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Charles

Wonderchuck

USA | Member Since 2008

ratings
318
REVIEWS
28
FOLLOWING
1
FOLLOWERS
17
HELPFUL VOTES
124

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Steven Pinker
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1088)
    Performance
    (897)
    Story
    (882)

    We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the best-selling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.

    Teddy says: "Excellent Book All Over"
    "An emotional lift"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    8 of 8 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
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    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
    (10)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    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
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    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.

    0 of 0 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
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    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
    (1314)
    Performance
    (1181)
    Story
    (1172)

    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
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    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.

    37 of 42 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
    (310)
    Performance
    (195)
    Story
    (188)

    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
    (58)
    Performance
    (50)
    Story
    (51)

    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
    (90)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (77)

    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
  • The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities, and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By John Thavis
    • Narrated By Malcolm Hillgartner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (146)
    Performance
    (133)
    Story
    (129)

    For more than 25 years John Thavis held one of the most fascinating journalistic jobs in the world: reporting on the inner workings of the Vatican. His daily exposure to the power, politics, and personalities in the seat of Roman Catholicism gave him a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective on an institution that is far less monolithic and unified than it first appears. Thavis reveals Vatican City as a place where Curia cardinals fight private wars, scandals threaten to undermine papal authority, and reverence for the past is continually upended by the practical considerations of modern life.

    Linda says: "A neutral look at inner workings of the Vatican"
    "Behind the scenes?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Jared Diamond
    • Narrated By Rob Shapiro
    Overall
    (234)
    Performance
    (198)
    Story
    (197)

    We human beings share 98 percent of our genes with chimpanzees. Yet humans are the dominant species on the planet - having founded civilizations and religions, developed intricate and diverse forms of communication, learned science, built cities, and created breathtaking works of art - while chimps remain animals concerned primarily with the basic necessities of survival. What is it about that two percent difference in DNA that has created such a divergence between evolutionary cousins?

    Mark says: "Up to the usual high standard"
    "1992 really?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Justice

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Michael J. Sandel
    • Narrated By Michael J. Sandel
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (321)
    Performance
    (143)
    Story
    (142)

    What are our obligations to others as people in a free society? Should government tax the rich to help the poor? Is the free market fair? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? Do individual rights and the common good conflict? These questions are at the core of our public life today - and at the heart of Justice, in which Michael J. Sandel shows how a surer grasp of philosophy can help us to make sense of politics, morality, and our own convictions as well.

    Neil Babcox says: "A very worthwhile book"
    "Dangerous"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of the best books I've listened to. I love when the author reads his/her own work as in this case. The sentences always flow better than with another narrator. I thought this book was fluid and compounding. I feel like I understand my own opinions better. At least once I realized the reasons I justified an opinion were not the reasons I held the opinion in the first place. Maybe that is the danger with reading books. It is certainly a danger while reading this one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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