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Darwin8u

A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

Mesa, AZ, United States

ratings
415
REVIEWS
410
FOLLOWING
15
FOLLOWERS
1524
HELPFUL VOTES
8193

  • Indiscretion: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Charles Dubow
    • Narrated By Robert Petkoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (50)
    Performance
    (40)
    Story
    (40)

    Harry and Madeleine Winslow have been blessed with talent, money, and charm. Harry is a National Book Award-winning author on the cusp of greatness. Madeleine is a woman of sublime beauty and grace whose elemental goodness and serenity belie a privileged upbringing. Bonded by deep devotion, they share a love that is both envied and admired. The Winslows play host to a coterie of close friends and acolytes eager to bask in their golden radiance, whether they are in their bucolic East Hampton cottage, abroad in Rome thanks to Harry's writing grant, or in their comfortable Manhattan brownstone.

    Darwin8u says: "Henry James is probably not even bothering to roll"
    "Henry James is probably not even bothering to roll"
    Overall
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    Ugh. I read this book because from the reviews it seemed like a modern attempt at a Henry James/Edith Wharton examination of love, adultery and the Hamptons. Plus, supposedly this guy worked with Christopher Buckley. How bad could it all be?

    OK, so I finished it and can say with authority that the only thing worse than Dubow's Lucasesque dialogue was the book's predictable plot and the cliche after horrible cliche Dubow employed. Henry James is probably not even bothering to roll in his literary grave because this book is barely worth that amount of effort.

    As a freshman effort, I seriously recommend the author go back to whatever Bloomberg or BusinessWeek hole he crawled out of. Seriously, and I'm not trying to be mean here, the number of positive reviews given to this book is clear evidence of exactly how LOW our expectations have fallen.

    So yes, I should have abandoned it 1/4 of the way through. Some mistakes (like syphilis) you just have to live with, I guess.

    19 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • You Have to F--king Eat

    • UNABRIDGED (4 mins)
    • By Adam Mansbach
    • Narrated By Bryan Cranston
    Overall
    (983)
    Performance
    (944)
    Story
    (933)

    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"
    Overall
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    Story

    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.

    10 of 15 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
    Overall
    (1209)
    Performance
    (628)
    Story
    (642)

    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"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    10 of 11 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
    Overall
    (109)
    Performance
    (55)
    Story
    (58)

    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"
    Overall
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    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.

    13 of 14 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
    Overall
    (2171)
    Performance
    (1120)
    Story
    (1132)

    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."
    Overall
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    “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.

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • A Brief History of Time

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Stephen Hawking
    • Narrated By Michael Jackson
    Overall
    (1411)
    Performance
    (625)
    Story
    (624)

    This landmark book is for those of us who prefer words to equations; this is the story of the ultimate quest for knowledge, the ongoing search for the secrets at the heart of time and space. Its author, Stephen W. Hawking, is arguably the greatest mind since Einstein. From the vantage point of the wheelchair, where he has spent the last 20 years trapped by Lou Gehrig's disease, Professor Hawking has transformed our view of the universe. A Brief History of Time is Hawking's classic introduction to today's most important scientific ideas.

    Jeff Parent says: "Great book, but...."
    "A Tease of Time & A Brief History of Science"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I know. I know. I both loved and hated this book. I definitely should never have read this book, cut the pages, opened the box, etc.. Somehow Stephen Hawking has written a book that gently fluffs the tail on Schrödinger's cat (or perhaps Schrödinger's cat is fluffing Dr. Hawking).

    Look, no doubt the guy is a genius and has a fantastic story (ALS, computer voice, nurses, Black Holes, strippers, movies, etc). My problem is the wussification of a large scientific narrative by one of Big “P” Physics primary scientists. Let someone else write a pop-GUT/Blackhole/Big Bang story. Let another writer do the pop-up Children's book with the scratch-n-sniff singularity, the rotating black hole, the pull-out universe.

    I want Dr. Hawking doing smart stuff. Let Bill Bryson write the summary science. But it is too late for me. I already crossed the damn event horizon. I've just become entangled with his book, so my "observer state" now corresponds to the damn book and the damn book review being both five stars and 1 stars is no longer a possibility; my reader state is entangled or linked now with my own review so that the "observation of the book review's state" and the "review's state" correspond with each other. I am finished.

    Hey, now to go see some movies about blackholes and wormholes and a-holes.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life

    • UNABRIDGED (16 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2705)
    Performance
    (1418)
    Story
    (1423)

    Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.”

    Tina says: "Another wonderful Bryson"
    "Any journey with Bryson becomes a trip"
    Overall
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    Bryson uses his own family's Victorian parsonage to map out the history (mainly focused on the 18th - 20th Century) of the private life. His discussion of specific rooms ends up allowing Bryson to tangent off onto related topics as wide and varied as sex, family, sh!t, medicine, architecture, makeup, rope-making, etc.

    This book is a movement through a house that allows Bryson to riff on people and ideas that are funny, iconic, and always peculiar. Bryson is amazing at flipping over a stone and telling three different stories about the stone, the flip, and the bugs hiding underneath the stone. He will also examine the shoe that flipped the stone and occasionally inserts his own experience with stones and shoes. This book follows his the model of his other expansive history: A Short History of Nearly Everything.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • The Founding Fish

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By John McPhee
    • Narrated By John McPhee
    Overall
    (56)
    Performance
    (18)
    Story
    (17)

    Few fish are as beloved, or as obsessed over, as the American shad. Although shad spend most of their lives in salt water, they enter rivers by the hundreds of thousands in the spring and swim upstream heroic distances in order to spawn, then return to the ocean.

