Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Member Since 2012
I was so disappointed with this book. The worst part was that I went in agreeing in principle with their premise - after all, it does make logical sense that small bands of human beings would bond through shared sexual partners rather than pairing off - but the first half of the book was ridiculous. I've read a lot of the science writing that they criticize, and, having read it, I know that they are deliberately oversimplifying and misinterpreting nuanced arguments to set up strawmen for them to mock. Not refute, not demonstrate to be untrue through overwhelming evidence and reasoning, but seriously mock. I was shocked by the frequency of ad hominem attacks and by how often they argued against a premise that the writer they criticize never made and would not agree with.
Listening to this book made me crazy because they really do have a solid premise that probably would win out in honest academic study, but they wasted this book looking like butthurt children who are more concerned with setting up strawmen to attack rather than honestly besting the existing research. There were a few moments where they seemed to have a more honest criticism, but it was rare. At least once, in the case of Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene", they admit long after they attack the book for calling humans selfish that they are talking about how "people" interpret the book (which people, I'm not sure), not about the real message of the book itself, and they cherrypick a quote that, in context, means exactly the opposite. I looked it up in my copy myself. The book says specifically that the "selfishness" he is referring to is the necessarily self-interested nature of genes, not animals and especially not people. Who cares if someone who has probably only read the title of the book interprets it that way? And, a better question, why criticize an argument you admit is not the argument of a scientist, but one of "people" you assume are misinterpreting the scientist's work? It is a truly bizarre way to try to get their message across, like the authors were searching desperately for a point of view they could discredit to bolster their side but couldn't find one, so they made one up. And that's just one example of the kinds of deliberate misinterpretations they use to make up their "standard narrative" - which, by the way, they repeat far too often. It could almost be a drinking game.
The second half of the book was somewhat better, since it finally stopped saying "standard narrative" over and over again, but it was still thin, argument-wise. I'm still convinced that they're right about the evolutionary history of human sexuality, but not because of this book. The proof they presented was not news to anyone who has read at all on human sexuality (testicle size, the famous t-shirt smelling study, etc.). I also wasn't a fan of their conclusion that monogamy is pointless and no one can do it and be happy and healthy. Although we as a society should absolutely admit that a lot of people would function better practicing honest non-monogamy, sweeping generalizations like that are not going to help promote their case to the public. Sex advice columnist Dan Savage has been promoting this book because he is quoted in the book saying something positive about honest non-monogamy, but even he does not have the same negative attitude about people who might enjoy the stability of monogamous relationships that they do, so if you're thinking of reading it because you heard about it from him, don't. There's better information out there about human sexuality than this.
There was nothing new and groundbreaking in this book. I gave it two stars because I suppose if you've never read anything about human sexuality before, it might be somewhat interesting. But read it with a serious grain of salt - what they say about most of the other scientists and science writers they mention is usually extremely oversimplified and misinterpreted. Read those other writers yourself and see how they stand up in context before you decide they're all idiots, as this book implies through condescending comments about their academic "intentions". As a fan of science writing and a person who agrees with their point of view on early human sexuality and behaviour, I was disgusted by the book. It could have been so great and it was such a major disappointment.
The narration was mediocre. There were quite a few mispronounced words that I noticed, and having a different narrator for the random quotes was weird.
This book was fascinating. I went into it thinking I already knew a lot about these events, but once I started listening I realized that I knew very little. The book doesn't just cover the Czechoslovak Crisis of 1938 - it covers the events leading up to it as well, and in great detail, such as the Anschluss (which is treated much more fairly and with much more detail than is often done in history books) and the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair (which I had never heard of but was really interesting). In that sense, the title is a little misleading, but in a good way - by covering all of 1938, the book gives a massive amount of insight into the inner workings of Nazi Germany in this time period. It also covers British events, such as the resignation of Anthony Eden from Chamberlain's Cabinet and the Churchill-led organized opposition to Chamberlain's appeasement policy, as well as giving a great deal of insight into Chamberlain's thought processes during this time.
