Although this is a serious work of social and political history, it's written in such an engaging way that you can, if you like, ignore the profundity and just enjoy listening to the stories. The people who fought for Prohibition--such a diverse group, with different motivations--the people who profited from it, the way it affected daily life--there are so many character sketches and anecdotes.
I hadn't realized the extent to which the drive for Prohibition was tied up with other major social and political movements of the time, including women's suffrage (Prohibitionists were supporters because they thought that women were more likely to support them than men) and the federal income tax (Prohibitionists supported it because it answered the question of how the government was going to survive without the revenue from alcohol excise taxes).
The darker side of life in the early 20th century was also represented by the ferocious bigotry directed against Catholics and Jews, who not only opposed Prohibition, but who had an exemption carved out of the Volstead Act (the law enforcing the 18th Amendment) to allow them to use alcohol in religious services. The fact that some of that booze made its way from houses of worship to less sacred places did not help. Neither did the fact that some of the highest-profile bootleggers of the day were Catholic and Jewish (e.g., Al Capone and Meyer Lansky).
Okrent debunks some myths about the period--Prohibition was not a uniquely American folly but part of an anti-drinking movement that was also sweeping through northern Europe; Joe Kennedy was not a bootlegger; some of the improvised booze was dangerous, even deadly. But he also shows how those 14 years had some salutary legacies. Before 1919, American bars were dark dens of masculine misery and anger, where people went to get drunk. During the '20s, the speakeasies and other establishments that sprang up were cheerful, sociable places that welcomed women and often offered food, music, and dancing. In fact, one reason that many women who had originally supported Prohibition turned against it was that they saw their daughters going out and ordering drinks themselves--something that would have been unthinkable in the old days.
I thought Okrent's account of the move to repeal the 18th Amendment was a bit sketchy, but that may be because it coincided with the advent of the Great Depression, a subject much too big for the book. Or maybe it was just that I was enjoying the book so much that I didn't want it to end!
This was my introduction to Jhumpa Lahiri, and the stories in this volume made me want to read more. But as wonderful as they are, and as perfect a narrator Matilda Novak is, this recording is hampered by poor production. The problem is that there is often no pause whatsoever between stories, which once led me to think that I was still listening to the previous story. Oddly, there are musical interludes WITHIN some of the stories, but not between. Surely this is something that can be fixed easily, but I doubt it's going to happen.
This is an illuminating and enjoyable survey of how computers are transforming the way we live. Most importantly, it is written for the layperson--it's free from jargon and takes a balanced, journalistic approach to the subject.
The chapters are alternately frightening (the one showing how computer code can produce music as moving as that of the world's greatest composers) and exciting (the one showing how greatly pharmacies and medical diagnoses can be improved).
Walter Dixon's narration is first-rate: he has an unusually mellow tone that does not prevent him from inflecting every sentence in such a way that you feel he's connected the book to your brain with an invisible cord. I hope to hear him again in other books.
I am a latecomer to George Eliot. I'd read Thackery, Dickens, and Trollope, but was intimidated by Eliot's reputation as a formidable intellectual. Then last year I listed to Middlemarch (also narrated by Nadia May) and loved it, so I moved on to Daniel Deronda.
DD was Eliot's final novel, and it shows a mastery of the novelist's art. Some people complain that it is really two novels, but I think that the parallel stories, which always intersect, are a deliberate device and enrich the tales of both Daniel and Gwendolen.
Eliot's style can make some of the writing hard to understand on first hearing, which is why I recommend keeping a paper (or electronic) copy of the book handy to go back over passages that you don't quite get the first time. I also like returning to parts of the book that I fully understood but want to savor again.
Nadia May is one of the best audiobook narrators, IMO. I've listened to several other books she's read, both fiction and nonfiction, and when I have a choice of readers (as with DD), I'll usually choose her. Her strengths are clarity of speech and a full command of each writer's sentence structure. The latter, in Eliot's case, is crucial, as her sentences are apt to be long and complex. She's usually great with foreign languages, too, although here she mispronounces "Mainz" and can't seem to get a handle on "Mordecai." And she's a terrific actress, effortlessly lending each character a distinctive voice. The double climax of the book--Daniel's meeting with his mother and Grandcourt's . . . well, no spoilers--was thrilling. I didn't want to get out of the car!