    Cynthia says: "mixed thoughts"
    "Read and released."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Reading McPhee is like watching a brilliant tennis player you've followed for years. I know his moves. I can even predict most of his methods, but I keep coming back to watch him put it all together. He is masterful. He makes the incredibly difficult work of narrative nonfiction seem effortless. Beautiful prose swims right up to McPhee and jumps into his net or flops right into the pages of his book.

    Once again McPhee matches a microhistory (the American Shad) with great characters (biologists, fishermen, sportsmen, presidents, even his wife) present and past, amazing locations and takes you completely through the subject. You emerge from tail of the book knowing the history, the biology, the life, the death, the taste and the debate surrounding America's founding fish. He shows you every single bone in a boney fish. Read and released.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Savage Detectives: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Roberto Bolaño
    • Narrated By Eddie Lopez, Armando Durán
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (132)
    Performance
    (76)
    Story
    (77)

    The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño has been called the García Marquez of his generation. The Savage Detectives is a hilarious and sexy, meandering and melancholy, companionable and complicated road trip through Mexico City, Barcelona, Israel, Liberia, and finally the desert of northern Mexico. It is the first of Bolaño's two giant works, with 2666, to be translated into English and is already being hailed as a masterpiece.

    Rebecca Lindroos says: "Started slow but ended great"
    "Bolaño Poetic Gyre"
    Overall
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    This is a book that is nearly impossible to review, absolutely impossible to summarize, and simultaneously amazing and frustrating. Bolaño created a novel and a narrative that (IMHO) attempted to capture the energy, the personalities, the youth and the mortar that held together Mexican and Latin American poets during the mid-1970s. It feels like he took every poetic image, idea, stray hair and paper from every Mexican poet during the past forty years and laid them all down on black velvet to be examined. He found poetry in the "visceral realists" excesses and his semi-autobiographical confessions. Bolaño jumps from chapter-to-chapter, from scene-to-scene, from sunset-to-sunset and keeps reinventing his PoMo novel as he writes it.

    I have to be fair. It wasn't my favorite novel, but it seems the most likely (of all the novels I've read these last two or three years) to suddenly become animated. If any novel is going to jump off my lap, and wander off into the wilderness -- this is the one. It seems to be written not just in ink, but in blood, tears, seed, and fire.

    It someways it reminds me of the beginning of Yeat's poem 'Second Coming':

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    With Roberto Bolaño the center of this gyre is Mexico City and with each page he writes (forward and back in time) Bolaño seems to be adding potential energy to the explosion that will loose his mad, Mexican poets, these thieves and dealers, these visceral realists, around the world. As I chew on this image, I think the idea of vortexes and gyres is equally applicable to ALL poets. It captures the way creativity often explodes, demands to be exposed, and drives before its flood chariots of innocence, creativity and youth.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Great Masters: Mahler - His Life and Music

    • ORIGINAL (6 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Greenberg
    Overall
    (30)
    Performance
    (28)
    Story
    (28)

    More than many other composers, Gustav Mahler's works are highly personal expressions of his inner world, a world of overwhelming alienation and loneliness. You'll learn, through both lectures and musical excerpts, how his symphonies are vast repositories of his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual expression that made him the first exponent of Expressionism, the early 20th-century art movement that celebrates inner reality as the only reality - but explored by Mahler using the musical language of the century just ended.

    William says: "Another home run"
    "A Great Survey of Mahler's Life and Major Works"
    Overall
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    Story

    Good enough that my major complaint is I wish it were just longer. Professor Greenberg with his wit, knowledge, and charisma is able to draw a nice narrative arc through the life of Gustav Mahler. This course is broken into 8 lectures:

    1. Introduction & Childhood
    2. Mahler the Conductor
    3. Early Songs and Symphony 1
    4. The Wunderhorn Symphonies
    5. Alma and Vienna
    6. Family Life and Symphony 5
    7. Symphony 7 & Das Lied von de Erde
    8. Das Lied, Final Symphonies, & the End.

    It all felt a bit too compressed for me. Perhaps I'm just spoiled because I've been listening also to his 30 Greatest Orchestral Works and each piece in that recording is given a whole lecture (45 minutes). I would have liked to see more time on each of his major symphonies and works AND not lose any of the actual history.

    But really, that is my only major complaint. I would recommend for the serious listener to also go buy the major symphonies (from major labels and great conductors) and listen to them a couple times while listening to this course. I fell in love with Mahler's 5th & 9th before this course, but this course gave me a lot more of Mahler to love.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • The Guns of August

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By John Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (484)
    Performance
    (419)
    Story
    (425)

    Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman here brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, The Guns of August will not be forgotten.

    Chrissie says: "Pay attention!"
    "Guns of August which I heard in September"
    Overall
    Performance
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    What an amazing piece of historical writing. Tuchman shows how August, 2014 was impacted by two failed plans (Plan 17 & the Schlieffen Plan), Generals and politicos who were either overly optimistic at the wrong time or overly pessimistic at the wrong time. She detailed how inadvertent acts by disgraced Generals might have saved France, how the politics and the national moods of France, Germany, Russia, and Great Britain may have contributed to the length of the Great War.

    After the Civil War and the War of Franco-Prussian War of 1870, war had morphed into a whole new beast. Few leaders grasped this at the beginning of August but by September 1914 there were very few living on the European continent who could avoid recognizing that war would never be the same again. The vitality and the drama of Tuchman's narrative made this book seemed delivered by 420-millimetre siege howitzers. Chapter after chapter would absolutely devastate me as I listened (and read for the maps and pacing). I am very glad I wasn't in the French (or Belgian or German or Russian) military in August of 1914.

    Lee is such a solid narrator. It wasn't a standout, but I have absolutely no complaints. He read well. It was easily listened to at 2.5+ speed.

    13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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