Monrovia, California, United States | Member Since 2012
Thought-provoking, stunning, unforgettable.
Aaron Jastrow's eventual transformation, as a parable for Jews everywhere.
Loved the performance . . . Pariseau had numerous characters with various accents, and handled them well. Loved his pronounciation of "renaissance" (usually pronounced ren-ah-sance) as "ree" + "nascense". Really brings home the meaning of that word.
Too many applicable clichés: Epic, sweeping, detailed, grand . . .
I enjoyed the book so much I involuntarily made a rude gesture at my iPod as one of the characters did something oh-so-predictable, but destructive. I was truly engaged from the start of the Winds of War through the end of War and Remembrance.
Want to know what's historically accurate? Read the historical notes - don't try Wikipedia, plot spoilers abound.
I listened to Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1958) last summer. Remarque’s book is a short and powerful listen, in great part because of his descriptions, by a 19 year old German soldier, of battlefield maiming and subsequent deaths that were caused primarily by a complete lack of antibiotics. More soldiers died of infection, rather than the wound itself.
Thomas Hager‘s “The Demon Under the Microscope” (2006) begins with a description of the same World War I horrors, from the point of view of a World War I German medic, Gerhard Domagk. Domagk, who was employed by Bayer AG as a researcher, did not discover sulfonamide (sulfa). Domagk discovered that Bayer coal-tar clothing dye, which contained sulfa, was an antibiotic. The difference between what happened to World War I soldiers (gas gangrene, amputating limbs to stop the spread of infection) and World War II soldiers, who in general had neither, as astounding. Ironically, the Allied Forces more readily adopted sulfa.
Domagk was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery and development, but Adolf Hitler prohibited Germans from accepting the prize. He was finally able to accept the prize in 1947, after a “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” jaunt through post-war Europe to get to the ceremony.
A terrible incident with sulfa is almost entirely responsible for the United States’ Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Sulfa tastes bad, and it doesn’t easily dissolve in water. An enterprising and unregulated drug compounder mixed it with the sweet tasting diethylene glycol, which is closely related to the anti-freeze ethylene glycol. The senate rapidly passed laws strengthening the FDA, resulting in today’s carefully controlled regulations.
“The Demon Under the Microscope” was remarkably lively for a science and technology book, and rivals Eric Lax‘ 2004 “The Mold in Dr. Florey‘s Coat” for its intrigue and rivalries.
As a history book, it was a bit hard to follow as it moved from World War I to earlier centuries, and then back up to the 20th century.
The narration seemed fine to me, although as a non-scientist, I don’t know if the narrator’s pronunciations were correct or not.
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In 2011, Simon Baron-Cohen published “The Science of Evil: On empathy and the origins of cruelty.” That book discusses psychopathy in detail, and the organic reasons someone may lack empathy. Autism is probably the most common reason, but psychopathy - which Baron-Cohen convincingly argues can arise from congenital or traumatic reasons - is the scariest. Autistics generally don’t blend in, and often lack the social skills to progress in a corporation. Psychopaths can fit in, and often do. Worse, psychopaths, unlike autistics, may enjoy hurting people.
Dr. Robert D. Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak’s 2006 “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work” provides tools to identify psychopaths in the workplace. The common mythology is that psychopaths are compulsive serial killers, but that is definitely not the case. Bernie Madoff, the mastermind of the biggest Ponzi scheme uncovered in US history (in 2008), meets Hare and Babiak’s definition of a psychopath. Madoff ruined so many lives, including his own son’s (Mark Madoff committed suicide in 2010), but he has never been accused of even throwing a punch - much less pulling a trigger.
Hare and Babiak provide guidance on how to deal with psychopaths. The best recommendation is to just get away from the psychopath - as you would from any dangerous snake. That’s not always possible - the economy is terrible, a move may not be possible, and the psychopath may be your child’s parent - or your own parent.
Babiak is actually listed as the first author of “Snakes in Suits”, but Hare is actually one of the pioneers who identified psychopathy as a mental disorder. Hare developed ‘The Psychopathy Checklist’, which is widely used to diagnose criminal offenders.
