This book is a useful and interesting dive into what makes the 4% of humans with no conscience tick. Martha Stout is refreshingly gimlet-eyed over sociopaths, not sympathetic towards them, and focuses the book on how normal people of conscience can protect themselves from these people. She also includes some interesting perspectives about what in American culture might empower sociopaths where they could be muted in some non-Western cultures. Interesting and not overly long. Competent narrator.
A comprehensive, evidence-based case against the corrupt (and certainly violent and probably sociopathic) leader of Scientology. And a compassionate, empathetic look at the motivations of ordinary Scientologist. The author makes a well supported case that most Scientologists are good people following their religious beliefs. Many of them, especially those involved with Seaorg, are certainly exploited and probably abused. The founder, L. Ron Hubbard comes across as a sincere yet disturbed charlatan. The current leader, David Miscavage, has a dark and corrupt history full of and manipulation. control of the organization is troubling. It is also deeply troubling how many celebrities in Hollywood refuse to take a critical look at this organization.
The narration is competent and understandable but monotone in the extreme making the data heavy narrative sometimes slow going.
For people who don't have a strong science background, but do believe in evolution and natural selection - the next time some fan of Fox News tells you with great confidence that "Darwin's Theory of Evolution was just a theory. It hasn't been proven," you can whip this book out of your backpack and beat them with it.
Completely accessible, written with a strong narrative arc that keeps you turning pages, Weiner has created a compelling work of popular science. He summarizes, in layman's terms, some of the great field research projects that usually scientists only talk about to each other. Projects where natural selection, sexual selection and hybridization have been observed to change species within the span of human observation. That's right, folks, proof after proof of evolution in various ways - theory no longer.
Weiner then goes on to relate these proofs to other touchstones in our lives - drug-resistant viruses, catastrophic weather events.
This is a darn good read as well as being a sensible antidote to the anti-science wave of foolishness sweeping the U.S.
This book is dreadful. Which is tragic, because Amy Poehler is a comic genius. For years she was the cornerstone strongest cast member during SNL's heyday of strong women. Smart, fearless and physical - because she was talented and had honed her craft through a decade of improv training and work.
What is unfortunate about this book is that she has not honed her craft as a book author, so this book is a random string of chronological resume updates, lists of famous people she knows because they are "talented," or "kind," and occasionally funny observations that are far too brief. Highlights include the profane rants (I listened to the audio version by Amy), guest audio cameos by Patrick Stewart and Carol Burnett, and a very witty list of books divorced people would hypothetically write. These together are less than a few hundred words.
Low points include an apology to a disabled activist that drones/drags on and on and on in a weirdly self-congratulatory shame spiral, and expressing her admiration for Tina Fey by listing boring things that each start with a letter in her name. Poehler calls this "lazy writing," which is really a promotion. There was also an overly long list of episode briefs from Parks and Recreation which was excruciating.
I had to quit reading about 2/3 through - without the stage and the physical, exuberant performances for which she is deservedly famous, Poehler has no way to "show," only to "tell." People should not write a book unless they have a) something they are compelled to say (which Poehler does far better through performance) and b) are willing to spend time on the craft of book writing and c) have an editor that doesn't let them get away with this shit.
This is one clever author. King creates a claustrophobic, small world in the vast tropical miasma of New Guinea. Andrew Bangston, whose loneliness is almost a fourth character in itself; brilliant and driven Nell Stone; Nell's lout of a husband Fen - these anthropologists are really the only three characters as the rest are set pieces and background.
King does a great job capturing the arrogance and indeed racism of early 20th C anthropologists - you do wonder what their subjects thought when these frail people plopped themselves into a village that had been peacefully minding its own business. Each anthropologists' approach is shaped by their own demons and biases, and the relationship between the three is glued together by Bangston's desparate loneliness.
The ending snuck up on me, which I appreciated. King had a way of making the reader think the book was about one thing, when it was really about something else.
This is a beautiful book, and its audio version is very well-produced with excellent readers. An excellent narrative about the limits on upper-class white American women in the 19th century. Kidd portrays some of the challenges of female house slaves well, but overall I found their situation to be understated. The strange intimacy between a slave and her mistress, given their parallel lives since childhood, was handled with sensitivity.
