I am a retired man who spent good years in technology thus missing ample in history. With more time available now I wanted to catch up on that but being a slow reader, printed books wasn’t the best and the most motivating option. Thanks to audio books that filled that void very well. And it’s in this search for better audio books on history that I stumbled on The Great Courses.
I signed up for Audible and started with this one on Russian history as a free trial. And was it worth it? To answer that question simply, “I think I am sold to it”.
Professor Mark Steinberg does a commendable job walking one through the Russian history in a very lucid, fairly paced and absorbing delivery. I found it so riveting that I finished the entire 18-hours plus of listening in just 4 days. His knowledge, as I learnt late during his narration, is not just based on an academic study but also enriched by his physical knowledge (presence) of the then USSR where he studied and also taught - a fact that hadn’t been highlighted in the introduction to his lectures.
I’ll conclude saying that this lecture series on Russia alone is worth the subscription of a whole one year at Audible.
Twenty one hours of listening to this book is the shortest way to educate oneself on the history of the modern state of Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that I had some idea of Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud's raids and conquering of territory, it wasn’t the complete story nor made much sense. Thanks to this book which not only filled the void but actually went beyond: it filled it to my delight.
This book covers in detail the entire history of the tribes, the politics, the fighting within and without which spanned the Arabian peninsula from 1890 to 1957 with Abdul Aziz (referred throughout the book as Ibn Saud) taking the central role. It covers all aspects of Ibn Saud – his soldierly spirit, his fighting strength, his political maneuvering, yet not overlooking his personal failings. It was only after reading this book that I was able to get an idea of how the oil wealth has been and is being consumed by the House of Sauds. I could hardly believe that in 1950s two-third of the income from oil went in to serving the lifestyle and needs of the self acclaimed Royals. There is also ample humour and stories to give the reader enough chuckles. Ibn Saud’s marriages and his losing account of how many wives he married: his insistence of taking sheep aboard USS Murphy (to which the US Navy relented) enroute for his meeting with President Roosevelt aboard USS Quincy provide for a fair amount of light reading.
Elsewhere I had read a comment that the narrator could not pronounce the Arabic names correctly. Indeed that is true but I had rather listen to a good English narrator and compromise listening to a few incorrect Arabic names than listen to some one pronouncing the Arabic names correctly but debar me the pleasure of smooth English listening for twenty hours. I enjoyed the narration so well that I have no hesitation rating it 5-stars.
Any Muslim or a non Muslim, an Arab or otherwise who intends serving anywhere in the Arabian peninsula would find himself enriched reading this book and better equipped in knowledge to serve in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates.
I opted to read this book with some skepticism - bordering prejudice - because of the author's switching sides between the two major polarized political parties of Pakistan. Not just that, he orchestrated his career so well that he enjoyed an ambassadorial position with each of the government in power. His standing was further compromised for his alleged involvement in writing a letter to Admiral Mullen to save Pakistan's democracy. I must hasten to add though that by the time I finished this book I was convinced that Mr. Haqqani wrote this book objectively and did not let his personal political life and ambitions eclipse writing about the thorny subject of US-Pakistan relationship.
I read (rather listened) this book for the very purpose of learning more about this sensitive relationship between the two countries that keeps swinging between the two extremes. Mr. Haqqani did a very good job by narrating this long saga (from 1947 to date) with details, facts and research. It sounds true and accurate and I find no reasons to suspect otherwise.
This comment is not a reflection on the book but I felt deeply embarrassed and belittled reading that Pakistan picked up the begging bowl right from its inception and never made a sincere effort to let go off it. Even the previous President, Mr. Zardari, was singing the same song – this time under the tune of a Marshall Plan. I wonder if the author, then an ambassador in US, had anything to orchestrate its melody. An irony again that after more half a century Pakistan and US relationship remains uncertain as ever, in that, they are neither trustworthy friends nor arch rivals.
This comment is essentially about its audio book version. I am not sure if the audio book version was somewhat flawed in the chronology but a few events narrated seemed out of calendar sequence. Also the narration itself lacked in energy and style, hence provided for rather monotonous listening.
The book however has to be judged for the quality and accuracy of its content and it scores high marks on that score.
Precisely what I wanted to read (in fact listen) about the history of Google. It's excellently researched and the narration was perfect.
The book is well researched but one cannot walk away with clearly identifiable lessons in how to implement the philosophy of "why" starting a project or company. My view is that the philosophy of “why” is instinctive which cannot be acquired or copied implying that some have it while others don't. And those who have it implement it intrinsically: not because they are convinced about its value or philosophy but because they are too focused pursuing their dream. Steve Jobs never debated the issue of “Why” with himself or his colleagues before launching Apple, nor can it be said about Elon Musk launching PayPal and Tesla.
It also doesn't mean that those who are not driven by the relevance and value of “Why” will not be successful and there are many of examples of such successful entrepreneurs. It’s easy in hindsight to evaluate, analyze and determine causes of success and failure. It’s also not clearly established if frugality (like the CEO of South West Airlines wearing socks with holes) was just a matter of personal lack of interest in dressing or such frugality was in any way a contributory factor to the airline’s success.
In brief call it Why or Focus or Determination, there are examples of success in every turf - be it in pursuit of business, education or religion.
I would nevertheless recommend listening to this audio book.
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