Although the events covered in the book are really interesting and presented in detail, the real strength of this book is its ability to portray the people involved. You feel like you are there, in the room, with Hitler and his generals or Hitler and Chamberlain. It gave me a much deeper insight into the motives, personalities, and - surprisingly - humanity of the major players. A lot of time is spent on the manoeuvring of Hitler's generals and you really see them for who they are, not as purely evil villains. I was also struck by Chamberlain's stubborn naivete and Hitler's crazy mood swings. It was fascinating and real, giving me a whole new perspective on what happened.
The narration was all right. I don't speak German, so I can't comment very well on the pronunciation of the German names, but it seemed all right to me. I get very frustrated when words are mispronounced, though, and I can remember shouting correct pronunciations at the audiobook multiple times when the narrator mispronounced something. However, the pace was good and it was easy to keep up with dialogue, so i gave it three stars.
Overall, the book is very engaging, detailed, and interesting. I learned a lot about this critical period, and it covered much more than I was expecting about the year 1938 based on the title. The people are real, not caricatures, and the events are described in detail. It does require the reader to keep track of a large number of people, and having some background about the lead-up to 1938 helps. However, even a less knowledgeable reader would enjoy the insight into the human beings whose actions caused the Second World War.
This book was fantastic. It is a look into not simply the events at the end of the Second World War, but a real insight into the major players - Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, Truman. I felt almost like it was fiction at times because the author made their personalities so real. Their interactions, their feelings, their flaws, and their motivations are so clear that you feel like you are actually there, listening to them talk at Yalta or at Potsdam. As someone who was not even old enough to be in kindergarten when the Berlin Wall fell, this book was a major insight into what caused that turmoil and misery that was to last almost 45 years. The big decisions, the most influential people, and the events that exacerbated it all - the atomic bomb, the division of Berlin, the Iron Curtain, the looting of Germany, and the argumentative beginnings of the United Nations - this book discusses all of it. I have read a lot about the Second World War, but I didn't know very much about the Cold War when I started this book. Now I feel like I really understand what happened to create such a tense environment for so long.
I've read a lot of history, and the insight and depth of this book makes it one of the best ones I've ever found. It was fascinating to get such a variety of points of view that made my understanding of the people in this time complex and human. (However, this doesn't mean that the person you see is likeable - Stalin's own daughter describes him several times as cold and unfeeling.) I also appreciated that it didn't deify the American presidents in the way American history books sometimes do, especially when a president dies in office. Roosevelt comes across as a little naive and too unwell to make a stand (a little like Woodrow Wilson does in Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, though this book was much more forgiving of Roosevelt's flaws than Paris 1919 was of Wilson's), and Truman as inexperienced and not particularly interested in reducing tensions with the Soviet Union. Churchill is left out a little, which as someone who finds him fascinating I was a little annoyed about, but it is symbolic of the decline of Britain as a world power at the end of the war. When he is discussed, however, he is also very human - frustrated by being ignored by Stalin and the Americans, well-spoken, depressed, and to some extent out of touch due to his imperialist leanings. The book also doesn't shy away from describing the atrocities of the Red Army in Germany and the ethnic cleansing that followed the movement of Poland's border to the west. The suffering of the Germans, especially in Berlin, is clearly devastating.
I thought the narration was good. I am very picky about mispronounced words, though, and there were a couple of those, so I can't give it five stars.
Overall, I felt totally immersed in this book. I highly recommend it - it is engaging and accessible to many readers, though prior understanding of the Second World War is necessary, as the reader is expected to already know what happened militarily in 1945 for context. I feel like I now have a really clear insight into the people and the decisions that created the Cold War and all of its continuing effects on the world.
I found this book very thorough and easy to understand, even for someone with no background in economics. The author explains things like buying on margin clearly and makes the sequence of events in the stock market crash seem logical and not too technical. Because that part is easy to understand, the wider economic implications discussed at the end of the book that were a little more technical were also easy to follow. I also appreciated that the book covered the human impact - it briefly describes several important people, sympathetic and not, and covers things like Ponzi schemes, embezzlement scandals, and con jobs that were a part of the world before and shortly after the crash, the descriptions of some of which are funny, a nice reprieve in a history book that is by necessity generally sombre. The book does a good job of describing the culture of the times and the realities - not the myths, like the hundreds of stockbrokers throwing themselves from windows - of the lead-up and the immediate aftermath of the crisis. The foreword of the book, written after the crash in the 80s, is also interesting from a 2013 perspective because it describes another economic downturn's similarities and differences with 1929 as a contemporary observer. The 2013 perspective also allows the reader to make comparisons to the 2008 economic downturn - something I found really interesting to do which was at times downright spooky, like when the author discusses the Florida real estate crisis that preceded the 1929 crash.
