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.
If you're one of these people, this book is great as a resource so that you can understand more of how we all got to this point in time.
How you may have eaten what was inappropriately labeled "healthy" food in the grocery store and found yourself with a number of illnesses. How you might start to explore finding a diet that could cure your illnesses (she mentions a number of researchers such as Volek and Phinney). How you can understand why your doctor who seems pretty reasonable can be so completely against a system that is working for you.
There is so much in this book. I have not read Taubes. But if you are one of the multitude of Americans who are realizing that they must take responsibility for their health, I would highly recommend this book. Shocking to hear how the trans-fats became outlawed, even more shocking to realize that whats next is not necessarily tried and true. The establishment has banished saturated fat and is sticking to the story, come hell or high water. You also get the inside story on the Mediterranean diet, olive soybean and palm oil. You can't make this stuff up. Although many are attacking the author for exactly that. Reality always trumps fiction. Science is settled despite the rapidly increasing obesity rates. You want to know why healthcare costs so much? This is a great book to start to understand that government and doctors have duped the public into a system that values conformity of message over adversarial scientific truth seeking. This is all about to change and this book will help you understand why.
Bad news is you have to be your own physician. Good news is there are movements like Functional Medicine which offer hope to many of us who have been failed by the system.
The human body is an amazing system. Surprisingly we have very few genes and even fewer genes that make meaningful distinctions among us. Functional medicine offers a way to begin to think about how our genes are interacting with our environment, broadly defined. That broadly defined means hazards as well as diet.
Too many of us have just accepted the "wisdom" of some doctor. Take this pill and you'll be fine. Hey you're an allergy freak, but my allergy shots will desensitize you. Ummm, yeah you're kinda close to metabolic disorder, but a statin will fix that right up. Run harder, longer, accept that your basal metabolic rate is 50-60% of what it should be. It would be comical if it weren't so tragic.
If you love someone whose health is not right or are someone who feels like something just isn't quite right with their health and you want to understand how to think about what might be wrong and how to begin taking healing steps, this book is a great place to start. There is a difficulty because there are so few skilled functional medicine practitioners, but perhaps a dialogue with a trusted open minded physician could enlist an ally. There are likely resources online as well, but caveat emptor. But a better informed patient is more capable of understanding the hazards of different courses of action and weather the blistering criticisms of the big pharma reps (formerly called doctors). This book will give you the tools to be a better informed patient. Some experimentation is also necessary because our genetic codes are all different... so what works for some may not work for you. But you'll be on a more hopeful, optimistic, and empowering journey to restore your health.
Really enjoyed several chapters and even the slower chapters were interesting. But it is a slightly disjointed collection of stories with no unifying theme that I could discern other than they were about gold. I don't know much about gold, so this was an interesting but far from systematic approach to learning about the metal. If you're in the same boat, I recommend this book as an easy eight hour way to "get your feet wet" in order to motivate a more thorough examination of the metal. Probably a good book for people who don't want any more gold knowledge than the 8 hours of interesting stories that are in this book.
The author is Keynesian, but of course these days who isn't, and this may lead to the lackadaisical approach. If you don't see any value in the metal, its hard to take seriously a systematic comprehensive effort to learn about it. This Keynesian philosophy appears from time to time, but mostly in the first couple of chapters. It is slightly annoying because of the contradiction and perhaps the author should have addressed why a Keynesian who sees little reason for gold should stop to write a book about it. Anyway, recommend that you push past the Keynesian stuff. It doesn't last long and shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of what is a flawed but highly interesting book. If you're a gold bug and know alot about the metal, you should really peruse the TOC to see if you should read this book. Gold experts may not see much value in the book.
There are several warnings I would give to someone considering this investment in time. This is a course of 48 lectures delivered by a professor who is relatively monotone and does not convey warmth or enthusiasm the way most people do. I felt that I got used to the way she uses tone and I got over it. If you can't do monotone, you should consider whether this course is for you. Very long course, but commensurate with scope. Despite the length, the topics are treated at a high level. Most readers will find a percentage of lectures that they feel they know better than the professor. You may find her viewpoint in some lectures to be a bit naive, very liberal, or flat out wrong. If this puts you off and you are a conservative or libertarian, you may have difficulty finishing the course. Personally I found the perspective and the focus on "democracy" to be incredibly interesting. She is unabashedly focused on the struggle for democracy even though we find democracy to be in quite a bit of trouble recently, and our founders were not very sanguine about the future of democracy and thus designed a republic. Democracy may not fit in all places, and it may at the end of the day not be the correct system to manage the affairs of human beings, but I think most alternative anchors for a course of the 20th century would fail miserably. Like it or not most in the US believe in the living constitution as well as the Tocquevillian tumble towards equality in all things. Conservatives and libertarians who can accept democracy as an anchor should be able to enjoy and gain insight into how liberals view the 20th century. The broad scope is reflected in the lectures. I would recommend that you Google great courses pamela radcliff 20th century and look at the lecture list. Most non-expert history buffs will find alot here that they will enjoy. Highly recommended. Will challenge your perspective and help you understand better the liberal viewpoint. There was also a PDF course guidebook that I found while googling. I actually believe these guidebooks are essential for many of these courses. Not essential for this one as she sticks to her notes which are very related to the guidebook. If you find the guidebook it may also help you decide if this course is for you.
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.
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