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Dan

palo alto, CA, USA

40
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 9 reviews
  • 53 ratings
  • 121 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2014
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  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
    • Narrated By Stephen J. Dubner
    Overall
    (6027)
    Performance
    (594)
    Story
    (597)

    Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?

    Timothy says: "Fascinating book, despite the title."
    "A great summer listen"
    Overall

    You've probably heard about this book from friends, family or the media. Unlike many books that create this much buzz, Freakonomics is NOT over-hyped and does in fact deliver on its promise of being a fun read that explores the hidden side of many everyday parts of society. The insights are clever, and the stories are memorable.

    Even if the reader does not agree with the statements of the authors, each story in the collection is at worst thought-provoking and at best funny, revealing and intriguing all at the same time.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Steven Pinker
    • Narrated By Dean Olsher
    Overall
    (505)
    Performance
    (136)
    Story
    (137)

    In The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. What does swearing reveal about our emotions? Why does innuendo disclose something about relationships? Pinker reveals how our use of prepositions and tenses taps into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and how our nouns and verbs speak to our notions of matter.

    Miroslaw says: "Escaping the Cave"
    "disappointing"
    Overall

    I was excited about this book because I am a self-avowed "word geek", but ended up disappointed. This is really a philosophy book, with (sometimes) interesting reflections on how the brain and human nature affect the languages we speak.

    While this would be a great book to read for an academic course, in my mind Pinker's writing did not possess the story-telling ability required to make the academic details of what he was explaining seem intuitive or compelling (a la "Blink" by Gladwell or "Freakconomics" by Dubner & Levitt).

    The book does get more enjoyable after the first hour or two (I almost didn't make it), but the material covered there seemed less novel (e.g., the cycles of baby's names has been covered many times over in the pop-psychology genre).

    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • The Assault on Reason

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Al Gore
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (973)
    Performance
    (132)
    Story
    (134)

    Here is a visionary analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith have combined with the public sphere's degradation to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason. Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from national security to the economy, from issues of health and social welfare to the environment. As The Assault on Reason explains, we have precious little time to waste.

    Walter says: "Partisan but Valuable"
    "A Disappointment"
    Overall

    I was excited about this book because its description espoused an idea with which I adamantly agree: that a combination of factors (media coverage, political cynicism, etc) have led the US to become a climate where critical thinking is rarely a prerequisite holding a political belief.

    However, this book just never clicked with me. Many of Gore's arguments seemed like fairly obvious generalizations at a high level, and yet when he dives into the details few of his arguments are backed by any real evidence.

    I really wanted this book to be good, and maybe it got better, but I didn't get more than a couple hours into it.

    4 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Stephen Kinzer
    • Narrated By Michael Prichard
    Overall
    (641)
    Performance
    (246)
    Story
    (255)

    In a cloak-and-dagger story of spies, saboteurs, and secret agents, Kinzer reveals the involvement of Eisenhower, Churchill, Kermit Roosevelt, and the CIA in Operation Ajax, which restored Mohammad Reza Shah to power. Reza imposed a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which, in turn, inspired fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including the Taliban and terrorists who thrived under its protection.

    amazonman says: "Fascinating & Insightful View of US/ Iran History"
    "Wow, a great (and useful) read!"
    Overall

    Kinzer tells a fascinating story that grabs your attention while providing detailed information about a historical topic that is still very salient today.

    After finishing this book, one can't help but be fascinated by the fact that the US and British role in squelching Iranian democracy and installing their own puppet ruler is not more widely known. This book was very enlightening in helping me understand an important part of Iranian history; and one which still has a significant impact on middle east policy today. I found the level of detail and quality of storytelling superb.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • A Commonwealth of Thieves: The Improbable Birth of Australia

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 27 mins)
    • By Thomas Keneally
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (46)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (16)

    It was 1786 when Arthur Phillip, an ambitious captain in the Royal Navy, was assigned the formidable task of organizing an expedition to Australia in order to establish a penal colony. With the authority of a renowned historian and the narrative grace of a brilliant novelist, Thomas Keneally offers an insider's perspective into the dramatic saga of the birth of a vibrant society in an unfamiliar land.

    Eric says: "Very detailed. Paints a vivid picture."
    "Interesting tidbits, but slow overall"
    Overall

    This book tells the story of the founding settlement of Australia, with detailed descriptions of the English penal system, details of maritime life, famines and other issues faced by the settlers, and the interactions with aboriginal tribes.

