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Mark

Member Since 2011

54
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 23 reviews
  • 113 ratings
  • 1 titles in library
  • 9 purchased in 2014
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9

  • Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World

    • UNABRIDGED (30 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By William D. Cohan
    • Narrated By Rob Shapiro
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (125)
    Performance
    (78)
    Story
    (78)

    From the best-selling, prize-winning author of The Last Tycoons and House of Cards, a revelatory history of Goldman Sachs, the most dominant, feared, and controversial investment bank in the world. William D. Cohan has constructed a vivid narrative that looks behind the veil of secrecy to reveal how Goldman has become so profitable - and so powerful.

    Mark says: "Much better than expected"
    "Much better than expected"
    Overall

    After seeing the title and hearing the author interviewed on the Daily Show, I almost didnt buy it. I expected it to be an over-simplistic scape-goating of a very complicated financial crisis on one institution that has done things to make itself an easy target. Listening to the introduction reinforced my fears and, if I hadnt spent 2 credits, I might have given up at the end of the introduction.

    But, the heart of the book is very-well researched and gives an incredibly textured picture of many of the events it describes. The 1st 3 parts deal with the history of Goldman up until the recent financial crisis. if you are a major Wall Street history buff and have read the memoirs of the key players & other Goldman histories, a fair amount of this might seem repetitive. But, if you are a normal human being, Cohan offers a very well-written narrative of the firm's history that would require you to read a number of other books to get elsewhere.

    The 4th part deals with the current (recent?) financial crisis. Despite the title and the intro, it does a great job detailing Goldman's role and showing how many of the things Goldman did limited the magnitude of the crisis and, in fact, represented best financial practices. The reason they made so much money is that almost no one else was behaving rationally. Goldman was early to understand the house of cards on which CDOs rested and they marked their assets accordingly. Though often blamed for causing the crisis, this actually had the effect of holding Wall Street back from even greater irrational exuberance which would have led to an even bigger crisis down the road. Sure some Goldman individuals may have engaged in specific questionable activities, and Cohan doesn't ignore this, but Cohan does a good job of showing how weak the causal relationship between a couple shady decisions and the crisis really is.

    The real scandal is that everything Goldman did was LEGAL and Cohan's book gives a textured picture of that.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman
    • Narrated By Mark Deakins
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (171)
    Performance
    (81)
    Story
    (86)

    Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a 20-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid. In this compelling memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities.

    John S. says: "Think carefully before buying"
    "A Great Read"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Louis J. Freeh
    • Narrated By Adam Grupper
    Overall
    (115)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    Louis Freeh led the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1993 to 2001, through some of the most tumultuous times in its long history. This is the story of a life in law enforcement and of one man's determined struggle to strengthen and reform the FBI while ensuring its freedom from political interference.

    David says: "Detailed, drags at times, but overall very good."
    "Very Disappointing"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Francona: The Red Sox Years

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Terry Francona, Dan Shaughnessy
    • Narrated By Jeff Gurner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (132)
    Performance
    (120)
    Story
    (118)

    From famed manager Terry Francona, a lively, unvarnished narrative of his tenure with the storied Boston Red Sox... From 2004 to 2011, Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, the most talked-about, scrutinized team in all of sports. In Francona the legendary manager opens up for the first time about his eight years there, as they went from cursed franchise to one of the most successful and profitable in baseball history. He takes listeners inside the rarefied world of a 21st-century clubhouse.

    Sean says: "I enjoyed it a lot,"
    "If you're a sox fan, you have to own this"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Colin G. Calloway
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (24)
    Story
    (22)

    In February, 1763, Britain, Spain, and France signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War. In this one document, more American territory changed hands than in any treaty before or since. As the great historian Francis Parkman wrote, "half a continent...changed hands at the scratch of a pen."

    Brian says: "Poor account - there are better"
    "Spectacular Look into 1763"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louis D. Brandeis: A Life

    • UNABRIDGED (35 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Melvin I Urofsky
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (37)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (17)

    The first full-scale biography in 25 years of one of the most important and distinguished justices to sit on the Supreme Court - an audiobook that reveals Louis D. Brandeis the reformer, lawyer, and jurist, and Brandeis the man, in all of his complexity, passion, and wit. As a lawyer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he pioneered how modern law is practiced.

    J says: "a Listen to Louis D. Brandeis"
    "Clearly the definitive Brandeis biography"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • How the States Got Their Shapes

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Mark Stein
    • Narrated By Brian Holsopple
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    Why does Oklahoma have that panhandle? Did someone make a mistake?

    We are so familiar with the map of the United States that our state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers. Even the oddities—the entire state of Maryland(!)—have become so engrained that our map might as well be a giant jigsaw puzzle designed by Divine Providence. But that's where the real mystery begins.

    Mark says: "Terrible Book for Audio -- Try the Print Version"
    "Terrible Book for Audio -- Try the Print Version"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph Anton: A Memoir

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Salman Rushdie
    • Narrated By Sam Dastor, Salman Rushdie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (206)
    Performance
    (180)
    Story
    (175)

    On February 14, 1989, Valentine's Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been "sentenced to death" by the Ayatollah Khomeini. For the first time he heard the word fatwa. His crime? To have written a novel called The Satanic Verses, which was accused of being "against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran". So begins the extraordinary story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of a police protection team.

    Lynn says: "Informative, Timely"
    "I couldn't stop listening"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Sir Winston Churchill
    • Narrated By Christian Rodska
    Overall
    (1292)
    Performance
    (706)
    Story
    (705)

    Churchill's history of the Second World War is, and will remain, the definitive work. Lucid, dramatic, remarkable for its breadth and sweep and for its sense of personal involvement, it is universally acknowledged as a magnificent reconstruction.

    John M says: "Brilliant! Only Churchill could have done this."
    "If you are interested in WWII, you have to read"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Michael J. Sandel
    • Narrated By Michael J. Sandel
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (101)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (89)

    Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?

    Kristopher says: "Great introduction to the world of ethics"
    "Extremely interesting and insightful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Matti Friedman
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    Overall
    (31)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (28)

    A true-life thriller about the journey of one of the world's most precious manuscripts - the 10th-century annotated Hebrew Bible known as the Aleppo Codex - from its hiding place in an ancient Syrian synagogue to the newly founded Israel. Using his research, including documents that have been secret for 50 years and interviews with key players, AP correspondent Friedman tells a story of political upheaval, international intrigue, charged courtroom battles, obsession, and subterfuge.

    dlb says: "don't quess at pronunciation of foreign words"
    "thrilling story and very well-written"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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