Given that a 1970s back-to-the-natural ethic seems quite weak today (being too over the top in some ways and way too unevolved in others), and that the metaphysics that tries to be at the center of this book does not really seem to have much traction (there is just not enough details for it to really qualify as modern philosophy), it seems surprising to say that this book has mostly stood the test of time. But it really has. The road-trip/soul-exploration archetype and metaphor still works well. The autobiographical character remains fascinating, as does his understated relationship with other characters (and the world more generally). The 1970s view of the world is naive enough to be amusingly quaint, and yet contains some enduring wisdom (something that reviewers of the book 20 years ago could never have known). The scholarly-intellectual part (the "metaphysics of quality") is thin, but is does provide a really interesting story of what it is like to be an iconoclastic professor (speaking as one :-). Above all else, this story does a better job than modern self-help books in helping the reader reflect on many things that matter.
The strongest argument for downloading this, though, is that the audio version has to be the definitive version. Many books are just fine in audio form; very few are actually better to listen to than to read. This one is one of the latter. It is written as an oral history, in the spirit of the Chautauqua that is the author's own view of the story he is telling. I do not recall noticing this when I read it years ago, but it really cries out to be read out loud. The reader does a very good job of it, bringing alive to this 38-year-old a book that normally resonates better with teenagers or baby-boomers who remember it fondly from when it first came out. To really do yourself a favor, listen to it on a long driving trip or while walking in the woods.
It may be the most fun I have had listening to an audiobook that was not by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.
The setting is kind of a sci-fi cyberpunk-lite, but the story structure is really more quest fantasy or action-spy story. In that sense, it is a fairly standard
Wheaton's narration is skillful and spot on. I am not sure that he necessarily adds something per se -- he definitely narrates, rather than voice acting (though one of his character voices is still a bit annoying, but there is not much of it). But this book is written to be heard, and is incredibly immersive in that medium, and Wheaton simply gets it right, not detracting from it in any, showing much greater skill than most narrators. Also, when you happened to come up out of the story and notice whose voice it is, his geek chic (from TNG and Big Bang Theory) is just perfect for the book. Indeed, his real-life self makes two Hitchcock-level cameos in the story.
I definitely wanted to listen to the last 1/3 in one sitting. Early on, I was not quite so convinced because a few things were grating on me a bit (see my comments below). Even still, it was captivating. One factor that made it a bit less
As I noted, I found this completely delightful. I should add the caveat, though, that I am exactly the perfect demographic for this book. I came of age in the same years as Halliday (the character who is responsible for the 1980s pop culture domination of the story); I was the exact type of intellectual-pop, game playing geek; and I even grew up in Columbus! I recognized almost every one of the hundred (thousands?) of references, and figured out most of the clues (and I am not a mystery reader). I even recognized [very minor spoiler of an early event] that the
This is an very good book, but an excellent listen. The story is captivating and uplifting as both success and tragedy. The mix of personal adventure and non-wonky political analysis work very well at oral pace. The flaws in the writing (see, e.g., the New York Times review), such as the author's tendency toward over-dramatic or breathless prose, turn out to be little or no problem when listening rather than reading. (You notice the phrases that seem comical out of context if you look for them, but only if you look for them. Otherwise, they glide right by.) Dean's narration is near perfect, and adds much to what is already a very good book. I would definitely recommend this book, and make the rarely-deserved recommendation that listening is much better than reading. The book is such an inspiration that if it were not winter right now, I would be off exploring the locales from the book rather than taking time to write this.
The story is archetype, proto-new-age 1970s socio-political cultural and psychological commentary. Amusing (or at least interesting) if you think of it that way -- not so much if you just want to take the story at face value. The narration is a bit annoying, coming close to monotone. It actually started to work for me most of the way through, but at first I thought it was more like reading the newspaper for the blind than story telling (though given the theme, it might appeal to the blind). The odd thing is that it really deserves a "don't bother with this" recommendation, but somehow the tedious narration and the tedious 1970s self-indulgent culture were amusing enough that I finished it and did not hate it.