“Snakes in Suits” is an interesting, thoughtful book, and a reminder that while most of us are “neuro-typical” (in Temple Grandin’s [author of 2013’s “The Autistic Brain] parlance), there are people who think differently and may never be able to empathize.
The narration was good, and kept me engaged.
Have you ever watched an episode of “Law and Order - Special Victims Unit” and thought, just for once, it would be at least amusing to have some random call come in totally unrelated to the case? Maybe Detective Elliott Stabler could pick up the phone, and you would hear him say, “I don’t care if you were in the living room first, let your sister sit on the couch, and you better have your homework done when I get home!“ I would love to see a close up of Detective Olivia Benson trying desperately to think of an excuse to get out of hosting a Pampered Chef party for a cousin she only sees once a year.
It never happens, of course - every conversation, every call, and every camera angle somehow leads seamlessly into solving a perplexing mystery, often halfway through the show. The character actor with the most lines is usually the perpetrator. And if Det. Benson has a cousin, I don’t know about it.
“Faceless Killers: A Kurt Wallender Mystery” is the opposite in story telling. Wallender and his fellow detectives spend hundreds of hours following up on promising leads that prove suspects completely innocent. Wallender’s sister comes to visit him for a new days, and he doesn’t talk to her about the case. She doesn’t inadvertently mention some bit of history that turns Wallender in the right direction. Cringe-worthy social situations happen. Wallender gets knocked around a bit, and he’s clumsy enough to almost kill himself on a stakeout. Wallender’s also pretty depressed, but he does have good reason to be.
This book seems more true to what a real detective’s job is like. It’s not a typical American mystery novel, but that’s a good thing. I enjoyed Henning Mankell’s book
The narration was annoying,. Dick Hill’s pronunciation of Swedish words was fine, but I grew up with a lot of Swedish people,. If Hill was trying to narrate in English with a Swedish accent, he missed it by about 3400 miles and hit New York City instead.
I first read Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” (1954) around 1982. I picked up a used paperback copy at Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore in Minneapolis. The book disappeared at some point in the intervening 30+ years, although Uncle Hugo‘s remains. I saw it on a 3 for 2 sale on Audible, and thought it would be fun to listen to it again. I was charmed by the seed it planted for today’s AMC drama “The Walking Dead“, and for some of my favorite books.
Stephen King has acknowledged Matheson‘s “I Am Legend” as one of his influences. Matheson must have planted a seed for “Salem‘s Lot“ (1973) and “The Stand” (1978). “Salem’s Lot”, like “I Am Legend”, is a vampire story. “The Stand” and “I Am Legend” involve plague, government missteps, and random immunity.
The survivor in Matheson’s book, Richard Neville, is apparently a lone survivor of the plague. He spends his days reinforcing his Compton home and killing vampires, and his nights drinking himself into oblivion. Neville longs for a companion while his neighbor and former friend, Ben Cortland, now a vampire, taunts him, begging for his blood. Neville doesn’t kill Cortland. Apparently, a vampire who was someone you used to know is better than no one from your past life at all.
Matheson divides his vampires into two categories - infected, and those that died and came back from the dead. The vampires that came back from the dead are very much like “The Walking Dead” - inexorable and mindless.
The story is a little rough, and some of the technology and science is implausible. Of course, Matheson was writing Sci-Fi - “I Am Legend” was set in the 1970’s, 20 years after it was written.
Robertson Dean’s narration was interesting. It reminded me several times of Charlton Heston in “The Omega Man”, which was based on Matheson’s “I Am Legend”. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it was amusing.
For anyone wondering about the title of the review, it’s something Ruthie Crockett said in “Salem’s Lot.” “I Am Legend” is one answer to that question.
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As I listened to Temple Grandin and Richard Panek’s 2013 “The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum” I realized Grandin’s book is much more than “just” a book on autism. I desperately hope this book it isn’t overlooked or undervalued because of its title.
In Grandin’s parlance, I am “neuro-typical” (not autistic), and so is my entire family. I do know people with autism and I have friends with autistic children, but I don’t have a particular passionate interest in the disorder. The Amazon reviews I’ve read make it clear that “The Autistic Brain” is an extremely important book for the autistic community who have the passionate interest I lack. I believe “The Autistic Brain” is equally important for “neuro-typicals” - especially parents.
