Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone is the compelling story about the U.S. occupation in Iraq and the culture of inexperience, arrogance, and cronyism within the U.S. Green Zone. My previous impression of the Iraq war was that U.S. officials were well-meaning but sometimes misguided and the U.S. media portrayed a sugar-coated view rather than the reality of life on the ground. Listening to this audiobook, I felt shocked by just how much worse the situation had been than I'd previously realized. I found Imperial Life in the Emerald City so enlightening and informative that I didn't want to take a break from listening.
Ray Porter's narration more than does justice to Rajiv Chandrasekaran's story. This audiobook felt like listening to a fascinating novel rather than a nonfiction account by a newspaper journalist... the story and narration are powerful and engaging. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone who wants to better understand the "story behind the story" of the U.S. in 2003-2004 Iraq.
Oh, I loved this audiobook... a great combination of interesting (and sometimes strange) science facts and xkcd-flavored humor. My only complaint: It ended too soon. Highly recommended.
Until I listened to "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," Stephen King's "On Writing" was my favorite nonfiction memoir-like book by a novelist. Both books are a rare treat, peeling back the veil on the novelist's mind to reveal something of their daily life and motivation for writing. While a significant portion of Murakami's book is indeed focused on running and his thoughts during his runs (which are usually quite philosophical), he also shares experiences from his stay in Cambridge MA, his earlier career as a tavern owner, his search for a swim coach, and how he runs in order to do his "day job" more effectively. I found this book absolutely fascinating and like King's "On Writing," it gave me a greater appreciation for Murakami as a writer. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I received this audiobook in return for an honest review
Take one professional sports star, a cheating wife, an old school cop, an ambitious district attorney, a late night shooting and what do you get? Those characters and that scenario form the foundation of R. C. O'Leary's Hallways in the Night. Just when you think you know what happened, the story unfolds yet again and you realize everything you thought was true and certain, wasn't. What initially seems straightforward is later found to be multi-faceted and complex. I wasn't sure how the story would end and didn't want to put it down. The narration adds wonderful nuance and ambience to the story. I was impressed by the variety of accents voiced by Mr. Cohen and their authenticity. This was a very interesting listen and I recommend it anyone who enjoys crime / legal thrillers.
A very interesting read about that familiar yet alien place within our bodies: The alimentary canal. Mary Roach examines the alimentary canal from food intake to, well, output. Ms. Roach writes like she's sharing a story with a friend, and I found this to be a fascinating listen. One warning: You may not want to listen to this book (about what happens to your food) while eating... my reaction to some facts was a combination of wow, interesting and ew, gross! Recommended.
Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the editor/narrator in return for an honest review
This fascinating book follows H.G. Selfridge's ascent from a low-level Marshall Fields employee in Chicago, to managing partner, to owner of Selfridges Department Stores in the U.K. While the establishment of Selfridges Department Store was heralded by at least one U.K. newspaper as "The American Invasion," Selfridge sought to ensure that his store never misled customers in order to make a sale and helped lead the way for equal employment by hiring women when men were called to serve in World War I and then pronouncing that, in many cases, women performed the jobs even more effectively than their male predecessors.
I was originally interested in this book because I find Mr. Selfridge a compelling character. However, as I listened, I realized this compilation of articles provides a unique and educational history of business in the early 1900s, and that H. G. Selfridge was as much an innovator in the world of business as Google is today. This isn't a long audiobook but is a fascinating peek into business and historical events that helped shape modern retailing and advertising. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the publisher.
First, a confession: I'm normally not a novella/short story fan. I like my audiobooks long and meaty ;-) But when offered an opportunity to listen to a futuristic sci-fi novella narrated by the very talented Simon Vance, I couldn't pass it up!
This audiobook is just under three hours long. The story itself is very interesting and once I started listening, I didn't want to stop. It takes place in the not-so-distant future and focuses on protagonists Joe and Mary and their subsequent adventure. The book walks through their day to day life in detail, and describes not yet invented technologies and capabilities in a way that made me wish I was there. I felt the same kind of wonder I used to experience as a kid watching The Jetsons or Apollo launches. Kirby's story reminds one of the promise of the future and its technology.