That said, the book was more informative than engaging. I wanted to learn about the crash, so I found it interesting, but I can't say it was the most interesting history book I've ever read, and I enjoy dense history books. I didn't want that to affect my rating too much, however, because I can tell that some of what made the book less engaging to me was the academic style characteristic of 1950s and 1960s historical writing that I've encountered in other books from that period - more recent history books tend to be more narrative. That isn't the fault of the author, just a reminder that the book was written nearly 60 years ago, and honestly the book has aged extremely well - the author was capable of giving a perspective that has endured, an impressive feat for any historian.
I did not enjoy the narration. Mispronounced words were an issue and it just didn't fit particularly well. It was robotic and pretty generic, like how anyone on Earth could read a book. Having listened to some great narrators of historical writing, I found this narration enraging at times for its mediocrity.
Overall, it is a very good explanation of the events preceding the crash, during the crash, and (very briefly) immediately after the crash. It was informative and easy to follow for someone not familiar with detailed economic terminology and theory, but the narration was frustrating and the style is sort of detached and academic, which can make some parts (though definitely not all) a little dry. Its greatest surprises are the insights into the human impact of the crash and how accessible it is to the average reader without seeming condescending or simplistic. The reasonable length also makes it easy to absorb as a whole and keeps it from getting bogged down in minute-by-minute accounts, leaving you with a clear understanding of the historical events in context and the messages about the impact on future events. I found it enlightening and it is a book a wide variety of people could learn from and enjoy.
This was quite a marathon listen, even for me - and I regularly listen to long, dense non fiction and enjoy it. It wasn't so much the length but rather the degree of detail that made it seem like such a long book - it really went over every little bit of the peace conference. I appreciated this, since I bought it to learn about the conference, after all, but it was excruciating at times. It covers not only the peace treaties with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria, but also the formation of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Iraq, Armenia, Turkey, Syria, and Palestine (it covers border disputes in detail, so pulling up a map is really helpful if you do not have detailed maps of Europe and the Middle East memorized). It covers the Chinese-Japanese conflict in China, the origins of the dispute between Zionist Jews and Arab nationalists in Palestine, and the Russian civil war. It also gives a great deal of insight into the personalities of not just the biggest players, but also less well-known people like the leaders of British Empire dominions (like Canada and Australia - something this Canadian really appreciated), the leaders of defeated countries, nationalist leaders like Ataturk, and delegates from minor players like Greece and Romania. I feel like I know so much more than before I started that even now, less than a week after finishing the book, I'm having trouble straightening out all the details in my head. It's one of those books you need to listen to three times to really get everything, and not always in a good way.
Because it covered everything, it could be difficult to keep track of at times because of all the events that you need to remember over the course of the book. This problem, which is mostly inevitable with historical non fiction that focuses on such a short time period, was made worse by the author's decision to divide the book by issue covered at the conference rather than telling it as a more coherent narrative. I understand that this was done because telling it day-by-day would have been even worse (they were dealing with multiple issues every day), but there should have been some sort of compromise between those two extremes. It had some, though not enough, references to events going on at the same time to help you piece together the context of the timing, but overall it was often confusing, especially since a reference might be to something you haven't listened to yet because it's discussed in a later section. If the format had been at least a little chronological (maybe by month first and then by issues covered that month?), it would have been a lot easier to appreciate the good qualities of the book.
I have listened to several audiobooks about this time period and therefore was familiar with some of the people and a lot of the preceding events (like the armistice agreement and the abdication of the Kaiser), but even with background knowledge this book was at times totally overwhelming. It made a lot of assumptions about what you already knew as a reader and it required very close attention in order to keep track of everything. It's too bad that the book would be inaccessible to someone who doesn't know much about this time period, because the consequences of the peace conference were at times surprising, enlightening, and fascinating and I'm sure a lot of people would find them interesting in a more accessible format. There were a lot of times where I said out loud, alone in the car, "What?! I didn't know that!" - it gave me a new perspective on a lot of things, both historical and modern. There was a lot of good material in there, once you got over the hurdles of too much tiny detail and not enough context for non-enthusiasts.
