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Reuel

drj

South Bend, IN, United States | Member Since 2010

27
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 12 reviews
  • 45 ratings
  • 310 titles in library
  • 40 purchased in 2014
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  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Simon Winchester
    • Narrated By Simon Winchester
    Overall
    (330)
    Performance
    (149)
    Story
    (150)

    In 1793, William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology on its head. While surveying the route for a canal near Bath, he noticed that the fossils found in one layer of the rocks he was excavating were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following these fossils one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped, rose and fell, clear across England and clear across the world.

    reggie p says: "Geology made interesting"
    "Important history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up The Map That Changed the World in three words, what would they be?

    observation, comprehension, re/evolution (cheating a little on that last "word")


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The awareness that the earth was much older and dynamic than previously supposed is the crux, and the author does an excellent job placing the key observations within the economic setting of mining coal and digging canal, which he relates to one another very logically and clearly. The less interesting aspect was the class and personal rivalries that slowed acceptance (a little) but mostly threatened the credit due to Smith.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Simon Winchester?

    yes


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    The author takes too much time at the beginning telling us, repeatedly, that the findings were important without actually telling us how or why. Maybe that is necessary in popularized science. He also expects the readers to know English geography better than I do. His personal experience on the beaches during school contribute only marginally to the main story. But the main story is (actually, finally) so important that these amount to quibbles.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Infinite Jest

    • UNABRIDGED (56 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By David Foster Wallace
    • Narrated By Sean Pratt
    Overall
    (514)
    Performance
    (447)
    Story
    (449)

    A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and featuring the most endearingly screwed-up family to come along in recent fiction, Infinite Jest explores essential questions about what entertainment is and why it has come to so dominate our lives; about how our desire for entertainment affects our need to connect with other people; and about what the pleasures we choose say about who we are.

    Charlie R. Williams says: "good if you already read the book."
    "brilliiant and rewarding"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Starts with a high school tennis player freaking out in college interview, segues to a Marijuana addict in Boston, Arab doctor in Boston, pro football kicker in Phoenix, beauty from Kentucky, cycling back to family running a tennis academy in Boston, father an expert on optics and dabbling in perfecting an engrossing video entertainment, sought by Canadian Quebec separatists, all interacting with substance abusers (12 steppers, obsessives). Absolutely brilliant with many threads, many entertaining (!) and insightful themes and interactions. It does not coalesce well at the end, not surprisingly given the huge ambition, but well worth the time. Absolutely amazing narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century

    • UNABRIDGED (25 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Thomas Piketty, Arthur Goldhammer (translator)
    • Narrated By L. J. Ganser
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (577)
    Performance
    (491)
    Story
    (490)

    What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories.

    Madeleine says: "The Financial Times' Critique Doesn't Detract"
    "core curriculum - enjoyably updated"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Superb, data-based discussion of the most important political and social topics: income and wealth disparity and how to afford a modern social state. I was a little surprised how engaging it is. The historical background, enlivened by references to literary characters of Balzac and Austen and others, is convincing. It is only slightly weakened in the last half by a relatively superficial treatment of social utility (unequal is inequity) though there is a limit the scope of any book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Company: A Novel of the CIA

    • UNABRIDGED (41 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Robert Littell
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (5131)
    Performance
    (2228)
    Story
    (2224)

    "If Robert Littell didn't invent the American spy novel," says Tom Clancy, "he should have." In this spectacular Cold-War-as-Alice-in-Wonderland epic, Littell, "the American le Carre," takes us down the rabbit hole and into the labyrinthine world of espionage that has been the CIA for the last half-century. "Ostensibly a single novel, The Company can also be listened to as an anthology of cracking good spy stories," says (Publishers Weekly).

    Cynthia says: "Hang on to your Hat"
    "part fact, some fiction, wholly enjoyable"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A "novel" of the CIA… very long, sweeping, and very engaging, starting just post WWII involving real people: e.g., James Angleton, Richard Helms, JFK, Reagan, et al. even William Sloan Coffin briefly then on as late as Vladimir Putin. Follows a couple new recruits but not linear timing, from the 1970s to '50s and back before settling down. Superbly -- outstandingly -- spoken with many accents and emotions. Narrator's voices are almost uniformly superb, his Kennedy is not entirely convincing but his Reagan is great. I enjoyed this very much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bioshock: Rapture: Bioshock, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By John Shirley
    • Narrated By Jeffrey Kafer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (310)
    Performance
    (290)
    Story
    (292)

    It was the end of World War II. FDR's New Deal had redefined American politics. Taxes were at an all-time high. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had created a fear of total annihilation. The rise of secret government agencies and sanctions on business had many watching their backs. America's sense of freedom was diminishing... and many were desperate to take that freedom back.

    Jason says: "YAAY! Finally . . . Wait, What!?"
    "Mix of retro politics, fantasy"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Rich Russian émigré in 1946 fears creeping socialism and atomic war, so he builds a city on the sea bottom off Iceland. Remarkable in the beginning for making Ayn Rand's screeds seem relatively well written. Mercifully, this author is not so long-winded, nor as monomaniacal, and is much more creative. Subversive doubts, greed, cynicism, and good old-fashioned criminality enter the picture. DNA and genes in 1950 is about 30 years ahead of history, the plasmids conferring superpowers (fire balls from fingers, telekinesis) is of course ridiculous. Weird mix of retro politics and super-powers fascination.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Lay Down My Sword and Shield

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By James Lee Burke
    • Narrated By Will Patton
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (567)
    Performance
    (390)
    Story
    (384)

    Against the backdrop of growing civil rights turmoil in a sultry border town, the hard-drinking ex-POW attorney Hackberry Holland yields to the myriad urgings of his wife, his brother, and his so-called friends to make a bid for a congressional seat - and finds himself embroiled in the seamy world of Texas powerbrokers.

