This book is more an analysis and description of the political mind of John Adams, as opposed to a personal biography of the man. This is a recommended read if what you seek is an understanding of how he thought and what his views on the issues were. Factual details are not the emphasis. Diary entries, private correspondence, essays and the voluminous notes he left in the margins of books he read form the basis of Ellis's perspective. The lengthy chapter describing Adams' letter exchange with Thomas Jefferson is riveting, but apart from that I found other chapters to be mostly too dry and academic for my purposes in buying this audiobook. Still, I plodded through it and am glad I did since Adams is among the most admirable of our founding fathers.
This book provides a broad historical context for the building of the Taj Mahal, focusing on the few generations of Mughal emperors that led up to Shah Jahan, its builder, and ending with the death of his son, who imprisoned Shah Jahan. A few chapters are substantially dedicated to the architecture, design and construction of the Taj itself. So, if you're looking for a hyper-detailed physical examination of the structure alone, this book is not for you. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand the place the Taj holds in Indian history and in India's society today without its historical context. The questions of why Shah Jahan built it, what motivated him, what his life experiences and his relationship with his queen were leading up to the day the decision to build was made are all addressed by the authors. The book, written by two British historians, does present the fascinating story of the Mughals from a stubbornly western and British experience, which has both its pluses and minuses. But I confess fascination with the contemporary descriptions of various events and experiences the Prestons included, that came from a few European travelers who had access to their royal hosts' official lives. The authors also did an excellent job of presenting both sides of the evidence when it came to factually contested questions, suggesting their own conclusions but ultimately leaving the analysis for the reader to decide.
The narrative style is entertaining and logical. I found the narration by James Adam to be superb. His British accent was well-suited for the context of the book, although as an Indo-American I did wince at some of his English pronunciations of Indian words at times. That's only natural. I highly recommend this read for anyone who wants to visit the Taj (and if you are a westerner traveling to India, you almost certainly will be), or who wants an introduction to the history of the Mughal empire in India.
Justice Scalia's talk dismisses much of the hysteria we see in politics when it comes to judges (e.g., he ridicules the term "strict constructionist" that conservative politicians like to use), and makes the case for why his approach to constitutional interpretation (originalism) is the best approach. Of course, this is a one-sided lecture with no one questioning him, so the listener who doesn't read his opinions regularly would never realize that as a judge he violates his own so-called principles of interpretation on a regular basis. But Scalia has a likeable personality and this is an interesting lecture to listen to for anyone wanting to learn about the Supreme Court and its relationship with the Constitution.
I am a lawyer who has actually read the Bush v. Gore opinion in the past, and I was unable to get through this, even during a boring commute. Judicial opinions are not good material for audio entertainment, no matter how intellectually stimulating they may be. Listening to the citations to cases and statutes (and their subsections) was an annoyance. You would be much better off finding a discussion of Bush v. Gore by a legal scholar or commentator to understand what the case is about, than attempting this read-through of the opinion.
I guess it shouldn't surprise me Justices Scalia, O'Connor and Breyer have such sharp wits and senses of humor, but it did. The selection of the late Tim Russert as moderator was ideal, not only given his knack for asking tough questions but also given his background as a lawyer. The result of all this was a highly entertaining, stimulating talk among the justices with a sprinkling of good-humored ribbing of one another and interesting anecdotes.
I was expecting more of an in-depth investigative piece focused on Tillman's death and the government's cover-up. What I got instead was a fairly entertaining biography of Pat Tillman, which I enjoyed as a fellow ASU graduate, coupled with Krakauer's take on the Bush administration's handling of Iraq and Afghanistan. The narration was not ideal. Tillman was an intelligent but typical college-age guy, yet the narrator reads like a melodramatic Shakesperean. This is especially awkward when he's quoting from Tillman's profanity-laced diary. Overall, a good read.
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