If I were dictator, I would force Charles Wheelan to sit in a cell and write until he had completed a volume like this for every branch of mathematics. I am a numbers-phobe but also a graduate student in political science who understood NOTHING about statistics when I came out of not my first -- but my second methods course. I learned more by listening to this book than I deed in two years of courses. It is awesome. I would encourage anyone who wants to know about statistics but thinks what you are learning in a statistics class is impossible and not intuitive (which is how I felt) to listen/read this book. It brings clarity to all. Thank you Mr. Wheelan!
I really did not enjoy this book. I have a rule that I listen all the way through every book that I get -- and I was glad this one was over. His ultimate premise -- that science is great and everything that cannot be proven by the scientific method is a trick of the mind and cannot be trusted -- is all well and good, but the book could have been half as long and make the same point. There was a whole section on the history of science that seemed forced in toward the end of the book and didn't seem to contribute at all to the thesis. In fact, there was a number of times throughout the book that I was left thinking: so what's the point? Why is this discussion here? In short, it may just be my "believing brain" --- but I believe that I should have passed on this one.
If you have any interest in the Old Testament, this is worth a listen. He approaches God as a literary figure. In other words, he takes the old testament book by book and looks at God as a character (why would he say this in Genesis but then this later). Whether you consider yourself religious or not it is worth a read. The cross-references the author points out really makes you think. Why is God like he is in Genesis but different in form and action later in the Old Testament. I really enjoyed the approach.
Let me just say that this is one of the best (if not the best) historical fiction books I have listened to. If you have any interest in British history, Vikings, or heck if you just like a good listen-- do yourself a favor and get this book. I finished it in 2 days -- an unheard of feat for me. I immediately got the second book in the series and I am having to hold myself back from listening to it. The narrator is awesome, the writing is wonderful -- well developed characters that you learn to care about. You feel like you are living it right along with the characters.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a very well researched and well put-together history of the 1920 election -- although really the book gives more history that than to set the context before and after the election. Anyone interested in American presidential history should listen to it. So many of these important figures have been lost to time that it is good to hear their contributions described. One event that really had resonance to me in the current environment was the claim that Harding had "black blood" as a disqualification. I couldn't help thinking that this was the 1920 equivalent to the birther movement today. I seemed very similar to me. Worth the listen
Oh and one other thing. The narrator really grated on my nerves for the first couple of chapters. If you have the same impression hang in there -- I don't know if he got better or I just adjusted but after a while he falls into a nice rhythm.
I grew up post-Nixon and so it is difficult for me to imagine what that time frame was like. I think the author did an excellent job of telling the story in a way that you can feel the angst from both sides of the "Nixonland" political divided, because in a large part that is exactly what Nixonland is -- a state of mind. To have the reader really feel what it is like to be a liberal with an unsatisfied agenda who turns radical; a moderate who believes that everyone should be treated equal but can't understand why these groups have to resort to violence to get it (and correspondingly pushing these folks to a more conservative "law and order" bent); and the conservatives -- intent on "winning" in Vietnam and imposing law and order at home. And all the while -- Nixon is looming and manipulating the entire scene. It really does seem surreal.
My one criticism is really more of a "pull on superman's cape" type of critique. When the author is describing a scene where police/conservative forces are acting -- and where the public sees the law and order (or disorder), there is a tendency in the writing to take the reader out of that moment and say something like "and the police really didn't have any fear of that" or "the police had no evidence they were just busting heads." The psychology of these events is so important that it would have been helpful if he had listed the misdeeds that were discovered later in a footnote or at the end of the chapter.
Overall, though I really enjoyed this book!
I really enjoyed this book. It is very well written and easy to follow. I'm looking forward to the sequel. I have to admit that I did find the constant fighting a little tedious, but what is an author of historical fiction to do???? No complaints at all about the book though.
I found this book boring. It just never gave me any points to keep me interested. He discusses in great detail about how grammar is different in English than other languages. That in and of itself would be interesting, but the underlying points of the book (which seemed to be addressing what to me seemed to be "in the weeds" disputes in the field of linguistics) really left me saying "so what?" Maybe I'm being to critical, but I have a rule that I listen to every book I purchase through to the end, and this one was hard to make it through. Maybe someone versed in linguistics would find it interesting, but I would think few lay readers would.
Two initial points. First, this is the first Rex Stout/Nero Wolfe novel that I have listened to. Second, the narrator is awesome. He sounds exactly how you would expect Goodwin/Wolfe to sound. I thought the story line was fine. I really liked the unexpected comedic turn of phrase or description that Stout sticks in every now and then. It really made the story come to life. You definitely get to know the characters. I'm looking forward to the next book. If I have a criticism it is that the book at times gets bogged down. I listened to it on a long trip and at one point I just had to turn it off and sit in silence. I needed the break. Don't let that deter you from giving it a listen though. It is well written and the narrator really is amazing.
I have to say I feel completely unqualified to criticize this book. But as they say "haters gonna hate" -- so I do want to point out a couple of things I just did not like about this book. But before that, the good stuff. The writing flows very nicely and I thought it got better as it went along. You feel like you are listening to something that you could never write yourself, which provides an aura of getting your money's worth and appreciating someone who is great at what they do. And now for my two major criticisms. First, I cannot stand the ending. It's fiction. Real life is obscure and ambiguous, but fiction should not be. Give me some closure for pete's sake! Second, at times the writing really gets bogged down and takes itself too seriously. I love Dickens who writes a thousand pages and every descriptive phrase -- just as long and detailed as James -- seems to have more life to it. That having been said, as I mention above, some of this falls away in the second half of the book and it moves along nicely.
I remember the first time I read this book -- it was in the mid-1990s. It was at the time of the rise of the Religious Right. And let me say -- I really though this could happen. It was scary. This time through, after 9/11, I was a little less impressed. It's not that I do not believe that a religious oligarchy could not gain power in the US, but the way it happened in this book was a little forced. It just seemed to happen too quickly and the response was too one-sided (fundamentalist). I know that Atwood had to do this to have a character straddling the old life and the new, but the timing seemed forced. If she were rewriting it today, I wonder if she would incorporate a slower more evolutionary move toward a society that no one recognizes today. For example, Supreme Court opinions that give more and more rights to corporations, the growing income inequality gap, the dysfunctional legislative system, and the use of technology to monitor citizens. All of these lead to a society that is very different from what exists today. I can't help but wonder how Atwood's Gilead would look with these current features taken into account.
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