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  • War and Peace, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Leo Tolstoy
    • Narrated By Neville Jason

    War and Peace is one of the greatest monuments in world literature. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, it examines the relationship between the individual and the relentless march of history. Here are the universal themes of love and hate, ambition and despair, youth and age, expressed with a swirling vitality which makes the book as accessible today as it was when it was first published in 1869.

    Matt says: "A Truly Great Book and a Truly Astounding Narrator"
    "Neville Jason is an Artist"

    Neville Jason inhabits Tolstoy's characters - old and young women and men alike - such that throughout their evolution, joys and sorrows, they are all very much brought alive.

    I laughed out loud many times and laughed yet again at how familiar character traits are.

    Jason makes these come alive and brings out Tolstoy's themes regarding our human nature, as well as the natures of truth and history through his timing and pacing.

    I am eager to hear additional work by Mr. Jason ... Proust, here I come.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Medieval World

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Dorsey Armstrong

    Far from being a time of darkness, the Middle Ages was an essential period in the grand narrative of Western history. But what was it like to actually live in those extraordinary times? Now you can find out.These 36 lectures provide a different perspective on the society and culture of the Middle Ages: one that entrenches you in the daily human experience of living during this underappreciated era.

    Dr. Cosens-Hellstrom says: "Excellent introduction to Medieval History!"
    "Informative lecture, with piped-in applause"

    The lecturer has a pleasant, informal style that makes listening to this broad overview a pleasure.

    I find the "Great Courses" to be of uneven quality in general, but this particular lecture has been really satisfying in substance, organization, and presentation.

    I do wish the producers would leave out the Masterpiece theatre music and canned applause, they condescend to the listener and cheapen the experience.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Hannah B. Harvey

    An absolute treat for the heart and mind, these 24 lectures demonstrate how to master the art of storytelling, offering insight into the process of crafting and delivering a tale to enhancing the stories you tell everyday-to your children at bedtime, in your conversational anecdotes, and in your presentations at work. Teachers, lawyers, clergy, coaches, parents, and anyone who wants to understand the power of stories to capture hearts and minds will benefit from these lessons.

    Jacobus says: "Superb, insightful but limited by audio only"
    "Annoying Verbal Style"

    I found the course mildly informative.

    I found the professor's verbal style annoying. This was unexpected as she is a "professional storyteller." Essentially, the annoyance comes from her repeated use of a slight chuckle to punctuate phrases. I suppose if I only heard her tell a single story her chuckle wouldn't be so bothersome, but after hearing it over and over for hours, it sounded like a performance tic, essentially unnatural. The way she inhabits excitement in her story-telling also feels a bit odd after hearing it a few times. So she, as a demonstrator of her own advice, undermined the validity of her lessons through her less-than-natural delivery.

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Mary Roach
    • Narrated By Emily Woo Zeller

    Best-selling author Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside. Roach takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: The questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts?

    Kirstin says: "Mary Roach Does Not Disappoint!"
    "Depth of a TV Show"

    There are a few valuable insights in this book. I did learn *something* about the way that digestion works.

    But really, the book is written for a reader who does not want much depth in the subject, but who would like to hear about the peculiarities of past researchers and the peculiarities of animal digestive tracts, punctuated by tidbits of understanding.

    I won't return the book. But I would have liked to know how shallow it was prior to my purchase.

    hope this helps.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Anne Applebaum
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell

    At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete.

    jackifus says: "Important story, imperfectly executed"
    "Important story, imperfectly executed"

    Few books detail the suffering of the Polish people during and after the Second World War. That being the case, I'm grateful that Anne Applebaum researched and wrote this book as the information contained therein is rare and valuable. I found her description of the Eastern European social context at the close of the war to be especially so.

    She treats horrors visited upon the Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Czechs, Germans, and Jews with incredible clarity and with a rare touch that brings context to those horrors and allows for an appreciation of suffering by one or other group that does not diminish horrors visited upon others.

    Her work here is admirable.

    Unfortunately, the book does not hang together especially well.

    She structures the book in chapters each describing a component of Soviet occupation (Policemen, Violence, Ethnic Cleansing, Radio, Politics...). Each of these components combine to create a context within which Soviet occupation was able to take root, grow in influence, and "flower" into its particular flavor of totalitarianism.

    Each chapter then contains a series of anecdotes that describe how the chapter subject was realized in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.

    In theory, the above structure could work well, but I had trouble with it in this book.

    Any overarching thread felt subsumed by anecdotes. Chapters launch into episodes about Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia but without a clear sense of how each anecdote or episode fits into a larger thesis. Some chapters have a closing few sentences that draw back to a central notion, but while reading, I lost a sense of what about a given anecdote was important. And then, without a paragraph to help put the story just heard into a broader framework, another anecdote would follow. So I was left with a collection of stories without a concrete feeling of why each was important or how it fit into a broader picture.

    The author has done quite a bit of research and she's eager to demonstrate it through the inclusion of quite a bit of detail. I wish she would have provided more interpretation of that detail to lend the book greater coherence.

    I will recommend this book to friends and colleagues because its subject is so important and books about it are so scarce. I will however not recommend it unreservedly.

