I have survived my most painful audiobook experience yet.
"Wine Wars" is a fascinating book for those deep into wine, wine economics, and issues pertaining to globalization versus local character. While some of the subject matter can be a bit dry, Verseth infuses his narrative with interesting characters, amusing stories, and a fair amount of wit. I learned a TON from this book; it has deepened my understanding of the global, "glocal," and local wine and food trade immensely.
So why should you buy the physical or e-book instead of the audiobook? Simple -- the narration is simply AWFUL.
The narration is flat, lifeless, miserable, and soporific, taking a sometimes dry subject and completely ruining it. Wade lacks expression and his reading marches along like a droning professor -- featureless and bland. The bits of humor in the text pass by in the same awful metronomic cadence as the other content, blending into a soporific drumbeat of expressionless speech.
Adding insult to injury, Wade's pronunciation of foreign-language words is just pathetic and ruins the flow of the narration like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has taken half a semester of French or Italian. Thankfully I never took German, so his presumed butcherings of those words passed by unnoticed. Heck, Wade even insists on pronouncing household name Robert Mondavi as "mon-DAH-vay" when even a 30-second visit to Mondavi's (ends with "vee") website would set him straight. Why on earth would the producer of a wine book stand for a narrator who can't pronounce the name of the most famous California winemaker ever and who clearly did no homework on any of the foreign language words in the text (and there are a lot of them, of course)?!?
In sum, this is a fascinating book for the right audience, but the narration absolutely turns the listening session into a nightmare. This is one book that it would be FAR better to read in print (or e-ink)!!!
"The Big Year" is right up there with the best audio (and paper) books I've consumed. Telling a quietly compelling and unexpectedly exciting story of three men's journeys in life through the lens of a quasi-official, quasi-insane birding competition, Obmascik's book draws the reader in with it's humor, heart, and characters, each of whose lives and motivations are revealed through both action and back-story vignettes.
Equally appealing as a character study, travelogue, and adventure / drama, "The Big Year" is hard to put down and leaves the reader satiated with its conclusion and epilogue. Whether one likes birding or simply a well-told tale, "The Big Year" has big appeal. I absolutely loved it.
P.S. Be aware that the movie is just "inspired by" the book. Whatever you think of the movie, the real characters and storyline are far more compelling than the Hollywood-ized caricatures (and outright inventions) that made it to the screen!
"The Big Short" is the first - and perhaps only - book one needs to read on the financial crisis. Told through the storylines of colorful, flawed, and unheralded characters, Lewis's book takes the reader to the core of the cancer that overwhelmed our system -- and shows how independent, odd, and courageous investors profited from their insights into an astoundingly corrupt world of "Financial Innovation" built on nothing more than over-leveraged and repackaged garbage foisted on the world with the blessing of "AAA" ratings.
The narrator does a wonderful job (although I would have preferred if Lewis would have read the book -- his introductory remarks are fantastic), and I look forward to re-listening to this one again and again.
Highly, highly recommended.
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