This is an almost perfect book for gardeners. I say "almost" because of the chapter on roses that gets so hyperbolic and ridiculous in the discussion of the sexuality of roses that I almost stopped listening. It was, however, worth it to continue.
This is not my first Michael Pollan book. I have read several of his books on the topic of nutrition, and I had good things to say about all of them. But this is, by far, the funniest of the books he has authored. I was, as they say, rolling on the floor laughing at his description of going to war with a woodchuck, his thoughts on weeds and the politics of gardening, and the comparisons and descriptions of various seed catalogues. This book should be made into a stand-up comedy routine.
Pollan does a great job with the narration, but I had to speed him up a bit. I will probably re-read this book every spring and possibly more often than that when I need a good laugh.
There are also a great deal of quotations from famous authors on the subject of gardening, and they really added to the depth of the book. That said, this book is not a strictly literary exercise as I learned a great deal about individual plants and various gardening techniques.
Pollan's quick wit and ability to laugh at himself mixed with his knowledge of literature, poetry, individual plants, and gardening techniques made this book almost perfect. There's that "almost," again. He really should have had more intelligent things to say about roses.
This course is good for people who want to hear an anecdotal overview of how the English language has changed over the course of time with a few side excursions into a few other languages. It is not the general overview of languages that it was advertised to be.
Professor John McWhorter does a good job with the narration, and as he is so good at mimicking various people and intonations, I think he should seriously consider becoming a professional narrator. It's not that his normal voice is so great, it's just that he does such a fantastic job with other voices.
There are a few other languages besides English that are mentioned, but English takes up somewhere around 80% of the discusssion. McWhorter is amusing, although I found some of the comedic schtick to be annoying and overdone. He tells stories to illustrate the way language (again, mostly English) has changed over the years and explains the background of some interesting expressions.
I wasn't particularly impressed, but then, I was looking for a general overview of language, not a cutesy description of the changing patterns of English, and I felt that this course was misadvertised. If you're really interested in English, this audiobook is great, just be aware that a discussion of English is what you're getting.
I've really enjoyed several of The Great Courses, so I was particularly disappointed in this one given that I've come to expect so much from them.
Most of the course (about 90%) has to do with categorizing every single nuance of the study of learning and assigning every nuance a vocabulary term that the listener will most likely never hear or use again in their lifetime. Of the remaining 10%, 5% dealt with scientific studies that just made me think, "Wow, it's amazing what some scientists get paid to study."
The remaining 5% that was actually useful information can be summed up as follows:
1. Test yourself frequently in the process of studying. Don't wait to test yourself until you think you know the material. The more frequently you test yourself on whatever you're studying, the more likely you will retain the information. (This was from chapter 12)
2. Test yourself continually, not only on the information you don't know, but also on the information that you believe you've learned. That's because you can actually teach yourself to forget that information by ignoring it in the review process. (This was from chapter 12)
3. Foreign language learning can be greatly enhanced by listening to anything in that language in the background on a routine basis. Basically, when you do this, you are faking immersion, but your brain senses the immersion experience as being real and absorbs more than you think even if you don't understand what's being said. (I've forgotten the chapter for this, but I think it was around chapter 10 or so.)
4. Your brain is always expandable at any time at any age. Forget your IQ, forget the way you think you learn best (by hearing, by seeing, by doing), and forget your past experiences with learning a particular topic. Just do it. It has been proven that the aquisition of a new language, in particular, prevents mental decline as we age. (From chapter 24)
The only people who might find this course fascinating for more than what is listed above are teachers or parents what are interested in educational theory. As far as personal practical application goes, this course leaves a lot to be desired.
Brian Tracy is excellent at organizing information and he teaches that technique throughout the book. His main focus is teaching the listener to prioritize tasks and time and then to organize tasks and time in a manner that will help the listener achieve the tasks most important to him or her.
