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  • Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Rick Perlstein
    • Narrated By Stephen R. Thorne
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    From one of America's most talented historians and winner of a LA Times Book Prize comes a brilliant new account of Richard Nixon that reveals the riveting backstory to the red state/blue state resentments that divide our nation today. Told with urgency and sharp political insight, Nixonland recaptures America's turbulent 1960s and early 1970s and reveals how Richard Nixon rose from the political grave to seize and hold the presidency.

    Frank says: "A 5-Star Book Injured by the Narrator"
    "Excellent listen"

    I was alive for a good chunk of the time period covered here but was amazed to find so much foreign to me. I didn't become politically aware until there were "Don't blame me I voted for McGovern" bumper stickers. It is hard to think about this time period in light of where we are today, where the good guys, like Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the baddies like Nixon have been enshrined by history. This book did a great job at helping me understand how, for example, a working class white person in the 1960's could be so threatened by civil rights and the war protesters even though history has largely vilified them for that stance. The time period covered was a terrifying one to many. Today, we talk about a "protest" at the 1968 Democratic convention; I can see now how many at the time felt society itself was disintegrating. I was also amazed to learn so much about the liberal wing of the Republican party and the conservative wing of the Democratic. The changes that took place in this relatively short period of time still define where we are today.

    OK, there were mispronunciations. But overall I thought the narration was excellent. At times his voice reminded me of David McCollough's narration of Ken Burn's Civil War--it was that good.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Eat the Yolks

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Liz Wolfe
    • Narrated By Liz Wolfe

    Worry about cholesterol. Avoid red meat. Eat whole grains. Could it all be a lie? We live in an era of health hype and nutrition propaganda, and we are suffering for it. Decades of avoiding egg yolks, choosing margarine over butter, and replacing the real foods of our ancestors with low-fat, processed, packaged substitutes have left us with an obesity epidemic, ever-rising rates of chronic disease, and, above all, total confusion about what to eat and why.

    Dawn L Wolfe says: "Grade A Book!"
    "Haven't we learned anything?"
    Any additional comments?

    The author is correct: We have been sold a bill of goods about nutrition in the last half century. It's becoming more and more clear that the low fat/high carb diet we were told was healthy for us might not be the ideal diet, and may have significant unintended consequences--obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Scientists and health authorities took their hypotheses and made us subjects in a huge non-controlled experiment.

    Rather than take from this mistake a humility in approaching health and diet issues, the author uses this error to promote her ideas about nutrition and "ancestral diets". Maybe these ideas are right. Maybe they are wrong. The science isn't there yet, and it may take decades before we know for sure. Nutrition science is hard. It's easy to cherry pick the literature to find support for a lot of different theories. The fact that people made errors in the past doesn't justify supporting other inadequately supported hypotheses.

    Read Gary Taubes' books for a more balanced, critical appraisal of the state of nutrition science.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Edward Dolnick
    • Narrated By Alan Sklar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Clockwork Universe is the story of a band of men who lived in a world of dirt and disease but pictured a universe that ran like a perfect machine. A meld of history and science, this book is a group portrait of some of the greatest minds who ever lived as they wrestled with natures most sweeping mysteries. The answers they uncovered still hold the key to how we understand the world.

    Nelson Alexander says: "Calculus Ergo Modernity"
    "annoying narrator"

    The book attempts to understand the historical context of a major intellectual change rather than describe scientific innovation and so is more an intellectual history than a history of science itself. Nevertheless it is interesting, particularly the discussions of the strange beliefs that the fathers of modern chemistry and physics held. The member of the royal society did not imagine they were starting the world in the direction it is going today. I find this type of thing fascinating.

    The narrator has a good voice, easy to listen to, but is insufferable at times. His narration is overdramatic and pedantic. I agree with the reviewer who writes that Sklar speaks down to the listener. The narrator actually chuckles at several points during the reading, like when he says "nature abhors a vacuum". I found this distracting and annoying, and it took away from an otherwise fun history.

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Empires of the Sea: The Contest for the Center of the World

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Roger Crowley
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Empires of the Sea tells the story of the 50-year world war between Islam and Christianity for the Mediterranean: one of the fiercest and most influential contests in European history. It traces events from the appearance on the world stage of Suleiman the Magnificent through "the years of devastation" when it seemed possible that Islam might master the whole sea, to the final brief flourishing of a united Christendom in 1571.

    Tad Davis says: "Brilliant detail, exciting story"
    "interesting, a little dull"

    It is fascinating to learn about the history of the relationship between the Middle East and Europe, a history much more complex than commonly acknowledged. In the 1560's, the Ottoman empire could take on Christian Europe and fight it to a draw. Certainly in the US, the 16th century is not a time widely discussed (take a look at A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz). All these people died for their belief in the true faith, fighting for what they felt was a turning point in history, and the battles are mostly forgotten about today. This book is interesting if only from that perspective.
    That being said, the narrative was pretty dry. Two or three hours on the siege was a little hard to take, and hard to visualize as an audiobook without maps. It would have been more compelling if the author made more of an effort to put the battles in a larger context. At the same time Malta was under siege, Europe was undergoing the Protestant reformation and exploiting the New World--this is mentioned only in passing but must have been a major factor in the politics of the Christian side. What was going on in the Ottoman Empire? You can't really tell, as the narrative seems biased towards the West (even slipping into "us against them" type language at times).
    All in all: interesting, but probably not worth a download.

