A fairly balanced take on Schwarzenegger, from his childhood, bodybuilding days, to Hollywood and the Governor's mansion. Doesn't shy away from the controversies while at the same time is a bit sensationalist at times though that is probably warranted given the subject. The author's inherent fondness for his subject shines through.
This bio has lots of sex, some drugs, and precious little rock and roll. While you would never expect a bio of David Bowie to be G-rated, this trashy bit of work does a hatchet job on an arguably music and entertainment pioneer. The author seems to have based much of her material on the recollections of groupies and hangers on with the result being lots of details on Bowie’s sex life but comparatively little on his music and its impact. In particular, she seems to have a lurid fixation on the size of Bowie’s genitalia and she comes back to this topic ad nauseum. The narration – delivered in dry, Queen’s English, couldn’t be more at odd’s with the subject matter and brings to mind the John Cleese sex ed teacher bit from The Meaning of Life. If you are looking to find out about Bowie the musician, his influences and impact, you won’t find it here.
I found lots to like about this audiobook – the folksy prose, the scientific research underpinning its claims, the author’s willingness to share her experiences raising two teenage sons. This is a useful primer for any parent seeking to better understand the teenage mind and also a handy how to manual for raising teenagers in the modern world. Once you come to grips with the notion that teenagers are not hormone addled children nor are they merely inexperienced adults, the rest of the book’s claims hardly seem earth shattering and indeed, the book tends to repeat a handful of core ideas over and over again. Nevertheless, the book is entertaining, easy to read, has lots of fascinating insights into the still developing mind of a teenager, and to its credit, offers no easy bromides or false promises that if you do x as a parent everything will be okay. Rather, this is the thinking person’s parenting guide, a sort of What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Teenager and as such, should probably be required reading for any parent.
There is a lot to admire about the subject matter of this audiobook: the dedication and selfless determination of Bryan Stevenson, the work he and his fellow lawyers have done to help those on death row who were wrongly convicted, his advocacy for equal justice and legal reform. All of this is chronicled mostly through the case experiences of a half dozen or so different clients with a particular focus on one, Walter, whose tragic story weaves throughout the narrative. The sum is an informative and damning indictment of the justice system in the deep south. Still, I found the narrative engaged the intellect more than the heart, which seems counterintuitive given the David vs. Goliath subject matter. Part of my problem with the book was its broad scope and lack of “in the weeds” details, both of which are essential for the reader to put themselves in Stevenson’s and his client’s shoes. Rather, the story meanders through different cases, with only a slightly better than cursory overview of the people, legal arguments and courtroom maneuvering that went on in each case. Granted, you don’t expect Just Mercy to be a John Grisham novel, but perhaps if it had focused on just one or two cases and what it took to expose their injustices and right the wrongs it would have been a more compelling and engaging book.
I found this to be an utterly fascinating audiobook, a chronicle of the often deleterious effects that humanity/civilization has had on the diversity of living organisms with whom we share the planet. This isn’t really a book about climate change per se, though it certainly appears in the narrative. Rather, this is an in depth examination of the so called anthropocene, the most recent ecological era characterized by humanity’s purposeful altering of the Earth’s biosphere. Kolbert expertly chronicles this by focusing on a dozen or so past and present species – from coral reefs, Auks, Mastadons, cave dwelling bats, and Neanderthals to name a few – and how humanity, purposefully but also at times unintentionally, has caused their extinction or brought them to the brink. Though this might sound like depressing stuff, Kolbert smartly keeps the focus on the science and scientists, avoids moralizing, and for the most part lets the listener draw their own conclusions. The end result is a sharp, thoughtful, and at times humorous book that is part forensic detective story, part elegy and full bore wake up call to what we are doing to the biodiversity of this planet. A worthwhile and entertaining read for tree huggers and skeptics alike.
Not always an easy listen, I found Being Mortal nevertheless to be an important one, especially for anyone in the "sandwich" generation or who otherwise might be thinking ahead to their senior years. The book challenges the listener to contemplate what really matters when old age, infirmity, or terminal illness occurs - is it important to add days to life or life to days. Gawande - a physician - asserts that the health care establishment has historically opted for the former when most patients in their care would probably want the latter if we only took the time and effort to ask. This raises poignant, often troublesome or difficult decisions on the part of individuals, their adult children, medical practitioners and the health care system. This is an intelligent and well argued book with only a few key messages. Gawande ably grounds his arguments in the experiences of his family and patients which keeps the narrative moving and makes the messages hit close to home. Being Mortal offers no easy answers but is good at getting the conversation started. In all this is a worthwhile listen though not always a pleasant one. The narration is top shelf.
