation; the beginnings and the endings are largely already known, the real chess playing lies in the middle game where the personality of the player comes through. In a conversation the work and the weather are standard openings - how we get away from the standard is where the real conversation starts.

    One listen will not do for this book, I imagine I will be coming back to it many times in the years to come, as well as purchasing the hard copy in order to foist it on loved ones.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (65)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (56)

    For 18 years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest" - or even their subjects - unless they have to. This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction.

    Charles says: "Expand the coalition"
    "Expand the coalition"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is cynical and cold, and views people as selfish and greedy with little concern for the welfare of others. I hate that I think it's correct. The thesis is straightforward: the size of of a leader's coalition largely determines his/her behavior. The examples in the book are concise and convincing, making the case so plain that I feel a little embarrassed that I had not realized what was going on before. Cold as it is, the authors do not leave us in despair as they close with practical ideas on how to make things better. This is not a reassuring read, but it is one of the most insightful I have read.

    The narration went unnoticed - which is how I like it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Sandra Day O'Connor
    • Narrated By Sandra Day O'Connor
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (93)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (80)

    From Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, comes this fascinating book about the history and evolution of the highest court in the land. Out of Order sheds light on the centuries of change and upheaval that transformed the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the remarkable institution that thrives and endures today.

    G. House Sr. says: "A Historical Account of the Supreme Court"
    "One thing after another"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is full of tidbits. Lots of short stories, easy reading with good humor. It is not a bad book, but it is not a good one either. There isn't anything linking this book together. The chapters could be read randomly and the listener wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Chapter titles are things like 'Supreme Court firsts' and 'Customs and traditions of the Court'. These are topics that really could be interesting, but somewhere along the way they just turn into a really long list. The anecdotes here would certainly be found in a good book on the history of the supreme court, but this book is not it.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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