My favorite character was Handful's mother, Charlotte, who found ways to retain her personhood and voice even when she was so limited by the boundaries of slavery.
About three-quarters of the way through the book, I began to wonder if this was a fictionalized account of a real family, and sure enough, Sarah Grimke is a famous early abolitionist and campaigner for women's rights. Kidd does a great job peeling back the layers of her childhood to illuminate the kinds of limiting circumstances for women that could create this kind of an activist.
If you love clothes and have a keening interest in the vintage construction and luxe fabrics of times gone by, you will love this book. If clothes are not interesting to you, this book will bore you in places. Betty Halbreich's past is not heroic or triumphant - it is the story of a wealthy girl growing up during a time when little was expected of women except to look decorative, create a well-run, comfortable home, and spend their husband's earnings to do it. Intelligent, creative or ambitious women paid a high price for that comfortable nest - little was expected of them, and their sense of self was defined for them. Betty Halbreich's passion for fashion and style probably kept her from going bonkers in the process. Other reviewers might judge her harshly by today's parenting or partnering standards, but that's simply not fair - the social fabric was completely different then and womens' ability to imagine an alternative path was constricted by forces outside their control. The second half of her life, she built a path for herself at Bergdorf Goodman's - and while the reader might roll their eyes about some of her clients' pampered lives, her approach to building a stronger self through style is human and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and Betty - and mmmmmm the clothes, too.
The Aubrey/Maturin series is, as a body of work, the greatest set of novels in the English language. Post Captain is one of the best.
Post Captain introduces both the ladies' auxilary of the series, with fierce Diana and beautiful Sophie, and also shows us the hilarious social commentary of the Austen-loving O'Brian at his best. There is plenty of war action - Jack and Stephen are on a number of ships - and a harrowing, wonderful trek across the Pyrenees with Jack disguised as a bear, ending in a visit to Stephen's castle. (This is a real castle - I have seen it.)
And it introduces us to Stephen's identities as a natural historian and intelligence agent, that give so much color to the books over time.
If you consume these auditorially, accept no substitutions for Patrick Tull as narrator. He is magnificent.
The Aubrey/Maturin novels, as a body of work, are the greatest novels in the English language.
This, the first in the 20-book series, is very good. We meet Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, before they have money, at the beginning of their careers, with uncertain prospects, learning about each other. We are introduced to most of the man-of-war's men that we will come to know over many books - Pullings, Mowatt, Babbington, Bonden, Killick. We find out Jack's a lady's man and that both Jack and Stephen love music.
This novel has a greater emphasis on the wartime operations of the royal navy and battles at sea than the rest of the novels, which is to be expected as Jack and Stephen are only getting started.
The books are even better when consumed audibly - but ONLY the versions narrated by Patrick Tull - accept no substitutions for the magnificent Tull. Tull is MAGNIFICENT.
Tana French can write. She plots well, gets inside her characters' heads, brings the reader along, moves the pace quickly without leaving us behind, and manages to weave in modern social commentary and personal anchors around her characters along the way.
The narrator here does a great job with Cassie Maddox's interior voice.
The Likeness picks up six months or so after In the Woods, with a different character (Cassie Maddox - the partner of the protagonist in In the Woods). One of French's strengths is her ability to write each of these Dublin Murder Squad books from the perspective of a different, yet related, character. Here she's a female, and her female voice is as strong and authentic as her male voices in the third and fourth novels.
A specialty of this book is the in-depth journey French takes us into undercover work - how detectives prepare for a role, maintain cover, manage the boundaries between their persona and reality, etc.
The "family" of characters Cassie Maddox enters is well-drawn, and because she is under cover as the murder victim, gives the reader a unique view into a dead person's perspective.
Whoever thought playing loud, discordant music that drowns out the sound of the reading of TS Eliot's "Hollow Men" was a good idea is an IDIOT. The poetry, of course, is the reason you download this - and you can't even HEAR it over the discordant cacophony of "music." And - uh - poetry has its own meter, so overlaying other soundtracks over it makes it pretty difficult to absorb the original work. I exercised Audible's refund option.
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