Much shorter than I would have liked, but in the two hours of audio, Hitchens brings to life the struggle of a man in the throws of a losing battle with stage 4 Esophogeal Cancer. This is a particularly nasty cancer that leaves little doubt as to outcome, just a question of how long. Hitchens brings his brand of insight and eloquence to a situation that is in some sense hopeless.
In the course of doing so we will all be able to better understand what thoughts, what emotions have gone through the minds of all those whom we love but have struggled with some form of a serious hopital stay. I don't know, but perhaps this would have shifted the tone and topics of conversation I had with loved ones who didn't make it through. It is incredibly difficult to put yourself in their shoes unless you've been there. Having been there recently and having read this viciously short, eloquent and insightful bit from Hitchens, I don't think I'll approach sickness and hospitals in the same way.
I do wish that there had been some more of self-indulgence and/or self-pity, but he didn't want to revel in those feelings, yet clearly it is something with which all in such situations suffer. A man with such eloquence and insight would have certainly shed new light on this aspect of serious / terminal disease.
Much has been made about the "fact" that Hitchens didn't change his world view when confronted with the end of his life. Unfortunately the brevity and scope of the book I don't believe would have allowed any of these issues to be addressed. There was talk at the end of the larger book he had still hoped to write. He at some point rails against the Randy Pausch approach to passing, but at the end perhaps the book I had hoped to read would have been Hitchens' version of that approach. I didn't want to hear more argument about or criticism of religion and how others choose to live, but I wanted to hear about the beauty and virtue of Hitchens' secular humanism.
Nonetheless, this book will touch you and change the way you empathize with terminal disease / serious hospital stay patients and for that reason alone it is highly recommended.
The author took up Tocqueville prior to running for office a few years prior. If what you are looking for is an understanding of Tocqueville's visit, impressions of America and their relation to democracy as understood by the author and Tocqueville, the author does an admirable job.
It is only natural to ask questions about the Tocqueville visit in relation to the founding or in relation to today's society, but the author is focused solely on Tocqueville's firsthand account of his experiences in America. For the author to have veered off into these tangents, would have detracted from the focus, clarity of the book. Tocqueville spent almost a year in America and seems to have been an exceptionally insightful young man. This book will certainly challenge and inform your views of the Republic, democracy, and America in the early 1800s. Highly recommended.
This is a long book (24 courses) and that is perhaps the only criticism I had of the course. Much of what Tocqueville wrote is of interest to today and/or in context of the founding, but almost all readers will find their interest during the course to wax and wane. For me there were only a few topics where I just didn't have much of interest. Women in America, the sciences and education in America. Its not that the points weren't of interest but I feel as if the 1830 ish view and today's view are not an interesting juxtaposition, which is a big reason why I read courses / books like this.
Book is highly recommended for anyone looking to understand Tocqueville's visit and its relation to democracy. This is a cornerstone course. It won't answer any of your burning questions but it will certainly lay a strong foundation for understanding the roots of democracy in America. With democracies failing all over the world I think a course like this should be required reading for old and young alike as we are almost certain to live to see whats old come new again.
I really enjoyed the professor and the course. It is a very historical overview of the forces that drove acceptance of Soviet communism, an overview of its decline, and some background behind where it may be headed.
Highly recommended as an introduction to this material.
Reasons why I dropped a star. I didn't get a sense as to what the people did, who the people were, who the people became as they progressed throughout what was about a 100 year window of Russian history. I get that Communism minimizes individual contributions and thus this is not necessarily noteworthy, but I would have liked to see a more systematic analysis of how the culture of the country changed as the years progressed. Another reason is the course seemed to stop somewhere in the 1990s. Ok, great but I feel like I need to read alot more about Yeltsin and Putin to understand where Russia is today and what its prospects are. The professor I think could have accommodated more discussion about the Russian people and culture but sometimes gets sidetracked on points that were interesting but somewhat academic. Great I know and get that he is a teacher but for an intro course, I'd rather be focused on some key themes and keep the the academic / pedantic stuff to a minimum.
Loved the course. Really liked the teacher. This is highly recommended for those looking for an introduction to the rise and fall of Soviet Communism. There may be better intros out there but this worked well for me.
