I would recommend this book to anyone who values education. Of course, the problem, as Ripley points out, is that education is undervalued in American society. So the people who need to read this book the most probably never will. Even so, I do in fact recommend this book to everyone and anyone when the topic of education arises in conversation.
Amanda Ripley manages to balance broad, general, larger-than-life issues like standardized testing and diversity in education with very intimate stories about students and educators. In fact, the very personal stories of the three students she follows during the course of the book serve to illustrate and bring into focus those larger themes. It's very important that Ripley strikes this balance, because she's taking on some sacred cows of the American educational system, namely sports and technology in school. Because she lets the people in her narrative speak for themselves, though, the book comes off as less didactic than it otherwise might.
I listen to a lot of fantasy and science fiction audiobooks, and, I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of Kate Reading's narration in that genre. I find it bland and lacking in that adventurous spark intrinsic to the books she's tapped to narrate.
However, she's an absolutely perfect narrator for a work of non-fiction like this one. She infuses her narration with enough emotion to make the students, parents, and teachers in Ripley's narrative feel alive, but not so much that it overpowers the intellectual themes and ideas that the author is trying to convey. Reading also nails the wide range of accents featured in the book, from mellifluous Finnish to sparse Korean.
And How They Got That Way
As an aspiring professor, I realize I'm incredibly biased, but I think The Smartest Kids in the World just might be the most important book you read this year. When politicians lament our foundering education system, they point to the decline of American test scores in math and science, areas that are increasingly important in today's global economy. While Ripley certainly mentions this too, she points to a much more pervasive and far-reaching problem: most Americans don't value education.
Sure, parents are involved in schools, but, Ripley argues, it's usually only to make brownies for the annual bake sale. And when university is mentioned, most people immediately think of their favorite NCAA sports team. The real skills needed to succeed and lead in the 21st century--creativity, innovation, lateral thinking--can only truly be learned by students who are fully invested in the learning process, and who have a support system robust enough to keep them on track.
True, the book doesn't outline any cut-and-dried solutions, if there are any. But I think she does accurately frame the problem, which serves as an excellent starting point for much-needed difficult discussions on where our priorities lie.
If said friend were a) a reader of fantasy, b) an inquisitive Christian, c) a lover of biographies, or d) a deep thinker, then yes, absolutely. And all my friends fall into at least one of those categories.
One of the biography's foci is C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity, and the telling of that story contains many memorable moments, including a conversation about mythology between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien that not only influenced Lewis's spirituality but also prefigured both writers' major works of fantasy.
Sachs's stately performance embodies the erudite world of Oxford academia that serves as the backdrop for most of the book. Sachs should also be commended for pronouncing most of the book's arcane and foreign literary terms correctly, no easy feat.
As a long-time reader of Lewis's work, and of the medieval literature that was so central to his intellectual development, I found many moments in the biography quite moving, even those that most readers would probably pass over. The descriptions of some of Lewis's epiphanies about Narnia will probably resonate with most readers.
This audiobook features an interview with the author preceding the book itself. After the biography's conclusion, we're treated to two recordings of Lewis himself at his deep-timbres lecturing best. Both the book itself and the audio edition are masterful additions to the corpus of C.S. Lewis research.
Not having read the print edition, I'm not qualified to fully answer this question. However, I can say that Ray Porter's sprightly narration complements Jeff Ryan's lively, conversational writing nicely. This is a book you can listen to during a commute or at the gym.
This book is at its best when it attempts to deconstruct the Mario mythos in an attempt to understand why it has captivated such a wide audience. In the early hours, Ryan explores how Shigeru Miyamoto subverts common hero tropes to subliminally engage and enthrall gamers. For instance, Mario, the hero of the first Donkey Kong game becomes the villain in the second, in turn holding the big ape captive. Little gems like these add depth to a book that often feels like an "Inside Baseball" look at Nintendo.
Ray Porter narrates the book in a conversational tone, mirroring the writing style. Ryan's writing is laden with puns and pop culture references, and Porter nails them all without missing a beat.
This isn't a book that's intended to elicit intense emotion. While the book is often intriguing, it's certainly not something you should wory about listening to in a waiting room or busy train.
In an effort to tell Mario's complete story from inception to time of writing, Jeff Ryan's book goes on long after the excitement has ebbed. Though a capable writer, Ryan simply can't milk the excitement and, perhaps most importantly, the nostalgia, from Mario's last decade on the GameCube, Nintendo DS, and Wii. Like David Kushner's Masters of Doom, Super Mario spends a long time tying up loose ends and bringing things current, even when later events aren't nearly as interesting as the early days. This is a double-edged sword, of course. If the book had ended at Mario's zenith, listeners, myself included, might have faulted Ryan for incompleteness.