This is a straightforward autobiography of Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM). I was intrigued both by the title and the subject matter but knew little about Banks or AIM. Ojibwa Warrior does a good job of educating the listener about Banks, from his childhood through the 1970’s culminating in the militant standoff at Wounded Knee (and a bit beyond). It reads in a straightforward connect-the- dots sort of way, highlighting Banks’ personal and professional tribulations while never taking its eye off of the broader context of Indian/First Nations struggle for equal rights and autonomy. Some of the confrontations with the government, Banks’ at times semi-outlaw existence, as well as his experiences as a child (and forced removal from his family and culture) are rendered in great detail. Another plus are the many fascinating details Banks offers about Indian/First Nations culture. The competent narration is subdued and smartly lets events speak for themselves. Despite all this, I nevertheless found the narrative a bit too mechanical in a “first this happened and then this happened and then this happened” sort of way. I wouldn’t call it dry but it lacked a certain intimacy that would connect the listener emotionally with Banks and his struggles/aims. In this way, Ojibwa Warrior is educational but not inspirational which is a shame given Banks’ life/work
This had been on my wishlist for awhile and I am glad to have finally listened to it. Strayed's memoir of her solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail has a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance feel to it - part bio, confessional, travelogue and meditation on resiliency rolled into one. I liked it on all levels and Strayed effectively interweaves reflections on her troubled relationships with her family, ex-husband, and her own personal failings throughout her experiences on the PCT that both inform the listener of her motives as well as illuminate her transformation. Add in some genuinely surprising and suspenseful experiences on the trail and you end up with a narrative that never lags. Strayed's knack for self-deprecating humor keeps all this from being too heavy or melodramatic and the narration aptly captures this. Well worth the listen!
This is an utterly engrossing true life tale of the coders who unraveled the where when's and how's of the Stuxnet virus. Part cyber detective story, part geopolitical thriller, Countdown to Zero Day deftly takes the listener through the efforts of a small group of private cybersecurity experts who stumbled upon the virus and through dogged effort began to unravel its components to discover its true purpose. Wisely, the author reveals this piecemeal, mirroring the experiences of the cyber sleuths as they slowly crack the multidimensional virus. There are no big or juicy revelations here - anyone who has followed Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons technology will have heard about Stuxnet and the alleged role the US and Israel played in it. Rather, Countdown intrigues in an All the President's Men sort of way - how intrepid doggedness on the part of ordinary people (substitute coders for reporter) can uncover the darkest and most hidden reaches of power.
Like Toland's other works, this is a good blend of military and political history and there are some nice details about how the final hundred days arguably set the tone and shape of international relations for the next 45 years. Nevertheless 100 days feels disjointed and somewhat incomplete as Toland overly dwells on certain events (e.g. Plans for the establishment of the U.N., the battle for Remagen, and especially Mussolini's demise) at the expense of seemingly equal or more pertinent ones (eg. The battle for Berlin, the German civil front). The end result feels patchwork with more than a few gaps.
May appeal to readers who like their history detailed and who aren't overly familiar with the closing days of the European theater of war.
The Narrator was fine but the production was terrible, with frequent, inexplicable changes in tone and clarity. I thought at first this might be because the narrator was emphasizing a footnote before realizing it was just the sound production. In the end, the narration proved to be a distraction more than anything.
First off, I must admit to being a fan of Mary Roach, whose books delve into the eccentricities, trivialities, and the “have you ever wondered how” aspects of our human bodies. In this vein, Gulp dares the reader to boldly explore the splendor of what our bodies do to food from bite to bowel. Roach’s style isn’t to take any of this too seriously, or to drown the reader in arcane science; rather, she interviews experts in various fields or takes on the role of observer or occasional lab rat. All of this is infused with liberal amounts of tongue and cheek humor which is narrated in such a breezy, personal tone that I thought Roach herself was doing the narration. In the end, the reader won’t come away with anything close to encyclopedic understanding of human digestion but if that’s what you are looking for then Gulp is the wrong book for you anyway. Instead if you are looking to have a little info to go with your entertainment, and you don’t mind occasionally being a little grossed out (see the bit on tasters), Gulp may just leave you feeling a little awed by how your body works its unseen magic turning what you have eaten into what you are.
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