Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Member Since 2012
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 book was so much more than I expected. It not only accurately discussed medical and scientific information about poisons, but it was also a narrative that was interesting to listen to. Each poison had true crime stories associated with them that were a little like real-life CSI episodes - complete with descriptions of how the poison was detected and the poisoner caught (or, in some cases, an innocent person exonerated). As a scientist, I really enjoyed the popular science aspect of it, and as a history buff I also really enjoyed the overarching narrative about prohibition and the rise of the legitimate, scientific medical examiner's office in New York. The people in the book were very real and the stories were so fascinating that it was easy to forget that it was all true.
The performance was good. Considering the scientific terminology involved, there were very few mispronounced words and the voices used for particular characters were not distracting.
Although the book is about science, it is easily accessible to anyone who is interested in the topic - the author explains everything from the basics and doesn't assume the reader has scientific expertise. Ultimately, it is more about the people - the medical examiner and the chief toxicologist, especially, but also victims and criminals, as well as politicians - than the chemicals. It makes it a story anyone would enjoy listening to. My only warning would be that there is a little bit of content that might be disturbing to people (experiments on animals and descriptions of procedures to extract poisons from body tissues) - though anything potentially disturbing is described fairly neutrally and not in gory detail. The book is limited by history to describe what really happened, so it is hard to be horrified when they describe normal 1920s and 1930s scientific practices - especially when the goal of the scientists involved was to make things safer.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and it was much more narrative-driven than I expected. The science was great and the story and the characters were engrossing. It really highlights some of the unsung heroes of early forensic science that I had never heard of, but now I want to learn more about. I would recommend this book to anyone - it is easily accessible to non-scientists and would interest a history or true crime fan just as much as a popular science fan.
I went into this not sure if a 30-hour book about Enron would really be all that interesting. However, I ended up really enjoying it. It was very, very detailed and thorough, and the author did a great job of making the financials easy to understand. I could follow what was happening with the money with no problems and I have no financial or accounting background. The book is very much a narrative, and in spite of the large cast of characters and the detailed series of events, you get so that you are really engrossed in the story. It was hard at times to remember that this all really happened! The author obviously went to a lot of trouble (as he discusses in the interesting interview with him at the end of the book) to tell the story based on facts and not demonize anyone. The people come across as authentic and complex, just like they should. Even the corrupt people can be sympathetic (or at least pathetic) at times. I was a teenager when Enron went bankrupt so I really didn't know anything about the story going in, but that didn't affect my ability to follow the book - the author didn't make any assumptions about what people already knew about Enron.
I really enjoyed the narration. It engaged me in the book and was neither over-dramatic nor monotone. There were only two or three mispronounced words that I caught, which is honestly pretty impressive in 30+ hours of reading.
My only complaint is that there wasn't another 10 hours about the trials and the aftermath. I understand why - because the trials were ongoing when the book was written - but I still wanted it to continue! In general, the ending wasn't that satisfying, but it is real life, so obviously it couldn't all get neatly wrapped up. Overall, I would recommend the book to people interested in history books, actually, since it reads like a good history book, with a clear narrative and interesting in-depth coverage of the whole history of Enron as well as its demise.
As someone who started high school just a year after Columbine, I remember what I heard in the media for a while and I remember the new school policies that came later - I didn't really follow what happened in great detail or for very long after the massacre. I bought this book thinking it might be interesting to learn more details about the event; I had no idea it was going to be so enlightening.
The real story of the Columbine massacre is not anything like what was shown in the media. I don't want to give too much away, but this in-depth, exceptionally well-researched, and balanced look at the lead-up, the tragedy, and the aftermath made me feel like everything I thought I knew about Columbine was wrong - because most of it was. By far the largest portion of the book is about Eric and Dylan, the teenage perpetrators of the massacre. They left a lot of documentation of their feelings, their plans, and their psychology, which is explored in-depth through the analysis of a leading psychologist and investigator of the case. It has personal and remarkably fair accounts of many people involved - including Dylan's parents, families of victims, survivors, and investigators. The only people I didn't feel like I knew or understood at the end of the book were Eric's parents, which is because they have never said anything to the media and what they said to the police is sealed. To his credit, the author does not make assumptions about them in the absence of evidence and they remain a mystery.