The seachange in “The Autistic Brain” is Grandin’s hypothesis that people think in at least three different ways: in pictures, or visually, as she does; verbally, or in words, like the majority of people do; or in a new category, patterns. I know I am primarily a verbal thinker, but by concentrating, I can and do think in pictures or in patterns, for short periods of time. When I am able to do that, I often solve problems I can’t solve otherwise. Grandin proposes the idea that an autistic person’s education, skill development, likely abilities and strengths should be tailored to their type of thinking. I agree completely, and it should be taken a step further: it should apply to “neuro-typicals” too.
For parents, she talks about some important child raising tactics: for example, if you’ve got a kid who really knows math well and the kid’s in “baby math”, the kid may get bored and act out. A lot. Give the kid real math to do, and you may have a model student. And math doesn’t have to go in the order it’s usually taught: basic math; algebra; geometry; calculus . . . and if a kid doesn’t ‘get’ algebra, try geometry, or statistics, or something else. These, and her other education recommendations, apply equally as well to “neuro-typicals.”
The book starts with a discussion of the genetic, biological and environmental causes of autism – as well as other usually less disruptive neurological conditions, such as migraine and depression. Grandin’s explanation of how and why the brain works, and some of the things that can go wrong, is the most understandable I have ever heard. By analogy, Grandin describes an engine (the brain) misfiring by describing how the engine is supposed to run, but pointing out that the engine is missing a sparkplug, has a clogged hose, or doesn’t have enough gas – or perhaps, all three.
For those of us who have long been puzzled by the actions of autistics acting out, Grandin discusses the often extreme sensory problems autistics can have. I realized I actually knew what that was like. Twenty years ago, I had a case of the flu so severe that I lost the ability to screen out noises in other apartments in my building, and I could only wear the softest cotton clothing – and that hurt. When the landlord started refinishing the hardwood floor in the next apartment over, the noise was so excruciating all I could do was put my hands over my ears and cry. I was only that sick for a day. Some autistic children were born that way. I will never again wonder, in annoyance, why a parent ‘can’t control’ their autistic child’s sensory tantrum again.
Grandin’s book also discusses, among so many other things: problems with even peer reviewed and published scientific studies caused by inaccurate assumptions, improper data collection, and bad analysis; the problem with diagnosing hypersensitivity or under sensitivity based on outward behavior; incorrectly applying diagnostic labels to individuals, and how that can hurt their development; how a typographic error erroneously caused a misdiagnosis of autism; why the ‘epidemic’ of autism may not really be an epidemic at all; the tablet/iPad revolution, and why it works so well for autistics; identifying sensory disorders; the number of undiagnosed autistics in Silicon Valley (she estimates 50%); what drugs may help autistics, and why; the upcoming and new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM-V) . . . and so much more.
The narration was clear and crisp, and Andrea Gallo did a good job with the scientific terms and distinguishing the authors’ voices from discussion; and with quotes.
Fans of Malcolm Gladwell (especially “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference,” 2000 and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” 2005) will appreciate Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman’s “Sway: The Irresistible Power of Irrational Behavior” I have all of Gladwell’s books. In hardback. And I really liked “Sway”. Actually, “Sway” was an easier read/listen. “Sway” has a lot more anecdotal stories to illustrate the points the Brothers Brafman are making.
My favorite chapter was Eight, “Dissenting Justice.” The Brafmans have the most thorough and easy to understand discussion of how the US Supreme Court reviews cases it decides to hear. The purpose of Supreme Courts conferences is to determine how the Court will rule, and the process – honed over hundreds of years – is to make rational decisions, and to respect the voices of dissent. Very few organizations, business or government, would have the time or discipline to engage in the same process – but a modified procedure, encouraging similar careful consideration of the facts, would be well applied used in corporate decision making processes.
