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"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

Mesa, AZ, United States


  • Travels in Siberia

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Ian Frazier
    • Narrated By Ian Frazier

    Ian Frazier trains his eye for unforgettable detail on Siberia, that vast expanse of Asiatic Russia. He explores many aspects of this storied, often grim region. He writes about the geography, the resources, the native peoples, the history, the 40-below midwinter afternoons, the bugs. The book brims with Mongols, half-crazed Orthodox archpriests, fur seekers, ambassadors of the czar bound for Peking, tea caravans, German scientists, American prospectors, intrepid English nurses, and prisoners and exiles of every kind....

    Sara says: "I Loved This Book"
    "Literary lovechild of John McPhee & Bill Bryson"

    A gifted narrator, Ian Frazier for me seems to occupy a genetic/literary lovechild space somewhere between Bill Bryson (mother: Midwestern appetites) and John McPhee (father: New Yorker affectations). Like Frazier, I too have been drawn to Russia. I remember traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg shortly after the wall came down (and before the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis). There is something magnetic (both attractive and repellant) about the people, the culture, the geography, that sucks a certain type/flux of person in.

    Both a travelogue and an historical review of Siberia, 'Travels in Siberia' never once disappoints. Frazier hits all the major markers about Siberia: its size, the cold, its history, language, food, the cold, gulags, the cold, transportation, hot women, resources, food, language, hot women, the cold, politics, people, the cold, and hot women. Seriously, the women in Siberia are apparently really hot.

    Other things I enjoyed while reading this: 1) All the books referenced by Ian Frazier (check out the selected bibliography. Some books just have a sexy bibliography). There is now a whole slew of Siberian exploration books, Russian novels, and Decembrist history that I want/need to read. 2) Frazier's simple, spare drawings were perfect for this book. 3) The dynamic arc created by this book being written over the last 15+ years. It reminded me of certain Impressionist paintings done at different times of the same exact scene. The colors, light, and shapes shift because of shifts in time and season. The same is true of Frazier's book. You exit the book with a significantly different view of Siberia from which you entered it. That large and desolate country changed in 15 years, certainly, but more than that Frazier changed by both his experiences in and his experiences THRU Siberia.

    Now that Pussy Riot* have been released from their own stint in a Siberian penal colony, the book seems like a perfectly timed pre-read for the Olympics. While Sochi is more Caucasus/Black Sea than Siberia, it is still Russia in the way it seems focused on the repressed, totalitarian, corrupting cold. Gays are to stay away. Stray dogs are being round up and shot. Pussy Riot is freed to garner some PR goodwill (yeah, good luck with that Putinbaby). It all seems like some 21st century match-up of Siberian protesters (gays and Pussy Riot) vs the modern Russian Tsar (Putin, obviously). I'm waiting for a whole new set of protesters gearing up for their slow train ride to a Penal Colony. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    * I should disclose that I am really attracted to Pussy Riot. Not that "ooh they are solo pretty" attracted way, but in that singular way you (Yes, you faithful reader) are attracted to people with a sharp purpose, excess energy, the ability to capture a moment perfectly, and a willingness to go badasshard against institutions as big and strong as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian totalitarian state. Pussy Riot did everything the Decembrists did, but they did it in heels and backwards. Plus they have the name Pussy Riot, which is kinda silly, but still also makes my tongue swell, and eyes dart back and forth (looking for Mom) when I say it out loud.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  • The Sheltering Sky

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Paul Bowles
    • Narrated By Jennifer Connelly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of 20th-century literature, a novel of existential despair that examines the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness of the desert. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Requiem for a Dream) gives masterful voice to this American classic.

    valerie says: "Wonderful reading by Connelly"
    "Sentenced by a composer's sentences"

    Paul Bowles masterpiece reminds me of some alternate, trippy, version of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, but instead we see the other side of the Mediterranean. Tangier and the deserts of North Africa take the place of the South of France. A different love triangle exposes different forms of loneliness, madness, love, and existential expats.

    The thing I love about Bowles is he brings a composer's mind to writing. His novel isn't propelled forward by a strong plot (although it has plot) or attractive characters (none of the characters are very attractive), but the music of his language itself pushes and pulls, tugs and compels the reader page after page. It felt very much like I was floating limp and languid in Bowles prose as his hypnotic sentences washed over me and drifted me slowly toward the inevitable end.

    Connelly captures the mood, the magic, the sadness and the tension of the book perfectly.