If you've ever fed quarters into a Donkey Kong machine or held the rectangular unergonomic NES controller till your hands got sore, you will find a lot to love about Super Mario, long denouement notwithstanding.
I love Virginia Woolf's ability to build a scene, or series of scenes, around a metaphor. The book opens in fictional Oxbridge, a conflation of Oxford and Cambridge, where Woolf's (or the narrator's--are they the same person?) journey from an opulent men-only college to the down-at-heel women's college of Fernham perfectly captures societal views towards women and education. The scenes aren't rigid enough to qualify as allegory; rather, they allow the reader to explore the ideas from a number of angles.
Though ostensibly a work of non-fiction, A Room of One's Own is replete with fictional characters, all metaphors or allegories to explore different facets of women and literature, women in literature, and literature by women. She posits a theoretical Judith Shakespeare, for example, sister to the famed playwright, to demonstrate why even a woman with tremendous talent and dedication often cannot succeed as a writer.
I can't recall any of Juliet Stevenson's other work, but I can say that her voice perfectly fits the tone of A Room of One's Own. She lends the material the dignity it deserved, and yet also captures Woolf's occasional whimsical flourishes perfectly.
I'm not even going to attempt to answer this question. For one thing, the audience for such a film would be so tiny that even the most intrepid indie filmmaker would pass it over without a second thought. And while there might be certain scenes or vignettes that would translate beautifully to film, the highly theoretical nature of the book would not work well on screen.
I recently attempted reading Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, her stream-of-consciousness effort in the vein of James Joyce's Ulysses, and found it unpalatable. Modernist literature simply isn't to my taste. Yet I recognized her power as a writer.
A Room of One's Own is one of the finest pieces of non-fiction I've read. I happen to be an aspiring literary critic and also, dare I say this as a man?, a feminist. Yet even forgoing all that, Woolf's powerful prose, and also her ability to temper her words with restraint, is beautiful to read.
Not having read the print edition, I can't comment on this question. Certainly Wil Wheaton does an excellent job of narrating the audio version. In fact I think his exuberant performance actually adds a lot to the already-strong narrative.
It's difficult to think of "characters" in a work of non-fiction, but my favorite personality in the book would have to be the quiet, intense, and brilliant John Carmack, the programming brains behind Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, the "yang" to colleague John Romero's in-your-face outgoing "yin".
Wil Wheaton's laconic portrayal of John Carmack's speech perfectly captures the personality of a man so focused on his work programming that even the slightest speech feels like an unnecessary burden to him.
This book would make a fantastic documentary. Interviews with the principal personalities, interspersed with gameplay footage and solid narration, perhaps again by Wil Wheaton, would bring this engaging true story of creativity and conflict to a greater audience. The best tagline I can come up with is "First they unleashed DOOM on the world. Then, they unleashed it on each other." I know, not very good, but you did ask.
I grew up playing Shareware DOS games on my 486 PC. Masters of Doom perfectly captures the flavor of early computer gamer culture, a culture of shared excitement, discovery, and innovation. Reading the human story behind some of my favorite games--Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, and Doom--at times brought a little shiver to my inner gamer kid.The pacing of the book, insofar as there can be pacing in a work of non-fiction, flags near the end of the book, once Doom is released and the Id software team begins to fall apart. The spontaneous sparks of creative genius that characterize the audiobook's early hours give way to a string of petty interoffice conflicts that become rather tedious, although I do recognize they're important to the story the author is trying to tell.One thing to note is that the print version of this book was released several years ago, so don't be surprised that the book's ending doesn't bring the listener up-to-date with the main characters' lives as one would expect.If you've ever whooped with glee as you blew up a Cacodemon with a rocket launcher, then this book is definitely for you.
Though this book fell far short of my expectations, I haven't yet lost my faith in Neil Gaiman. He still has untapped genius in him.
There's no change I can think of that would have made the story more enjoyable. Rather, I just wish Gaiman had written a different kind of story. Ever since Neverwhere, Gaiman's work has concerned itself with hidden worlds, fantasy worlds, concealed within our own. I suppose to some extent that's the conceit of all contemporary fantasy set in the real world. But Gaiman's approach to this genre, filled with endless possibilities, has become formulaic. Though billed as his first adult novel since Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane puts us inside a child protagonist, just like The Graveyard Book, who stumbles upon a weird and wonderful world of universal proportions hidden right under his nose in the bucolic English countryside. I was very much hoping for something new from Neil Gaiman, but alas, this book is not it.
I enjoyed the scenes in which the main character and the enigmatic Lettie Hempstock shared page-time.
