A fascinating look into the inner workings of the Supreme Court. Lots of interesting tidbits about the court, its justices, and how their personalities and politics influence their decisions. Toobin focuses mainly on the justices serving in the 1980's through the appointment of John Roberts as Chief Justice. For casual watchers of the court you will find lots to like - equal parts analysis of some of the more important decisions over the past 30 years, biography, and insider anecdotes - all told within the context of shifting political trends. I found it all very entertaining and informative but those interested in the history of the court or in depth legal analysis of landmark rulings should look elsewhere.
Like him or hate him, most would agree that Joe Biden is at least an interesting personality. Add in an experienced and respected journalist/author in Jules Witcover and you would expect a compelling if not hard hitting read. Yet what results here is a rather pedestrian, by the numbers biography, devoid of any real insights. Most of the major events of Biden's personal and political career are covered, from the tragic accident that claimed his first wife, through his senate campaigns, with particular focus on the various Supreme Court confirmation hearings he chaired, through the 2008 election and his first year as Veep. Though clearly a fan, Witcover does not gloss over Biden's penchant for verbal gaffes and the accusations of plagiarism. Still, there is not much depth here and Biden's role, stance, or opinions on more than a few of the more major political events of the past thirty years (e.g the end of the Cold War, the rise of terrorism, the Clinton impeachment, the George W Bush presidency) receive only a cursory treatment. The end result reads somewhat like a campaign bio: factual but dull and uncontroversial. Given Biden's outspokenness - both for the public betterment and occasionally, his own detriment, it's a shame that this book couldn't match its subject.
For fans of the Presidency, this ranking of the ten worst executives provides fun but cursory reading. When ranking the best or worst Presidents, there is often broad consensus and little controversy over say the top five and the same applies here. It is when you get to six through ten that the disagreements and, well, fun set in. I can't say I was surprised by any of the men in Miller's list nor their rankings. Therefore, you won't find any surprises in here. He does a nice job providing a brief bio of each of his subjects as well as his reasons for why theirs was a failed or disappointing Presidency. None of it is approached in a scholarly fashion, but more as an extended op ed piece and I thought it was approached in a generally unbiased manner. It all makes for lightweight reading that will appeal to those with an interest in the presidency and historical trivia. Note that this was written during the Clinton administration so he, George W Bush and Barack Obama are excluded. An added bonus feature at the end are the two most overrated Presidents one of whom frankly surprised me.
Comprehensive and compelling history of the war in the pacific from the Japanese empire point of view. This is gripping military as well as political history which seeks to shed light on the motivations of Japanese society and the military clique which led Japan into and through its disastrous policies of aggressive expansionism. It is reminiscent of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and I would say is a must read for those with an interest in WWII. Toland intersperses the narrative with many first person accounts as well as analysis. Pulls no punches while at the same time offers a nuanced take of events. My only criticism is that the primary focus here is the pacific war against the United States with far lesser detail given to the India, Burma, and China. Nevertheless, I found this a monumental work of history. The narration is very capable and keeps things moving along.
This is a monumental work covering the last year and a half of the WWII pacific theater. I found this wide ranging and expansive, offering insights at the geopolitical level, through military strategy, to the on the ground/sea fighting. I found it gripping from beginning to end. The narrative is effectively punctuated by frequent first-person accounts which is not often found in this genre. As well, Hastings takes pains to present the perspectives of all sides of the conflict and also weighs in on such ongoing moral controversies such as Japanese and allied war crimes, the morality of total war, the competence of the leading strategists and military commanders (in particular MacArthur) and the use of the atomic bombs. This is thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading and I will definitely be looking to read more of Hasting's works.
The narration is competent and Cameron punctuates the first person accounts by invoking various accents. Still, given that the war in the pacific was fought mostly by Americans, I found Cameron's English accent oddly out of place and had a hard time getting past it.
So this is the book for those who were always intrigued about how any of high school algebra and calculus would ever be useful/applicable in the real world. From the first anecdote - about how in it was ultimately decided where to place extra armour in bombers during WWII - this book had me. Math was never my best subject but I found this all intriguing and fun - a mix of Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell, and trivia rolled into one. Ellenberg - a college math professor - doesn't talk down to the reader and be warned, he takes us through various equations that underlie the real world problems at stake so some fluency in math is helpful but not necessary. I'll be the first to admit I got lost in some of the equations and logical problems which probably make the print edition of this an easier go than the audiobook format. Still, it should not deter you and it all adds up to great fun that is informative and at times, surprising. Ellenberg narrates this himself in a lively manner which makes you wish you had him in place of you fill in the blanks math teacher of your younger days.