    Most days, I don't feel a real need to read/listen to a book twice. But I might need to make an exception for 'The Sheltering Sky'.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs)
    • By Anthony Bourdain
    • Narrated By Anthony Bourdain

    Last summer, The New Yorker published chef Anthony Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This." Now, the author uses the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable audiobook, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike.

    Holly says: "Kitchen Confidential"
    "A Crazy, Hyper Dance From the Kitchen to the Table."

    There is a certain thrill to being the first person to reach the top of a mountain, the first to eat at a soon-to-be famous restaurant, the first to discover an author, a band, a new food or experience. Well friend, the thrill of a late discovery (even when you are 15 years late to the party) is still pretty damn sweet. I might have seen Bourdain's books as I wandered through a bookstore. I might have seen him on CNN, the Travel Channel or the Food Network while searching for another show on another station. I didn't hardly notice him. He was, like that girl you know in class, but have never given much real attention to (only later to discover she is witty, wicked, and everything you want in a lover and fear in a daughter.

    Over Christmas, while visiting and bonding my foodie brother in Arkansas, he introduces me to Parts Unknown on CNN. I am hooked. I love Bourdain. I'm addicted to the show. It mixes things that mix well: my love for travel, my love for food, my love for a good damn story with interesting characters. So, I figure, I might need to actually read his book. Yeah this one. The one that put him on the map. The one that turned him from an executive chef with personality to THE chef with personality.

    The book is a quick read. It dances. It seems to operate with a certain mechanical, hyper-caffeinated efficiency. Whatever money it made Bourdain, he probably deserved even more. Right now, I've muted my desire to put it on the bookshelf next to my other just reads. I want my wife to read it first. Oh, I've got a friend who would love it too. My initial reaction to finishing this book is the same I get when I discover a fantastic new restaurant (Republica Empanada in Mesa, AZ) -- I want to take friends and family to it. I become not just a disciple, but a crazy-eyed evangelist.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Anthony Everitt
    • Narrated By John Curless

    In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life here as a witty and cunning political operator.

    Darwin8u says: "An eloquent man, and a patriot"
    "An eloquent man, and a patriot"

    Not as good as Everitt's biography of Augustus, but better than his biography of Hadrian. Everitt is clearly passionate and good at classical narratives. His biographies are quick, easy, and summarize the subjects well. He doesn't add much new to the history. He isn't challenging or overthrowing assumptions about Cicero or the other major players, but he weaves a nice story and makes Classical history approachable.

    Everitt does a fine job of balancing the different aspects of Cicero. His skill as an orator, his hits and misses as a politician, his defense of the Republic, his rationality all get their time and moment. Everitt also blends in Cicero's weaknesses: his vanity, his missteps/vacillation in politics, his zeal in persecuting Mark Anthony, and his cowardice.

    The weakness of this biography is while Everitt might be aiming at a form of mild historical rehabilitation, I'm not sure Cicero was ever really in need of rehabilitation. While he was often unlucky during his life (unlike Julius Caesar the birds never seemed to be on Cicero's side) after his 'good death' Cicero seems to have flourished.

    The volume and quality of Cicero's writings that survived the fall of Rome have made Cicero into one of the hero/gods of the Roman Republic. His genius survives. Cicero will always be known more now for what he wrote and thought than for what he did. Caesar may have been deified by decree of the Roman Senate on 1 January 42 BC, but Cicero's own writings have made him immortal. He lives on in Machiavelli, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. As Emperor Augustus observed to one of his grandsons upon seeing him reading a book by Cicero: "An eloquent man, my child, an eloquent man, and a patriot." Not a bad epitaph from the Caesar who had you killed.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Song of Kali

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Mark Boyett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Blood will curdle in Calcutta. In the most crime-ridden city, nightmares become real and evil is defined by frightening occurrences. When an American family finds themselves encircled by the terrors of this land, lurid events befall them and life takes on a new meaning - death. Winner of the World Fantasy Award, Song of Kali will chill the blood and frighten even the most jaded of horror fans.

    Darwin8u says: "All Violence is an Exercise in Power"
    "All Violence is an Exercise in Power"

    Horror is not my normal territory. It isn't my alternate either. As far as genre fiction goes I probably reach for a horror novel as often as I reach for a fantasy novel. But this is Dan Simmons we are talking about. After reading Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, I was intrigued. How poetic could Simmons make horror? How literate?

    I liked the 'Song of Kali'. It was a good story. I'm just not sure I'd count it as great horror. It wasn't that scary. It was definitely more psychological and mental than most. It seemed like a strange mixture of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, all with a big glob of Calcutta madness and poetic mysticism.

