‘The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic’ is a tireless story of triumph that endures beyond cliché and predictability. Reflective of a time where a generation of Americans was tested through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, this true story of Joe Rantz and his eight University of Washington boat crew teammates follows their journey from humble origins detailing their sense of national pride and self determination to take on elite boat crews around the globe. The novel culminates into a true David and Goliath showdown between the Americans and the German national team at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The drama within the novel lies more with the interpersonal stories than just the action on the water, but you will not be disappointed by author Daniel Brown’s balance and character development. This is a story that could easily be fraught with predictability, but it never happens. The novel has so much depth and narration so flowing, you will still be glued to the headphones with anticipation of finding out how the details of the story unfold.
Given Edward Herrmann’s remarkable storytelling of ‘Unbroken’ and ‘The Johnstown Flood’, he is undoubtedly the best, natural choice for narrator. Herrmann brings Dan Brown’s words to life with a balance of smooth calmness, wit, and explosive theatrics in storytelling that few narrators have mastered.
If you enjoy literary non-fiction audiobooks like ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand or ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Egan, I promise that you will not be disappointed listening to ‘Boys in The Boat’.
I want to be careful and not go too deep on the story as even the smallest glimpse of plot elements may spoil the gripping narration of a story that literally entered my dreams last night. Seriously, last night I dreamt about the images described in Robert Langdon’s dream.
This is my second Dan Brown book and I worried that I needed to read the earlier books in the Robert Langdon series to fully grasp and enjoy Inferno. Fortunately, that was not the case. Inferno can be listened to as a standalone audiobook and is not fully dependent on the earlier books in the series. The story was compelling and entertaining balancing suspense and dramatic content.
While I listened to most of the book during my ‘lively’ commute on the train, I really think it would have been best enjoyed in a quieter setting where you can truly feel the solemn reverberation of Paul Michael’s voice pierce through your headphones. To say that Michael did a masterful job in narrating Inferno is a supreme understatement. Varying his role between the protagonist and antagonist, male and female characters, American and French accents, and playing the role of omnipotent guide through the fourth wall, Michael helped bring the story to vivid life.
I was a little hesitant to use a credit to pre-order Inferno without having listened to all of the other books in the series, but I have no regrets. Inferno was extremely entertaining and well worth the credit. But I believe it would be best enjoyed in a more serene environment where you can let the suspense hit you without distraction.
Since this book, and adapted screenplay, have been out for a while, I won't delve to far into reviewing the story. It was great, just trust me.
What I will focus on is the wonderful use of multiple narrators who all had great tonal inflections and dialect that was authentically reminiscent of the Jim Crow south in the mid 1960s. Some audiobooks use narrators who force a foreign accent or regional dialect and it makes the dialogue so excruciating to listen to that the author's words are ruined. Not The Help. Narrators Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell made the story uniquely their own using their character's perspective to tell the story of the Help in multiple parts that come together like a Sunday meal from Minnie Jackson's kitchen.
Part of me had to get over the fact that this story is told from the perspective of women from the segregated south, it is not a story that can only be appreciated by a woman. It is about life, love, and the struggles that blur the lines of tradition and human dignity. I am extremely glad that I listened to this audiobook.
I must say that I gave tried to give this audiobook a fair chance that I didn't do to the book when it was required reading in Mrs. Hobbs 11th grade English class 20 years ago. Jake Gyllenhaal was a very pleasant surprise as I thought him narrating a classic was more of a gimmick than anything. But he was extremely good with varying his tone, inflections, and giving life to the story that just didn't resonate with my interests. So, that is why my people may feel that I am off of my rocker for not liking the story, The Great Gatsby. But the storyline and writing style did not pull me in like many of my favorite books in the mystery, thriller, and business genres.
The mastery of literary devices that make F. Scott Fitzgerald an icon and The Great Gatsby an American classic are lost on me. I have conditioned myself to enjoy the drama of Grisham and Baldacci, the thrill of Patterson and Ludlum, and the wit of Fey and Halpern.
I don't think it was a waste of a credit by any means. It was well worth trying out this classic given it was not a very long audiobook. But be warned, if you didn't enjoy The Great Gatsby when it was required reading in high school, you may not fall head over heels with this rendition. However, I am glad that I listened to it so I can speak with intelligence and authority when I critique Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio when the movie is released later this spring.
Edward Herrmann's masterful narration of 'Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption' takes you through the lifelong journey of Louie Zamperini from a troubled youth, Olympic competitor, prisoner of war, and prisoner of his own mind. The best line to describe this story without spoiling the plot is to use a couple of lines from the book itself,
"The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer [...] Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant."
I dare anyone to listen to Herrmann describe the booming war scenes in Chapter 10, "The Stinking Six" and see if you don't catch yourself holding your breath. Or listen to Chapter 35, "Coming Undone", and see if sadness doesn't overwhelm you in the vivid description of Louie's mental suffering built through years of unimaginable abuse.
How someone in Hollywood hasn't picked this story up to make a multi-million dollar blockbuster is a wonder. I am actually glad it hasn't been made into a movie because I don't believe any Hollywood director can replicate the Louie Zamperini story as written by Laura Hillenbrand. The emotion in her words imprint Louie's agony, anguish, and will to survive on the reader/listener. I don't believe an average author could accomplish and honor this story as Hillenbrand did. She grasped the peaks and valleys of Louie's life and brought it together in a story so engrossing that I happily purchased the book too. I use it as a trophy on my bookshelf to show visitors what could be one of the best books they could read. And if they want a real treat, they should buy the audiobook and allow Edward Herrmann to pilot them through this story like Phil and Louie in their beloved B-24, Superman.
This was the best use of a credit that I have spent to date!
Crash of the Titans is a spiraling story that spans the 80 year history of Merrill Lynch and Bank of America in a back and forth, non-linear path. Understanding the back story and living through the storm as a Bank of America associate during the Great Recession, I was able to follow the cast of characters and timeline of events with ease. But I can't imagine someone outside of the firm being able to make the same connections as easily without having to re-read (or re-listen) to many sections.
But if you can follow the timeline of events, understand the basics of the banking terms and functions of capital markets, the story is awesome. It is a can't miss thrill ride that puts a human context around the headlines that splashed the front pages of newspapers for weeks between 2007 and 2008. Everyone we though were villains were not necessary so. Everyone we thought were hero weren't so innocent either.
Dan Woren speaks life into this very intriguing story written by Greg Farrell. Unlike some narrators of business books, Woren was no overly dry or stiff in tone. For those of us who enjoy business and non-fiction audiobooks, the narrator is key. And Woren's performance kept me going and gave feeling to each of the Wall Street bankers her spoke for.
In all, this audiobook was well worth the credit, but it is not for the faint of heart. The story treats the reader (listener) as if they understand the basics of capital markets and jumps around with the timeline. But the holistic story of how an icon like the Thundering Herd of Merrill Lynch who helped restore confidence in the market by middle America after the 1929 stock market crash until its own demise is enthralling for those of us who lived through it.
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