Johannesburg, South Africa | Member Since 2013
I was pleasantly surprised to come across this Audible Inc. production of Prof. Peter Brown's newest book "Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Brown, the author of the best biography of Augustine of Hippo, is a careful meticulous and and well-respected historian of the late Roman Empire. He writes with authority.
In "Through the Eye of the Needle" Brown uses different sources (artefacts, catacombs, archaeological insights, written texts etc.) to reconstruct what has traditionally been seen as the time of the Roman Empire's decline. Already in the awkward dates that he uses in the sub-title of his book 350-550 AD and not for instance 324 (when Constantine was became emperor over the whole Roman Empire), Brown distances himself from traditional top-down historiography that focus important persons and places. While using important figures, like Maxentius, Augustine and others, he aims to document and interpret the way the not-so-important people of the late Western Roman Empire understood wealth.
He uses wealth at the key to sketch a different but more believable picture of late Roman Empire and its different churches' rise to prominence in its society. I found his take on the Pelagian controversy very interesting and enlightening.
Fleet Cooper did a fair job in reading the book. I am not sure if it is Brown's writing style or Cooper's way of reading, but it felt that some sentences were often to long and Cooper would break for breath making it difficult to comprehend a whole idea as a thought unit. That said, Cooper's pronunciation of foreign languages and the general ease of his reading made it pleasant to listen to.
Not everybody would like this book. At times it is very technical and might even be too thorough to some people's taste. It is an academic work and probably a trendsetter that cannot be ignored by historians reflecting on this part of history in future. Yet it might not be to the taste of someone who wants a light read.
It comes highly recommended. I hope Audible will see their way open to publish more of Prof. Brown's books in audio format.
In six 30 minutes lectures Prof. C. Nathan DeWall from the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky, USA, gives an overview of "self-control." Throwing the net wide he starts of with the idea that it is easy to want to do something or want to restrain from doing it, yet when push comes to shove you find that you have not had enough self-control to do it. He then moves on to convince you that the good and bad role models in your life equals respectively those who were able to exercise tremendous self-control energy and those who were unable to do so. He uses various American and International examples. Was it not for Nelson Mandela that was mentioned somewhere, I wouldn't have anyone to relate to.
Be it as it may, I found lectures 4 and 5, "Taming the impulsive Beast" and "First Impressions and Stereotypes" the most interesting part of the course. He actually gave some practical exercises to help you exercise and develop your own treasury of self-control energy. Some of the experiments he referred to was also very interesting. It made me think a lot, especially how important it is for our brain to "box" people and things in order to understand the reality within which we live.
However, the course felt for me more of a self-help course, than a pure scientific approach to self-control. It felt also very short.
So by the way, this might be one of the very few Great Courses where the audio only lecture might be better than the video enhanced version. It does seem that the visual aids are a bit overdone on the video course.
So if you want a to-the-point self-help approach with a scientific underlay this course will be spot on. For me, it was interesting, but it's universality came into play already in lecture two when Prof. DeWall used examples of people with self-control within a generally American set-up. Still the psychological underlay (I suppose especially cognitive Psychology and Neuro-linguistic programming) made it worth it while.
When hearing this course' title "Great Figures of the New Testament," I conjured up an image of someone discussing some literary figures from the New Testament. What I found was surprisingly and excitingly different. Prof. Amy-Jill Levine, the well-known Jewish New Testament Scholar, gives an important overview of of various characters and historical figures from the Christian New Testament. On the one hand you will meet the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, while you will also learn of Peter, Herod the Great, Paul, Josephus and various other historical figures. She asks "Who is who in the first century living in and around Palestine?"
If you thought that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, you might be surprised to find out that she wasn't. Prof. Levine is not hesitant to dissect the layers of tradition that surrounds various of the historical figures she presents in this course. She presents her insights and that of other scholars in a non-threatening way while minimising typically scholarly jargon. If I did not know that she was Jewish, I might never have guessed it, the way she presented it. She brings together a vast array of knowledge about different figures, that enables the listener to think differently about various topics.Her careful phrasing of ideas and sentences makes this course very accessible. Her respect for her subject matter is praiseworthy.