    Anyway, I liked it. I'll keep reading Simmons when I want a vacation from the classics or an escape into literary genre fiction, but I don't think I will need to steel my nerves with any tonics or leave the lights on to go to sleep after I close the book at night. I might, however, rethink vacation plans to Kolkata and West Bengal. Screw THAT.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov

    • UNABRIDGED (31 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Vladimir Nabokov
    • Narrated By Arthur Morey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    From Vladimir Nabokov, the writer who shocked and delighted the world with his novels Lolita, Pale Fire, and Ada, or Ardor, comes a magnificent collection of stories. Written between the 1920s and the 1950s, these 68 tales — 14 of which have been translated into English for the first time - display all the shades of Nabokov’s imagination.

    Madelaine says: "No discernable beginning or end to the stories."
    "A Kaleidoscope of Nabokov Bábochkas"

    In someways reading/listening to Nabokov's stories is like swimming in a turbulent river of all his great themes (doppelgängers, the creative process, loss, nostalgia for Russia, the individual, obsession, dreams/reality, etc).

    While there were some stories that were masterpieces, the strength of this book really is the ability it gives the Nabokov enthusiast to easily see the development of a great writer from the early 20s to the late 50s.

    One only needs to read 'Terra Incognita' to see the seeds of his novel 'Ada: or Ardor'. This collection is a must for those who adore Nabokov, but also an interesting introduction to Nabokov for those whose only exposure may be "Lolita'.

    Here are the stories as they appear in this collection:


    "The Wood-Sprite"
    "Russian Spoken Here"
    "A Matter of Chance"
    "The Seaport"
    "Details of a Sunset"
    "The Thunderstorm"
    "La Veneziana"
    "The Dragon"
    "A Letter That Never Reached Russia"
    "The Fight"
    "The Return of Chorb"
    "A Guide to Berlin"
    "A Nursery Tale"
    "The Passenger"
    "The Doorbell"
    "An Affair of Honor"
    "The Christmas Story"
    "The Potato Elf"
    "The Aurelian"
    "A Dashing Fellow"
    "A Bad Day"
    "The Visit to the Museum"
    "A Busy Man"
    "Terra Incognita"
    "The Reunion"
    "Lips to Lips"
    "The Admiralty Spire"
    "The Leonardo"
    "In Memory of L. I. Shigaev"
    "The Circle"
    "A Russian Beauty"
    "Breaking the News"
    "Torpid Smoke"
    "A Slice of Life"
    "Spring in Fialta"
    "Cloud, Castle, Lake"
    "Tyrants Destroyed"
    "Vasiliy Shishkov"
    "Ultima Thule"
    "Solus Rex"


    "Mademoiselle O"


    "The Assistant Producer"
    "That in Aleppo Once…"
    "A Forgotten Poet"
    "Time and Ebb"
    "Conversation Piece, 1945"
    "Signs and Symbols"
    "First Love"
    "Scenes from the Life of a Double Monster"
    "The Vane Sisters"

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • A Room of One's Own

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Virginia Woolf
    • Narrated By Juliet Stevenson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics. Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of the writer, and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom.

    Darwin8u says: "An important piece on women and literature."
    "An important piece on women and literature."

    An important piece on women and literature. But more than that. ARoO'sO is a piece on education and literature, money and literature, space and literature. Woolf explores how money and space are essential to a person being able to have the things needed for art.

    It isn't a complicated book, but it is revolutionary in its way. I loved it. It was, like almost everything Woolf writes, a river filled with diamonds. It carries you and occasionally drops luxury into your lap.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • You Have to F--king Eat

    • UNABRIDGED (4 mins)
    • By Adam Mansbach
    • Narrated By Bryan Cranston

    Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcom in the Middle) follows in the exasperated footsteps of Samuel L. Jackson, giving voice to the long-suffering father whose indifferent child will just not eat in this hilarious follow-up to Adam Mansbach's international best seller, Go the F--k to Sleep.

    Darren says: "Another role that Bryan Cranston plays to a T."
    "Not with a bang, but a F--king Whimper"

    Adam Mansbach first book, "Go the F--K To Sleep' was brilliant because it was shocking, funny, original, and the meter worked. This one has Bryan Cranston, but that is just about it. IT wasn't nearly as good and the novelty is gone. It just doesn't work. Unless you are a die-hard eater, or love the F--k out of Adam Mansbach, I wouldn't buy this. But since it is free, sure down load the F--ker.

    14 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Michael Shaara
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    After 30 years and with three million copies in print, Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic, The Killer Angels, remains as vivid and powerful as the day it was originally published.

    Gene says: "Almost a Perfect Audiobook"
    "A Killer War Novel"

    One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).

