Pound Ridge, NY United States
I have rarely read a book that challenged me as did 'The Information'. Be prepared to be challenged by the links between the liberal arts; how philosophy relates to mathematics and how biology relates to physics. Get ready for an unceasing search for the fundamental issues. Remember polynomial equations, untangle the cryptographers art, have your sense of logic turned upside down. Be ready to be convinced that all can be explained by successive tosses of a coin.
So...worth reading. Yes! I know nobody who could hike Gleick's road without stumbling. He introduces so much complex material that his thesis seems hopelessly confusing; but then he combines the elements at the end of each Chapter, lifts the fog, solidifies the important concepts and provides a foundation for the brain to move on. Fascinating, but be prepared to think as much as read.
I thoroughly enjoyed Grant's writings. His consummate military brilliance; sense of morality; care for his fellow man; assessment of human qualities; fair mindedness; all spring from the words in stark relief. His style echoes the clipped, no nonsense, "...facts only please..." methodology: observations; assumptions; decisions. His orders to his fellow Generals are totally unambiguous; his respect for, and effective use of, authority unquestioned.
So...5 stars for performance, 3 for story? Well, I had expected more of his life outside his military experience. Books two and three are 100% committed to the Civil War, but a few years of his life. I find it difficult to digest the vast numbers of those killed, promoted, cashiered, wounded and missing. Following the battles probably requires a map. But it is a stunning description of battle and a wonderful insight into the complexity of waging war. Any student of history sits in our Commander's tent at night, joining with him in solving complex logistics, personal rivalries, communicating with politicians in Washington. I imagine cadets at West Point have this book as required reading. Grant's recollection of his meetings with Lee at Appomattox are sensitively portrayed.
The narrator succeeded in making me feel I was listening to Grant himself. An acid test, I'd say.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel I understand military strategy, tactics and above all, leadership. I gained an immense respect for Grant and will read more about him, probably by those with a broader context for his life outside war, his family and achievements.
Well written and thoroughly researched even if it suffers, as do so many historical works, from over exposition. Its three main characters, Harriman, Morrow and Linant, are brought into sharp focus with fascinating anecdotes and unabashed details of their private lives. I felt I could sit down to dinner with these three as if I knew them personally by the end of the book.
Inevitably, the book requires a deep context. Those who already know of the Churchill, Roosevelt and even Stalin relationships may find themselves re-reading; those who have read such experts as Ambrose and Keegan will not need the World War II historical episodes. However, the author relates such diversions to their diplomatic implications tightly and this distraction, if it occurs, will not irritate I suspect.
The reader is clear and relaxing as is needed for such a long treatise. However, as a small point...Lord Salisbury is "...Sauls-bury..."; Sandys is "...Sands..."; Cadogan is "...Kerr-DUGG-un..." I'll do you the favour of not trying to give you his pronunciation and even if Americans have a right to use their own language as they feel fit, proper names should be managed with respect.
A long and detailed history, the result of thorough research and a fine critical mind when it comes to analysis of the relative importance of the events described. The writer has a clear, unfussy style and I never find myself going back to hear again something I cannot comprehend first time around.
I have read much about Churchill and this book gives me a new perspective on the great man. Indeed, I now understand his shortcomings far better. Ghandi was new to me and this is an excellent biography. In the case of neither man is it a glowing, one sided tribute but more a full frontal picture, warts and all, focusing on their very great achievements alongside their blind spots.
The book gets better as it rolls out. The climax, in which Herman details the funerals of each man is very moving; some of the best writing I have enjoyed.
The reader is clear and strong, necessary in a book of this length where it is easy to pretend to listen.
Good, important history.
I read the reviews of The Greater Journey and I was disappointed. However, I read McCullough so often and am so rarely disappointed, that I went ahead. I must join those who have written downbeat reviews.
What is the focus? Does the US owe so much of its medical and artistic heritage to France? Was Paris a fabulous place to live in the middle of the 19th Century (more so than in the 1920's)? These characters who made cameo appearances in an off Broadway play...figures of History who did not merit a biography of their own, worthy of such lengthy mention? Oh yes, there were facts and statistics that were surprising to uncover; there were descriptions of the Prussian siege of Paris that were new and well narrated, but every subject concentration jumped out of the shadows.