One other strange thing about the book was the ending. After having been neutral and factual throughout the book, the end was all about the author's point of view that the Versailles Treaty should not be blamed for the Second World War like it often is by historians. This was an interesting point of view that was well-supported by facts I didn't know beforehand, but it felt sort of out of place when the focus of the book was not exclusively - not even primarily - the German treaty.
The narration was good. It was easy to follow and mostly not monotonous, which was good because you needed to stay engaged in the book constantly in order to follow it.
Overall, I would say I expanded my knowledge of this time period and its effects on the present day, but I sort of felt like I was listening to a professor give a lecture series where I was expected to take notes and do more research on my own time. This isn't a book for people who are looking for a first foray into learning about this time period (you need to already know a reasonable amount about the First World War, and to some extent the Second World War, the Russian Revolution, and the Cold War, to fully understand it) - it is definitely not light reading. If you are interested in the subject already, as I am, it's worth listening to - I'm glad I did in spite of the book's flaws. But it takes some concentration and dedication to finishing it to do so because of the jumping around in time and the huge cast of characters. This book was so informative and detailed that it was more like taking a course than reading a history book intended for public consumption - it is not for everyone. For me, it was a four-star book - worth reading in spite of its organizational issues - but I wouldn't recommend it to very many people I know all the same.
Sometimes, when I read a really powerful book, once in a while I am so deeply affected by it that I can't get some particular scene out of my head because it horrifies me like I was really there. This book did that for me, and in that sense it was extremely successful at capturing the reality of the First World War.
The wide variety of stories being told in this book gave me a new perspective on the First World War. Hearing from ordinary people - telegraph operators, nurses, prisoners of war, and conscripts - along with the people with large looming destinies and the most important people at that time really helps you see the war through the eyes of the people who experienced it. And it is not pretty. Certainly you learn in history class about the misery of trench warfare and shellshocked veterans, but this book contained details about how both sides treated prisoners of war, civilians, and each other that might make you ill. Some of them certainly made me feel sick. There were some heartwarming stories too, about illicit kindness to prisoners of war by "enemy" civilians, post-armistice fraternizing of opposing troops, and bravery and sacrifice. But the tone of the book overall is not uplifting - just the opposite. It is morose and gloomy. The people who know the most about what is going on - Lloyd George, Wilson, Clemenceau, etc. - are not out celebrating in the streets with the average person and are often concerned that this is not the last they will see of a war with Germany. I suspect some of that is historical bias, to see the Second World War everywhere on November 11, 1918, but it is true that the point of view of civilians was very different from the people in charge on Armistice Day.
I really appreciated the fact that this book, unlike a lot of books about the world wars, was not pretty much exclusively about Americans or possibly the Americans and the British. Nothing annoys me more as a Canadian to try to learn about these conflicts and hear nothing except the American point of view. This book talks about Serbians and Italians, Canadians and Indians, Australians and New Zealanders. Although there is a clear thread about the development of the armistice that ties it all together, it is a much more diverse series of stories that celebrates the achievements of many different participators, combatant and non-combatant alike.
I thought the narration was okay. I can't decide whether the fact that it was very matter-of-fact even about the more disturbing details was a good thing or not. And, because I am picky about it, the French pronunciation made my internal French teacher crazy, especially after listening to The Guns of August in which Nadia May pronounced the same words so well.
Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in getting at the realities of war. I plan to use a lot of what I've learned in my high school history classroom... but in moderation, since some of it is not easy to hear and absorb, especially if you are sensitive to violence. I've had nightmares. It was worth it for how valuable it was to really understanding the war, but nightmares all the same.
Before I found this book, I'd never heard of the Zimmerman telegram. Being Canadian, we never went into great detail on why the Americans entered the First World War - we were involved once Britain was involved. However, once I listened to other Barbara W. Tuchman books (The Proud Tower and The Guns of August), I knew I had to listen to this one too, and it didn't disappoint me.
