Haven't read the print version.
Not every book is a pleasant read but some are important reads and this certainly fits that category. The narrative follows a handful of servicemen who served in the Iraq war and their families. Their stories are interconnected by time, place, and experiences with a tragic incident in the Iraq war as the unifier. The book illustrates both the obvious and hidden costs to those who served - loss of comrades, survivors guilt, physical injury, PTSD, an uncertain post war life, families who can't quite be what the soldiers need them to be, despite their best efforts. What is both tragic and compelling is that the reader - like the servicemen and their families - can never quite be certain what the outcome for each person would be but that is the point.
Very good. Far from a dry performance, the listener feels as though he is hearing firsthand the subjects speaking to him.
How a comment made to a soldier meant to be a compliment was interpreted as a criticism that eventually leads to a multitude of problems and guilt for that soldier. Tragic.
For anyone who wants to better understand what it means to return home and move on from war, this is probably as close as a non combatant will ever get to it. Thank you for your service and just as importantly, thank you for your sacrifice.
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.
This history of Hitler’s V2 rocket program is a well-researched, fact-abundant chronology of mankind’s first guided ballistic missile. It deals primarily with the period of 1941-45 and the efforts of the Nazis to develop/use it as a terror weapon and the British attempts to monitor its development and then, once it began to rain down on British cities, minimize its impact on morale. In this, the book succeeds mostly through its preponderance of facts, including an almost missile by missile account of devastation and causalities, interspersed with eyewitness statements. Clearly, Longmate has done his homework and my eyes were opened to both the scale of its use as well as the utter helplessness of the British to defend against/cope with it. What is lacking here though is really any compelling narrative to draw the reader in – Longmate does not offer much in terms of either the technical challenges the German scientists faced in developing it or the British in defending against it or the personalities, motives, and conflicts of the key figures on either side. Rather, what you get is a somewhat sterile chronological recap of events with perhaps the first quarter of the book devoted almost exclusively to the development of the V2 and the last three quarters to its effects as a weapon. A more adept writer might have found a way to interweave the two storylines throughout the book in order to create a more continuous and less fragmented narrative. Still, for those who want to know more about this small bit of WWII history, Hitler’s Rockets will satisfy but likely not delight
This book is a mostly entertaining, first hand account of Kiehl’s professional experiences studying criminal psychopaths. It is informative without getting too technical (though there is a heavy focus on Kiehl’s brain imagining work) and the listener will come away with both a sense of who/what constitutes a psychopath as well as the somewhat unsettling notion that there are still more unknowns than knowns about its causes and treatments. Kiehl relates all this in a breezy, informal narrative that includes many fascinating case studies of youth and adults he has worked with over several decades. The title is probably misleading – Kiehl makes no claims to having any great gifts or abilities to relate to psychopaths but what the book does admirably is to shed light on the many falsehoods, misconceptions, and unknowns we have about this (thankfully) small sub-set of humankind. The narration is good in conveying Kielh as the “kind of guy you would like to go out with for a beer” while also subtly reminding the listener that these are real people we are hearing about. My only complaint is that the narrative occasionally diverges too much from the topic or digresses into detailed tangents (e.g. the procuring of various MRI machines) that could have either been edited down or out. Still, as long as you are neither scared off or repulsed by the topic, TPW is worth a read.
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