A reasonably good story, though nothing like you would expect based on the Callahan's tales. Normally I try to review the audio side of things, figuring that there are many reviews of the content at other booksellers. But I have to mention that the content is somewhat disturbing and more visceral due to the audio experience. It is certainly not the nastiest, and certainly not the scariest or most violent, story around, but it has some "I wish I had never heard something that creepy" bits that remind me of wishing I had never seen the movies Seven or 8mm. Fair warning -- be sure you like stuff like that.
The narration by Spider is a bit weak. Far from the worst around, for sure, and the critics of his narration have gone a bit far. Since it is his story, there is some value added in him narrating it. But you certainly would not want him as a narrator for someone else's work. He really only has three or four character voices, and there are (a few) more than four characters that need voices.
Overall, I would have to say that this is fine, but there are better choices for Robinson irreverence, for spooky stories, for characterization, and for narrations (though maybe not all four at once).
Really. Fisher Stevens's reading is, I think, even better than Nigel Planer's readings of Pratchett's books. I am not entirely sure this would be a great book to read on paper, but it was truly great to listen to.
Not that the story is bad. Moore does a nice job of weaving various religions/philosophies into Jesus's experiences during the missing decades. It makes for a very entertaining story, and quite a twist on coming-of-age. The humor is definitely laugh-out-loud quality in many places. The quality trends down over time, with the childhood story being best, and the travels as a young adult being good, but the end -- where the story needs to be congruent with the "real" gospels -- being rather weak.
Oh, and it is definitely just entertainment, with maybe a splash of pointing out how many spiritualities are quite similar at their core. If the author wanted and expected the reader to really think anything new and different after finishing this, I have to admit that the lesson was lost on me.
This is a good book in any form (I have a paper copy too), though it is not a scientific reference manual. Those interested in the details should really read more widely because Kingsolver gets some stuff wrong (including part of her core theses). But the broad sweeps are excellent and she does a good job of painting a picture, and teaching lessons, in terms you will not soon forget. But what really sets it apart as an aural experience is the narration by the authors, which is personable and perfectly recorded and paced. As another reviewer suggested, you really feel connected to them through their narration, bringing another level to the experience of this captivating story and analysis. Without hearing her wax about it, I would never be inclined to plant asparagus! This is particularly good road-trip listening, as you drive through the in-between spaces where most of our food is produced (and also because the radio-style pace is better for driving than some audiobooks which are distracting or sleep-inducing). Even if you have read the paper version, get this and listen to it again in a year, and you will enjoy it again.
I am a big fan of Lewis Black, but this did not work well as an audio performance. First, the recording mixing was pretty bad, resulting in the laughter from the audience (this was a spoken-word concert recording) being so loud and shrill that it was rather unpleasant to listen to. If you do buy this, I suggest turning the treble way down to compensate, since Black does not have much treble in his voice anyway. Second, listening to a comic read his own book is usually quite rewarding - much better than just reading it. But in Black's case, without the visuals, it is not nearly as funny as seeing him on Jon Stewart or other television performances. As a long-time fan, I could imagine what his face and hands were doing, but it was just not the same.
This (and the other books by the author) are either your cup of tea or not, and you probably already know which category you fall into. If you are a fan, no matter how many times you have read them, you should definitely get this audio version (and the radio scripts). The excellent reading by the author adds to the experience and really makes you feel more a part of it. Hearing it (read definitively) is entertaining in ways that reading it cannot be.
A silly send-up of American self-help books. Unlike Franken's two major books ("Rush..." and "Lies...", which are some of the most insightful political commentary of recent times, there may not be any useful information or analysis in this books. But it's good enough, it's smart (witty) enough, and doggone it, people like it. I know I did. It's really funny. Enjoy it.
I generally like the author's short works (her old columns), and if this were priced by the word (or minute) on the scale where 20-hour audiobooks cost $30, then I would say go for it. But it is terribly pricey for what seems like an NPR feature segment. I think the paper version of this book sold because it made a great graduation present that could be read completely while standing in line to get into the graduation ceremony.
I recommend instead This American Life (a whole month -- 4 hours -- of something with a similar mood for only a few more dollars), a deeper self-help book (or better still, literature that really delves into the happy life), or Al Franken's great send-up of this book and its ilk ("Oh, the Things I Know" -- a great audiobook, read by the author).
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