Although this is not a particularly long audiobook, especially in the realm of nonfiction, that doesn't mean it isn't detailed. In fact, it gives practically a day-by-day account of some of the most critical periods and plenty of background to understand who the players are and what their motivations were. It is fascinating to listen to and it gives you a really good sense of the state of the world in early 1917 - the Germans moving to unrestricted submarine warfare, the French running out of energy, the British running out of money, the Mexicans caught in a series of coups, the Americans failing to understand why no one would agree to a negotiated peace. All of the backroom negotiations, intelligence operations, and diplomatic unease made for a really engaging story. And although you know from the start that the Americans will get involved, somehow there is still a sense of suspense in the telling where you wonder whether Mexico will attack Texas and the Germans will win in Europe after all.
The narration in this book by Wanda McCaddon was excellent. She can pronounce all of the foreign-language words (primarily German and Spanish) well, one of my personal irks with a lot of audiobook narrators, and in general reads at a good pace with great voice changes to represent individual speakers.
Filled with information from diaries and official records, this book makes you feel like you know the people involved well and that you understand why they are making the decisions they are. For such a small incident, really, in the overall view of the war, it makes for an interesting story with far-reaching consequences that affect how the world is today. Although I don't have a huge interest in American history, this was so much more than just a story about how they came into the First World War. It's about Germany, Britain, Mexico just as much as it is about the US, and Tuchman does a great job of showing the events from all those perspectives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in WWI history, Woodrow Wilson, and/or stories of diplomatic intrigue.
This is a good listen if you're into horror movies and you know a lot of the clichés and common tropes in those movies - its entire content is about playing off those things. It has chapters called things like "How to Find Out What Type of Horror Movie You're In" and is full of tongue-in-cheek advice on how to stay alive. It is funny and clever, but it's not particularly original. Good for a quick, light listen, but nothing special.
I don't mind the narrator but I do wonder if he was the best pick for this particular book - he sounds like an old-school radio DJ à la Casey Kasem and it doesn't really go with the content about zombies, slasher movies, etc. I think it could have been better with a different style of narration, but it's not too distracting as is.
Overall, it does succeed at being funny and we enjoyed listening to it, but there's nothing in it you wouldn't expect. It was just okay; not bad, but nothing you'll remember in any detail a few days after you listen to it.
It's no surprise that this book is widely thought of as the definitive work on the critical first month of the First World War. I listened to Tuchman's The Proud Tower first and it was immeasurably helpful in following the people and the references to events leading up to 1914. I highly recommend doing the same - it makes this book much easier to follow and the motives and perspectives of the people much clearer.
Like in The Proud Tower, Nadia May does excellent narration. After listening to two (and currently listening to a third - The Zimmerman Telegram) books narrated by her, I wish all the books I listen to were done by her. The pace is excellent, the accents are spot-on, foreign-language words are pronounced expertly, and it is easy to follow dialogue versus narration and speaker versus speaker within dialogue.
If, like me, you have only a long-ago high school history class level of knowledge about the First World War, be prepared to learn a lot. This book is extremely well-researched and detailed - literally day-by-day and from British, German, French, and (though not as completely) Russian perspectives. It covers both the German fronts on land as well as the naval perspective and is as complete as you could ever ask for in covering all the key events that created the war of attrition that lasted until the Americans got involved in late 1917.
However, by far the best part was the coverage of the perspectives of individual actors in the events. You really feel like you know the personalities of the people, particularly (but not exclusively) those at GQG and OHL making the decisions and the most important commanders of the armies in the field. Tuchman does an excellent job of evaluating the actions of all the players fairly and, in the end, few of the highest decision-makers (especially in France and Germany) come out looking like they had their heads on straight. It gave me a whole new and deeper understanding of why things turned out the way they did. Between The Guns of August and The Proud Tower, my perspective on how and why the First World War began has changed completely. Forget the assassination of the Archduke - it's practically a nonevent. Often history books used in school make it sound like that event was the key and the war only happened because of it. It is so much more interesting and complex than that, and, as a teacher, after reading these books I wouldn't even simplify it down that way at all for students. Even the concept of the Triple Entente was not anything like how it was portrayed when I learned about it in high school. Now I feel like I really knew nothing about the war before I read these books and suddenly it is clear.
