First off, I'll admit I was no fan of George W Bush yet still the man intrigued me. Could he really be as dumb, arrogant, and stubborn as his persona suggests? Well, according to this well written account of his White House years, the answer is yes and no. This is a nicely nuanced portrait of the Bush and Cheney partnership that really only lasted he first term of the presidency. All of Bush's failings are in display here and the author links these in subtle ways with W's character flaws. At the same time, this is hardly a hatchet job. Undeniably the Bush presidency was a time of monumental challenges, some of Bush and Cheney's own making, some not. The influence of each man on the other is depicted in an almost Shakespearian tragic way as initial successes lead to epic failures and estrangement. A compelling read that will likely not satisfy hard core Bush apologists or detractors, this is well worth the read for anyone seeking a better understanding of he partner ship that made he White House tick.
This audiobook documents the lives of three women enrolled in the National Guard, from pre-9/11 through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though the women – Desma, Debbie, and Michelle - share many commonalities and experiences, their motivations and ultimately, outcomes and views on their service diverge. With bravery and candor, the women have seemingly provided Thorpe access to their diaries, records, and innermost thoughts and experiences. The result is at times uplifting, horrifying, and sad but always compelling. In short, I was engrossed. To her credit, Thorpe skillfully lets the women’s voices and experiences drive the narrative and by doing so, their stories offer much to say about the National Guard, the role and treatment of women in the armed forces, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and how as a society we re-integrate our veterans back into civilian life. The narration is competent. Though this book is a good listen for anyone to enjoy, I would say this should be compulsory reading for anyone thinking of enlisting in the National Guard or armed forces as well as those who are already serving.
What to make of this book? Guide to taming your hawk? Check? Mournful eulogy to a dead father? Check. Biography of T.H. White? Check. In whatever genre you may wish to pigeonhole H is for Hawk, I found this audiobook enthralling and this has mostly to do with MacDonald’s brave “bare your soul” honesty as well as her adept, fictionesque turn of phrasing. Grieving the sudden and unexpected death of her father, MacDonald retreats into two worlds: the solitary taming of a young goshawk she names Mabel and the life of tortured author (and one time goshawk trainer) T.H. White, with whom MacDonald obviously senses a kinship on several levels. Through both, MacDonald loses and then reclaims herself from the grief for her father. This is a moving, elegiac memoir that connects the listener intimately with MacDonald, her father, White, and Mabel (whose personality is slowly and fascinatingly revealed). For those without much knowledge of falconry there are lots of interesting historical, cultural and taming tidbits that left me wanting more. The parts about White I found less compelling but certainly understood MacDonald’s fascination with him. This book had me at every page and I honestly didn’t know where it would end up. The only criticism I had was the narration, by the author herself, which I found a bit leaden. Nevertheless, I will look forward eagerly to her next book
Equal parts fascinating and informative, Ridley offers a tour of the human genome with each chapter focusing on a different gene(s) within one of 22 chromosome (the 23rd sex linked chromosomes are omitted). Thankfully, rather than an exhaustive A to Z treatment that would have been numbing, Ridley chose wisely to focus on a sample representative not only of the traits and qualities that define us as humans but also illustrate the vast promise and hidden shortfalls of genetics, heritability, disease and at the end, free will. I found this very intriguing and the arguments/science are well laid out. A few caveats though: this is a step above an introductory/layperson guide so at least a general familiarity with genetics will make this much more understandable (and enjoyable) listen; secondly, the author’s foray into behaviourism, Freudian psychology and some arguments about free will and determinism were a little shaky and perhaps out of place here; and finally, the book was written in 1999 which may as well have been a millennia ago given the pace of genetic research. Though I wouldn’t say this disqualifies the book, I was left yearning perhaps for a second edition that might be more current. Still, the themes of the book remain relevant and I found it a very worthwhile and enjoyable read.
Loyd’s memoir of his time as a war journalist in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990”s is an odd mix of war story, addiction tell all, and biography of a troubled upbringing. To Loyd’s credit, he interweaves the three threads in a back and forth timeline that works better than if the whole had been told in a linear fashion. But overall I found this audiobook grim and not terribly enlightening. There is extensive, vivid recounting of battlefield scenes of viscera and horror that loses all shock effect after awhile. Is this supposed to be the true confession of an adrenaline junkie, war fetishist, drug addict or all of the above? In the end, I wasn’t sure. Though Loyd is undoubtedly brave, both in his exploits and in his willingness to bare all on the page, I found myself unable to relate to the person or the plight. For those who want a journalist’s unblemished view of the horrors of war, then this may be the audiobook for you, but it left me cold and frankly, slightly repelled.
This fourth volume in Caro’s expansive biography of LBJ covers the period of 1958 through early 1964. It traces LBJ’s ascension from dithering presidential candidate, to the powerless office of the VP, and concludes with his transition to the Presidency in the two months following JFKs assassination. This is a well researched and crafted biography of the man, his times, and the people around him. There are many fascinating details that deal with LBJ’s ambitions and insecurities, his relationship with the Kennedys, and the oft forgotten craftsmanship with which he assumed the mantel of the presidency during a difficult period. Caro is not one to skimp on details and for those who might be put off by the length of the book, there is an elegance and precision to Caro’s writing that keeps the narrative flowing. I should also say that I don’t think it is necessary to have read Caro’s other volumes in order to enjoy/follow Passage of Power as Caro briefly recaps details from the earlier works where it is necessary to add context. I found the narration brisk and competent. In short, this is a monumental work of biography about one of America’s more conflicted Presidents, one to whom history has perhaps been unfairly unkind. I am eagerly looking forward to the release of the final volume in the next few years.
This is a worthy entry in the latest line of doomed Arctic exploration slash survival tales. Sides has a knack for infusing history with drama and does a good job here of putting the listener into the protagonist's shoes. The various characters are well drawn which makes their ordeal all the more riveting. Though there aren't many twists and turns, I truly had no sense throughout the audiobook how the tale would end. The narration is understated and rightly lets the events and the men's heroicism speak for themselves. I highly recommend this book.
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.
Report Inappropriate Content