Simon Vance's narration is, as always, top notch. He voices the various characters in a way that made me forget there was just one narrator! He brought a light tone and the perfect cadence: Vance and this sci-fi adventure story make a great pair. Recommended.
When I learned that Michael Moss wrote this book based on a food industry insider suggestion that he research how the industry uses salt, sugar, and fat, I knew I had to read it. This book lays open an insider view of the food business, and feels (in a good way) like a cross between a nutrition guide, a business book, and a marketing tips/tricks white paper. There is so much interesting detail outlined that it's impossible to do it justice in a brief review... Moss leaves no stone unturned and no "sacred cow" unexamined. He looks at how foods that are inherently unhealthy (e.g., fruit flavored yogurt, which is loaded with sugar) are marketed as health foods, and how salt, sugar, and fat are often used for their nearly addictive qualities, in addition to the more mundane task of preserving shelf life. He cites examples of when food companies attempt to make healthier versions of certain foods, they suffer because their competitors seize upon the formula change to grab market share.
Perhaps the most interesting element of the book is how the insiders Moss interviewed generally don't eat the food their companies sell (viewing it as unhealthy). He also traces the experience of insiders who experienced a "crisis of conscience" about how their companies' products affect public health. Moss doesn't condemn the food industry insiders for the choices they make (that negatively impact public health) but rather notes they're largely trying to do what they feel is best for their company in the competitive market place and preserving the company's bottom line.
I listened to the audio version of this book. Narrator Scott Brick struck the perfect tone throughout, making this a fun and fascinating listen. I'd rate this in the top three of any audiobook I've ever read, it's that good. Whether you're interested in nutrition, public health, business, or marketing, this is a must listen/read. Very highly recommended.
This profoundly beautiful story traces the changes in a middle-aged couple's lives after the husband sustains a traumatic brain injury... because he cannot remember his life before, his wife Abigail (author and narrator) reaches across and joins him in his new world. Following her husband's accident (he was tragically hit by a car while out walking the dog), Abigail begins to live alone with their dogs while her husband lives in an assisted living facility where she visits him frequently.
Rather than retrace the story from the point of the accident, the book meanders across time, events, and locations in a way that feels natural and sincere. The story's progression reminded me of how one's thoughts wander during the grieving process, and how a single seemingly unrelated thought will remind one of cherished memories of an event that occurred "before." This is a love story in the truest sense in the way that Abigail's life before is irretrievably lost: She must summon the strength both to rebuild her own life and to be a source of strength to her husband.
Although Abigail's tone is light and matter of fact during most of the book, there were passages I found so moving that I teared up. Having had a loved one who experienced traumatic brain injury, the conversations Abigail describes with her husband felt familiar, as did her kindness in not correcting her husband when he thought they were on vacation when just driving around town or any other number of ways. She showed her love by reaching across and allowing her husband to be who he'd become after the accident, rather than reminding him of what he (and she) had lost.
I found this book intensely moving. There is no "eureka" moment of enlightenment, but rather the day-to-day experience of accepting life and loved ones for what they are rather than what could be. Highly recommended.
Whenever I've seen videos of U.S. troops interviewing local residents in Iraq or Afghanistan, they're usually aided by an interpreter. And so I've wondered... what is the interpreter's perspective? Code Name: Johnny Walker answers that question from the perspective of an Iraqi man who accompanied U.S. Seal teams as they searched for targets. His role was part negotiator, part investigator, and part diplomat. I came away from this book with a deep respect for "Johnny Walker" (the author's pseudonym), his skills, and his commitment to keeping his U.S. military colleagues and Iraqi residents safe. He's clearly a very intelligent man and based on mission details recounted in the book, his contribution to these U.S. military missions was invaluable. He also shares his perspective on the possibility of emigrating from Iraq to the U.S., which I found very interesting and touching.
Peter Ganim's narration was excellent -- this audiobook felt completely enveloping. It's one of those audiobooks where the story is paired with pitch perfect narration, and it feels more like a friend recounting an interesting story than someone simply narrating a book. I found this audiobook fascinating and recommend it.
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