    The narrator is capable and improves after the opening section which is made up of a series of quotes. Unfortunately, her pronunciation of Polish place names is frustratingly mediocre, as though she didn't approach their pronunciation seriously. Aside from that, she improves over the course of the reading and is not unpleasant. This is not an easy book to narrate and the narrator does pretty well to lend shape to text that hasn't much shape on its own.

    She deserves 4 stars in general, but her pronunciation mistakes are so careless that I remove a star.

    The subject of the book is important enough to lift the "overall" star score though its realization here is imperfect.

    It's a worthwhile read.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • 1984: New Classic Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By George Orwell
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    George Orwell depicts a gray, totalitarian world dominated by Big Brother and its vast network of agents, including the Thought Police - a world in which news is manufactured according to the authorities' will and people live tepid lives by rote. Winston Smith, a hero with no heroic qualities, longs only for truth and decency. But living in a social system in which privacy does not exist and where those with unorthodox ideas are brainwashed or put to death, he knows there is no hope for him.

    Customer Bob says: "Great Book, With an Amazing Narrator"
    "Wonderful narrator"

    Simon Prebble is masterful. So much so that I bought "Dorian Grey" just because he's the narrator.

    1984 is shockingly apropos to our current media and party dynamics. The tactics to cultivate fear and prevent critical thought laid out in the book have been employed by power so often that they must have thought they were reading a guidebook rather than a cautionary tale.

    Again, the narrator is marvelous.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Infinite Jest

    • UNABRIDGED (56 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By David Foster Wallace
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt

    A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.

    Charlie Williams says: "good if you already read the book."
    "Worthwhile but not perfect"

    Be advised that there are no end notes in this audiobook. That is a shame as they are absolutely integral to the text. One would think that the electronic format would provide a platform for an elegant solution that incorporates end notes. Some day, but not in this release.

    The narrator is quite good, holding my attention throughout the volume. I give him four stars because his French-Canadian accent is horrendous - though the rest of his reading is quite well done.

    If you've not read Infinite Jest, I'd call it more of an experience than just a novel. Its non-linear structure populated by dysfunctional characters all lacking any real interpersonal connections creates a sort of impressionistic painting of an experience of depression. Despite the infusion of humor throughout the book, It wasn't pleasant for me. But it's not something I'll forget.

    This audiobook is less than the actual text ... it is after all, abridged (though labelled unabridged). But still, it's very worthwhile and can remove some measure of friction that comes from reading a lengthy and heavy book.

    I would advise that the listener also have access to the text so that endnotes can be read. The end note numbers are prominently noted during the reading.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Tom Holland
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley

    The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall. It is a story of incomparable drama.

    Emily says: "Connects the Dots and Fills In the Gaps"
    "Wonderfully Engaging"

    This great narrator brings the finely-written prose to life. I couldn't put this book down as the story builds to the climactic crumbling of the republic.

    I bought this book after listening to Dan Carlin's fantastic "Death Throes of the Republic" podcast series. This book complements Carlin's narrative so well that each makes me appreciate the other that much the more.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Melvyn Bragg
    • Narrated By Robert Powell

    This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.

    Amazon Customer says: "Many Of Course monments"
    "Wonderfully Entertaining Overview"

    How delightful to hear Mr. Powell perform the various and evolving accents, from Old English to Caribbean English! The Caribbean Poem he reads comes alive with his voice in a way that I never would have felt had I never heard it.

    The text does personify the language at times expressing a form of "will" behind English itself. I didn't care for that, but nor did I feel it detracted from the whole significantly as the technique's appearance is brief whenever it occurs.

    The history of the language is painted at just the right level for an interested, but casual listener. This is a broad overview but with enough depth to be compelling, from the great vowel shift to why English doesn't have cases to word creation / vocabulary expansion.

    I loved the book and the narrator both. And this book, more than any other I've heard, merits a listen rather than just a read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict between Faith and Reason

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Russell Shorto
    • Narrated By Paul Hecht
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    On a brutal winter's day in 1650 in Stockholm, Frenchman Rene Descartes, the most influential and controversial thinker of his time, was buried after a cold and lonely deathfar from home. Sixteen years later, the pious French Ambassador Hugues de Terlon secretly unearthed Descartes' bones and transported them to France. Why would this devoutly Catholic official care so much about the remains of a philosopher who washounded from country after country on charges of atheism?

    Roger says: "Philosophy of Modernity"
    "Very Thin"
    What would have made Descartes' Bones better?

    I wish that Descartes' Bones had greater density of information. Shorto goes on at great length "reciting" dialog from primary sources. The players were interesting to be sure, however, the detail included interferes with the broader point. I feel this book was interesting, but could have been distilled to two hours -- thereby eschewing mind-numbing dialog and retaining a focus on the Faith vs. Reason theme that holds so much promise.

    What could Russell Shorto have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I feel this book was interesting, but could have been distilled to two hours -- thereby eschewing mind-numbing dialog and retaining a focus on the Faith vs. Reason theme that holds so much promise.

    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Descartes' Bones?

    I would have limited his focus on detail to that which pushes forward the thesis of the book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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