If you want a critical overview of the New Testament, this course comes highly recommended. She is very fair in most of her comments her unique blend of historical-critical scholarship and literary analysis of texts shines through. Her redeeming of the Jews and of females are also two important aspects that shines through in these lectures.
I heartily recommend this course, if you need an overview of the New Testament. Prof. Levine gives profound insights throughout this course. Some of it will keep your mind occupied for some time.
Niall Ferguson’s book “Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western Power” summarises itself in its title. The book’s organisation is simple straightforward and to-the-point. In his introduction, Ferguson states, that he wants “… to show that what distinguished the West from the Rest – the main springs of global power – were six identifiably novel complexes of instructions and associated ideas and behaviours.” He borrows from computer language cleverly calling these “complexes” “the six killer apps” that “allowed a minority of mankind originating on the western edge of Eurasia to dominate the world for the better part of 500 years.”
Ferguson then sets out to discuss the six “apps” methodically (one per chapter) and concludes with a final chapter asking if these “apps” are still needed? What about the Rest (the West’s rivals), will one of them supersede it? The killer apps that he discusses are: 1) Competition, 2) Science, 3) Property rights, 4) Medicine, 5) The consumer society and 6) The work ethic.
While simplifying the structure, the content that Ferguson relays are must less of a simplification. Here he keeps his listeners engaged by interesting quotes (usually juxtaposed to give two different takes on an “app”), facts, figures and cleverly thought-out phrases that make his conclusions memorable. Two of the most interesting phrases for me in the chapter on work ethic, are “God was love, as the bumper stickers said, after all. At one and the same time, America was both born again and porn again.” and “Now it’s not your kicks you get on Route 66; it’s your crucifix.” (Both phrases are here quoted without its proper context. Ferguson is discussing the Protestant Work Ethic that took root in Springfield in the United States of America.)
In short, Niall Ferguson brilliantly conveys his argument. Using choice language he makes a powerful argument which makes it easy to follow, especially if you are listening to the audio version of this work. Dazzling the listener with cleverly formulated phrases, he made it very difficult for me to discern his book critically (even though I live in a country where Mahatma Ghandi’s insights on government are often revered, because of its struggle sentiment.) It is just so well written!
While the printed version of this book might be illustrated with maps, graphs or photos, you gain enormously in the audio version in that Niall Ferguson reads his work himself. Unexpectedly he does a jolly good job of it. Often authors are not the best narrators of their books. One thing that stood out was how he used different voices and accents to deal with the numerous quotes he made in the book. By doing so, he kept my attention and where I might start to opt out, his voice caught it again.
If you consider listening to it, I would advise to let Ferguson’s prose, facts and insights guide you while his voice mesmerise you. He is after all the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. It is indeed a ‘tour de force’ that vindicates the West’s colonial ambitions only to the extent necessary while being blunt about its atrocities! This is an excellent way in enlivening history and giving it a practical application. This book is not only interesting, it is one of those titles that sets the stage for further discussion on the role of the West and the Rest in our contemporary global society.
What happens when a secularised Jesuit (turned Episcopalian, then leaving the faith) writes a theography about the ever unchanging God of the Jews and the Christians? A literary critic uses literary criticism to introduce the reader/ listener to God as an ever changing character. This is how prof. Jack Miles' book "God: A Biography" happens.
Immediately you might have realised that this book is not a book for the Religious Fundamentalist, neither for the seeker of God's face. Using the insights of historical-criticism when analysing God's character, Miles introduces God in a way you might not have thought of him before. I find the approach fresh and daring.
What I kept on asking myself, while listening to the book, was, "Would I have analysed it in the same way?" My answer to myself is, "Probably not." Not because of my different religious outlook, but because I interpret certain key passages differently. Maybe also because I would not have taken the same liberty as Miles take from time to time.
For example, when God reveals himself as "Eyeh asher eyeh" (I am that I am) Miles prefer to read it "Eyeh asher eweh" (I am what I do). This seems to me a highly speculative reconstruction not asked by the text. Trying to give God a human-like life, Miles falls back on some (sometimes extensive) artistic license to give God flesh. He also does it in accordance with the Jewish Tanach arrangement of books of the Old Testament.