My only criticism of the book is the organization of the plot. Every chapter has two parts - something about the lead-up (and later the massacre) from the perspective of Eric and Dylan, and something about the massacre (and later the aftermath) from the perspective of victims, survivors, families, and investigators. I'm not sure why the author chose to do it that way, but I found it a little disjointed.
The narration was good. I don't often give five stars to narrators because I am picky about mispronunciations.
It's clear that the author did a ton of research to produce this book. It encompasses aspects of the massacre that I didn't even know existed, and it avoids moralizing in most cases, letting the actions of the people involved speak for themselves. However, it is clearly critical of the media, the local country police, and parts of the local justice system. Eric is labelled a clinical psychopath, but it is not a moralistic judgment - it is a diagnosis by a professional, and one supported by a lot of evidence. He is not even a little bit sympathetic. On the other hand, for a while Dylan seems sympathetic, at least to me. As a high school teacher, I wish that someone had identified his struggle with severe depression before his death. That said, the author does not in any way excuse either of them for culpability (although he clearly believes that Eric is much more responsible than Dylan), however, and emphasizes their cruelty and the impact of their actions on the victims and survivors.
I would recommend this book to anyone who works with teenagers, has teenagers, or thinks that Columbine was a pair of outcasts retaliating against bullies. It wasn't. This book was an engaging, comprehensive, and fair look at the true story and I think it was extremely well-done.
This book is a detailed account of internal politics focusing on Gorbachev in the USSR and Reagan in the USA. In order to enjoy the book, I would say that some basic background in the earlier parts of the Cold War would help, but no background in the events of the 80s themselves are necessary (I didn't have any!). The book alludes to the events of 1989-1991, so to learn more about those, you would need another book. It does get into a lot of detail about the political machinations, but most things are well-explained - I have no background in the structure of the Soviet government and I live in a country that has a parliamentary democracy that is quite different from the American system, and I could follow it without a problem. However, being interested in the inner workings of political systems is necessary to find the book engaging - if you find politics horribly boring, this is probably not the book for you. It also does a good job of qualifying biased materials (such as Gorbachev's memoirs) clearly, something I really appreciated since this is my first book on this subject.
Having been born about three weeks before Chernobyl, and therefore not having experienced this time period for myself, this book was a real eye-opener for me. The detailed depiction of the rise of Gorbachev and his development of reform was fascinating - based on the description of the book, I didn't expect so much deep background on him, but it was important for context and worth sitting through. I knew almost nothing about Gorbachev going into this book, and now I feel like I really understand where he was coming from and why he did the things he did.
Although the Soviet side was interesting, I found even more to grab my attention in the parts about the Americans. Since because of my age I am in the position of knowing a lot about the Bush Jr. presidency but remembering nothing about the Reagan-Bush Sr. years, this explained so much. Honestly, it shocked me to find out that many of the people involved in the War on Terror - especially the "weapons of mass destruction" debacle - had been involved in similar policy decisions twenty years earlier with the "missile gap". I feel much more enlightened now about something that has always baffled me about American politics - how did the Republican Party become such a mess? - because of this book. The fundamentalist christian connections, the creation/reinterpretation of intelligence information to suit policy rather than the other way around, the ridiculous military spending, the charismatic leader surrounded by advisers... it all started with Reagan. However, don't worry, Reaganophiles - the author doesn't make him out to be the villain. He is treated as an idealist whose somewhat naive desires for changes are not always listened to or even respected by other members of his government. His attachment to SDI is portrayed as a desire to protect his country, not as pigheadedness. Even though I am practically his political opposite, I felt sympathetic towards Reagan and what he was trying to accomplish as president.
I found the narration well-done. No complaints - his voice was easy to listen to and engaging throughout.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I finished feeling like I knew Gorbachev and Reagan well, and understood their motives. The book doesn't agree with the common (but overly simplistic) assessment that the Reagan administration caused the end of the Cold War on purpose by pushing the USSR's economy into destruction. It gives a more nuanced view that gives credit to a complex web of factors. This is a great way to really understand the often-neglected last decade of the Cold War - after Vietnam, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. - and also the rise of neo-conservatism and the modern Republican Party.
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.
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.
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