Not being up on the child actor scene, I can't cast a live-action version of the book in my mind. This is a book that often works on the level of metaphor, and thus wouldn't translate well to screen, in my opinion.
Like me, you are probably a Neil Gaiman fan, and so, like me, you will probably buy this audiobook no matter what. Just let me caution you that this is not the provocative, mind-breaking Gaiman of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There are glimpses of that Gaiman in this book, and I devoutly hope for his return, but this novel is not it. Having said that, I may have softened your expectations, and now you may be able to enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane for what it is: a well-written, whimsical, at times poignant little read, just like all of Gaiman's works of the last ten years.
Well-written, historical, romantic
The protagonist Elizabeth Middleton is obviously intended to hold the narrative together, and she succeeds brilliantly. Though slightly, but only slightly, anachronistic, Elizabeth Middleton is a strong heroine in the modern sense, yet Sara Donati takes pains to make her precocity, wit, and spirit believable in the context of early American history. Her complex character, right down to her Carrie Bradshaw-esque proclivity for expensive footwear that results in her nickname "Boots", serves as a finely-ground lens through which the reader experiences the world of early America.
I may be the only audiobook listener who generally dislikes Kate Reading's narration. I normally find it stilted and uninspired. For whatever reason, though, she's the perfect narrator for this novel. She captures the spectrum of nationalities and classes beautifully, from Elizabeth Middleton's crisp aristocratic British drawl, to Nathaniel Bonner's no-nonsense backwoods talk, to the Native Americans' laconic speech. Given the range of dialect and diction in Into the Wilderness, Kate Reading has done an outstanding job.
The novel is chock full of fascinating characters, but given my own interest in both literature and education, I would have to choose protagonist Elizabeth Middleton. Perhaps she's even read some eighteenth-century books now lost to us.
I'm not a frequenter of romance or historical fiction, so it came as a surprise to me that I enjoyed Into the Wilderness so much. I think this is in no small measure due to Sara Donati's strong writing, Donati, which is a pseudonym for linguist Rosina Lippi, takes scenes that would feel clumsy and awkward in less capable hands and spins them into poignant gossamer webs of story. Romance writing, for me, too often dissolves into schmaltz and empty sentiment, but in Donati's hands the scenes feel authentidc.
Although some readers might be disappointed, I must also laud Donati for eschewing a set-piece confrontation in the book's final pages in favor of a more nuanced ending.
For an aspiring academic like me, James M. Lang's advice is invaluable. I will certainly come back to this book again when I start teaching, and I'd listen to any similar books that Mr. Lang publishes.
Drew Birdseye's narration is competent, but his mispronunciation of a few words, notably "pedagogy" which appears often, becomes grating. Based on this audiobook, I'd rate him as thoroughly average.
Drew Birdseye's intonation is off on a few words, and his pronunciation of pedagogy with a final hard "g" is like nails on a chalkboard.
I don't quite know how this book would receive the movie treatment, except as a how-to documentary, but yes, as an aspiring academic I would certainly watch it.
This book is listed as unabridged. And yet, the narrator constantly makes references to "resources listed below," references and citations that we never hear. This is part of a disturbing trend I've noticed in non-fiction audiobooks. Maybe audiobook publishers feel that listeners don't care about such details to the extent print readers do. Or maybe they somehow feel it's too challenging to integrate these elements into a book that, at the end of the day, they want to come across as entertaining and marketable. Whatever the case may be, the book is definitely abridged, and I feel I've missed something I would have gotten from a print version. I would be very eager to follow up on some of the recommendations for further reading that evidently accompany the print version, but sadly am unable to do so.
education paradigm shift
The book is full of inspirational stories about people who have found themselves, or found their
I'm dying to listen to
I think the opening story about Gillian Lynne, choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera, set the tone perfectly for the rest of the book. I dare you to read that story without coming to tears.
Often authors shouldn't narrate their own books, but Ken Robinson, whom I first discovered through a TED Talk, lends a dynamism to his work that a third-party narrator probably wouldn't be able to capture.
Informative, funny, touching.
Mary Roach treats a subject that's at best unsettling and at worst taboo with both reverent respect and candid humor. Though founded on thorough research, Stiff never comes across as heady or academic.
I think for me the most interesting scene involved efforts to recreate crucifixion using human cadavers. There's something paradoxical and strange about this on many levels.
Death in the United States is defined as brain death, so there are dozens of
Shelly Frasier's reading of Stiff was solid enough--ugh, forgive the pun--but the recording quality suffered from a fair bit of static, punctuated by pauses of perfect silence, presumably in between takes. If not for these problems I'd have given Stiff a perfect score.
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