His daring an courage makes an interesting listen, that can be heartily recommended to open minded, progressive or liberal Christians and Jews... as well as atheists and agnostics. It might sound like blasphemy to more evangelical or conservatively inclined Christians.
Michael Prichard does a fair job in reading this book. He clearly does not know Hebrew, though it is not often referred to or quoted in this book.
This book is set to challenge the status quo of traditional beliefs, though the author denies it. Realising that God is more than omnipotent and omnipresent might just bring you to insights about who God is, insights that you didn't expect. I highly recommend the book but suggest that you approach it with an open mind.
If you are Anglican or Episcopalian this book might just be the right book for you. Dealing with Baptism, Eucharist, the Bible and Prayer, Archbishop emeritus Dr. Rowan Williams gives an overview of what it means to be a Christian, therefore the title is appropriate.
Each subject focus on a very basic and easy to understand concept of baptism, the Eucharist, the Bible and prayer. I found the subject matter very basic.
Maybe this is the type of book for newly converted Christians. It is pious, though engaging, basic though to the point.
I admire Orson Scott Card's (OSC) bravery in bringing together various strands of time together in one big bang. Building on the previous two novels OSC Rigg and his friends successfully stops the visitors from destroying the planet Garden, but only after failing in some time-lines.
OSC explores in this novel with developing the same character in different ways at different times and bringing the different versions of the same character together to join forces against the enemy. While I admire this approach, I got lost in al the entanglements and time-streams that the characters felt a bit shallow at times. It is as if they developed but still stayed too much the same.
I am not sure who will find this book enjoyable, maybe die-hard fans of OSC. I do believe that it might not be everybody's cup of tea. For me, having so much time-travel back and forth in time, ensured that I got lost.
I think this book is a far cry from Ender's Game.
Kirby Heyborne, Emily Rankin and Stefan Rudnicki did a great job of narrating the story.
If you have nothing to do and a lot of time to kill, are not so much worried about a good plot, maybe this could be one of the books you might consider listening too.
In a world called Erna seemingly hostile to human dreams and thoughts an unusual story draws to a close. Has the fallen prophet an vampire-like creature of the religion in the one god, the God of Earth and Erna, done enough to be redeemed out of his centuries of hunting women as prey? Will the priest Reverend Damien Canon Vrice done enough to save his friend? How will he choose between his religion and his loyalty to a very dark person?
C.S. Friedman ends a successful trilogy with a good ending. While I thought she was totally against religion - almost like Philip Pullman - she was debating the value of religion throughout the story. I found her approach interesting and refreshing.
R.C. Bray did an excellent job of reading the book. It is very much in the same line as the other two books he read in the trilogy.
If you want a relaxing well put together fantasy story, why not give this trilogy a go?
In “The Industrial Revolution” lecture series Prof Patrick N. Allitt (professor of American History at Emory University) introduces the listener in 36 half hour lectures packed with information, to those technologies which - according to him - we all take for granted and never think about until it is lacking. Then we react with annoyance.
Ironically enough, while listening to this series, South Africa was forced into load shedding (the switching off of power grids for a certain amount of time) due to a coal silo that collapsed at one of the coal power plantations. This followed an event where Rand Water couldn’t provide water to great areas of the Gauteng Province because of some pump failures. I therefore can say, Prof Allitt’s argument hit home!
He also argues in this course that the early industrialists were seen as people with big fat purses who extorted the working labour class to live in luxury. While this might be the case in some instances the legacy of the Industrial Revolution are the upliftment of the living standard of the peasant population partaking in the project. He makes a striking statement in the beginning of the course that the kings of old were poorer than the peasants of today. The Industrial Revolution came up with the idea of continuous improvement.
If you want to know how and why things have changed so drastically over the last 250 years, this course seems a good place to start. While half of the lectures are focussed on the Industrial Revolution as it began and progress in 18th century Britain, the rest of the lectures are split up in the Industrialisation of the United States of America, Europe, Russia, Japan, India, Taiwan and China. I thought Prof Allitt’s focus on technology and how it impacted on who won the Second World War was very informative and interesting.
I was amazed that he thought of Sub-Saharan Africa as backwards and not yet there (my words). I am not completely convinced that he knows what is happening in Africa. Maybe his statement is too sweeping.
