This is a very well-written biography that works nicely as an audiobook for those who take some interest in Dewey. Robert Westbrook's biography, John Dewey and American Democracy, is probably more authoritative, but Ryan's book moves along more briskly, is reasonably comprehensive, and is pleasing to listen to. Ryan is British, and it's interesting to hear Dewey discussed in relation to developments in the UK, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, and European thinkers on social democracy. I'm listening to it at the same time as Jonathan Sperber's book on Marx, and although the biographical strategies are very different, the contrast between the two men's lives and thoughts are illuminating.
Summerer's voice is pleasant and his narration is generally unobtrusive, but I can' figure out why no audiobook narrators (or editors) can figure out how to pronounce names like Weber and Foucault. It's jarring. There are a couple of editing errors, like pauses or repetitions, that should be taken care of, but it's not a huge problem.
The villains are basically Disney cartoon characters. The characters like vaguely like 1980s yuppies, using slightly archaic but still anachronistic language. On rare occasions where they express foreign and potentially intriguing ideas, like celibacy or a fear of hell, Follett doesn't have anything interesting for them to say.
There are a few nice plot points, but most every development is telegraphed far in advance. The writing is heavy-handed and makes everything too obvious. There is a warmth to the writing, and several likable characters, and I got about 20 hours in before I realized how bad it was. Now I've got only 4 hours to go.
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