As always, Edward Herrmann reads so well that review is unnecessary. I simply continue to hope that it is he to whom I shall listen when I begin to listen to a long book.
I got the feeling that McCullough had done, as always, the most diligent research, had reviewed it and found no literary gel, then thrown it all into a pot and joined it 'somehow'. If you would like a snapshot of Paris of 150 years ago, you'll enjoy it. But this is not McCullough at his best. He read his own introduction and sounded halting, blurred...perhaps a little old. More's the pity. I'll look to see what he writes next. We are all allowed a miss here and there.
This may be the second time I have ever given 5 stars.
The story is compelling. The early years when rebellion leads to hilarious consequences. The brutality inflicted so often by so many upon the hero and others, is quite incredible. How anyone could remain sane afterwards and live a long and productive life equally unbelievable. This story tests the very limits of my tolerance for, much as I wish to forget, how any group of human beings could be so cruel to any other group questions the very roots of a culture. And...so it should. If we are to remember the holocaust lest it occur again, books such as this create an equally valuable lesson for life.
All therein contained would be too much to be true were it not for the level of detail and research that must have gone into writing this book. The harrowing story of endurance and courage is written with such clarity that I am almost there with our hero. The successive traumas endured never become tiresome by repetition. The characters are described so realistically that they never merge, one into another. I find my myself admiring, hating, intriguing, hoping, feeling and...even laughing with them. Laura Hillenbrand has the most economic of styles: no excessive use of long words; no fear of the short sentence; a sense of timing of fact introduction that accentuates humor and retains interest until the key moment; a wonderful belief that all she has to do is inform accurately and interest, constantly, in the simplest way possible. I rarely had to go back and reread something because I had not gleaned the meaning of a paragraph or sentence. Her impish sense of humor, although appearing all too rarely, smacks of Barbara Tuchman. Strunck and White can relax in their graves.
Finally, and Thank You Audible, Edward Herrmann allows me to listen for hours at a stretch. His easy, clear, deep voice and soft accent (I am very sensitive to this element of enjoyment since I am English!), his cadence, his emphasis never disappoint.
Laura Hillenbrand now enters a rare category for me. Never mind the subject, consider the author; buy the book.
Very few of our top executives leave behind them a feeling of sadness when they depart. I had to read this book; Jobs, to me, was an inspired business leader and we may not see his like again.
The biography, published so soon after his death, gathers momentum as I read. It is strange how 30 year old technology seems archaic today. Jobs is seen in all his paradoxical glory: unwashed; malodorous; mean; mercurial; heavy handed with friends and employees; a negotiating marvel; above the law; arrogant, insolent but never indolent. Yet somehow, Isaacson makes Jobs human: first, Jobs finds his sister, mother and reunites with his first daughter; then later, he becomes terminally ill and softens just a little. All through this, he remains the driven, perfectionist, brilliant seeker of elegant technology solutions that confound the marketplace. His relationship with Bill Gates is a fascinating portrayal; I am coming away with a firm opinion that Jobs is far more the brilliant visionary, Gates the lucky, unimaginative, feet in the sand, business executive. At this level, the book is a must read for any entrepreneur or product marketing 'would be' who seeks to make it today in the world of information or media technology.
This was my second foray into Isaacson; I have just finished 'Einstein', after which I was going to put him into my 'must read' class alongside McCullough. The rhythm and phasing in Einstein was superb, the prose smooth, the reflections insightful. Do not expect that style quality in Steve Jobs' biography. Isaacson runs from quote to quote rather than smooth narrative; The screenplay could be pulled from the text. In fact this style, emphasizing attributed dialogue, can make the story difficult to believe: could anyone remember the words so exactly? It is becoming tiresome. The same Jobs personality trait is underlined time and time again by successive similar quotes from multiple characters. It becomes redundant except for the creation of record. That is what I have...a detailed chronology of everything that happened in Jobs' life, unadorned, full frontal but with little insight or reflection, minimal staging of his life phases, little humor, only glimpses of his married relationship with his wife...but then...Jobs is a private man.