What I like most about his approach is that he begins with the simple truth that we can't do it all. There will always be more to do than we have time to accomplish. This admission is what makes his approach more doable and more valid than the approaches of other authors. The answer to that problem, according to Tracy, is to figure out what is most important to you and focus on those tasks. Tracy points out that we often procrastinate the tasks that are most imporatant to us (the frogs). We don't want to eat the ugliest frog first, so we focus our time on smaller tasks that seem easier to accomplish and thus, we never get around to the tasks that will actually get us to where we want to go.
Tracy gives solid examples throughout the book for figuring out what is most important, for setting aside time for those tasks, and for limiting distractions to allow for more time on the important things in our lives. He does this without the least bit of judgementalism. If anything, I found him to be very encouraging.
As to the narration, Tracy reads the book, himself, and does an excellent job for a book of this category.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has trouble with time management, procrastination, or figuring out what to do next (prioritization). This is a short, quick read that will not disappoint you. Tracy remains on point througout the book, and he gives solid advice that will help anyone achieve their goals irrespective of where they work or what type of work they do. I have to go now. I've got some important tasks that need attention...
I must begin this review with a discussion of the narrator. I adore George Guidall's voice. I could listen to him in the midst of a tornado and feel calmed and reassured that all was well. Such is his gift of narration. While I don't mind speeding up most other narrators, I would normally consider it a form of sacrilege to speed up a book George Guidall was narrating, but by the end of this one, I was at 3x speed. That's how bad it became.
It started out well. To summarize the best points, which all occurred in the first part of the book:
The toughest part of any project is getting started, which is why discipline and a schedule are immensely helpful in the creative process. Just because the process is creative doesn't mean that it should be impulsive. Scheduled work is work that helps the process along.
Figure that there are going to be pressures, disappointments, and irritations (Pressfield calls all of the above resistance). Ignore and fight anything or anybody that keeps you from your work.
Consider failure a learning experience and proof that you are succeeding at getting something done, even if that something is failure, itself. Better to try than to be lazy.
Laziness is next to being dead. To be productive is to be alive and to be alive is to be productive.
While I don't agree with everything he says about the importance of being at work all the time (one can drive oneself crazy with that idea), I also agree with the author that one can drive oneself crazy by being too lazy or, at least, lackadaisical, in one's work. We all need to know that we've accomplished something, and there is something to be said for the idea that time is your life and how you spend it is how you spend your life, so you'd better spend it well.
All of the above said, this book is not worth the crude language and the mixed-up pseudo-religious ideas that muck it up. I don't know what religion the author really professes given that he stole ideas from the Illiad and the Odyssey, from humanism, from stoicism, from Indian mysticism, and from pantheism. I don't know what that combination amounts to, but I found it contridictory and irrelevant to the topic. He rambles on at length about the importance of dreams, the self, and the ego to no productive end, as far as I could tell.
What I was expecting was help in the fight against procrastination, and some of that was present in the first part of the book, but that wasn't worth what I endured during the rest of the book. It's really bad when George Guidall's voice can't save it. My advice? Save the money and/or the credit and write yourself a schedule for completing projects that are important to you and stick with it. There. Now you won't have to fight through this badly-written book, which should give you more time to work on your project.
This was a really sweet story about a military family's decision to invite people to their home for dinner during the father's absence while he served in Africa. The little boys in the story mentioned to their mother how much they missed having their father at the dinner table, and the decision was made to invite someone to dinner every so often to fill the empty chair until their father could return from duty a year later.
This is not a fast-moving adventure novel. It's a candid look at raising children in the absence of a parent who is serving their country. I really enjoyed the stories about the dinner guests, which included a senator, a governor, and a myriad of interesting characters. What I enjoyed the most, however, were the parts that dealt with how the children grew in character and empathy in their everyday lives as a result of the connections they made with the dinner guests.
