This is a wonderfully written and thoroughly researched short history book. The best way to describe it is a cross-section of what it was like to live in North America in 1763. Despite this book being short, the detail is amazing -- how the mail worked, how suits were ordered, how tobacco was sold . . . . You get a very vivid sense of daily 1763 life among various groups including: southern planters, British soldiers, French-Canadian furriers, freed slaves, whites who chose to live among Indians, etc. etc. etc. Of particular note, this probably does as good a job of any popular history I have ever read with respect to giving a textured and nuanced description of many various Indian groups and their relations to white settles, the British, the French, and each other. In short, I learned a lot and really enjoyed it.
I enjoy most FBI books (even the bad ones) but this is one of the best I've read in a while. This guy really loves art and that adds an extra layer of passion to the story beyond just the standard catching bad guys. I even found most of the bad guys in the story more complicated than the standard mobsters and drug traffickers that populate other FBI books--these guys might be scum, but the mere fact that they deal in art and not cocaine makes them, well, a bit more interesting. I knew nothing about art theft before and learned a lot. Like all FBI books, this one has its share of self-congratulating and whining about bureaucracy, but--on both counts--less so than most other FBI books. Hardly great literature, but a very entertaining read.
By way of background, I love FBI/CIA memoirs. They almost always share two downsides: 1) incredible narcissism, and 2) a lot of whining about bureaucracy. While both of these things are terribly unpleasant, they are usually outweighed by the upsides--a lot of great crime-fighting and spy stories. However, the downsides to My FBI are greater than even in a regular FBI book and the upsides are more limited.
I found the author unbearable. This is sad, because I ddint know that much about him and began the book perfectly inclined to like him. But, wow. He is the kind of guy who goes on and on and on about how impressive his humility is. His praise for himself lacks any hint of nuance and, everytime he mentions someone who agreed with him about something, he describes that person as a true genius. It's really over the top. The truth is that he might have done a lot of great and important stuff. But, his overwhelming narcissism utterly destroys his credibility in assessing it.
While only a small point in the book, the place where I finally lost it was about halfway through where he describes a failure of the FBI to turn over some documents which resulted in a delay of Timothy McVeigh's execution. I kid you not, he talks about how amazing it was that he took full-resposibility for the oversight. Within sentences though, he goes on to blame under-funding by Congress that led to inadequate technology and rogue local agents. If you want to blame them fine, but the whole point of taking full responsibility is that you don't get to turn around and blame other people. Frustrating. There's also a ton of whining about bureaucracy but no need to rehash that here.
In any event, these downsides (much greater than in a standard FBI book) are not counter-balanced by the upsides you usually find. He was an agent for a few years a long time ago and has a modicum of mildly interesting stories about that. Otherwise, he was an executive and didnt have the kind of hands-on involvement in the kind of real law enforcement work that gives rise to good stories.
if you're a sox fan and/or love good baseball stories, you have to read this. Not surprisingly, Francona is very respectful. Says very few bad things about players and is pretty tame when it comes to Sox ownership. But mostly the book is worth reading because of all the fun little baseball stories that aren't newsworthy or earth-shattering but are just pure fun.
Urofsky did his homework and I learned a lot about Brandies' reform work, Zionism, and jurisprudence. Urofsky applogizes too much for Brandeis' failure to consider issues of race. This is not a small flaw, but the critical reader can put this in perspective and still learn an enormous amount about the man and the period from this book.
Of maybe 200 or so Audible books I have listened to, this is the first that listening rather than reading the book was a huge obstacle. I knew this might be an issue but I figured a) I know state shapes pretty well so can probably follow most of it without looking at a map, and b) if I need to look at a map, I can just google it a check. I was wrong. The book is interesting because he deals with all sorts of little zigs and zags in state lines that you'd never see in a standard U.S. map; so, even a fairly decent knowledge of state outlines didn't help much. Moreover, you can't just look at the map for a minute and then follow the rest of the chapter. He deals with things very quickly. Accordingly, I found myself needing to recheck different parts of the map every 30-45 seconds. This made listening to the book while driving or at the gym virtually impossible. I suppose if you were just sitting on your couch listening and not multi-tasking, you could just keep Googling different maps and follow along. But that certainly isnt how I use Audible books. Also, at different times you need different types of maps--sometimes you need latitude & longitude, sometimes you need terrain, sometimes you need the names of small rivers and towns. I imagine that in the print version you get the map you need for that section on the page. Here though, in one 4 minute chapter, you might find yourself needing to google three different types of maps.
Also, this book goes alphabetically rather than geographically. That is, instead of discussing the New York-Vermont border once, you get most of the story in the New York chapter and then some slightly different but mostly redundant version of the story 15 states later in the Vermont section. There are some borders for which you hear the same story at least three or four different times. If this were in print, you could skip the repetitive stuff, but the audio format makes jumping around like that very difficult.
I love Salman Rushdie's fiction and this memoir matches up with the best of it. It is very artfully crafted and the level of prose blows other memoirs out of the water. I read a fair number of biographies and auto-biographies; the sections on the subject's childhood is usually intolerable--full of incidents the author thinks are symbolic and often made worse by pop-psychoanalysis. Rushdie's childhood story is at the other end of the spectrum. He uses it to talk about religion and literature and all sorts of cool things you wouldn't expect to come up in a section of boyhood stories.
The narrator is very good, but Rushdie read the introduction and I do wish he had read the entire book.
Theres no doubt that the author is largely trying to vindicate himself and does so in an annoying tone where he pretends he's just giving the facts. This is certainly off-putting. But once you accept this book as that--and not scholarship--it really is worth your time. In addition to the stories being great, you really get a sense of what the Allies did wrong to lead up to the war. Also, the narrator is spectacular. No phones foreign accents or silly exaggeration. Just passionate reading.
Sandel is an master philosopher able to apply his thinking to actual ethical issues--a very rare skill for philosophers. This book is very well-reasoned and raised my awareness about a lot of moral issues I hadn't given much thought to before. He has some clear value preferences, but I don't think you need to share them to get a lot out of this book. There's no denying that I entered favorably inclined toward his conclusions, but he really sharpened my thinking on a lot of points where my reasoning had been weak. I suspect if you are strongly libertarian and don't share his value judgments, you'll disagree with his conclusions. Nevertheless, i think this book will help you better articulate on what key value judgments underlie your own policy preferences and why you hold them.
Note also that this book is FAR from anti-markets. It would be a mistake to dismiss it as another book by a Harvard professor trashing free-markets. He's not dealing AT ALL with standard economic policy issues (tax cuts, government regulation of business, etc.). He's really only dealing with ways that market-thinking has spilled beyond those realms into zone of life where we might not expect it too. To illustrate, I think Mitt Romney could well read this book and agree with almost all of it.
If you are interest in biblical scholarship or 20th century Jewish history, you need to read this book today. If you aren't but but you like good mysteries, you too should read it today. This is an incredibly compelling piece of investigative journalism that is very well researched and very well written. It tells a complex story concisely and uncovers a number of important details that even people familiar with the codex's history will nto have encountered before. Hopefully Mr. Friedman's efforts here will ultimately lead to the recovery of the missing parts.
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