It is sometimes hard to have hope for the future. I hear about new and horrible websites, terrible atrocities, lives of crime, heartbreak, death and despair. It is easy for me to slip into a malaise thinking that there is nothing to keep the world from going to hell. This book gave me an emotional lift. It's strange because the author doesn't play to pathos; the arguments are detached and analytic. Nor does he suggest any mystical or supernatural intervention guiding the process. People have good reasons to be tolerant and peaceful, if not straight up kind. Instead of hoping inspite of the world, I now feel that there are good reasons to hope for and with it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pope Benedict's resignation sparked my interest on this topic, and I got this book to help me understand what internal challenges the Catholic church is facing. It did give me a better feel for some of the personalities; my sympathy for Pope Benedict has been augmented. I did not feel, however, that any of the information was 'behind the scenes'. I felt like most of the book was less about the Vatican and more about reporting on the Catholic church. It's something of a Vatican journalist's travelogue in places. On the plus side, I felt like the author was not looking to excoriate or embarrass, and is probably even a little sympathetic to the church. In the end I am slightly less cynical about the power structure in Rome.
As a huge Jared Diamond fan I had probably unconsciously made my mind up about this book before I read a single page. It is an older book, and that was particularly irksome to me at several points when I thought to myself "I could have learned and known all this in 1992". If you have read other works by Jared Diamond there is some overlap. The beginnings of 'Guns germs and steel" as well as 'Collapse' are here. Those ideas each get about a chapter and a half toward the end. For some that may be repetitive, but there is plenty not covered in his other other books, such as the genetics of aging and mate selection. The narration is great, nothing to distract from the book itself. Bottom line if you like Jared Diamond you won't be disappointed.
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