Chapter Seven, “Cocaine and Compassion” was a close second to Chapter Eight. In “Cocaine and Compassion”, the Brafmans discuss the difference between pleasure center motivation (money, cocaine) and altruistic motivation. The bottom line is that people are more likely to cooperate and perform well for altruistic reasons – and, for biological reasons, the motivation is going to be either pleasure or altruism, but not both at the same time.
Altruism is discussed extensively in Adam Grant’s 2013 “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” “Sway” was easier to understand, and I think I would have had an easier time with “Give and Take” if I’d read/listened to “Sway” first.
I liked parts of “Sway” so much, I listened to parts of it more than once.
The narration was good, but I could have done without the random music – I wasn’t sure what sections it was setting apart.
I read mostly read/listen to nonfiction. Some of it is fun, like Amy Stewart’s 2013 “The Drunken Botanist.” Most of it is detailed, thought provoking, and sometimes difficult to understand – like Simon Baron-Cohen’s 2011 “The Science of Evil” or Marc J. Seiffer’s 2011 “Wizard”, which is a biography of Tesla.
When I need a break, I listen to light fiction – mostly murder mysteries. I thought I was just getting detective fiction with a future twist with Alex Hughes’ 2012, “Clean: A Mindspace Investigation Novel, Book 1”. Clean is set in a future Atlanta after a tech war reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Terminator” movies. Human telepaths save North America. After the war, ‘The Guild’ (of telepaths) enter into a treaty to govern and discipline themselves.
The hero/narrator was kicked out of ‘The Guild’ after developing a serious ”Satin” drug problem. “Satin” sounds a great deal like heroin, and ‘Satin’ could easily be ‘Satan’. Hughes’ spends a great deal of the novel talking about the pull of ‘Satin’ and the deadly temptation to return to the drug. The future has Narcotics Anonymous and the same 12-Step program we have today.
As a means of redeeming himself personally, the protagonist uses his telepathy to help the police with investigations. The techniques and training Hughes describes are imaginative, and not improbable.
I liked Daniel May’s Audible narration. It reminded me a bit of audio versions I’ve heard of Dashiell Hammett’s books. Hardboiled. I don’t know what May looks like, but I would have expected him to do this narration wearing a grey suit with a narrow tie, and a fedora.
With “Clean” I was expecting a bit of distracting book candy. What I got was a dystopian thinker and a real description of addiction. It was a little rough to follow in places, but I liked it well enough that I’ll get the next book in the series.
Amy Stewart just published the already much referenced “The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks” (2013).” I knew when I finished “The Drunken Botanist” I’d never settle for a badly made cocktail. Just yesterday, I was annoyed to see a “martini” menu at a well known chain restaurant (whose name resembles The Cheesecake Factory) listing only “vodka martinis”. Thanks to Stewart’s help, I made sure I got a real martini – made with gin.
“Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities” (2009) is much shorter than “The Drunken Botanist”, and not quite as fun. There are no drink recipes in this one, but plenty of advice on what NOT to eat or drink.
In Stewart’s hands, each ‘wicked plant’ takes on a distinct personality. Some are bullying newcomers, like Japanese-native kudzu, which was imported for erosion control but is invading the American south. Some plants are deceptive, like foxglove. Used correctly, it produces the life saving digitalis. Used incorrectly, foxglove kills. It turns out the ubiquitous but much-maligned poinsettia plant is an irritant, not a poison.
I realized – and was quite disconcerted – that I am surrounded by poisonous plants. There are beautiful but poisonous oleander trees in my yard, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen hemlock in my yard, and, thinking back on it – as much as I loved pulling up and eating raw rhubarb as a child, I’m very lucky I’m here.
“Wicked Plants”, like Stewart’s “Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects” (2011), is an A to Z encyclopedia of the bad boys of the natural world.
I wondered if I might have been better off with “Wicked Plants” in print so that I could see what Stewart was describing. I thought about it, and realized that if I had done that, I wouldn’t have had Colleen Marlo’s narration to tell me how to pronounce the names.
I’m not sure that I’ll buy “Wicked Plants” in text (I will buy “The Drunken Botanist” on paper for the recipes!), but it was definitely worth the listen.