My only complaint about the book is that you do need to read The Proud Tower first. So much of what goes on in this one makes more sense and so many briefly-mentioned characters are familiar because I listened to that one first that I can't even evaluate how it would be to listen to this one without that one. I suspect I got a lot more out of this because I listened to both.
I never used to think the First World War was as interesting as the Second and so although I love to read about history, I kind of ignored it. Now I am sorry I did. I can't recommend this book enough - it is obvious why it is considered a classic, and it is just as relevant and useful today as it was when it was first written.
This book was truly a complete picture of life leading up to the First World War. British politics, the Spanish-American War, the French Dreyfus Affair, German composers, peace conferences, socialists, and anarchists are all covered in excruciating detail, along with several other topics. I knew very little about the period before I started listening and now I feel like I really understand what life was like in that period. To really understand the First World War, you need to understand more than just the Triple Entente/Triple Alliance and the Serbian terrorist attack of 1914. The tension, the romantic attitude towards war, and the arms race all contributed as well, along with many other factors.
The world really was culturally foreign in that time compared to the rest of the 20th century, so understanding it takes covering a wide variety of parts of life in that time period to properly get the feeling of it. This book covers everything you might want to know (and more) and gives a clear picture of what factors created the powder keg that existed in 1914. It sticks with one topic for a section, even if that means referencing events that haven't been explained yet. Don't worry if you hear a reference to something and are frustrated by the lack of explanation - she gets to them later and as the book goes on it fits together better and better.
The narration in this book is perhaps the best I've ever encountered. Nadia May is the only narrator I've ever heard do a huge variety of accents without sounding like she's mocking them (her only weakness is American accents - she is British and her American accents sound mostly British with some American phonemes to my ears). I teach French and her pronunciation in that language is impeccable - I find it very annoying if it is done poorly, and this is the first one I've listened to with French terms where I haven't found the pronunciation lacking. I know very little German, but her German sounds just as high-quality as far as I can tell.
The reason I gave this book four stars instead of five (and I would have liked to do 4.5) was because of the lack of explanation for foreign-language statements at times and for the extent of background knowledge required on the variety of democratic systems existing at the time. While I understand French perfectly, I did notice a lack of translation for some longer phrases and once it reached the section with German, which I only understand in terms of phrasebook-level phrases, it was frustrating to not get the full picture sometimes. Being Canadian, I understand the British system (ours is based on theirs) and the American system and am familiar with the French and German ones to an extent from teaching political science. But it would be confusing if you had no real understanding of those systems, especially the British one, which was talked about in detail but never explained. In fact, none of them were explained, just referenced.
The other small issue was that the sections on British politics were so full of a huge number of characters that they were hard to follow, even when you understand their political system. Dozens of ministers, opposition leaders, union leaders, lords, aristocrats, and influential figures come and go and it requires some concentration to keep track of who's who. I listen to audiobooks in the car, and splitting up the British sections meant that it always took me a minute to remember which party Lord Salisbury belonged to and what the heck he'd been doing when I paused it that morning.
In general, one of the most enlightening and educational works of non-fiction I've ever read.
I really like the Pimsleur language learning products. As a French teacher myself, I know the work it took to master another language and what techniques work to help students build skills. They are absolutely right when they say that it is about functional sentences useful in real situations. It is also about oral skills, not written grammar tests. I like that they also don't just have you repeat a phrase, like a phrasebook or some other language-learning programs - they explain what each part of a phrase means as well, which allows you to adjust the sentence accordingly with other vocabulary. It also helped to hear two different speakers, one male and one female, to make it easier for me to pronounce things correctly. A 30-minute lesson is enough to absorb at one time - you need to really think to keep track and you might need to do it twice, but it isn't too intense.
Note that the free download is just for the first lesson, about 30 minutes. On Audible they have Phase 1 units 1-10 for two credits or split by 1-5 and 6-10 for one credit each. You can also get individual lessons for 1 credit each, but why you would buy lesson 2 for one credit when you can buy 1-5 for one credit, I don't know. Don't expect all 10 lessons for free! But this is a great way to see if you like the way the lessons work and if you want to learn more of this particular language.
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