This would be a great book for anyone who enjoys sweet stories, love stories (there are some really interesting romantic sidelines involved), stories about children, or general stories about growing up. Generally, I avoid any books that involve the description "coming of age," because I find that particular phrase to be attached to descriptions of teenage stupidity. This, however, was a true coming-of-age tale about young boys learning to appreciate their community and a mother learning to nurture her children through a difficult time.
The only drawback is that the author narrated the book, herself, and while that approach does work in some cases, it really didn't work out well, here. She didn't do the worst job I've ever heard, but her voice has a redundant cadence and a sad tone; I listened to the book at 2x and 3x speed to get past those nuicances. She's just not a professional reader. During the last five minutes, however, one of her sons narrates beautifully, and I really wish he had narrated the entire book.
Overall, this book was well worth the credit, and I may even listen to it again, sometime. It's a good book for a lazy weekend day or for unwinding after a long, difficult day at work. I would highly recommend it because the story will have you smiling with the Smileys. If you're picky about your narrators, however, you may want to buy the hardcopy instead.
I was really impressed with Avery Gilbert's work for the first half of this book. It was a more biologically-based approach than most other works that I've read about the subject. Gilbert explains why some scents are more discernable to some people than to others and why some are not discernable at all to others. He explains the inner workings of our sense of smell in understandable terms and he does so in an interesting way.
Then comes the second half of the book.
From there, it all just goes downhill. The beginning of the end comes with the introduction of the topic of smellovision and the various failed attempts of the film and theater industry to make smellovision a reality. Had this been mentioned briefly, it would have been an interesting side note. Sadly, Gilbert went on and on about it until the the book itself started to stink.
When he finally moved on, it was to discuss the grossest topics he could possibly come up with. It was as if an 8-year-old boy took over the book. Then a 15-year-old took over to bring up implications of scent in the porn industry. Really?
I will say that the last 10 minutes or so were mildly interesting as Gildbert deigned to return to actual science in his discussion of implications for genetics research.
I cannot recommend this book unless, like me, you have a fascination for all things related to scent. If that's the case, just listen until he starts talking about the film industry and then skip to the last 10 or 15 minutes of the book. If you're really interested in the film industry, you might like to listen to that part. Overall, I'm glad I heard the first and last part, but I was really disappointed in what could have been a great book.
This book was not what I expected. I thought I would hear nothing but the history of one of my favorite foods, but instead I was treated to the story of a girl named Kate as she learned to be a professional sushi chef by attending a sushi academy in California. The history of the food was presented as an aside to the story, which was entertaining and educational.
Kate's story has ups and downs, elation and insecurity, but most importantly, it centers around the lesson that was should never give up on ourselves or our dreams. I know that sounds very Disney-like for a book about the history of sushi, but Trevor Carson interweaves Kate's story with so much history and information that his work could be used as a textbook.
I learned a great deal, not only about the history of sushi, but about the art of it. I learned how a sushi chef looks at it, and how the chef hopes that his/her customers will approach it. Personally, I will never eat sushi the same way again. I learned about mistakes I was making that inhibited my full enjoyment of this unique cuisine, how to order properly at a sushi bar, and the differences between true sushi and Americanized sushi.
The narrator did an impressive job narrating the general story line and voicing the different characters. Brian Nishii made me feel as though I were there with Kate struggling through sushi school and wishing I were better at constructing the rolls. Every character had his or her own style and I feel as though I know the characters personally, which is as much a feat of Nishii's as the author's.
The only reason that this book did not receive a full five-star rating is because of the course language and unnecessarily vulgar descriptions that were included. This occurs in sparse patches, but it was a distraction to what could have been a perfect listen. For those with little ones at home, you shoudn't play this audiobook aloud around them, which is a shame, because otherwise, it might have been a book that children might have enjoyed listening to, and it could have been used as a way to interest them in food and cooking.I am of the firm opinion that the F-bomb and sexual descriptions of women and seafood are not appropriate in the first place, but they are all the more inappropriate in a book about the preparation of fine cuisine.
