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joseph

Iowa City, IA, United States | Member Since 2010

ratings
30
REVIEWS
7
FOLLOWING
1
FOLLOWERS
1
HELPFUL VOTES
14

  • Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Steve Coll
    • Narrated By Malcolm Hillgartner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (146)
    Performance
    (122)
    Story
    (113)

    Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States, revealing the true extent of its power. ExxonMobil’s annual revenues are larger than the economic activity in the great majority of countries. In many of the countries where it conducts business, ExxonMobil’s sway over politics and security is greater than that of the United States embassy. In Washington, ExxonMobil spends more money lobbying Congress and the White House than almost any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is a black box.

    Zak says: "Please no more accents!"
    "Even handed, well researched, and well done."
    Overall
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    Story

    I had some trepidation about getting this book as it is about that big boogeyman of oil Exxon-Mobil. Nor was I familiar with Coll's writing or journalism either, so that was not something that I could lean on to support a purchase. This book was purchased more or less on whim and a fancy of wanting to know more about oil, energy, and energy policy. I was concerned that this book would be too narrowly focused on Exxon-Mobil and not really inclusive of the industry or energy policy as a whole. I was relieved to find that this was not the case. It is a good primer for both energy policy and the oil industry. The book was illuminating and well done. And by the end I had a respect for Exxon-Mobil that I would have NEVER, EVER thought possible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By James D. Watson
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner, Roger Clark
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (301)
    Performance
    (262)
    Story
    (263)

    By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize. At the time, Watson was only 24, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science's greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions, and bitter rivalries.

    A. Lai says: "Fabulous book!"
    "Refreshingly Honest and Shockingly Enjoyable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What is the color of the wool that Watson is trying to pull over here? It is not of a sort that I have encountered before in autobiographical science writing. If this book is self-aggrandizing--which I am not entirely sure it is not--then the mythologizing that is occurring is that of a peculiar sort. Watson show's, by fits and start, how he and Crick stumbled unto the structure of the DNA while utilizing others work and doing little bench work of their own. He is (mostly) unapologetic. Candid. Funny. A little bit Ruthless. The candor is welcome. Science is more often composed of the likes of J. Craig Ventner than Francis Collins. It is nice to read a history of science that is light on over-emphasizing altruism and selflessness. They are young men trying to establish themselves. Having fun. Chasing Girls. It is reassuring how many times Watson admits to have little understanding about various aspects of his field.

    Nature, on the 50th anniversary of the paper re-issued it. It is stunningly readable, coherent, and insightful. At the moment of discovery all of the implications of the structure are correctly interpreted and relayed. Nothing is missed in the article and little has been corrected in the subsequent 60 years. This book is great in that you get all that happens in Watson's, and to a lesser degree Crick's, life that was not on the pages of that nature article.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Hampton Sides
    • Narrated By Hampton Sides
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (394)
    Performance
    (188)
    Story
    (186)

    On April 23, 1967, Prisoner #416J, an inmate at the notorious Missouri State Penitentiary, escaped in a breadbox. Fashioning himself Eric Galt, this nondescript thief and con man - whose real name was James Earl Ray -drifted through the South, into Mexico, and then Los Angeles, where he was galvanized by George Wallace's racist presidential campaign. With relentless storytelling drive, Sides follows Galt and King as they crisscross the country, one stalking the other, until the crushing moment at the Lorraine Motel.

    E. L. Robertson says: "Who Knew"
    "Dissapointingly Bland."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I forget which author it was, but in the NY times 'By the Book' section he--I think it was John Grisham???--had stated that he couldn't put this book down. I purchased this on that recommendation. I am not a huge John Grisham fan, but I thought that this book looked interesting. The story is good, and there is the makings of a good book, but it is poorly executed by Sides. His writing is mechanical, if not outright clunky at times. He does not sufficiently build the tension surrounding James Earl Ray's stalking of MLK in the days prior to his assassination. Moreover, there are some tantalizing details that he leaves unaddressed that I cannot forgive. For instance, Sides states that JER, was, the day prior to the assassination, starting to run low on funds. Yet 24 hour after the crime he is in Atlanta flush with a little over a thousand dollars in cash (in 2012 that is about $12,000). James Earl Ray's had done time for forgery and I am sure the explanation is more mundane than nefarious. I tend to refuse conspiracy theories on principal. But where did this sudden influx of cash come from. Why does Side never address it? Sides states in the intro that he is trying to write a narrative history in the manner of Shelby Foote's masterly account of the civil war. A noble and ambitious task to be sure, but this is not what we end up with. Rather, it is more like the 911 report that 911 commission issued. Sides recycles much of the eventual congressional investigations that the assassination would spawn and splices this with the biographical works of others. JER's path is rather stilted and the portrait that is painted is not particularly interesting. It is almost as though Side's JER pulls over for gas in Memphis and decides he is an assassin and while he is in town he just go a head and kill the most important civil right leader in the country. I think I was hoping for something akin to Don Delillo's Libra, which is my own fault--one cannot just willy-nilly hope to stumble on Delillo all the time. Nonetheless, I do feel as though I deserved a bit better of a work than this. I did like narrative device that Sides employed in calling JER exclusively by his aliases. That is clever. I wished Sides would have taken more chances with the book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Gulag Archipelago, Volume l: The Prison Industry and Perpetual Motion

