First off, let me preface this review by saying I was already familiar with Steven Novella through his podcast, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.
When I heard he had this series of lectures available on Audible, I was quite excited!
I was hoping for a clear, detailed and thorough treatment of Critical Thinking - and Novella delivers in spades, covering topic after topic with a treatment that is brisk, peppered with examples, constructed in a logical and understandable manner and order, and delivered eloquently.
The content is exactly what is says on the tin: if you are interested in Critical Thinking, in knowing how you think and how TO think -- there is no fat here. Logical fallacies and cognitive biases are examined, illustrated and explained.
I would caution the potential listener that this is a series of lectures on a specific subject; I enjoyed it immensely because I happen to be interested in the topic. If I didn't have that interest or I was expecting more of a narrative-type production, I think I would be disappointed.
A further caution: if you have a set of "alternative beliefs", prepare to be challenged! Examine the unfavorable reviews to see this side of things.
However -- and in summary -- if you desire to develop your Critical Thinking skills, to build the sharpest reasoning possible for yourself, or just to explore a scientific approach to understanding how your brain plays tricks on itself, then I give this work the highest recommendation!
I love Oliver Sacks, and this is one of his best!
I read this title long ago, and it came up as a Daily Deal (I think) here on Audible, so I decided to enjoy it again - glad I did!
If you don't know what Sacks is all about, he tells stories about some of the most amazingly strange things that can go wrong in our brains. People that can't identify others, what they are doing, or even who they are struggle to communicate and find themselves.
This title is quite similar to "The Tell-Tale Brain" by VS Ramachandran, something I recently listened to as well, but not quite as detailed. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" might be a little better for a more casual reader, it has a more narrative, less clinical feel than "The Tell-Tale Brain".
Sometimes I was left wanting a little more detail and follow-up, especially in the cases where Dr Sacks only had one interview/meeting with the patient, and Sacks tends to wax a bit poetic from time to time, but those are truly minor complaints.
The production is excellent, the reader professional, everything fine in that area.
Very highly recommended!
Sam Harris delivers a powerful essay (with some follow-up questions and answers) in this short but powerfully reasoned work.
If, like so many other people, you don't see the harm in "white lies", this might just make you stop and re-consider that position -- I know it did for me.
Trying to be honest, truly honest, is a very scary proposition, but Harris makes a compelling case, illustrating with anecdotes and reason both.
After hearing a story about a family that kept a mother's illness secret from one another, I sat down an talked to my wife about how we would handle any similar situation that might arise in the future. If only for that one story and the result I would give this work the highest recommendation!
There's lots more and it is deep thought that needs reflection, so please don't be put off by the brevity. It's perfectly long enough to lay out the argument for your consideration.
First, let me get the performance aspect out of the way. Some of the other reviews are pretty hard on Mr. Shermer's efforts here at reading his own work. While it's true that the reading is not as good as one done by a more professional reader, it's still perfectly acceptable and doesn't distract.
Now, on to the content!
In the subtitle, Shermer lists the main topics he will touch on: ghosts, gods, politics, and conspiracies. I am familiar with Shermer's work in the excellent book "Why People Believe Weird Things" as well as an occasion article I've read, so I felt like I knew what I was getting into, and I did with 1 minor exception.
I did get what I expected in the ghosts, gods, and conspiracies: a clear approach to understanding and explaining why people believe in such nonsensical flights of fancy, with lots of examples, references to current research and well-thought out arguments. I found the underlying question of "why do people believe in _anything_" quite rich and fascinating, and handled well.
Those are the "3 out of 4 well-covered"...
I was very disappointed in the political treatment. Shermer dropped the ball here in a 2 ways.
For one, Shermer strongly promoted his Libertarian viewpoint. Without getting into the details, if you've ran across Libertarian discourses on the internet (and if you are on a message board of any substantial size, I know you have), you've heard everything Shermer has to say on that political position. I don't think any well-read person will hear anything new here, regardless of what politics you hold.