I was intrigued by the idea that different political systems saw the need for industrialisation, though it failed miserably if the state was too authoritarian. Though not mentioned by him, it seems to me that Apartheid in South Africa also had industrialisation as its driving force - another odd marriage partner of the Industrial Revolution.
With his British accent and all, Prof Allitt is an excellent presenter and has compiled a very informative, thought-provoking course. Generally he seems to be neutral in his presentation and comes to an appreciation of the progress of humanity through industrialisation. (One thing that bothered me, was when he talked about the Protestant groupings as sects. I wonder if he is Anglican or Roman Catholic?)
In general this is an excellent well-prepared and researched course that covers a vast array of subjects relating to the Industrial Revolution (as Fredrik Engels dubbed it). Any listener will be challenged by the amount of information that needs to be thought through. I can almost guarantee that it will help you to orientate yourself in terms of your own biases and blind spots towards technology and progress.
Celia S. Friedman appears to be an established American fantasy writer. The Coldfire Trilogy the first trilogy she ever published. ‘Black Sun Rising’ is the first book of the trilogy, though she has later written a prequel to the trilogy in the form of a novella called ‘Dominion’ (+/-30 pages, guessing by the length of the audio recording). It was the latter that draw me into this trilogy.
It is an excellent introduction to the planet of Erna, a planet which in substance is very different from earth and also consists out of a mysterious substance called Fae (think of an animistic reality which really comes true) that makes people’s dreams come to life and gain substance. In ‘Dominion’ we are introduced to Gerralt Tarrant a seemingly undead vampire and fallen prophet of the Faith in the One God, creator of Earth and Erna who seems to have made some dark covenant to yield and bend the Fae to his purposes. He seems evil to his core, but maybe there could be some goodness left in him… somewhere. These were the two concepts that I found quite original and that draw me to ‘Black Sun Rising.’
‘Black Sun Rising’ introduces the listener to the Reverend Damien Canon Vrice, whom is a Jesuit-like warrior priest fighting the evil conjured up by the Fae through human dreams. He has just arrived in the great city of Jaggonath, the seat of the Eastern Patriarchy from the Western Matriarchy. (I wondered if there is not a play on the Latin Western (Roman Catholic) Church and the Eastern (Orthodox) Church.) Falling in love with a heathen ‘adept’ (a person who has assimilated with Erna and can yield some natural power over the Fae), Vrice is summersaulted into an adventure when some mysterious creatures from the Rakh lands (a place inhabited by an indigenous species of Erna called the Rakh which seems to have evolved into something maybe more human) steals her ‘adept’-powers. Besotted by love Vrice sets out with Ciani, the ‘adept’ and his lover, to get her powers back.
However, as they travel to these mysterious lands, they meet a dark and threatening stranger, seemingly one of the dark minions of the Hunter, the fallen prophet of Vrice’s church, Gerralt Tarrent.
Friedman explores themes of good and evil, truth and lies, corruption and purity within this novel. I think that she successfully shows that a diamond has many sides, while entertaining the reader/ listener with wit and misdirection. Though I sometimes felt that some of her characters are too predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and went on to listen to “When True Night Falls” and “Crown of Shadows.” In many ways the books stays within the classical style of the hero’s journey. Yet there is enough suspense and intrigue to give a satisfactory listening experience. The trilogy is a worthwhile buy.
R.C. Bray is an established audio book narrator, though I see some reviewers complained about his reading. Though his American accent came over more pronounced at some places in the audio book than other, I found his narration quite enjoyable. He did especially a good job with the demon voice of Calista.
If you are looking for a fantasy trilogy with some interesting concepts, enough intrigue to hold you and keep you guessing and with a good ending, this trilogy comes highly recommended.
If you are looking for something short and to the point and how to start or participate in a conversation, you might find this short course just right. Prof. Anne Curzan teaches English at the University of Michigan and is an excellent Linguist. In this course you will not only learn more about conversations, you will also receive some useful tips that will allow you to read a conversation better. I found, for instance, the way that one uses and phrases questions in different contexts very interesting.
So why don't I give it a five... The course though it even contains excellent role plays and is well presented, is in certain ways very basic. It is an appetiser that might be the starting point, but one needs to dig deeper. Still it comes highly recommended.
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