I am not a Steven King junkie, but I have read and liked several of his early novels. I read this because I got the sense from the TV show that there might be a good book behind the show. Seemed to be a very stereotypical small town America type of story line. Life is rarely if ever so cut and dry. Politically I fear King is probably further afield than I am. Perhaps I am not ready to face the reality painted by King in this book. Such an acerbic view of the "power players" in small town America really just didn't sit well with me despite King and I probably being from the same political tendency. I believe America is filled with better people than those described. Perhaps I am too idealistic, but the story really grated on me. Yes I liked the show better. Last point I wanted to make is the science behind the dome never made any type of sense to me. I read lots of sci fi lots of science magazines, and I just didn't understand the build up of how the technology worked, why it was feasible, how it was only deployed in one American town etc. Three stars just because 1 star - maybe I'm too idealistic about the nature of those in power, 1 star - technology thing never made sense to me. Hate to give poor reviews. Idealists and technology / sci-fi enthusiasts should probably skip this one.
True history is almost always more interesting than fiction. We all get to read the headlines, but being there and getting the inside scoop almost always brings you past where you imagine fiction could have taken you. Thomas Hager does a wonderful job of combining history, science, and business and bringing you the inside scoop behind human attempts to unlock the triple bonded nitrogen, at once everywhere and nowhere. Starting from the searches for saltpeter, visiting the mounds of birdpoop, the deserts so wonderfully endowed with nitrates, and leading into high pressure German chemistry and its implications and interaction with the world wars. Human beings are tragically flawed but capable of doing remarkable things. At the fulcrum of historical change, the true insider scoop on how it went down is almost more than a fiction writer could dare to dream.
There is history, science (high-level), and business history wrapped in a page turner. If you read Demon (the author's prior book) you are familiar with what a strong story teller the author is. My background is in science (engineering), business, with about a 10 year interest in history. For me, this book in in my sweet spot of converged interests, so I found it all incredibly interesting. Don't be intimidated by the chemistry, it is covered at a high level, as a strong story teller would weave it in.... you won't even realize its there. I think that the people most interested in this book will be folks with a strong interest in history, folks who like getting the inside scoop on an industry and issue so important it literally woven into the human story throughout the ages.
It starts with the issue of how do we provide for ourselves. How much arable land do we have and how much growth and population can it provide for? Similar to and interwoven with the arguments of Malthus, this challenge has existed probably since man has been on the earth, but the author picks it up in the 17-1800s. He discusses the exceptional farming techniques of the Chinese, and how analytical farming techniques led to the search for the perfect fertilizer. Ironically, it turns out the nitrates embedded in saltpeter, birdpoop, and a South American desert become the developing world's best sources for the fertilizer. The realization that these nitrates are the key components to modern explosives ratchets up the importance of the nitrates. Soon everyone requires the fertilizer. Businessmen / scientists in Germany sense an opportunity, an academic dispute shows a thread of hope for a solution and from there the high pressure chemistry industry is born. The nitrates produced have implications for World War 1 and become a source of contention as the victors search for reparations. The German hyperinflation is touched upon. The attempts of the German scientific / business community to find a solution to avert the tragedy of hyperinflation. Anyway enough spoiling the story. There is plenty here to include the personal stories of the men behind an endeavor that has probably changed the course of the world. Seems everyone wants to believe they want to be a "1 percenter". Stories like this can give one pause. Pick the book up, it is relatively light reading. A background in history, science, and / or business probably makes it more interesting, but I honestly think there is something of interest here for everyone.
I really enjoy listening to the author on the news and talk shows. Very interesting guy who doesn't overreach in the interest of getting air time. From what I can tell he works hard and has mastered a fairly rare combination of fields. History, economics, and writing, to name three. This is a gentleman who beyond the pedigree has written books that survey in sometimes painful depth his field of study. I have tried to read his prior books and just couldn't get through them. Great material, great writing, but really boring tedious stuff to listen to. This book, however, I could not put down.
I think the author has some very good points. You'll find a bunch of negative reviews because of the last few pages of the book, he gives a rather hefty slam of Obama's "you didn't build that" speech. He really could have done without those few pages and I think you would find Republicans and Democrats interested in finding a solution to our country and world's problems finding common ground with many of the ideas in this book.
