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Aryaman Shalizi

Member Since 2014

  • 3 reviews
  • 23 ratings
  • 319 titles in library
  • 2 purchased in 2015

  • The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or, The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life

    • UNABRIDGED (23 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Charles Darwin
    • Narrated By Robin Field

    The Origin of Species sold out on the first day of its publication in 1859. It is the major book of the 19th century and one of the most readable and accessible of the great revolutionary works of the scientific imagination. Though, in fact, little read, most people know what it says—at least they think they do. The Origin of Species was the first mature and persuasive work to explain how species change through the process of natural selection. Upon its publication, the book began to transform attitudes about society and religion.

    Riegholt says: "Best way to read the classic!"
    "For aficionados only."

    I'm a molecular biologist by profession, so I thought it would be fun to listen to what is widely considered THE foundational work of modern biology. While interesting for me from a historical standpoint—it's truly breathtaking how complete a conceptual framework the Origin provided more than a century and a half ago, and how thoroughly Darwin anticipated and refuted the possible objections to his theory—unless you really want to hear all of the examples Mr. Darwin deploys to buttress his theory of natural selection, I would recommend a more recent treatment of the topic. Or listen through an abridged edition of The Origin of Species, such as the one narrated by Richard Dawkins. The language is, in most places, exceptionally dry, and the narrator doesn't do the material any favors. However, it is one of the great achievements of human reason, so if you are patient and able to pay close attention to the dense language, this will ultimately be worth your time.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Daniel Walker Howe
    • Narrated By Patrick Cullen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In this addition to the esteemed Oxford History of the United States series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the Battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era of revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated America's expansion and prompted the rise of mass political parties.

    Amazon Customer says: "Excellent"
    "Fantastic content, faulty narration"

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of US history from the end of the War of 1812 to just after the admission of California to the Union. The ebb and flow of politics provides the main narrative framework for the book, into which Howe weaves detailed discussions of the competing social, economic, religious and technological forces that slowly transformed the coastal states of the founders into a continent-spanning empire riven by internal disputes that would erupt in the Civil War and reverberate for more than a century after. Howe makes the entire era come alive by drawing on a wide variety of primary sources, from census data to the writings contemporary diarists and newspaper accounts, and incorporating many engaging quotes.

    This would be a perfect listen for an avid student of American history, since it covers a frequently overlooked period (overlooked, I would add, for reasons which Howe discusses at length towards the end of the book) were it not for the truly horrible quality of the recording. The narrator is overall quite good, but the editing is probably among the worst I have ever encountered. There are noticeable jumps in audio quality and speed throughout, sometimes even within the same sentence. These imperfections are substantial enough that at times I found myself listening more to the atrocious mixing than the actual content, which was a shame.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • A History of the Middle Ages

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Crane Brinton, John Christopher, Robert Wolff
    • Narrated By Charlton Griffin

    A History of the Middle Ages is the amazing story of European man in transition. It is a dramatic chronicle of 1,000 years of political, social, and economic transformation beginning with the dissolution of the classical Mediterranean civilization and ending with the first flowering of the Renaissance. It is also the story of two new religions, Christianity and Islam, both of which were destined to dominate the mind of every person in those new civilizations arising in their wake.

    Theresa says: "A Stunning Achievement"

    Scholarship aside, and I found the content of the book by and large interesting, I could simply not get over the naration, which I found hideous. Every sentence is spoken with bombastic gravitas in an comically Churchillian style. Furthermore, the producers employed tawdry "special effects" for every primary quote, drenching Charlton Griffin's voice with entirely unecessary reverb. The first time he read a passage from the Bible, I thought it was somewhat amusing, but after the third or fourth quote I found the cheap theatrics distracting to the point of infuriating. Regarding the "bias" many listeners found in the book, it's worth keeping in mind that the authors (Crane Brinton for example) were products of Oxford in the 1920s, and thus reflect the best and worst of British imperial scholarship...

    14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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