    Cat F. says: "The Publisher's Summary is Anemic"
    "Great reading, good story: sensitive lawyer"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    A Korean war vet, lawyer, and new Democratic candidate for Congress from Austin TX in the '70s, the protagonist "Hack" is bitter, estranged from his wife, brother, others, self. Though he holds himself to a high standard, he also questions his own worth just a little less than he discounts the motives of those around him. He has the attractive sensibilities of a hippie (open-minded and anti-bigotry) together with the appetites of a good ol' boy (drinking, driving fast, and whoring). His deep secret - which forms the spine of the narrative - is sufficiently important and well presented. The reading by Will Patton is outstanding, a great pleasure with perfectly fitting voices. The story is just a little less than compelling, too much of a great guy with a deep soul...who is righteous and drinks way too much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A Brief History of Britain 1485-1660: Brief Histories

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Ronald Hutton
    • Narrated By Roger Davis
    Overall
    (24)
    Performance
    (22)
    Story
    (20)

    From the death of Richard III on Bosworth Field in 1485 to the execution of Charles I, after the Civil Wars of 1642-48, England was transformed by two Dynasties. Firstly the Tudors, who won the crown on the battlefield and changed both the nature of kingship but also the nation itself. England became a Protestant nation and began to establishment itself as a trading power; facing down impossible odds it defeated its enemies on land and sea.

    Reuel says: "excellent history, balanced perspective"
    "excellent history, balanced perspective"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a superb history of the momentous era from before Henry VIII to after Elizabeth. The author also presents other historians' views, which changed sometimes dramatically over time based on the latest scholarship and trends. Religion and finance (economy) are two important areas that benefit greatly from balanced perspectives. This clear combination of current and historical scholarship is very interesting and helps the reader understand also how history is analyzed.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Angle of Repose

    • UNABRIDGED (22 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Wallace Stegner
    • Narrated By Mark Bramhall
    Overall
    (488)
    Performance
    (335)
    Story
    (337)

    Wallace Stegner's uniquely American classic centers on Lyman Ward, a noted historian who relates a fictionalized biography of his pioneer grandparents at a time when he has become estranged from his own family. Through a combination of research, memory, and exaggeration, Ward voices ideas concerning the relationship between history and the present, art and life, parents and children, and husbands and wives.

    Laurene says: "A magnificent novel, beautifully read"
    "interesting, occaisonally insightful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This story provides a good historical perspective from a personal and family level but largely fails in its aim to do more. The title is a mining or geological term meaning the slope of a hill resulting from falling matter, here applied to a retired academic working on a bio of his grandmother, mostly, who was a minor writer and sketch artist in late-19th Century New York and New England, and his capable, even inventive and ambitious but flawed westerner grandfather. His voice is a little prissy and the grandmother comes across as a bit of a whiner, when not defensive (to her friends). Some nice connections between his Victorian Grandparents and the crassness and loose morals of his son, divorced wife, and the hippy daughter of his helper. The narrator does a good job assuming the author's voice, sometimes annoyingly so.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Innocents Abroad: Or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Mark Twain
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (192)
    Performance
    (168)
    Story
    (168)

    In June 1867, Mark Twain set out for Europe and the Holy Land on the paddle steamer Quaker City. His enduring, no-nonsense guide for the first-time traveler also served as an antidote to the insufferably romantic travel books of the period.

    Cynthia Franks says: "Twain's Hidden Gem"
    "Twain raises expectations, unmet"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a journal of his trip in 1867 to France, Italy, and the Holy land, missing a few due to plague and quarantine. Twain is sometimes surprisingly biased and it's often not clever or funny. He is unfailingly credulous about Christianity, albeit critical of Roman Catholicism, and dismissive of all Arabs, most Italians, and many other foreigners. His cleverness surfaces describing himself and fellow travelers, but too rarely. Overlong.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • The Gods of Gotham

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Lyndsay Faye
    • Narrated By Steven Boyer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (571)
    Performance
    (493)
    Story
    (497)

    It is 1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.... Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, fantasizing about the day he has enough money to win the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this new "police force".

    Joanne says: "A wonderful book"
    "more drama than history"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you like best about The Gods of Gotham? What did you like least?

    Probably best at dramatizing the very rough nature of life in big cities then, focusing on the extra strains in NYC caused by the immigration of so many poor Irish and the anti-Catholic zealots who opposed them. The drama and crime around which the setting is described is itself not so compelling, though refreshingly open minded and liberal (in the old sense). Narrator is superb.


    Would you recommend The Gods of Gotham to your friends? Why or why not?

    This provides good historical atmosphere for fans of NYC (I am one).


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The widow baker is a minor character but provides a nice touchstone for the society.


    Any additional comments?

    The author makes a few of the characters a little too heroic (or deeply villainous)... the striving social worker/writer, the priest, the doctor, the new "cops" on the nascent police force. The strength of the story is the atmosphere, the setting of a burgeoning new city filled with people striving, with success and failure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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