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Joel Mayer

Richardton, ND | Member Since 2016

104
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 28 reviews
  • 33 ratings
  • 265 titles in library
  • 16 purchased in 2018
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5

  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Michael Lewis
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (3123)
    Performance
    (2721)
    Story
    (2733)

    Moneyball reveals a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can't buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the giant offices of major league teams and the dugouts. But the real jackpot is a cache of numbers collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, and physics professors.

    Sarah Dumoulin says: "No need to be a baseball fan"
    "Outstanding book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of the best books about baseball ever and is a "must read" for anyone wishing to understand the game better. It takes the reader/listener into what is actually happening during the games and the season (hint: it is not what most broadcasters blather on about). Michael Lewis manages to make even the most mundane parts of baseball interesting and the interesting parts are riveting! As one reviewer I read put it, it is "bad news bears for MBAs."

    With all that said though, the production was disappointing. As others have pointed out it does occasionally repeat sentences (an odd experience that is distracting when you are listening closely). The other problem I had was his mispronunciation of names of baseball players. The names of people are integral to the book and I think it does not do the individuals justice to mispronounce their names. I usually enjoy Scott Brick's narrations but this one was somewhat disappointing.

    Overall, though, it is well worth it to listen to or read this book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in baseball, business or life.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Keith Law
    • Narrated By Mike Chamberlain
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (213)
    Performance
    (187)
    Story
    (187)

    Predictably Irrational meets Moneyball in ESPN veteran writer and statistical analyst Keith Law's iconoclastic look at the numbers game of baseball, proving why some of the most trusted stats are surprisingly wrong, explaining what numbers actually work, and exploring what the rise of Big Data means for the future of the sport.

    Buretto says: "Strips the game of every ounce of soul and beauty"
    "A good Sabre-metric glossary"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    First of all, I am not really a huge Keith Law fan but a friend whose opinion I respect seemed to like it. So I thought I would give it a shot. It was a good book and easy to listen to. Lots of cynical commentary as well as "asides" (He insists on putting "trade mark" after every utterance of "Proven Closer" which I agree with).

    But the book is probably best used as a "glossary" of Sabre metrics. It gave a good explanation of the state of the game when it comes to advanced statistical analysis...at least as far as those of us outside of MLB front offices have access to. He gave a good explanation of what different stats measure and how they do it (formulas, etc.).

    My main complaint was that this book wasn't so much polemical as it sounded like a book length rant. While I agree with him on most things I couldn't help but think some of his versions he was "disputing" were caricatures or "straw man" type arguments putting other's thoughts into their worst light and then try to come across as the "voice of reason." Again, I agree with him on just about everything--or maybe everything--but it just felt like his version of what those who disagreed with him were saying sounded silly in a way that felt fishy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Alan Taylor
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (157)
    Performance
    (141)
    Story
    (140)

    The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. Alan Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, gives us a different creation story in this magisterial history of the nation's founding. Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor's Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fueled by local conditions, destructive, hard to quell.

    Peter Stephens says: "Best book on the American Revolution that I have read"
    "Outstanding history, thick narrative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a very solidly written work covering the American REVOLUTIONS (Plural) in the time period covered. It covers the American Revolution from multiple angles. Not just the common "Colonial" and "British" but goes much further into how the situation in France, Spain, Mexico, British Canada, as well as the Indian Tribes of the West. Not just between the Appalachians and the Mississippi but even onto the plains with the Mandan and Arikara (which the Narrator mispronounced as ar-i-KAR-a, it is actually a-RIK-a-ra) in the Dakotas.

    He was also very focused on the American Slave experience of the Revolutions. As well as the white-male attempts to deal with it. Even those who owned slaves often saw and acknowledged the contradictions, but were unable to move past them.

    My only real problem with this book was that it was "thick." Not in the literal sense but the narrative never really took off. It kind of bogged down at times as the author tried to cover a lot of things and do them justice.

    Given my choice I wish he could have gone deeper into things and made this a "trilogy" (1750-1774, 1775-1783, 1784-1804?). To his credit he didn't get bogged down in the details of the Revolutionary War (battles, troop movements, etc.).

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Ronia, the Robber's Daughter

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Astrid Lindgren
    • Narrated By Khristine Hvam
    Overall
    (119)
    Performance
    (100)
    Story
    (103)

    Ronia, who lives with her father and his band of robbers in a castle in the woods, causes trouble when she befriends the son of a rival robber chieftain.

