As a long-time foodie, home chef, and serial do-it-yourselfer, I greatly enjoyed Michael Pollan's treatise on food alchemy. The story is engaging, I learned a few new things, and Pollan does an excellent job of narrating in a natural, conversational tone. I only listen to audiobooks during my long commute, and I found myself anxious to get back on the road so I could listen to it some more. If you're passionate about food and cooking, you won't be disappointed!
Foodies will find Bill Buford's story of working in Mario Batali's New York restaurant kitchen as a journalist "tourist", to be very entertaining. He clearly becomes entranced by what he experiences and spends much more time learning the craft than was needed for a magazine article. The story of the time he spends in Italy, in particular, learning how to make pasta and how to be a butcher is both touching and entertaining, and the entire book contains just the right amount of wry humor. If you enjoyed Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential you will find Heat to be an enjoyable companion piece.
I agree with other reviewers that the narrator could have been better. He does attempt to convey emotion as needed, and does a fairly good job of it. He has difficulty with foreign pronunciations, though, and even a few words in English are mispronounced. I don't expect a narrator to be multi-lingual, but if narration is the profession you have selected, at least learn the pronunciation of the foreign languages whose words appear frequently, in their original form, in English - such as Spanish, French, and Italian. He also had trouble keeping several characters' accents consistent, particularly restaurateur Marco Pierre White, who was narrated with several different accents. I consider that to be just plainly sloppy work. Lastly, I would describe the narration style as sounding like a parody of Phil Hartman (SNL) doing a parody of a narrator reading a '40s detective novel, arched eyebrow included.
Overall, even given the narrator's shortcomings, I found "Heat" to be a very entertaining listen, and recommend it for anyone with a deep interest in food and the chaotic and passionate lifestyle behind it.
If you have an interest in early American and pre-Columbian American history, this book is definitely worth a listen. It is thought-provoking and makes you re-think much of what you have previously learned, but don't take it all in at face value. There is a lot of credible evidence that Mann uses to back up these new theories, but there is also a lot of speculative theory without compelling evidence, and incredible extrapolations based on shaky data.
Overall, it is a worthwhile listen that will expand your thinking about ancient Native American cultures. Just keep in mind that the author is a journalist, not an archaeologist or anthropologist, and be sure to wear your critical thinking cap when you listen to it.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a concise introduction to the evolution of the English language, and is a great choice for anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of English without making a huge investment of time. This book makes connections further back in history than other books and gives more focus to grammar rather than the more common emphasis on vocabulary. It gets a bit speculative about some influences, such as possible Phoenician influences, but those speculations make it more fun. It is a good companion piece to Melvyn Bragg's "The Adventure of English", also available from Audible. John McWhorter, the author, does an excellent job of narrating, and this audiobook is a great example of the value an author who is also a capable narrator can bring to narrating their own work. The passion they have for the topic comes through in their narration and it makes it fun to listen to them. Well done!
The Accidental Mind provides an excellent overview of the development and processes of the human brain. It is long enough to have covered a broad spectrum of topics and to have gone reasonably in-depth, but still concise enough that it held my interest throughout. The narrator, Ray Porter, did an outstanding job. He was animated, did an excellent job of channeling the author's intent, and wasn't an enunciating drone as so many non-fiction narrators are. I'm actually interested in seeing what other audiobooks this narrator has read - a first for me.
I have always had an interest in language, but this book goes WAY too in-depth for my interests. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book and it held my interest with cognitive science and evolutionary theory related to language development. Then it moved long-term into highly-detailed language structure and other details that couldn't hold my attention - think 9th grade grammar on steroids. I stuck with it for a few more hours and also tried skipping ahead, but I knew I was wasting my time and bailed on it half way through. It didn't help that the narrator is the type who over-enunciates and has a passionless, unnatural speaking style that reminds you with every syllable that they are a professional narrator with apparently zero interest in the topic.
This audiobook was engaging and interesting for the 1st half, but went downhill from there. The first half references brain research and neuropsychology to support Shermer's positions and it was an enjoyable listen. The second half left me yearning for it to come to an end. The second half is mostly an opinion piece on politics, in which Shermer is the best example of forming a belief then filtering the evidence to support it, and a LENGTHY exposition on the history of astronomy that went way beyond what was needed to prove his point. Astronomy is interesting, but I purchased this audiobook to hear about brain science. I rated this audiobook a 3 to average a 4 for the first half and a 2 for the second half.
I have listened to many history books from Audible, and have enjoyed the vast majority of them. This is the first one I couldn't complete. I almost gave up on it a couple of times but stuck with it, but just couldn't go on by the time I was about 3/4 of the way through. Though there was certainly a lot of interesting content, the book's and the audio's faults became too much to bear.
Though I expect some bias from virtually every historian, I do still expect them to provide a reasonably balanced perspective. Though I am not a fan of Andrew Jackson, the author's treatment of him is very one-sided. The author also obviously takes a great personal interest in American religious history and drones on for too long and in too much detail. Though it's an important topic, it could have been covered more successfully in much less time and detail. I appreciate that the author doesn't gloss over the suffering and injustice that minorities and Native Americans experienced, but again it's very one-sided.
Regarding the audio, the narration and editing of this audio book is the worst I have heard. The narrator speaks in a monotone and his acute enunciation is unnatural and becomes annoying. There were frequent short edits throughout the audio that were jarring because of the change in tone, timbre and volume. This was the worst audio editing of any audio book I've listened to, and I've listened to many.
I expect better of the Oxford series and have enjoyed other titles in the series. This volume was a disappointment and makes me hesitant to purchase any others.
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