I think I'm a slightly more informed consumer after reading this book.
I finally know the history of Hello Kitty!
Just a heads up if you ever find yourself being interviewed by the author -- if you use the F-word you are practically guaranteed to get quoted in his next book.
Like others, I got this on Orson Scott Card's recommendation. It's horrible. Narrator is the worst. Editing has some problems, too -- phrases that repeat, etc. Probably should read this one instead of listen.
I really enjoyed this book. I play the guitar, but I've never been interested much in guitar anatomy. This book makes both the history of the guitar and the details of its parts (and how they combine to make music) very interesting. I found particularly intriguing the role Hawaiian music had to play.
I agree with another reviewer that the book would have benefited greatly from music clips to bring to life the author's descriptions. I quickly grew tired of the blues riff that marks the start of each chapter and would have liked to hear a different riff each time (or a better one repetitively). I could have done without all the f-bombs in the second half. Most of them are quotes when discussing the punk era, but they don't add anything to the narrative.
Overall, an excellent listen. It's great in 30-minute chunks, which is how I ended up listening during a daily walk.
This reminded me of Karl Haas' Adventures in Good Music on NPR. It focuses on Beethoven's character and what was happening in his life when different pieces were composed. It's very accessible to someone unfamiliar with musical terms. Much of the information comes from letters by Beethoven and others, read by various actors.
Maybe I picked a particularly bad episode (March 7, 2004) as my introduction to Le Show, but I couldn't get through the whole hour. The music was good but I guess I didn't "get" the rest of it. I respect the guy for being the voice behind many Simpsons characters (and for his role in A Mighty Wind), but here he just reads stuff from the news with lots of awkward silent pauses where I had to check to make sure it was still playing. I guess he thought the news bits were inherently funny because he didn't really give much commentary -- I felt like I was listening to a bad New York Times audio digest. There were a couple of non-news sketches that were mildly funny.
I normally appreciate understated humor, but this was a little too understated for me.
The narrator is excellent - it's easy to keep track of the characters thanks to his skill with multiple voices.
Harris is a great writer, but -- and I realize I'm going to sound prudish here -- there's some junk in there I could have done without. It's almost like he had an f-word count requirement he had to meet, forcing him to have characters say things like "you and your [eff-ing] mother" when the protagonist asked if he were strong enough to pull him out of a pit. (Wouldn't a simple "you and your mother" have worked fine?) There's also a lot of locker room talk about male (and some female) anatomy and awkwardly placed homoerotic episodes that I suppose are in there to further establish the debauchery of the "bad guys" in the story.
None of this was needed to further the plot, in my opinion, and even seemed to interrupt the flow -- "we interrupt this story to briefly talk about erections again". Harris is a good enough writer to not need to fall back on the cheap titillation and shock value that seem to be all the rage these days.
It would have been a great book without it.
I'm a little more than halfway through this audiobook and it's starting to wear on me. Up through the Civil War the author seemed pretty level-headed, although he likes to hold 19th century people to 21st century standards of political correctness. Now that I'm up to the Spanish-American War, the Panama Canal, and Teddy Roosevelt (a man the author apparently despises), he's a lot more cynical and less concerned with presenting fact over opinion.
He glosses over details behind conclusions that I'm guessing must be difficult to substantiate and expects the reader to 'trust me on this'. More and more, the author implies that every intelligent person agrees with his take without presenting details for the reader to decide.
Since I'm listening to this book because I "don't know much about history" it's frustrating to realize that I'm really getting "what Kenneth Davis thinks about history". I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it much further, not because I'm conservative and prefer a sugar-coated summary of history but because uninteresting opinion is taking the place of interesting fact as the book progresses.
This book is fascinating. If my high school history courses had been this absorbing I wouldn't be so ignorant of history today. McCullough is adept at drawing out the details that interest me rather than getting bogged down in dates and facts.
The book is a great review of early American history with some new insights provided by Adams on old characters, especially Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The letters between Jefferson and Adams in their later years are particularly interesting, as well as the amazing relationship between John and Abigail.
The reader's voice is great. I'm glad my wife has a copy of the book so I can fill in the gaps left out of this abridgement (although the flow of the audiobook doesn't suffer because of it).
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