The larger disappointment, which only makes the Libertarian focus worse, was an over-reliance on putting political discussion into the left-right American political spectrum. Only after a long initial discussion confined to the American left-right spectrum, did we get a few brief sentences on a larger global perspective on politics, and then only to simplify them down into the same American left-right spectrum. There was virtually no consideration given to political thought outside of a strict American perspective.
Badly managed and highly disappointed with the political topic handling, I must say.
However, the rest of the content was quite well done, and even the political stuff was worth listening to, if only to reinforce my own personal theory that there is no such thing as true intellectual or rational commentary possible on modern American politics, from any perspective!
Overall, this is a skeptical book written by a deep thinking skeptic, and if that sort of thing is of interest to you, this is worth a listen.
I think I got this for free, which is great, because it's good enough to listen to, but not good enough to pay for - in my estimation.
This is basically "Brave New World" + "Dilbert", applied in the modern super hi-tech company corporate world, where every action of an employee is monitored, graded, ranked and subject to review.
It's a decent idea and the writing is decent, but the flavor and execution is a bit lacking. I suppose my main problem with the work is that the superficially polite grilling that the main character constantly endures is also wearing on the user -- perhaps it is because (like so many others) I have to listen to such nonsense as part of my job, that I don't want it in my fiction?
I wouldn't recommend this, but that's not because it is bad in and of itself, just because I think there are so many other works that are more worth a recommendation.
Dr Ramachandran delivers a very interesting book with several provoking ideas on exactly how we think, from a physical and neurological viewpoint.
I found the concept and explanatory powers of "mirror neurons" quite fascinating, and would very much be interested in seeing where future research leads in that area.
I also appreciated the Oliver Sacks-like case studies, where strange and weird mental phenomena and behavior was examined and (at least theoretical) explanations were offered.
The production quality is top-notch, save I think the narrator mispronounced two words -- very minor complaint, I know. The reading is otherwise flawless, and captures well both the excitement and thoroughness of Ramachandran's thoughts, as well as the bewilderment, confusion, and personality of the case subjects.
If you are interested in the inner workings of the brain, and what that might tells us in terms of examining mind and consciousness, I highly recommend this book!
It had been a long time since I had originally read "Brave New World", and - as this title came up as a daily deal - I thought I'd take the opportunity to enjoy it once again.
The story is still nearly as fresh and provocative as it was the first time I read it, albeit a bit tempered by the long years of reading and thinking about hosts of other utopian/dystopian societies.
Still, if you're not familiar with this story of an engineered and conditioned society, it offers an interesting perspective on what it means to live a life worth living; and if it's been so long that it is only a faint memory, the theme and delivery still hold up and provide plenty of food for thought (and a fair share of pure entertainment, for that matter).
There are very few mis-steps in the way of anachronistic "future" developments that might slightly distract you from the story, but overall the tale does not feel out-of-date and hold together quite well.
The narration and production is superb, I can only complement the efforts of BBC Audio - the clarity of recording and the voice work come together for an excellent listening experience.
If you are interested in utopian/dystopian speculative fiction, stories that examine what it means to be human and how we might accidentally subvert that, or just interesting "non-hard" SF, I would recommend giving this title a listen.
Apparently this book is based - at least in part - on the author's college class instruction.
It shows - and I mean that in a positive way. The content is laid out cleanly, and has some very interesting "experiments" for the reader to conduct to apply and/or explore the specific chapter contents.
Overall, the effect leans fairly strongly toward a textbook/lecture sort of mix, which I found well-suited to the topic, but some might want a more fluid and "story-like" experience. In contrast, I found some of the stories a bit distracting because at some points I wanted to reference the studies or points the author was making to check if the source material actually upheld the point being made.
Another point to keep in mind is this book is a little better suited for listening to in parts, and not necessarily the entire thing at one time. This is because there are the end-of-chapter experiments, which are fairly simple and interesting, but if you listen to the book without stopping to do the experiments you are missing out on an important part!
(At least I felt that way - I plan to re-visit this text in sections and try out the experiments. On this, my first listening, I just listened to the whole thing)
If you are interested in exploring and better understanding willpower, including how to exercise and develop it, I would certainly recommend this text. Keep in mind the classwork/academic overtones and you will find this a worthwhile investment!
