In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa.
Yet because of shifting politics, European preconceptions about Africa, and his own thorny personality, Barth has been almost forgotten. The general public has never heard of him, his epic journey, or his still-pertinent observations about Africa and Islam; and his monumental five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is rare even in libraries. Though he made his journey for the British government, he has never had a biography in English. Barth and his achievements have fallen through a crack in history.
The Antidote starts off by talking about the positive thinking movement, moves on to Seneca and the Stoics then dips into Buddhist meditation, pauses to to criticize goal setting then stops in for a visit with Eckhart Tolle. Burkeman then writes about how we overvalue safety and undervalue failure then ends with a chapter on how we approach death, including an interesting visit to Mexico on the Day of the Dead.
Every chapter is well written and provides sufficient insight into each of the various subjects the book touches on. In the end, it's all pulled together nicely and makes a good case for finding peace and happiness by focusing on being okay with life as it is rather than constantly worrying about what it could be or should be. It's a good introduction to alternatives to positive thinking, but The Antidote never goes deep enough into any one subject to make it a memorable book or one that is worth re-reading.
This was the first thing I’ve read that goes into any detail on the situation of the nuclear situation in the US and the world. Wow. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to know so much about missiles and warheads and what it takes to keep them secret and secure, but after I started realizing the scope of what could have gone wrong during the heights of the Cold War the information quickly went from being academic to something much more real.
The number of accidents involving nuclear warheads is surprisingly high. The internal politics revolving around how these weapons should be used are maddening. The scope of the destruction that would have ensued had the Cold War master plan ever been carried out is literally insane. The fact that so many nations to this day have the power to cause that type of destruction makes the relatively stable state of the world seem tenuous to say the least.
Command and Conquer starts off slow, but quickly becomes an engrossing freakshow of the insanity of the Cold War and the truly awful power of the superpowers
There's a ton here. The first half of the book covers a lot that's pretty well discussed elsewhere, but in the second half, Ramachandran just explodes into a huge fireball of ideas that are expansive not only in their reach but are also impressive in their novelty and creativity. You get the feeling that the only thing keeping him back is time. It's definitely not a lack of important questions and well-designed experiments.
I especially liked his discussion of art and aesthetics and his speculations on why we like abstract art and what makes some art almost irresistible to the human brain. He comes to it with a refreshingly different perspective due to his Indian background. He's unwaveringly scientific, but seems to have a much greater pool of examples to draw from due to the vast cultural landscape India offers. A lot of the book is speculative, but the speculation isn't far-fetched, certainly nowhere near as speculative as most of what today's physicists write about, and he clearly indicates what's solid and what's remains to be tested, often suggesting experiments for others to try.
Very engaging. The stories of how St. Petersburg, Bombay, Dubai and Shanghai came to be what they are today are complex. At times they're inspirational, a testament to the power that one person's vision can have to influence a huge number of people, but just as often, the history of these cities are cautionary tales of what happens when idealism trumps pragmatism and power is concentrated too narrowly. Well worth the read.
Before reading Flash Boys, I was only marginally aware of High Frequency Trading and had only a vague notion of what it was. Michael Lewis sheds a lot of light on how it works and who it benefits (hint: not you) and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was in the dark. HFT is usually portrayed as being a net win for the markets because it provides liquidity. That turns out to be far from the truth. Not only is the liquidity provided by HFT a false liquidity that benefits no one, it turns out it’s just a way to take advantage of having faster access to market data to essentially skim from “normal” market activity. It’s guys with faster connections and privileged access to market data taking your money when you trade while providing you zero benefit whatsoever in return.
You pretty much have to have faith that based on his reputation, Lewis is getting his facts straight since it obviously behooves the HFT traders to obfuscate what they’re doing. If he’s getting it right though, then there’s a lot of crap going down that should shake your faith in the good intentions of majority of stock brokers. Fortunately there is a hint of optimism throughout the book and signs that things are changing, but the situation he describes so well is very much still happening today.
Yes, the narration is unacceptable. I have nothing against Jeannie Berlin, I'm sure that her acting career is fine and apparently Pynchon approves of her since she's going to be Aunt Reet in the upcoming Inherent Vice movie. Unfortunately though, her performance in this audiobook is, to put it mildly, sub-par.
I feel like there must be some secret to why she was picked, some conspiracy or personal connection or something shady and deep that ties in with the plot of the book. If it's there though, I didn't figure it out. I've listened to a lot of books where you eventually get used to a narrator that might first strike you as someone whose voice didn't work for the story. In this case, that point where the narration faded into the background and the story became the focus never materialized.
The reading is slow, each word is awkwardly punctuated. There is a distinct lack of differentiation between the voices of each of the characters, men sound like women and young characters sound old. This isn't inherent to the age and sex of the narrator, other older narrators like Frederick Davidson handle this just fine. Apart from that, there are numerous mispronounced words and misplaced accents.
So yes, this review is just a review of the performance. The book is great, it's just difficult to imagine re-listening to it or recommending anyone purchase with the narration as it is.
There is no evidence of the hyper-imaginative storyteller and world-builder that wrote Harry Potter, but The Cuckoo's Calling is a solid detective novel. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's not nearly as memorable or as deep as other Stephenson books, but it's entertaining. The characters are fairly flat, but the story moves quick and the settings are interesting. It's worth a read.
It took me awhile to warm up to this book. For the first hour or two I seriously considered quitting it but I'm glad I didn't. It gets more and more beautiful and more tragic with every chapter. The symbolism and metaphors build on themselves and the descriptions flow smoothly into plot. The literary references (the ones I actually caught) are fun and add another layer of meaning to the story. By the end I was sitting in my driveway long after arriving home entranced with the story. Stick out the beginning, it's worth it!
The narration was great except that the Lee's Spanish pronunciation leaves a *lot* to be desired. Understanding the bits that are in Spanish isn't key to understanding the book but I found it distracting to hear the pretty blatant mistakes. Other than that though, it's a really, really well-done production.
How can one man understand so much about human nature and portray it so vividly and so beautifully? Tolstoy seems to have lived a thousand lives. Whether he is telling the thoughts of a mother as she gives birth, the reasoning's of a man who is trying to find meaning in the conflicting worlds of science and religion, the anxious feelings of young lovers or, amusingly, the thoughts of a dog as it runs through the woods chasing birds in a hunt, the descriptions flow so effortlessly and incisively that I found myself laughing and crying and with goosebumps over and over as I listened.
There is never a sense of hurry in the story--that the best way to read it was to enjoy the prose and let the plot unfold in its slow, meandering way without expecting it or anticipating it. It's a book that should be enjoyed with leisure and pondered over time.
Regarding the audio adaptation--the narration is among the best I've ever heard.
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