    The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to me. It has elements of romance, chivalry, honor, gentility mixed in with the horrible stench of a modern, brutal war. There are characters like Lee, Chamberlain, Pickett, Stuart, etc., who seem to belong in some Arthurian myth/melodrama next to Longstreet and Hancock who could easily have been cast in some post-apocalyptic Battle Royale. Add to this, the fact that these were real men, with real failings, fighting real friends and the book almost seems to narrate itself.

    Anyway, this is a top-shelf war novel -- it educates, it entertains (as much as a war novel can be called entertainment) and it is beautiful. There were some paragraphs I wanted Terence Malick to film.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 41 mins)
    • By Jennifer Michael Hecht
    • Narrated By Martha Harmon Pardee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Hecht champions doubt and questioning as one of the great and noble, if unheralded, intellectual traditions that distinguish the Western mind. From Socrates to Galileo and Darwin to Wittgenstein and Hawking, this is an account of the world's greatest intellectual virtuosos - who are also humanity's greatest doubters and disbelievers - and their attempts to reconcile the seeming meaninglessness of the universe with the human need for meaning.

    Darwin8u says: "Surveys doubt with amazing narrative skill"
    "Surveys doubt with amazing narrative skill"

    Hecht's historical survey of doubt is a lot of things and seems to do them all very well. It is a defense of doubt, a survey of doubt, a biography of doubters, a family tree of doubt's relatives. It looks at doubt both from within and external to belief. It examines the motives and believers and gives each its appropriate due.

    I found the book to be highly readable. Strange to say, it was almost TOO readable. I felt myself slipping through the pages/listening to the narration* almost too fast. It has given me a whole new group of thinkers and philosophers to examine. I was very familiar with many of the doubters in Western and Classical traditions, but Hecht gave me a whole new group of Eastern, Jewish and Muslim doubters to get to know. Plus, even with those nonbelievers & skeptics I was familiar with (Lucretius, Montaigne, Spinoza, Cicero, Epicurus, Pliny, Gibbon, Paine, Jefferson, Bruno, etc.) she gave me whole new approaches and windows to see them through.

    Finally, Hecht also found an appropriate way to thread the Book of Job writer, Jesus, Buddha, Qohelet (wrote Ecclesiastes), etc., into the framework of doubt. I think the book would have been crippled without it. Finally, she didn't avoid the negative, state-sponsored doubt period (Fascism, Communism) of the 20th century. Not all doubters do good things. Anyway, it was worth the money and the time for sure and will be re-read in the future.

    * If you listen, I'd still get a hard copy. It is worth it just for the bibliography. You are going to want to be able to dig deeper on at least half a dozen of the men, women, skeptics and doubters she mentions.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Man's Search for Meaning

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 47 mins)
    • By Viktor E. Frankl
    • Narrated By Simon Vance
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Internationally renowned psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl, endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. During, and partly because of his suffering, Dr. Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that man's primary motivational force is his search for meaning.

    Ann Marie says: "I will isten again and again"
    "Meaning IS happiness."

    “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how".”
    - Viktor E Frankl

    I read an interesting article in the NYTImes a couple weeks ago that lead me to finally pick this book up. Actually, a couple good articles. The first was titled 'Love People, Not Pleasure' and it was about how "this search for fame, the lust for material things and the objectification of others — that is, the cycle of grasping and craving — follows a formula that is elegant, simple and deadly: Love things, use people." The author uses an inversion of this formula that DOES lead to happiness: Use things, Love People (also quoted by Spencer W. Kimball). This article + another recent one from the Atlantic titled 'There's More to Life Than Being Happy' made it clearly evident to me that I needed to finally dust of my yellowed, Goodwill copy of Man's Search for Meaning, plug in my earbuds and experience this book that the Universe clearly wanted me to read this week.

    So, imagine a renowned Jewish therapist writes in 1946 (in 9 days) about his experiences at and survival in Auschwitz, and then adds his own psychotherapeutic method (Logotherapy), finding happiness by finding a meaning, a responsibility, a love, and ultimately self-determining. Perhaps it is a consequence of Frankl's work surrounding me in other writings, in popular psychotherapy, in various internet Memes and articles OR perhaps it is just a consequence of my own resilience to my own suffering that this book wasn't much of a revelation. I was like ... yup, makes a lot of sense. Good job. I think it is a great book for what it is. I just don't always get super-excited by self-help psychology books. This one is on the better end of the bell curve for this type, but I guess my problem is with the type. Other than that (minus 1-star for my type bias) it was a great book.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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