    Martyna says: "Great story for both boys and girls."
    "One of the best books"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    My 8-year old daughter LOVES this book. Her mother read it to her in Russian translation first and then I bought it as an audiobook and have listened to it so many times that I can nearly do it from memory.

    It doesn't oversimplify things. The characters, ALL of them, have good instances and bad instances. Sometimes I like and agree with what they are doing, other times I am apalled. But for my daughter she loves the characters, though she also disagrees with some of their decisions. It is a story of family relationships, feuds, friendships, sacrifice, etc. Truly one of the best books for a young girl (or boy) to read/hear.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Thomas Fleming
    • Narrated By David Rapkin
    Overall
    (328)
    Performance
    (292)
    Story
    (295)

    History tends to cast the early years of America in a glow of camaraderie when there were, in fact, many conflicts between the Founding Fathers - none more important than the one between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Their disagreement centered on the highest, most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention: the presidency. It also involved the nation's foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in a republic, and the durability of the union.

    Jean says: "Very Readable"
    "Good book, if a little hard on Jefferson"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Overall I enjoyed this book. However, I do think it came down pretty hard on Jefferson. It seemed that in EVERY instance Washington was "vindicated" and Jefferson was duplicitous, ignorant, naive, etc. While I suppose this is possible I find it at least implausible. I am not questioning the research or accuracy of what was portrayed. Rather, I am questioning the "balance" of it. While demanding "both sides" can over-simplify things I have a hard time believing that Jefferson was always wrong and Washington (and usually Hamilton) always "right."

    I would have preferred that it make all the same points about Washington but also make some positive points about Jefferson and, maybe, explain WHY he believed and behaved as he did. He came across as shallow, uninteresting, scheming, etc. Which seems like an oversimplified way to portray him.

    To be clear, I am very much a Washington (and, after reading Chernow's book, Hamilton as well) supporter and have grown suspicious of the praise heaped on Jefferson. I am not looking for another book extolling the impregnable virtues of Jefferson. But I have read books that do a MUCH better job of explaining why he believed what he did and why he acted the way he did,why he said what he did, etc.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs)
    • By Jonathan Haidt
    • Narrated By Jonathan Haidt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4859)
    Performance
    (4284)
    Story
    (4229)

    In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right.

    Amazon Customer says: "Required reading... with one caveat."
    "Transformative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When I plunge into listening to an 11 hour book I expect it to follow a similar pattern. For the first 2 hours I am engrossed in the ideas it describes. Then it is followed by 7 hours of re-hashing things over and over. Finally, the last 2 hours are an act of will ("I WILL get through this book so I can cross it off the list of books I haven't finished!"). This was one of the books that did not do that. While not "too short" it did develop the ideas and move at a comfortable pace. I never felt it was "bogged down" nor did I feel that it was just glossing over things that might refute his claims. Several times he referenced that he was surprised by what he found (and how it refuted his earlier beliefs).

    Dr. Haidt has put forth a comprehensible explanation of what is wrong with parts of our society, referencing liberal and conservative ideas, and did so in a way that is not polemical and avoided snarky "cheap shots" that both sides like to use. There were no "straw-man" arguments made. He pointed out where each side is probably right and where that can encourage them to go "too far." This is a book I plan to re-visit as I will likely get more out of it the second time which is not something I say for all books.

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in how we come to moral/ethical decisions and their results in politics, religion and society. For instance, while he does not extol religion as the answer to the nations/world's problems, he also refutes that it is the cause of all/many of the problems. Instead, he points out the functions that it can serve in society at large and how that can be helpful. He also then pointed out at what point it becomes a hindrance. He straddled the fence between militant "religionists" and the corresponding militant "atheists." I felt he was even-handed in describing the benefits of my personal beliefs and downfalls of things I disagree with. Since, as he says, we are all blinded to some extent by our beliefs I have to presume he was likely correct about the benefits of those who do not share my beliefs as well as the downfalls of my beliefs. He gave imperical (poll) evidence of his assertions and, as I mentioned earlier, acknowledged when he had to change his beliefs to fit new data he was collecting and finding.