The content is fantastic and vivid, roughly walking us through the start of the universe to our modern understanding of that start, always with a strong astronomical and cosmic perspective.
One of the most fascinating parts to me was fairly early on in the book, when the author described all of the scientific observations and deductions that could be made just by sticking a stick in the ground and observing its shadow!
I also appreciated, in a slightly terrifying way, the breakdown of the various ways the human race might be wiped out due to some space-borne or space-delivered disaster. Tyson shares an extremely provoking thought when he mentions that we as humans may one day be extinct and, upon being examined by some future intelligent species on this planet, wonders how big-brained mammals met the same fate of extinction as the "pea-brained" dinosaurs!
The reader is wonderful, with appropriate emphasis and pacing and the production is top-notch delivering a clear and crisp recording.
Overall, I really enjoyed this and it goes on my "re-listen in the future" list - both because it is such an enjoyable read, but also because there is so much fascinating information that I feel a second (or possibly even third) listen is needed to absorb it all!
If you are interested in matters of mankind progressing in the scientific endeavor, in matters astronomical or cosmological, and especially if you might like to hear how it could all go sideways on us due to the massive forces at work in our universe - I can highly recommend this book!
A "Second Book of the Tao" (the Tao Te Ching being the "First Book of the Tao") is an interesting idea, and I admire Mr. Mitchell for attempting it - unfortunately I find it uneven and to fall a bit short of the mark.
First, let me begin by saying I enjoyed Mitchell's version of the "Tao Te Ching", and I think he is a great reader; smooth and relaxing. I do not want to come across as disparaging his efforts with this work or any other.
Second, I greatly appreciate his use of "he" AND "she" and wish more modern versions would adopt this practice.
Yet, I consider it noteworthy that this text does not offer a new translation, but something that is probably better considered as a synthesis of existing translations. Mitchell has translated from German, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Danish; but his versions of the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Gilgamesh and so forth are not true "translations", but rather -- in Mitchell's own words -- "interpretive versions from existing translations".
I don't hold this out as a major flaw or to dismiss this book - but I do think it is important to understand where the text itself is derived from.
A larger issue for myself -- although I suspect some people may consider this a bonus rather than not is the Commentary following each "verse". There are two problems with the Commentary: it breaks the flow of the "source material" and with all due respect to Mitchell, his Commentary is his understanding and to have it interspersed with the source material detracts because I do not consider it at the same level.
Perhaps it works better as a printed book? I do not mind some versions of similar texts that have a Commentary at the end -- in fact, I enjoy the Commentary then quite a bit.
However, when listening you have Commentary after every single verse (and although it's clear when the Commentary starts, it's easy to miss when it ends) and the length of each Commentary is always(?) longer than the source material, it means there is more Mitchell in the experience than traditional Taoist material.
Finally, I'd like to say the majority of these stories are fairly well-known and, for my money, better handled in the "Zen Speaks" illustrated book series.
I realize this comes across as a very negative review; but overall this book, while an interesting idea, just can't quite live up to its promise, at least not in audio form. That being said, I'm still glad I got it -- I just haven't been able to return to it time and time again like I have been with the Tao Te Ching.
The content is what it is - the traditional sayings of the Buddha. It's excellent and worth listening to over and over. I won't dwell on that - if you know what it is you know what it is and if you don't I encourage you to give it a listen and find out!
On to specific issues with this particular recording:
This translation struck me as very competent, if slightly awkward at a few places, which I think boils down to the use of British English over American English? Nothing major.
The reader is just fine -- except for one minor point -- there is too much sibilance (this is the "hissing S" or "whistling" sound some of the other reviews note).
This is absolutely the audio engineer's fault for not taking steps to deal with this issue in the recording process (called "de-essing"). I have other books with the same reader, and they do not exhibit the same problem. (I also happen to have some experience with audio production, so I know where to lay the blame in this specific case.)
I don't think this renders the end result un-listenable, but it does detract from the experience. The publisher should correct this audio and it would be near-perfect expression of what it attempts to be.
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