If you're new to George Eliot, I wouldn't begin with DD. I would ease into her by starting with something simpler. But don't miss reading this book when you're ready for it.
I wanted to reread this because I'd first read the book when I was much too young to appreciate it. I never got around to it and knew I wouldn't, so I got the book from Audible--a great decision! I enjoyed this recording far more than I would have enjoyed a reread. Audiobooks are the ideal format for first-person narratives. I chose this recording because I'd seen Janet McTeer on screen and stage and knew what a terrific actress she is. (She happens to come from the north of England, too, so she knows all the accents.)
This recording kept me riveted to my iPod. I couldn't wait to get back in the car to hear more and see what came next, even though I knew the story! The novel has a propulsive force that really comes through in McTeer's performance. (Her character narrates 90% of the book.) If you want to make Wuthering Heights really come alive, get this recording.
The title is misleading: it sounds like an objective history, but it's actually a memoir of growing up in the Russian Jewish community of New York in the 1930s.
Ruth Gay was the daughter of parents who had emigrated to America in their teens. As far as I can make out, she was born in the mid- to late-1920s. The book doesn't focus on herself, but rather on the day-to-day life of people in her community, with personal anecdotes used to enliven the story. This is history from the ground up, recounting how people lived by someone who was there.
I found it delicious light listening, touching and funny. My only complaint is that the author sometimes forgets that she is writing about a certain subset of the Jewish immigrant community--Russians, Poles, and other Eastern European Jews--and makes sweeping generalizations about all Jewish immigrants. My own family came from the old Austro-Hungarian empire, where life was the same in some respects and different in others. Eastern European Judaism, for instance, was strongly influenced by Hasidism, which was completely foreign to other Jews. Many were not religious at all.
The narrator was appropriately chosen in that she is a woman who can pronounce Yiddish correctly, but I found her tone of voice rather monotonous. I got used to it, however, and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.
When I first read the listener reviews for this book, I was skeptical. "One of the best books I've ever read"? "I'd kill for another book as good as this"? (The latter comment is perhaps not the most appropriate, considering the book's subject.)
Then I listened to the book.
All I can do now is to echo all the wild praise that others have given it. It's a virtuoso intellectual performance that is never abstruse, but written in a reader-friendly, easygoing style that any intelligent person can understand.
Pinker reviews the decline of violence from medieval times to the present. He draws on history, anthropology, political science, sociology, psychology (his own field), and even literary criticism to explain his theories. It's thrilling to listen to such a first-class mind at work.
Arthur Morey's reading is outstanding. I can't imagine anyone doing it better.
Although this is a long book, you will be sorry when it ends. Fortunately, Pinker has written several other books, some of which are available on Audible. I intend to listen to them all.
This is a brilliant book that encompasses history, law, and technology in an accessible and fascinating way. Wu's argument is that all new communications technology in the 20th century--telephone, motion pictures, radio, broadcast television, and cable television--went through the same cycle: when first introduced, it was widely and easily accessible to all and was hailed as something that would change the world, but later was bought up and controlled by big corporations that limited the freedom of speech of those who used it. He predicts that the same thing will happen to the Internet unless we take action to prevent it. I don't think his proposed solution will work, but his book was eye-opening to me about the past, present, and future. Reading this from a printed volume might be challenging, but when it's experienced as an audiobook, you can't tear yourself away. Top marks in every category.
Ostensibly about the 1849 riots in New York between fans of two star actors, one American and one British, the book is actually much broader in scope. In addition to discussing the nature of the theater at that time in both countries and the popularity of Shakespeare with the masses (especially in America, and particularly in the pioneer west), the author goes into great detail about social conditions in both countries, politics, and anti-American travel literature by British writers. Cliff has a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the U.S. than most British writers and can see his own country in perspective as well.
The book felt padded to me. I don't know whether Cliff realized only after he began writing that the rivalry between Forrest and Macready and the resulting riot wouldn't fill a book, or whether he started out with a sweeping vision, but much of the book has little to do with the incident of the title. Some of it is interesting, but I felt impatient to get back to the main story.
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