Once again, I have to suffer a reader that makes this book less enjoyable (although I am English and I doubt most Americans would have my level of sensitivity to the comments I list hereunder). Come back Edward Herrmann, all is forgiven! Dylan Baker has a strong American accent...gnarled vowels...over emphatic consonants...and an irritating style that separates every word from the next with an oratorical cleaver. Why do American narrators work as if they were painting by numbers? Do they think we are falling asleep? Do they think we have slow minds? Cannot understand jokes, innuendo or suggestion? Wearing, tiresome, irritating! He over reads the dialogue and makes an attempt to reproduce the characters' statements, makes sure you don't miss the punch line by hanging on the words too loudly and too long. Please...Audible...when it is a 24 hour listening experience...ask yourselves..."Am I finding this narrator relaxing?" and "Do I really want him to act out the characters or can he, please, leave that to my imagination?" And...Mr. Baker, never again try to imitate an English accent; you might as well ask an elephant to wheel in the tea trolley.
Bottom line? At the end of it all, I am finding this a must read. I am half an hour from the end and...well...I must admit, I have to but a MacBook...or I phone...or, maybe, that I Pad! Yes, Jobs SOLD me too.
I hardly made it through the introduction with this author. His style is so cumbersome; his persistent use of long words and sentences; his never ending broad opinions without support; his judgments on huge affairs; his critical conclusions; all written with a pompous air that irritated beyond tolerance.
But I did make it to the first chapters and I am glad. Wu's style improves a little...if only a little...but his facts and story line are important. He can lose focus and wander; he lacks the incisive sense of humor of Barbara Tuchman; he has none of the contextual or relevance sense of Walter Isaacson. But the message is a key one for us in the information and communications industry and I am glad I persisted.
The reader is clear if his voice sounds old and just a little raspy. What a pity Edward Herrmann is not used more often. His deep tone and relaxed delivery make 4 - 5 hour sessions when driving so much more enjoyable.
I only wish that writers be required to do a style course with Strunk and White, John Updike and Ernest Hemingway as course essentials. Use simple words; write short, crisp sentences; there is no need to write 1,000 pages to get the story across; and ...most of all...tell the story, the reader will have his own opinions and judgments and only needs those of the author where they issues may not be self evident.
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I am sorry I l left this so long before I wrote the review; I like to write them while I am on the last few pages and all is still fresh in my mind.
So...in summary only...here was a tireless intellectual, a rigorous mind, a loving husband, a man who subscribed to now rules that compromised his fundamental beliefs. Yet, here also was a man that went to Brazil to spend a week with a woman of questionable virtue to get a break from the stress of thinking.
My whole experience was enhanced when I found out that Feynman had been recorded giving 7 lectures to students at Cornell in the 1950's. Bill Gates had saved these and made them available on the internet: there Feynman was, alive, humorous, his coarse New York accent untainted, his clean clear thinking on show as if still here.
Nobel Prize winner, uncompromising, funny, passionate, tireless, the book brings him alive. How I'd love to have had dinner with him!
I read many biographies and this book brings out Einstein's character and personality as well as any book managed with its title subject. There is that first moment in any book where I wait to see who is to read it. Marvelous, Edward Herrmann, deep rich voice, perfect pace, appropriate emphasis and clear delivery free of accent. Water Isaacson, biographer of Steve Jobs (which I did not know when I ordered this book) has a grasp of Einstein's life details combined with an ability to put across tough scientific concepts and place them in context. Oh yes, it gets complicated...how could it not? But he never lost my interest even when it was beyond my comprehension. Isaacson kept such necessary writings to a suitable length.
Einstein came across as fallible, human, kind, tough, estranged, close, humorous, thoughtful, pacifist ,but then a considered opponent of Germany and justified war against Hitler. The juxtaposition of stories of his reclusiveness at times, merged with his open armed acceptance of some who stumbled across him. Einstein's humility; his respect for others in his profession; his ability to apply his intelligence outside of quantum physics. All come across, either in cameo writings of individual happenings or general description.
His eccentricity, sailing alone on the lake for hours on end, presumably thinking about his mathematical proofs or endless equations. How sad it was that Hitler's bully boys ransacked his home outside Potsdam and destroyed his yacht of solace.
At the end of it all, what a thoroughly fine, kind, charming gentleman.
I actually FORGOT I had read this book and downloaded it twice! And maybe that says it all...what is happening now is so much more ridiculous that anything that happened on the journey the liberals took getting here that I have glazed over. The Edwards trial and the ultimate wriggling worm will be far more fascinating than this book and...in real time...so there is more to come.
Most will enjoy it but it has seen its best days; short half life, no staying power...humdrum now.
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