This book got some bad reviews here, but I can't see why. The narrator was a champion storyteller and every word was clear. It's about an interesting time in American history, humorously told as the autobiography of a steamboat pilot.
This may sound trite and corny, but I've believed since childhood that truth is good and falsity will inevitably lead to something bad. This book deals with how we can know the difference between truth and falsity.
It weaves together, and extracts the essence of, diverse subjects such as philosophy, politics, mathematics, and science. It also gave another nudge to my understanding of quantum mechanics by explaining it using intuitive thought experiments.
The narrator was so convincing that it sounded as though he had written the book himself.
The imagined story of Socrates and his friends was very clever.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wonders where human knowledge may lead.
It amazes me that some reviewers didn't like the narrator. I thought he was over-the-top great. At one point in the story, he flawlessly imitated the voices of seven different characters in rapid conversation. Warning: this book is a marathon listen, but well worth the time. A mainly Christian worldview, with a little antisemitism thrown in at the end, typical for the time it was written, but a great story, nonetheless.
I found this audiobook to be very entertaining, packed with so much information that I'll have to listen to it several times. The narrator was so well prepared that he sounded like he might have been the author. If you love science, you've got to love this book, because Susskind interweaves the work of scientists old and new. If you're religious, you might feel offended by Susskind's up-front atheism, but I found it refreshing.
The audio sample sounded good, and I thought the book would have current research in microbiology. Instead, it contains unfounded and improbable speculations, such as how cells can get "negative vibes" from interference patterns that cancel each other out and how the brain is a fractal (while disavowing any New Age influence). There are a couple of useful analogies and insights in the book, but mostly the author talks about how wrong Newton and Darwin were, and tries to revive the theories of Lamarck. I was waiting for an explanation of how a cell's environment could modify that cell's DNA, but that answer slipped away in a barrage of hand-waving about gene regulation. The author told a personal story about how everyone left the room while he was giving a lecture. Had I been there, I would have led the pack.
These lessons were prepared with a great amount of care, pedagogical skill, and professionalism. Both male and female Italian speakers are used. The narrator, or instructor, has a soothing, friendly voice. The lessons are meticulously graded so that you move from easy material to more difficult. As you progress, you can simply omit the early lessons. This is impossible to do with "phrase lists", such as the Learn in Your Car courses.
These courses are a perfect way to learn while commuting or working out in the gym. My only complaint is that Audible.com doesn't sell the complete courses. It was a waste of money to duplicate these first 8 lessons when I bought the complete 30 lesson course (from another vendor).
The problem with ordinary language audio courses like this is that they don't keep you at the level where learning is optimal. They go too fast or too slow. The stuff you've already learned is boring, but it's mixed in with other phrases that are too hard. You have to memorize lists of words out of context, without pronunciation checks or memory aids or explanations. Even the speaker seems bored. If your purchase criterion is the largest number of vocabulary words you can get in the shortest amount of time, then this is the course for you.
But if you want to really learn Italian, don't waste your money on this. Pimsleur is incredibly better: professionally done, interesting, even enjoyable. Unfortunately, Audible.com only sells the first 8 lessons of Pimsleur Italian. Once you've used up those lessons, you'll want the 30-lesson level 1 course, which repeats those first 8 lessons. The first 8 lessons get you to the restaurant, but all you can order is beer and wine. If you don't want to starve, I recommend getting the full Pimsleur course.
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