I haven't read the unabridged version of Darwin's book, so I don't know what was left out, but this abridged version was extremely interesting. Given all the controversy surrounding this book, this was a great way to actually get through the thing without dedicating huge amounts of time to it - and, you'll be the only one in any given conversation that actually read it. That said, whatever your stance on the subject, this book will give you the distinct impression that an immense amount of work went into its writing. He lays out his observations along with the difficulties he had in interpreting the data in an interesting and engaging fashion. His writing style, which is not "I'm exactly right and here's why," is so different from the style of books today that I found it really refreshing. I'm tired of authors glancing over the difficulties in their arguments in their effort to convert you - this book, in contrast, provides reams of data, the problems associated it, and his conclusions as best he could articulate them, while still allowing for error. Good, solid work, regardless of your ideological bent.
This book provides exactly what it says it does - a history of world trade from ancient to modern times. It's well written and provides a great backdrop to today's arguments over globalization. No doubt it will help you out around the water cooler. I found it very interesting to hear how the same trade issues we're dealing with today have been around for quite a long time. I also thought it was interesting that protectionism is beneficial (overall) in some circumstances (particularly, for the U.S. in the early 1800's) but not others. He explains who wins and who loses from free trade in a very clear and convincing manner. It's nice to see a little of the complexity, beyond the usual political rhetoric, surrounding these loaded issues.
The narration is good, but I recommend the audio version with a couple of caveats. First, unless you're an expert in ancient geography, I recommend that you get the book version also so you can see the maps or else look up a bunch of the names on Wikipedia. Otherwise you'll have no picture of the trade routes he's talking about. Second, it's better if you can take it in larger chunks so you don't lose track of what's going on (he goes on diversions from the main point occasionally that can be hard to track if you're listening in dribs and drabs). Overall, great book.
I like Greenspan, but unfortunately this book is not worth the time. It's really two books in one, the first being a banal but amusing autobiography and the second an eye-lid dropping overview of the current economic state of the world. As is typical of former public figures with friends still in high places, the book treads very carefully - even in ripping Bush AG takes no great risks. This book is liking watching a team with a 20 point lead play out the fourth quarter - we're all good, let's not do anything to lose our place in history. Boring and safe. The last part of the book is so stuffed full of econ-speak that it will make your eyes glaze over - I started to understand why they call it the dismal science, even though I enjoy the subject. Geez, I even made it through the Wealth of Nations but AoT makes WoN look like a bastion of clarity at times. I'm going to take my nominal rate of time return and invest it in another information growth vehicle since this one exceeded the net present value of my current patience balance.
I liked the Seven Habits so much that I listened to the audio book twice and read the book once, so I was really looking forward to the 8th Habit. Unfortunately, it was so bad that it hurt my respect for Covey. First off, as other's have noted, it's a watered down rehash of the 7 Habits coupled with lots of nebulous talk about "finding your voice". Second, half the time I had no idea what he was talking about as the book is so laden with meaningless business speak (working at a higher level, exercising true leadership, finding a new paradigm, coping with the knowledge worker age and on and on and on). By now, I have Covey's (preachy) formula down pat: 1. read a vignette (in an overly earnest fashion) about some mystery individual overcoming adversity, 2. talk about how it fits some numbered principle, 3. relate the principle to the teachings of the great books and minds of yesteryear and 4. invent a cute little word pneumonic to go with it (intimate means "look into me"). I would recommend sticking with 7 Habits and never touching this book. Another good book in this area that's high on substance and low on fluff-speak (as in zero fluff-speak) is Man's Search for Meaning, probably the best book I've read in the "learn about life" category. Actually, I've moved completely away from books written by self styled "leadership" teachers and into biographies about leaders handling difficult situations (The Last Lion (Churchill), Lincoln, Washington, etc.). I've learned about a hundred times more about life and humanity from Founding Brothers and Team of Rivals than I did from this book. Thumbs down.
If you've never read a civil war book before, I'd recommend reading another book that provides a short overview before delving into this series. It has so much detail that you can lose the forest for the trees if its your first foray into this subject. Its also possible to not understand the import of some of the events because Foote does such a solid job of just telling the story, without providing much commentary or characterization. So, in short, you'll get more out of this if its not your first introduction to the civil war. That said, the thing that surprised me about it was how well written it is and how refreshingly free from moral judgment it is. Some parts of it are also genuinely moving - especially Stonewall's death. The battle of Gettysburg is so well done it could be a book by itself. I hope other historical authors are taking a lesson from Foote - this is exactly how to do it.
I have mixed feelings about this book because its not a history of warfare as I expected it to be. First off, its not well structured. It meanders all over the place, challenging Clauswitz's notion that war is an extension of policy, delving into a history of the world in general (trashing various anthropologists along the way), and finally, after spending too much time on the ritualized warfare of primitive peoples, gets into some forms of fighting here and there. What I wanted (and expected) was to understand the evolution of warfare from the standpoint of technology, tactics, operations, and grand strategy. I hoped to walk away from the book with an understanding of how people fought in each era, the factors causing them to fight that way, and perhaps learn a little more about some famous battles along the way. I indeed did learn some of that from this book, and some of his meanderings are interesting, but I really had to wade through a lot of superfluous gibberish to get there. I also have to agree with another reviewer's comment that the book is pretentious. I like Keegan's work, but I have one suggestion for him: focus man.
This is a worthwhile book, and the only one I know of on LTCM, but there were two aspects I thought could have been much better. First, the author reads his own book, which is typically a bad idea and it is in this case as well. Second, the book is overly simplistic and a bit preachy. The author's thesis, that the LTCM managers underestimated the risk from fat tails, is implausible given their sophistication (I'm sure the former LTCM managers would think this explanation is simply ludicrous). I think that the author failed to distill and synthesize the numerous, complex, contributing factors that were actually behind the failure in an effort to have a nice neat bumper sticker rational for its cause.
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