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    • Narrated By Frederick Davidson
    Overall
    (71)
    Performance
    (67)
    Story
    (68)

    In this masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn has orchestrated thousands of incidents and individual histories into one narrative of unflagging power and momentum. Written in a tone that encompasses Olympian wrath, bitter calm, savage irony, and sheer comedy, it combines history, autobiography, documentary, and political analysis as it examines in its totality the Soviet apparatus of repression from its inception following the October Revolution of 1917.

    joseph says: "Not for the feint of heart"
    "Not for the feint of heart"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I find this book to be much like like life itself. It is difficult. It is a slog. There is much that is tedious (It is even exhaustive to passively listen to while one does other things like drive across country or the dishes). But it is also many other things. It can be oddly beautiful. At times there are moments when Solzhenistsyn stops, breaks from the narrative history that he is relaying, and gives exquisite moments to the reader. They are beautiful and heartbreaking and make it all worthwhile. I know no other work like it. Like anything that is worthwhile, it takes work. It is not easy. But it is highly rewarding. I did not always enjoy the book while i was listening to it, but I was very happy I did listen to it, when I was finished with the work

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

    • UNABRIDGED (26 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Steve Coll
    • Narrated By Malcolm Hillgartner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (179)
    Performance
    (147)
    Story
    (145)

    The explosive first-hand account of America's secret history in Afghanistan. With the publication of Ghost Wars, Steve Coll became not only a Pulitzer Prize winner, but also the expert on the rise of the Taliban, the emergence of Bin Laden, and the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill Bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998.

    Ben in Baltimore says: "Interesting, in-depth book"
    "Outstanding"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a wonderfully researched book. I listened to this and The Looming Tower in quick succession. I found it to be the far better of the two. Coll is insightful and is very careful to not overstep or over-interpret his source material. I find him trustworthy and honest and evenhanded. He is also a gifted writer. It was a great listen and was well performed by Malcolm Hillgartner.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

    • UNABRIDGED (66 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Robert A. Caro
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    Overall
    (325)
    Performance
    (266)
    Story
    (271)

    Robert Caro's monumental book makes public what few outsiders have known: that Robert Moses was the single most powerful man of our time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling the Moses story, Caro both opens up to an unprecedented degree the way in which politics really happens - the way things really get done in America's City Halls and Statehouses - and brings to light a bonanza of vital new information.

    jeff says: "AMAZING read"
    "Great, Great, Great book."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A unique book. One of those are books that subtly alters your perception of the world around you. I only encounter a book like this once every five or six years. I wish I knew more books like this. A great legal, economic, civil planning, political, municipal history of New York City.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cloud Atlas

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By David Mitchell
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Kim Mai Guest, and others
    Overall
    (3179)
    Performance
    (2377)
    Story
    (2388)

    A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation: the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history.

    Elizabeth says: "thoroughly enjoyed"
    "Proof that you can polish a turd and make it shine"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Many, many, many friends, readers, reviewers, media outlets told me I would like this book. I did not. It took two attempts to get going on this work, years apart, as the first one was aborted for the reasons that one places a book down when one is 25% through it. You are bored with it. Something better comes in front of your eyes and you want to read that instead or whatever. Nonetheless people kept telling me to read it, or read David Mitchell. So I thought I would try it again. I am not sad that i did. Nor is this one of those cases where i would like the twenty some odd hours that i spent listening to it back. Rather, I would just like to present a dissenting voice to those that have been recommended to read/listen to this book.

    First off let me say that Mitchell is a writer of intelligence and with significant literary gifts. That said, I feel like this book, while being well written, intricately structured and novel in its form, is, nonetheless devoid of what it is i enjoy most about literature. By the end of the book i just felt cheated. Cheated, because Mitchell can write, but chose to beat me over the head with a blunt tool, instead of using the other end of it to carve out a rich world that had depth to it. There are 6 narratives in this book that are only superficially connected. I say superficially as the way in which DM binds them is ultimately meaningless, so that what one is left with 6 independent novellas. Some are better than others, but for the most part they are all well written; some are even enjoyable. Mitchell spans aeons, styles, genres, in each of these independent novellas. But the books weakness is it's inability to tie these disparate facets together in way that is meaningful and not just literary slight of hand.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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