    While I normally consume such historical novels, I found this one pretty tedious and slow. The narrative just never really seemed to pick up steam. Still, I did learn a decent amount about early Australia, which is worth something.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Jared Diamond
    • Narrated By Christopher Murney
    Overall
    (1150)
    Performance
    (293)
    Story
    (298)

    In his million-copy best seller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond examined how and why Western civilizations developed the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate much of the world. Now in this brilliant companion volume, Diamond probes the other side of the equation: what caused some of the great civilizations of the past to collapse into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates?

    Rebecca says: "an fascinating book, but better on paper"
    "A Better Title: Environmental Collapses Then & Now"
    Overall

    Diamond is indeed a good storyteller, but the content of the book was far more insular than I expected. The text could be more aptly titled: "Environmental Collapses of Society: Then & Now". This is a book about how misuse of environmental resources have led to the collapse of many past societies and how it threatens to do the same to our own society.

    The two points that I found unsatisfactorily address were: 1) How applicable are past lessons about resource use and reliance from Easter Island and Viking Greenland to 1st world societies today? 2) What factors outside of our environmental reliance on dwindling resources may also contribute to 1st-world collapse in the modern age? The first question was dealt with quickly only via a straw man argument, while the later is not touched on at all.

    That said, the book does provide interesting cultural history lessons, and its applicability to the third world today (as evidenced in the Hati and Rwanda examples) is compelling. Diamond also provides a interesting look at what economic factors contribute to certain industries being more or less environmentally responsible. This section was compelling, but too small a portion of the whole text in my opinion.

    If you are looking for a book on the management of natural resources, or a look at several interesting historical cultures, I think you will enjoy this book. If, like me, you are looking for a more pragmatic discussion of the large problems threatening society today, you may want to pass.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • 1776

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By David McCullough
    • Narrated By David McCullough
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4769)
    Performance
    (1941)
    Story
    (1952)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: If you ever thought history was boring, David McCullough’s performance of his fascinating book will change your mind. In this stirring audiobook, McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence, when the whole American cause was riding on their success.

    Mark says: "Front Seat on History"
    "Highlighting a Lesser Known Portion of US History"
    Overall

    Reading this book made me realize how little I knew about the details of the struggle that created our nation. While the book is long, it doesn't feel like it as McCullough works his way through the days of 1776 with a compelling mixture of historical fact and details about characters both large and small.

    The main downside to this book in my mind is that there is no follow-up titles to cover the years 1778, 1779, and beyond with a similir level of detail and intrigue.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Thomas L. Friedman
    • Narrated By Oliver Wyman
    Overall
    (881)
    Performance
    (132)
    Story
    (139)

    When scholars write the history of the world 20 years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004", what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing?

    Patrick says: "Facinating, Scary and Repetitive"
    "A fun and conversation provoking read"
    Overall

    While comments that this book is a bit too long, or spends time explaining concepts familiar to many do have some merit, overall I found this book to be an enjoyable listen that kept me eager to keep listening for long periods at a time.

    What makes this book so interesting in my opinion is the level of detail combined with Friedman's candid and reasonable thoughts on where these changes are taking our world. On several occasions I found myself mentioning examples cited in the book to friends, engendering interesting conversations on the topics related to globalization.

    This is the first of Friedman's books that I have read, so I can't speak to whether it overlaps with past works, but I would highly recommend it to any friend who is eager to learn more about the changing nature of our world's economies.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • In the Shadow of the Law

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Kermit Roosevelt
    • Narrated By Craig Wasson
    Overall
    (69)
    Performance
    (15)
    Story
    (15)

    Morgan Siler is one of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful K Street law firms, its roster of clients stocked with multi-billion-dollar corporations. Through the obsessive efforts of its founder's son, Peter Morgan, his father's old-fashioned business has been transformed into a veritable goliath, embracing bankruptcy and merger divisions that Archibald Morgan had deemed ungentlemanly.

    Emese says: "Excellent"
    "A good listen, but nothing great"
    Overall

    While I completed the book, I found only a few occasions where the story actually grabbed me enough make me wish I could keep listening even once my commute listening period was over.

    The book was hardly a revealing glance into the world of washington law firms, but at times seemed like a prolonged swipe at lawyers for working too hard and ignoring other factors of their lives.

    Often, the story line was easy to predict before the author "revealed" the next step in the plot-line to the listener, and there were points when I felt I was listening to cheap dime-store fiction. That said, certain aspects of the book were interesting and in some cases even amusing, though they were too few and far between for me to recommend this book to a friend.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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