I am somewhat off-putted by the frameworks that the author uses. I am used to more of the more systematic Stuart Mill, etc frameworks and he always seems to have some rather higher level "fresher" way of reframing what are probably issues that could fit within these other frameworks. Interesting, refreshing, thought provoking but leaves me wondering how this lines up to historical methods of analysis. And where did the ideas come for these nouveau analyses? Might be footnoted, but that is a hazard of audio books. Anyway, many of the reviews at Amazon capture the specifics. I enjoyed this book and if you haven't read the author yet, would highly recommend starting here. If you have like me tried an not been able to get through the prior works, perhaps like me you'll find a gem here. If you're reading and listening to the author right now, you may be a little disappointed as the book is a bit of an overview of a number of speeches / discussions he has had recently. Might not be enough new material to interest. I really enjoyed it.
Libertarian? Conservative? Democrat? Democracies are failing all around the world and the US is not too far behind. Why? Napolitano does a very good job of teeing up a litany of potential suspects. I believe the author is a libertarian, so if you can't deal with a libertarian viewpoint then this book might not be for you. Indeed, I consider myself a libertarian but have a hard time with the logical extensions that seem to be endemic in the libertarian community. Probably no different than the republican or democrat communities, but I get the sense that the libertarians keep to themselves more than the others and thus make a number of what seem to be logical extensions that for most people just leave them saying, "Huh? Are these people crazy?". Even if you're a libertarian I think you'll have a few of these moments reading this book. You almost want to distance yourself from the author at times. But take a look at some of the key issues that are discussed. I think the author has many good points. You'll get some good history if you don't close your mind to it. Our country clearly has serious deeply rooted issues. The author's deep knowledge of both history and the workings of our court and legislative system make him someone that should at least be listened to with an open mind.
For me I found some of the explanations incredibly thought provoking including the impact of the Seventeenth Amendment (went from Senators from states to Senators from the people, thereby elevating the Federal over the State and legislative). The federal reserve section seems incredibly interesting given the increasing power of this quasi-governmental agency. The increasingly interventionist nature of our federal government into foreign affairs I found interesting, though I usually dislike libertarian foreign policy immensely. Educational influence through the state school systems was also interesting. The book in general highlights that the progressive era really changed many things in America and put us on a slippery slope where increasingly government is doing more things for more people and in typical governmental fashion not doing them well. Despite many acknowledgements of the pitfalls in progressive thinking this philosophy pervades much of the republican and democratic platforms and indeed much of our political dialogue in this country. I did not enjoy learning about the racial analyses underpinning some of our presidential decision making, and found it unfair to charge folks from earlier eras as being somehow less than perfect because they held these ideas. I don't know what it was like to live in those days. If all politicians believed those things back then it is fair to hold them to today's standards? In an ideal world, they would not have been like that, but the world is never ideal.
Sorry for the rambling. I found my initial reaction to this book was to draw me away from libertarianism. The more the ideas sit with me, the more they are finding resonance. Interesting times we live in. If you want a book to challenge how you think about the times, this is a pretty good, though at times challenging book. Stay with it and keep an open mind, whether you're democrat or conservative there is something fundamental and deep here for you.
Our country gravitates to all the wrong types of people. Among other statistics, divorce rates show we have no idea what we're doing when it comes to judging who is good people and who is not. Ben Carson is good people. My kids had to read and write about Ben Carson's life so I thought I would read about another blowhard liberal like Obama. I am shocked to see the teachers recommending Ben Carson as a person to be read about frankly. But when you read about Ben Carson you read about a guy who worked hard got a little lucky but really seems to be a guy you want to root for because he was probably almost always doing the right thing. Guy is not oriented toward politics, yet and if you read this book and understand a little bout economics, business, and politics you'll see he is naive.
I'd like to see a smart hard working accomplished person who hasn't thought about political office get thrown into a high political office. As this book shows he hasn't thought deeply about all the issues, but he certainly is a good person for a representative democracy. Remember the days when you were supposed to pick someone you trusted? No longer. We have smart unaccomplished people who are professional politicians because they constantly know how a vote or stance on a political issue will impact their next election. Instead of figuring out what the right thing to do is they just conduct a poll.
