A fresh look at the history of money, credit, and the economy in general. The author questions many of the commonly-held assumption about the nature, and the very existence of "the market", and raises fascinating questions. Some of the issues he discusses are so basic to our thinking, that we rarely think of questioning them. One such point is "one should pay his debts" - but why, exactly? Shouldn't the lender carry some risk, if the debtor fails? What came first, money or credit? Was money really invented to replace systems of barter?
This was truly one of most thought provoking works I've read or listened to in a long time, and I fully recommend it.
A wide-ranging discussion of the various political, cultural and economical events in the middle ages in Europe and the Middle East. I found it very interesting, though sometimes a bit repetitive, and not of terribly clear structure. I bought this since I enjoy history, and realized I know very little about the middle ages.
The performance is reasonable, though the narrator seems to emphasize every second word, with a strong, sometimes distracting, British accent.
But, to me, the more interesting part is - what is this book? It doesn't appear to be the audio version of a written book - I could find no such physical book. This is already peculiar.
When was the text written? Throughout the work, time and again there are references to the middle of the 20th century as the modern times, or the present day. This perhaps shouldn't be surprising - if I'm not misidentifying, the person listed as lead author, Crane Brinton, died in 1968. I couldn't find any information about the other two authors, nor any information about how Brinton is connected to this work (it isn't listed on his bibliography).
Even more strangely, the epilogue is written by yet another person - James Westfall Thompson (identified in the book by his full name, so I'm quite certain of this), who died in 1941. That bit of the book contains a bit about how "Noble families fell into the clutches of Jew money-lenders" ... I guess this was a reasonable sentence to write in the 1930s, or whenever.
So - what's going on? It's not necessarily bad if the text is rather old, but this needs to be properly explained. While the middle ages have been studied for a long time, and I'm not doubting mid-20th century historians' knowledge, surely some advances have been made. New archaeological finds, newly found documents, advanced scientific analysis of old samples, and simply new understanding and thought.
I did find a possible source - Crane, Christopher and Wolff wrote a several-volume tome named "A History of Civilization", published in 1960 or earlier by Prentice Hall. Possibly, this audiobook is Volume 1 of that work, or is at least related to it.
Essentially a horror B-movie in book form. The plot is rather ridiculous, with one absurd occurrence after another, to the point I sometimes rolled my eyes. But it wasn't bad, just silly. If you enjoy silly horror movies, you'll like this.
This is not a complicated book. It's a relatively straight-forward thriller, and is simply loads of fun. The action sequences feel cinematic, are well written and very exciting. Unlike in some novels, our hero, I was glad to hear, is not invincible, and he hurts, bleeds, and needs help from time to time. Not everything is completely realistic, but who cares?
I usually listen to audio-books while doing chores around the house, and I seriously looked forward to doing them, just to hear what happens to our hero next.
I don't have much more to say - it's a fun adventure, and I highly recommend it.
This book provides a broad review of the major energy sources, how they were developed, what is their current status, and the various energy security questions related to them. It appears well researched, and is quite interesting.
Note that the book does not discuss any future sources, or possible technological innovations, but is focused on the past and present of energy.
The performance is, in general, a good one, save for a strange production issue - there's no pause before starting a new chapter, so it's difficult to understand a new chapter is starting, and this is its title.
Essentially, quite like every thriller you've ever read. It's well-written, but the whole "terrorists are planning to harm the US and the only one who can stop them is an agent who doesn't play by the rules" is getting really old. It passes the time, but isn't that exciting. The narrator's great, though.
In this book, Starr expertly weaves the story of turn-of-the-century serial killer Joseph Vacher, with the early heroes of forensic science. The book is simply fascinating, both the tales of Vacher's crimes and the hunt for him, and the various people developing methods in forensics (like how to perform an autopsy, determine a person's height from a few bones, or finding out how long ago a person died). The book is well paced, and the performance of the narrator, Erik Davies, is wonderful.
I truly have nothing negative to say about it - it's great.
This book presents a comprehensive history and analysis of the modern US communications market, from the invention of the telephone, to the internet today. Over and over a monopoly is born, new technology rises and attempts to overthrow it, but often fails, but the monopoly eventually collapses, letting the new kids take over. The role of government in sustaining these monopolies and quashing competition is particularly illuminating, especially considering the free-market ethos so central to US thinking. It's all very interesting, and I feel I learned a lot from it.
Two caveats, though: the narration is merely adequate, and sometimes feels wooden and forced. It didn't seriously bother me, but a better performance would have helped. Second, and this is important to remember, Wu discuss the US market, almost to the exclusion of the rest of the world. When foreign lands do appear, it's usually only because they relate directly to the US market at that point (like a source of imported films in the early 20th century). That's not too bad, as the US was definitely the source of developments in the communications market, but just be aware of this limitation.
All in all, I enjoyed it, and can recommend it if you want to learn more about this field.
The book is essentially a parable of the growth of an economy, and eventually the growth and 20th century crises of the American economy. I can't say that it taught me a lot I didn't already know, but it does provide lots of information in condensed form. The format of a parable helps to clarify the authors' points, however it might also over-simplify, and make it easier to ignore points that might not fit with the authors' viewpoint. The points made do feel over-simplified at-times, and a slightly deeper discussion would have helped.
Their viewpoint, by the way, is quite reasonable - that the idea that consumer spending (fuelled by government-backed cheap credit) can be an engine of economic growth is an absurdity. Economic growth has to be based on actual production. They heavily criticize the US administration's response to the current crisis (throwing more money at the market, and pushing even more cheap credit - that caused the crisis in the first place). The essence of their argument is that the heavy government meddling in the market is at-least partially responsible for the meltdown, and that their response prevents the market from healing - the companies/people who made foolish choices, like trying to "flip" investment homes, should pay the price, instead of transferring their mistakes to all tax-payers.
Even if you don't fully agree with their analysis, this is an enjoyable listen, and I recommend it.
Midler worked as a consultant to firms, mostly American, wanting to manufacture in China, and served as a translator/mediator/man-on-the-ground for his American employers. As such he often discovered the ways the Chinese factory owners play various quality games to increase their profits, regardless of contracts, previous understanding, or even what we view as basic safety and quality standards.
His book provides a fascinating view into what goes on in such factories, and the different point-of-view the Chinese manufacturers have of things, both economic and cultural, which make dialogue often difficult and frustrating.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which was very ably read by Midler himself (a reasonable choice, as he often mentions and explains Chinese words and phrases).
I found only two issues with this book - first, the points he makes are sometimes repetitive, making the same observation twice or more. Some judicious editing would have removed these instances. Second, being mostly a collection of different experiences, the book feels disjointed at times. Though every tale serves a purpose, and Midler ties them together reasonably well, it doesn't feel continuous enough.
These points are minor, though, and did not seriously affect my enjoyment of this enlightening work.
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