    6 of 9 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"
    "comprehensive history"

    I am a casual history fan and I've always had trouble keeping track of the Taylor's and the Tyler's in the first half of the 19th century. This book is comprehensive, well-read and detailed, sometimes to the point where it can be hard to follow, especially if you listen while commuting. There are many themes, and he jumps back and forth between them. I found myself backing up several times to make sense of things, but it was not too much of a chore. As the author says in the conclusion, he is telling a story, not asserting a thesis--this type of history I think is the most fun to listen to. I never found it tiresome, and that is a lot to say about a book this long. The other reviewer is correct, there were a lot of changes in the recording, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. While this is unusual in audiobooks, I did not find it very distracting.

    24 of 25 people found this review helpful
  • The Demon Under The Microscope

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Thomas Hager
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Nazis discovered it. The Allies won the war with it. It conquered diseases, changed laws, and single-handedly launched the era of antibiotics. This incredible discovery was sulfa, the first antibiotic medication. In The Demon Under the Microscope, Thomas Hager chronicles the dramatic history of the drug that shaped modern medicine.

    Sara says: "A fantastic book"
    "Fascinating story, well told"

    Wow, I really enjoyed this book. I knew next to nothing about the subject: like many of my generation, I assumed penicillin was the first real antibiotic. This book dispels that myth and provides an amazing perspective on what life was like in the pre-antibiotic world. It is hard to imagine a time when a foot blister could cause the death of the president's son, but there are many alive now who were children at that time. The author is a good story teller who ties the narrative in with cultural history--I thought the role the sulfa drugs played in the formation of the modern FDA was particularly interesting. Well worth the listen.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • The Man Who Loved China

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By Simon Winchester
    • Narrated By Simon Winchester
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In sumptuous and illuminating detail Simon Winchester chronicles the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who turned his eccentric genius on the study of China.

    David Ewing says: "Great for Winchester Fans"
    "This guy knows how to tell a story"

    This is not a topic I would normally have much interest in. I've never heard of Joseph Needham or the book he wrote. But Simon Winchester can make things interesting. It is the story of another eccentric Brit, not unlike the subjects of The Professor and the Madman or The Map that Changed the World. The format is straight biography, but there is an awful lot to learn about China in the story.

    I guess the take home message is that China went into a slump for a few centuries while Europe managed to take over the world. Now China is regaining its place as a center of innovation and scholarship. How the future plays out is still open, but Needham made it clear that if the past is any guide, the West has a lot to worry about. A fun listen.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • 21: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Ben Mezrich
    • Narrated By Johnny Heller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the midst of the Go-Go '90s, the culture of greed infused the MIT campus. A small blackjack club sprang up, dedicated to counting cards and beating the house at major casinos around the country. The Club grew slowly at first, but by the late 1990s, the right people had come up with the right system to take some of the world's most sophisticated casinos for all they were worth.

    Julie says: "Good Book.. HORRIBLE Narrator"
    "Extremely compelling"

    I too have listened to quite a few books over the past few years and I can't think of any book more exciting than this. Despite the corporate image Las Vegas has nowadays, I suspect this description of how the city really functions is probably accurate. When the group is getting caught (you know they had to--otherwise where is the story?) I found myself becoming extremely nervous. This type of reaction doesn't happen too often in listening to non-fiction. Definitely a worthwhile listen, maybe for a long boring car ride.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War over the American Dollar

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By H. W. Brands
    • Narrated By Lloyd James
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A best-selling historian's gripping account of the powerful men who controlled America's financial destiny. From the first days of the United States, a battle raged over money. On one side were the democrats, who wanted cheap money and feared the concentration of financial interests in the hands of a few. On the other were the capitalists who sought the soundness of a national bank – and the profits that came with it.

    Chris says: "Not clear what this book is really about"
    "Not clear what this book is really about"

    This book describes a handful of men in the 18th and 19th century who had some influence on American monetary policy. It is neither adequate from a biographical standpoint or from the standpoint of economic history. The scope is vast; a short book like this can't hope to cover two centuries of fiscal policy, but I'm not sure what Alexander Hamilton, Jay Cook, Jay Gould and JP Morgan have in common other than that they all did business in America. I'm not at all certain these were the 5 most significant people in determining 19th century fiscal policy.

    Books like this are difficult listens because there is no coherent thread to follow. It reads like several shorter pieces the author strung together.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  • The Post-American World

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Fareed Zakaria
    • Narrated By Fareed Zakaria

    For Fareed Zakaria, the great story of our times is not the decline of America but rather the rise of everyone else - the growth of countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, and many, many more. This economic growth is generating a new global landscape where power is shifting and wealth and innovation are bubbling up in unexpected places.

    Gus says: "The Rise of Chindia"
    "A not quite so frantic view of the current world"

    There's a lot out there today on how terrible the situation is right now in the US--the economy is in the tank, the political situation is miserable, our educational system is routinely beaten by third world countries. While Zakaria is certainly aware of the negatives, he provides a more balanced perspective on the current political-economic situation, stressing a lot of the positives you won't hear on news shows. When he says Post-American World he means a world where America is not powerful enough to force its will on any situation it wants, a world where America has to take the perspectives of other countries into account, not one where America is only the dominant player.

    I thought the chapter on China was an excellent analysis, again looking at China's strengths and weaknesses. His understanding of why China acts the way it does in Darfur is insightful. His take on America is similarly balanced, one perhaps only an immigrant could provide.

    All in all, if you read the op-ed pages or listen to the news talk shows, a worthwhile listen.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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