Overall, anyone interested in the topic of sushi or cooking would find this to be an engaging and informative read. Anyone interested in the challenges female chefs face in the male-dominated arena of sushi would also find this story intriguing. It's not a bad listen for the storyline or the information as long as you fast-forward through the vulgar bits.
I had almost written John MacArthur off due to another book he wrote about forgiveness. The topic was approached with such a judgmental attitude that it turned me off. I decided to give him another chance with this book because I love to read about prayer and because Maurice England is one of my favorite narrators.
I was pleasantly surprised that MacArthur did such a magnificent job of presenting prayer conceptually rather than theoretically or as some sort of a step-by-step program as most authors approached it. He begins with the concept that God is always near to us, with us, and wants to hear from us. As simple as that idea may be to grasp theoretically, MacArthur did a beautiful job of making it very real to the listener. He then moves on to deal with various topics such as constant prayer, the use and abuse of memorized prayers, and the use of God's names in prayer. He does a good job of breaking things down and defining terms that other authors tend to skip over. For example, he doesn't just exhort the listener to be in constant prayer, he explains what constant prayer is and what it isn't.
I will listen to this one again, and I will consider it to be one of my more valuable resources on prayer. It would be a good book for anyone who is new to prayer or for people who have years of experience.
I've read several books from the Murder, She Wrote series, and I've really enjoyed them. This was the first one I've listened to in audiobook format. I have to start by saying that Cynthia Darlow is now among my top favorite narrators. She did an outstanding job of differenting the voices of the various characters, and her voice was simultaneously melodic and energetic.
As to the story, while it was sweet in sections, it left a lot to be desired in terms of the movement of the story. I became bored several times during the book because of the slow plot development, and there just wasn't a lot of action or suspense. It actually had a good ending, for a murder mystery, but I wouldn't buy it again. There wasn't anything really awful about the story, it just wasn't that great.
I'll probably try another selection from the series because of the narrator. I'll just assume that this one wasn't one of the best examples.
Barbara Kingsolver and her family embarked on an experiment to grow their own food - both plant and animal - for a year and eat locally grown, seasonally-available produce. I applaud their effort and I do not stand in judgment for anything they did or didn't do in their quest. Kingsolver and her family narrated and didn't do a terrible job although I had to speed it up to 1.5 and 2x in parts because they read very slowly.
This wasn't a bad book. It actually contains a lot of useful information for anyone interested in raising poultry. It just got too preachy in certain areas, it contained too many weird thrown-in references to various religions, and it didn't contain the information I was hoping for in the way of gardening techniques for growing vegetables. Perhaps that last part was unjustified given that I have recently read The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler, which I consider to be the magnum opus of vegetable gardening books. Kingsolver's agenda was very different from Fowler's in that she sought to document her family's year-long quest and not to provide a step-by-step guide.
I have to say that I thought the best part of the book to be the interview with Kingsolver at the end in which she describes the process of writing the book and how she approached it stylistically (which information she decided to include and why). I consider that interview to be one of the best explanations of the ethics and dynamics of the writing process that I've ever heard.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is more of a story than a guide, and maybe that's why I didn't like it more; I wanted a guide. The story is well-documented, although I thought it could have used a little less description and a little more information. Kingsolver and her family have calming voices and they all read very slowly. It took me a couple of months to finish because the book drags in places and the overall pace of the book is so slow that it didn't maintain my attention.
The main point of the book seemed to me to be that there is a moral point to be made about overconsumption and that small, individual efforts against gluttony and overuse of resources add up to big changes. This would be an invaluable reference for anyone who wants to raise their own poultry or for anyone who wants some basic ideas about how to grow or raise their own food. If you're looking for more of a guide to gardening, however; read The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler. Something else - you may not want to listen to this one while driving. It's not exactly caffeine for the mind and it drags in places, but it's a great listen around bedtime or while doing something else around the house.
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