After having thoroughly enjoyed the SmartPass Guide to MacBeth, I have now listened to King Lear as well. A much longer play, with a lot of complexity. The commentary version goes through the play in great detail. At some points, the play is significantly slowed down by it. However, once you listen to the full unabridged play without commentary afterwards, you can easily follow the main plot and all subplots, and you will start to appreciate the SmartPass help you received earlier on. King Lear is truly a Great Play by Shakespeare, it touches on many profound human emotions. The one element that annoyed me is the great emphasis on insanity (the Fool, Porton) which I think was "overdone". I personally favour MacBeth over King Lear. Looking forward to the next SmartPass Shakespeare play, probably I will go through Hamlet.
I really enjoyed big parts of this book: the importance of "zooming out" to put things in perspective, not sweating the small stuff, not sweating the medium stuff either, and contemplating whether what you think is big stuff in your life is really that important. These parts made me rediscover the wisdom that you can't please all the people all the time.
What seriously turned me off in this book is the risk of turning into someone that finds nothing whatsoever important in life when you say fuck it to EVERYTHING, and becomes a lethargic, passionless, apathetic person.
In short: the "stepping away from what does not matter" part is good, but for ideas on how to build your life around the few things that are truly important you are better off turning to Covey's 7 habits, or Tony Robbins....
Ian McEwan is one of the most intelligent, sophisticated, and enthralling authors of our lifetime. If you have read or listened through any of his previous masterpieces like "Solar", "Amsterdam", "Enduring Love" or "Saturday", then you know (partially) what to expect, though each novel definitely has its very definite style, theme and twist. No "production line" or "template" approach with this author!
"Sweet Tooth" is a tale around Serena Frome - her university years (studying mathematics, but with more of a passion for literature), her entrance into the UK Secret Service MI5, and the tale of her first big assignment in MI5: recruiting author Tom Haley (through a charity type setup) to write a novel promoting freedom of speech and providing a counterweight against communist/socialist novelists.
"Sweet Tooth" is a celebration of literature, science, and love. I enjoyed the way it is crafted, with many "stories in a story" (Serena reading the short stories that Tom has written). Very, very cleverly done. An excellent representation of the 1970s Cold War environment.
I strongly recommend this book, both for readers/listeners who try Ian McEwan for the first time, as well as his long-time fans!
A wonderful science/biology book that combines depth (the Galapagos finch study by Rosemary and Peter Grant) and breadth (impressive overview of Darwin's discoveries, and work by his scientific followers). Accessible to a non-biologist like me, while at the same time introducing many new concepts and insights from field studies. At times, the book seems to be written in a thriller style, with cliffhangers and plot turns that make you look forward to the next time you can spend time with this excellent book. Highly recommended.
"Solar" far exceeded my high expectations. I consider myself an experienced reader of McEwan's novels, having gone through the excellent "Amsterdam", "Enduring Love" and "Saturday". In my opinion, "Solar" is the best among this impressive peer group of novels. I might be prejudiced, as green technology is one of my areas of interest, but it is not just the excellent insights on technology that make this book truly Great. Professor Michael Beard's character is a dramatic one, at times reminding me of tragic Shakespearean protagonists.
Beard is a man with a cognitive claim to fame (his Nobel Prize) that is quickly gathering dust, and who more than offsets this achievement by pretty much screwing up everything else in his life: obesity, lack of social intelligence, marriages and breakups, cover-ups of his vile deeds, general "untidyness", etc.
As usual (he's done similar things in earlier novels), McEwan introduces a dramatic plot turn that is defining the rest of the novel. After that, the decay of Michael Beard seems to accelerate.
A great novel with a nice structure incorporating flashbacks, well narrated in the audiobook version, and ending with an insightful interview with the author.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Listening to "Stillness Speaks", written and narrated by Eckhart Tolle was a wonderful experience. This audiobook actually gives you the chance to contemplate the key learnings in real time, by introducing the much needed silence during the audiobook. I needed to get used to that for a bit, but then found it to be an excellent way to "absorb" this book. Eckhart Tolle would probably tell me I still used too much cognitive reasoning instead of just "being", but hey, I am making progress. :-)
There are so many profound insights in this book, you have to listen to it for yourself. Multiple times.
Julia Sweeney shares the account of her search for meaning, religion and spirituality. She puts into words what many of us must have been thinking about for a long time. Humourous and well researched. She shares some very personal and profound thoughts. Highly recommended, a good companion recording to Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", though Dawkins does a better job at explaning Darwin's insights, however that is only a minor point in the grand scheme of things.
This book was written for "men who want to be better, church-going Christians" and "men who lost their sense of masculinity" (quotes from the author), or preferably both. I do not count myself to be either.
John Eldredge holds the mistaken belief that Spirituality equals Christianity. In my view, that is not necessarily the case. John quotes extensively from the Bible, to a level that he is overshooting his target. I would not have minded a biblical quote here and there, as there are many learnings to be found in the Bible, but John is overdoing it.
I very much support the basic premise of the book that men seek battles, need adventure, and a beauty to rescue. John explains this enthusiastically in about 20 minutes. After that, it is just biblical quote after biblical quote and "open door" examples. I gave up after 71 minutes.
I would have given him 4 points out of 5 if John Eldredge would have set a more appropriate context. He could very well have used Darwin's insights on evolution to explain male behaviour, in addition to his biblical perspective.
Of all the great audiobooks that I purchase through Audible, this was one of the rare disappointments.
New York, the novel, is a masterpiece. It provides a very good overview of key historical periods and events of this great city. Prior to listening to this audiobook, I knew some of New York's history, but I have learned so much more now. Edward Rutherfurd has done a great job researching, and translating it into enjoyable stories. The book has a wide appeal, it discusses historical events, as well as architecture, art, trade, political, and society aspects of life. The characters are well developed, and I emphatized with most of them. Contrary to earlier works by Edward Rutherfurd (London, Sarum), there are no true villains in "New York", which is no judgment either positive or negative, but more a sign of Rutherfurd's style development. Narration of the novel is fine as well.
"The God Delusion" is a thought-provoking book. It provides alternative perspectives on some of the key questions in life. Don't expect a complete new theory on the history, the universe and everything, but rather a big collection of non-traditional thoughts. I am happy to be living in a fairly secular country with only a fairly small group of "Christian Taliban". Still, Dawkins raises some very good points that are relevant in many of today's societies. A book worth listening to.
I love Joseph Finder's books. "Vanished" is a very good one, in my opinion it is better than the previous one "Power Play", but not as good as "Paranoia". The main character Nick Heller has been very well developed. Nick has a clear opinion about things, has humour, and is generally a likeable guy. Nick scored some bonus points with me for listening to Johnny Cash' version of "Hurt" in the car during a drive. Joseph Finder is in tune with today's business environment, and blends in some nice anecdotes in "Vanished": a conspiracy theory on Enron, the impact of the new President in the USA, a cleverly disguised story around a scandal that in real life involved a key official of the Formula One association. The reason I did not award a 5/5, but only a 4/5, is in the lack of credibility in the business rationale/structuring of the corporate scam that is uncovered, as well as the unrealistic "superpowers" that Nick has in some of the scenes. Other than that, a very enjoyable book that I liked listening to.
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