I didn't know much about Winston Churchill's life, and wanted to learn more, but didn't want to sink myself into a long, detailed tome. This book was the right choice for me. It was informative, but not intimidating or boring. The story flows smoothly, chronologically, from Churchill's youth to old age, just like a proper biography should. After listening to the book twice, I now feel like I have a reasonable understanding of who Winston Churchill was and why his role in history is considered so significant. I thought the narrator was great, although I can imagine some people might not like his Churchill impression.
Intriguing story, well told. My favorite kind of book is nonfiction that reads like a novel, and this fits that bill beautifully. I compare Jillian Lauren's memoir to Elizabeth Gilbert's because in both cases there is a lot of introspection and what you might call excessive navel-gazing (to some extent this is what good memoirs are supposed to do). Both are about gutsy, adventurous women, and both women are exceptionally good writers. Personally, I can relate to the Some Girls story of a young woman's foray into the world of high-class sex trade than Gilbert's story of a year of celibate meditation. Kudos to Lauren for her courage. She presents the complexities of her experience both in the sex trade in New York and in a Harem in Brunei in a way that makes the gray areas stand out - the temptation for many people would be to either glamorize this experience or render it all 100% evil.
This is a fun story, with richly developed characters. The narrators are talented, particularly the actor who narrates the elderly version of the main character.
I wanted to listen to this book because it's so famous for having earned Salman Rushdie a fatwa on his head and I never knew why. I still don't know why and it will stay that way forevermore because I decided to give up on it. It's clear that Rushdie is a talented author/storyteller, but he also has a very distinctive style - he jumps around a lot, for one thing - and combined with the (unfamiliar to me) Indian names I found myself completely lost much of the time. I suspect it would be a good book to actually, no kidding read, so I could physically flip back pages.
This is an amazing story and the world would be a better place if every head of state were required to read it. It's educational and informative but reads like a novel. After hearing this book I will never look at Pakistan or Afghanistan in the same way.
I will say the book has a clear agenda. On some level it is an advertisement for Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, but that is fine with me. This is absolutely a story worth hearing.
I wanted to listen to this book because it was referred to in Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner 2005). I find the idea that peer groups have a very strong influence on enculturation throughout childhood interesting and I wanted to understand the idea in greater detail. But I was very disappointed. Harris essentially argues that parents and biology don't matter AT ALL and who we turn out to be is based ENTIRELY on peer group influence. This CAN'T be what she means to say. Perhaps the fact that this audio version is abridged is an extenuating factor. I actually buy her argument that researchers have been ignoring the important influence of peer groups and they matter more than we think, but to completely discount the affects of biology and family is silly. She uses an example of a U.S. child whose parents are Russian immigrants and points out that the child grows up to speak perfect English because that's the language of his peers. But she completely ignores the obvious observation that - in fact - the child ALSO speaks Russian because of his parents.
Furthermore, I am an anthropologist, and I was frankly stunned by her ridiculously oversimplified caricature of your average child in your average traditional society. She goes so far as to say these kids (they're all the same) don't fight much because they have no toys to fight over. Her lack of understanding of basic anthropology in the context of her research is unforgivable to me.
The death knell of this audiobook for me was the narrator. She reminds me of a syrupy singer in a cheap production of children's music.
In summary - who we turn out to be is a complicated mix of factors, not this ridiculously oversimplified monocausal scenario. Read the subheading on the book "parents matter less than you think and peers matter more" - that's probably right, but don't torture yourself listening to this book because it's not going to add any insight beyond this subheading.
I loved this book on so many levels. It's well-researched, well-written, well-narrated, educational, and can't-put-it-down enthralling. I listened to it twice. My favorite kind of book is nonfiction that reads like fiction, and this is the best of that kind. It flows like an adventure novel - it's almost unbelievable that it's a true story.
I love memoirs, and I generally prefer non-fiction to fiction. I bought this audiobook because I wanted to learn more about Iran, and because it got some glowing customer reviews. I made it through about 8 hours and have now given up on it. My personal complaints: The narrative is not presented in a linear fashion, it jumps around in time and place; the bits about life in Iran are very interesting, but frustratingly buried between lengthy high-school-lecture type analyses of various works of fiction; and I know this is petty, but I found the narrator's voice to be very unpleasant. She does something with her Rs that grates me like nails on a chalkboard. I have read and enjoyed a number of the books Nafisi discusses, but that didn't help me enjoy this book.
If you enjoyed your high school English classes, have a good imagination, and don't mind plots that jump around through time and place, you may well like this book, but it's not for everyone.
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