    This is not a book written by someone trying to "convert" people to his line of reasoning and demonizing all opposition. It is a thoughtful, reasoned, and helpful guide. It gives a new paradigm to understanding both sides of contentious issues. For this reason this book deserves my highest acclamation.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • My Sister's Keeper

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Jodi Picoult
    • Narrated By Julia Gibson, Jennifer Ikeda, Richard Poe, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3857)
    Performance
    (1968)
    Story
    (1976)

    New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness.

    Lisa says: "Wonderful Book, Very Emotional"
    "OK Book"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The story of this book was certainly solid. It had the potential to be riveting. However, it fell short. The main problem was that the author tried (and, I think, failed) to use "first person" from 6 perspectives. This would have worked in an audio book of about 40-50 hours. What she wound up with was getting the worst of both worlds. By splitting it up so often between "voices" of characters none of them wound up getting fleshed out very well. She would have been better off using first person from only 1 or at most 2 perspectives. The even better choice would have been to simply use 3rd person which would have allowed her to simply tell a chronological tale.

    The other problem I had was that she had so many "flashback" moments sometimes it was hard to tell what the ages of the 3 children were. It was also not always clear whether the character was actually "talking" or "remembering." This resulted in a disjointed experience for me as a listener. I almost had a similar problem with "The Time Traveler's Wife" but in that book at the beginning of each section the author stated the age of the main characters. Knowing one was progressing chronologically made it possible to place things in time.

    After all this bad you may be wondering why I gave it 4 stars. The story is that good. She had lots of issues brought up (but none well developed). The production at least had the sense to give each "voice" its own distinct reader. Had the story not been as good I would have had trouble justifying 2 stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • At the Edge of the Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise That Saved the Union

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Robert V. Remini
    • Narrated By William Hughes
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (8)

    It has been said that if Henry Clay had been alive in 1860, there would have been no Civil War. Based on his performance in 1850, it may well be true. In that year, the United States faced one of the most dangerous crises in its history, having just acquired a huge parcel of land from the war with Mexico. Northern and Southern politicians fought over whether slavery should be legal on the new American soil. After a Northern congressman introduced a proviso to forbid slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico, Southerners threatened to secede from the Union.

    D. Littman says: "a very good little history book"
    "Well worth reading"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a solid book. It tells the story of Congress trying to come up with a solution to the weighty problem of slavery. The author does a good job of telling all the guises that the debate came under and points out, strongly, that slavery as an institution was pulsing away beneath all the major issues debated and compromised on. He also did a good job of pointing out how "omnibus bills" (a phrase coined during the debates discussed) tend to unite opposition more than solidify support.

    My one major criticism of this book is it tends to sugarcoat the failure of the 1830's-1850's Congresses for not addressing slavery more directly. At the end the author tries to argue that the compromises negotiated during this time allowed time for the "north" to solidify itself as the major concentration of population, industry and other advantages that allowed it to win the Civil War. While on the one hand this is likely true it still does not absolve them completely of a significant moral failing in my opinion.

    Even with this considered, it is well worth reading as a showing that, even when divisive issues reign if leaders have strong personalities and want badly enough to work it out, they can usually find a way to muddle through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Jonah Keri
    • Narrated By Lloyd James
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (201)
    Performance
    (168)
    Story
    (169)

    In The Extra 2%, financial journalist and sportswriter Jonah Keri chronicles the remarkable story of one team's Cinderella journey from divisional doormat to World Series contender. By quantifying the game's intangibles, they were able to deliver to Tampa Bay an American League pennant. This is an informative and entertaining case study for any organization that wants to go from worst to first.

    Buster says: "The book isn't sure what it wants to be"
    "Mediocre at best"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is book somehow managed to not be about baseball, business or anything but patting D-Rays execs on the back, but not really giving a reason why. The author spoke of "arbitrage" and how they tried to do that (trading something for more than it was worth for something for less than it is worth) but failed to give an example of it. The storyline was not coherent, the reader mispronounced names (famous manager Lou Piniella is 3 syllables, not 4...ignore the 2nd "i"). Most of the "business" parts of the book had to do with promotions they ran and not the thinking behind them. This is not a good book and I would not recommend it to anyone.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Steve Sheinkin
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (151)
    Performance
    (136)
    Story
    (139)

    On a bitter cold day in January 1741, Benedict Arnold was born. Little did anyone know that he would grow up to become the most infamous villain in American history. But first, he would be one of the country's greatest war heroes. Fearless in the line of fire, a genius at strategy and motivating his men, General Arnold was America's first action hero. But his thirst for recognition would ultimately be his undoing.