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I have been fascinated by hoarding since 1994, when I read about a couple – somewhere in Orange County, I think – dying in the January 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, after being squished by their belongings. One of the neighbors mentioned sometimes seeing the husband, sitting in a car stuffed with junk, reading his morning paper. The article didn’t call them “hoarders” – that term wasn’t used at the time - but that is what they were.
I have always wondered what caused people to keep so much that it could kill them. From time to time, I’ve watched A&E’s “Hoarders”, which started in 2006. Watching “Hoarders” is like slowing down as you pass a car wreck – you look, take a deep breath, try not to think too much about what you see, and are very grateful it’s not you. The distress of the hoarders that ‘volunteer’ for help is real, but that show doesn’t explain where the compulsion comes from.
Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee’s 2010 “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” explains the why, and the why isn’t always the same. For some people, hoarding happens because they ‘store’ their memories in objects, and are afraid that if they throw those objects away, they will not keep those memories. For other people, hoarding happens because they are so afraid that they are being wasteful by throwing objects away. There are many other reasons, some of them neurological. Hoarding runs in families, and Frost and Steketee present a fascinating study of twin hoarders. There are animal hoarders, object hoarders, people who can’t pass up anything that’s free, and hoarders who start (and sometimes stop) hoarding when they are children.
The frustration the family members and friends on “Hoarders” is evident as they struggle to convince people to throw away what is to non-hoarders, junk. Frost and Steketee explain that to a hoarder, most people’s junk can be a hoarder’s dearest treasure. In many cases, taking a hoarder’s possessions can be psychologically devastating, even leading to suicide. Helping a hoarder isn’t for amateurs.
Frost and Steketee address the issue of whether hoarding is also Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and conclude that it is not. They are correct: the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) V will list “Hoarding Disorder” as a separate diagnosis.
This isn’t a “How To” on how not to recover from hoarding – Frost and Steketee provide self help for hoarders in a different (non-Audible) book, “Hoarding and Acquiring”. “Stuff” is a book for people who want to understand this fascinating disorder.
Joe Caron’s narration is lively and engaging, and the book was worth my drive time.
My first reaction to Andrew M. Grant’s “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Management” was “You’ve got to be kidding! Are you really telling me that if we hold hands, sing ‘Kumbaya’, and share our shovels in the sandbox, everything will be okay at the office?”
That’s not what Grant was saying - at all – but it took an uncomfortably long time for him to get to that point.
Grant advances the position that those who give generously, both professionally and personally, are more likely to be successful than “takers” (about 15% of people) or “matchers” ( about 70%). It’s a compelling argument, and Grant backs up his position with widely regarded studies and valid statistics. According to Grant, a business organization is well served by finding and developing givers (sharers), whose collaborative work with other givers often returns far more than the work of takers or matchers.
Grant also points out an important fault of givers: Statistically, givers are also more likely to be low achievers or failures, if they become “doormats.” Grant has some valuable tips for doormats to recognize takers, and extract themselves from “no sum” or “negative sum” relationships.
I listened to “Give and Take” on the heels of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” I wondered until halfway through the book if Grant was even considering women in the workplace. Many of the “giver” techniques he recommends are the very techniques that, when used by women leaders, erode whatever leadership foundation they have.
Grant eventually points out that the communication techniques he is recommending will not work for anyone presenting in a leadership role (at a board meeting, for example), although they will work for a leader as a team member.
Grant has some invaluable tips for how women can effectively negotiate higher salaries and gain respect in an organization, even while they are “givers” (or “sharers”, in my parlance).
This book didn’t have the impact “Lean In” did for me, but it had some invaluable suggestions I will incorporate into my life. I am now much more confident about being a “giver” and recognizing “takers”.
I had an unexpected issue with the narration of this book: Brian Keith Davis, the reader, is so smooth, he reminded me of Casey Kasem, the host of American Top 40. I listened to that radio show every Sunday night as a teenager, eagerly waiting to find out what the new Number 1 song was. Several times, after an especially positive anecdote in “Give and Take”, I expected to hear a current pop song. As I write this review, the Number 1 Billboard song Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.” That is especially apropos for this book.
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