Anyway, Ben Carson lays it bear for all to read. What motivates him, what he thinks makes this country great, what should be done to get us headed in the right direction, etc. It is a good book and he is a great guy. However, don't get this book thinking it is a book written by a slick politician. Some of his answers strike me as wrong and some as non-starters politically. I'd hire this guy as my representative tomorrow as he is earnest, honest and accomplished. Unfortunately, books like this will make him politically untenable. Above all else our country want politically tenable people because we are weak people who lack good judgment.
So get this book if you find his life story interesting and want to know more about his philosophies, beliefs, etc. Don't get it thinking this guy is the answer to our country's problems. He's too good a man for that.
Guy realizes he has made alot of money and wants to make himself feel like he is still a good guy.
Not sure if he is liberal conservative or other. He believes more regulators is the solution. His is of the same moralistic crew of do gooders who said that regulation FD was in the best interest of all that was moral and fair.
People like this have been writing laws for democracies around the world for 70 plus years. Is it any wonder that democracies are failing? When your first principle is fair and moral outcomes you will get some very strange laws passed. Laws that don't apply to the governed but not the governors, laws that take away property rights, laws that compromise the ability of the government to tell the governed how much money something costs, etc., etc. Your first principle should be that everyone has the right and the duty to look after him or herself and to that end may contract in all manner of ways.
Only reason to read the book is to peer inside the peanut of a mind such a person possesses. Or to understand the lies they tell themselves or the public in order to feel good about the havoc they have created with their life's work.
It is perhaps the worst of all human frailties that we judge people based on the shallowest criteria. Whether it is appearance, demeanor, or the moral misgivings we have about them. Hamilton won. Madison and Jefferson lost. Yet we revere Jefferson and have forgotten Hamilton. This strange conundrum of American history is not the author's focus, but was one of the reasons I had for wanting to read the book.
I had no idea what a wonderful writer Chernow is.
I had no idea how talented and industrious Hamilton was.
I also had very little insight into how great a leader Washington was. Washington surrounded himself with diverse viewpoints as represented by the Hamilton and Jefferson / Madison camps. It was almost painful to see how Hamilton's logic won the day time after time over the Madison and Jefferson camps.
Why do we remember the infidelity of Hamilton but not the potentially more treacherous activities of Jefferson? We want small decentralized government, but likely both camps would reject out of hand our current scope and form of government. Perhaps like the rugged outdoorsman motif, we attach our affection to Jefferson because he is emblematic of an unachievable aspiration (smaller govt)?
Or is it something about the uber prepared that as weak human beings we reject out of hand?
It is so strange that someone so foundational remains so unappreciated. Madison/Jefferson and Hamilton were probably the two most influential founding fathers.
Chernow does a remarkable job of weaving a very interesting narrative around the life of Hamilton. I was incredibly impressed by the competence and the industriousness of the man. Only in America can such an upstart rise to become so influential. For whatever reason, I still don't know why, but it is just very difficult to like Hamilton.
If you've not learned much about Hamilton during your education this book is highly recommended. He is one of if not the most influential founding fathers. Horrifying to me that we have so forgotten the man.
If you haven't read much about Washington from the underling perspective, this book will provide unbelievable insight into the life and times of Washington.
If you're a student of human nature, you'll get to ponder why, despite a fantastic (and honest) effort by Chernow, America's most talented founder is also its most forgotten.
If you're the type of person who is interested in the role oil has played and continues to play in society, this book is highly recommended. Having read the Prize and its update I would put this book right after those in a must reading list for oil.
It is also a book for people interested in the politics of the middle east. To try and understand the history of the region without understanding who the true oil kings are is impossible. This book is not among the first five to understand middle east politics, but it is required reading.
The last aspect of the book that is incredibly interesting is in the machinations of the executive branch generally and the Nixon administration specifically, what they were almost able to pull off, and what that implies about the true balance of power among the branches.
You'll have to read the book ... its another one of these books that lend credence to the adage "you can't make this stuff up". History is indeed more interesting than fiction. Highly recommended book!
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