    Richard L. Rubin says: "Fascinating History!"
    "Slow start, but well worth it by the end."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I came into this book with high hopes to understand Benedict Arnold, a character rarely dealt with in other books beyond the "High School History:" He was a great general, betrayed the American Revolution, and escaped into the British Army. Most books do not spend more than a paragraph or two discussing him so I was hopeful this would give me a fuller fleshing out of the story.

    I was very disappointed at the beginning. The author covered his childhood through first marriage (and first widowhood) in about 20 minutes. It was not very in depth at all, almost none of the fun details and anecdotes I have come to expect. His description of the beginning of Arnold's involvement in the Revolution like his attempted invasion of Canada were covered in "connect-a-quote" style with him stringing together long strings of journal entries. At this point I was prepared to give the book 1-2 stars.

    Then came the battles at Lake Champlain (particularly Valcour Island). This is where the author really found his stride and it was a FANTASTIC reading after that point. He began paralleling the life of John Andre and Benedict Arnold, even a serendipitous meeting between Andre and Henry Knox. He began to shed light on Arnold's character that, while not justifying what he did, at least attempted to make it understandable.

    The rest of the book was full of the anecdotes, insights and stories that I had been expecting and hoping for. Its story of his time at Saratoga and his run-ins with General Gates were well told and interesting. This book shot from being a big disappointment to one of the books I will likely listen to again and again, although probably skipping the first hour or two as I did not find them to be very good.

    The only negative I found in the rest of the book was a habit the author sometimes slipped into: editorializing. He would insert sentences like "What was Arnold thinking?" and one can imagine him slapping himself in the forehead. These comments kind of broke up the flow he had established and was, in my opinion, self-indulgent on the part of the author.

    Even with this, it could not overshadow the writing and the unbelievable true story of what happened and what nearly happened during Arnold's betrayal. It could have worked at so many points, and had it all come together the Revolution likely would have ended there.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Revolutionary War history. It should be a must read.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Cliff Sloan, David McKean
    • Narrated By Peter Jay Fernandez
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (191)
    Performance
    (149)
    Story
    (151)

    The Great Decision tells the riveting story of Marshall and of the landmark court case, Marbury v. Madison, through which he empowered the Supreme Court and transformed the idea of the separation of powers into a working blueprint for our modern state.

    Tim says: "Brings to life the early days of the USA"
    "Fills a niche in Early Republic History"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book truly fills a gap in most histories of the early republic. Most people are vaguely aware of "Marbury vs. Madison" (though I am surprised how many don't know who either of the litigants were, even the famous James Madison). Most people's knowledge ends with that it was the first time the Supreme Court struck down a law as "Unconstitutional." This book does an outstanding job of setting the stage for WHY this was such an important case. Also, some of the intricacies of it, such as that John Marshall was the Secretary of State during the end of the Adams administration who prepared the commissions that were never sent to Marbury (as well as 2 others). It goes into the politics of the time and just how anemic the Supreme Court actually was.

    It also, of course, described the decision and the part that made it most remarkable was that the court managed to assert its authority in the least threatening way possible. It said a law was unconstitutional which could be seen as an affront to the legislative and executive branches, however they did it in sch a way that LIMITED their own authority. In effect, intentionally losing the battle (we do not have authority to issue a ruling on a law that is unconstitutional) to win the war (we HAVE the authority to decide whether it is constitutional or not). It was a brilliant balance of judicial restraint, judicial activism, statesmanship, and politics.

    To be fair, this author also gives, albeit in very short sections, some of the criticisms of the Marbury decision (like the inclusion of a court hypothetical ruling on a case involving a law that they decided was unconstitutional). They also do point out on several occasions that state courts had declared state laws unconstitutional (however Marbury was the first time the US Supreme Court had done this) so this act was not unprecedented.

    FInally, this book finally gives some explanation behind the antipathy between Marshall and Jefferson as well as describing how they were related. Many books I have read have said they were cousins, but didn't describe the "family tree" to explain this. After this book I have a far greater understanding of this and how it affected them both at a visceral level.

    My one small caveat with this book is that it does, for some stretches, become tedious, but this is necessary in a story this technical and these stretches were short.

    This book definitely qualifies as a 5-star listening/reading experience. It covers ground only lightly trod in any other book I have read/heard. It covers it with fairness and adequate thoroughness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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