This book is an epidemiologist's dream. This is an utterly engrossing history of the hunt for the origin of the HIV virus. I was completely surprised that scientists seem to have been able to trace the origins of HIV to seemingly pinpoint places and times, stretching back further than I had previously thought. Rather than one continuous storyline/narrative, the author breaks this up into chapters that weave parallel but ultimately converging lines of investigation, tracing back from those first diagnosed, through the carriers who were the unwitting spreaders of the pandemic, through the disparate strains of HIV that became identified and laid a train back to the places and animals of the virus' origins. Incredible and would strain belief if not true. This audiobook had me from minute one. Still, I can't give it a full five stars. At time, I found the writing a bit dry, as if reading a collection of scientific papers. A more skilled writer might have found a way to craft this more as a whodunit in the spirit of a good true crime writer for instance. For instance, you never get much of a sense of who any of the multitude of scientists are behind the investigation - thus the narrative appeals solely to the intellect rather than any emotion. As well, I found myself getting lost at times in the array of different names of primate species, their lineage, as well as the alphanumeric strains of the different HIV strains. Indeed, the audiobook frequently references various diagrams and figures that would only be accessible in the actual book and would help clarify things. Still, those with a curiosity or interest in the origins of this modern pandemic will enjoy this book.
I enjoyed this audiobook but have a background in the field. The author takes us throughout each of the various classes of mind and mood altering drugs, both prescription and illegal, offering a brief history of each, their uses, effects, efficacy etc. Most, if not all the drugs covered here will be familiar to most readers and there is lots of interesting details, trivia, and factoids. This isn't a book for anyone searching for the right "med" - rather, is more of a history of man's flirtation with and apparent need for, mind altering experiences. I was captivated throughout. My only criticism was that the author tends to delve a little too deep into the biochemistry of each drug which tends to overwhelm the reader at times. As well, I got the sense the title was the publisher's ploy to make this rather academic book more appealing to the lay reader. Still, for anyone with an interest in the history and science behind many of our modern drugs of choice to either treat or self-medicate psychiatric illnesses, this is the book for you.
No complaints about the narration. Could have been dry given the subject matter but to the credit of Clark.
Quick quiz - how many books would you read about the biography of a single word? Exactly. Well, you should read this one. This is a real tour de force of our most racially charged word - its etymology, evolution, uses, jurisprudence, controversies - you name it. Kennedy does not shy away from controversy; he readily offers his view on the often conflicting, frequently confounding examples in which the use of the N-word has contributed to racial inequality, landed parties in court, benefitted entertainers, and excused (or not) criminal behaviour to name a few. I found this mix thoroughly eye opening, entertaining, and informative. Illustrating his arguments with case studies keeps the narrative moving along and prevents this from being a pure op ed piece. The fact that Kennedy narrates this himself heightens the authenticity of his arguments and it certainly is well narrated. A thoroughly enjoyable must read not only for those with an interest in race relations but also for those with a curiosity about the evolution and cultural impacts of language.
Interesting bio of one of the more maligned Presidents of recent history. Balmer offers a sympathetic portrait of Carter, drawing attention to his multitude of achievements while underscoring well known on the record failings. For any Carter detractors, this book won't likely make them fans but hopefully would at least ameliorate the exaggerated negativity which has come to characterize the Carter presidency. As a bio, I would rate this only so so - it is really about a ten thousand foot overview of the man and his presidency - I would have preferred more depth and detail. What makes this compelling however is Balmer's assertion that the rise of Carter paralleled the rise of the Evangelical voting block, something from which he initially benefitted before they abandoned him. I found this pretty persuasive. On this basis, I found it well worth the read, but will still seek out a more comprehensive and definitive Carter bio at some later point.
No complaints here. Enjoyed the narration.
Enjoyable, always interesting history of the most (in)famous spies of the past seventy years. Sulick breaks the book into chapters delving into various historical periods, e.g. Cold War Soviet spies, Viet Nam era, 1980's, military spies, age of terrorism, etc. and this helps frame common themes the perpetrators tended to have in common (e.g ideology, greed, corporate espionage, sense of grievance etc). The end result? Not only an absorbing recounting of the perpetrators, their crimes and the influences that shaped them, but also the challenges law enforcement faced in catching them. Engrossing stuff. I liked as well that the author frequently cited sources which is a bit unusual for this genre IMO. This book had me captivated from beginning to end. My only gripe was that major cases were given the same level of detail/treatment as more minor, obscure cases.
Far from dry. Managed to imbue a sense of drama in the narration without being overdone.
For lovers of spy genre fiction, this would make a useful companion reader.
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