Professor Drout already had an earlier lecture series ("Rings, Swords, and Monsters") that focused largely on Tolkien; do we really need another one? In my opinion, after listening to both of them, the answer is a definite yes. Drout has enough to say about Tolkien that he isn't just repeating himself here (plus, this newer series gives him a chance to comment on the Peter Jackson movies). And, as in all his lectures, Professor Drout is a joy to listen to, lecturing with plenty of enthusiasm, expertise, insight, and humor.
This "class" is a bit more advanced, so start with the earlier series if you haven't already listened to that one, especially if you're not a die-hard Tolkien enthusiast. But if you're the kind of person who can't get enough discussion of Tolkien, don't hesitate to get this lecture series.
A while back, I tried to read this book for myself, but after the first couple of chapters I just wasn't getting into it, and so I gave up on it.
But then the audiobook showed up here on sale, I listened to the sample, and on the strength of Wil Wheaton's performance, I bought, listened to, and loved the audiobook.
The book is told from the first-person point of view of a Hollywood agent, not the kind of person I would have expected to be able to relate to, but Wheaton makes this character (and others) likable, sympathetic, and relatable. And he brings out the humor in the book, which wasn't really working for me in the print version. This is a funny book, but it's not played just for laughs: there's a serious alien-first-contact story here, with characters you can care about.
If you've heard any of Drout's other lecture series, or even just read their customer reviews, you know that Drout is one of the best lecturers available on Audible. In my opinion, this series is every bit as good as his others, both in content and presentation. Drout is, as always, engaging, erudite, thought-provoking, and funny. Maybe the subject matter doesn't have as broad an appeal, but if you're actually interested in a discussion, defense, or critique of the liberal arts, this is a good one.
In case it needs to be said, pay attention to the subtitle and the description, not just the title. Here's a description of the eight individual lectures:
Lecture 1: Where the Liberal Arts came from. Lecture 2: How the sciences split off from the liberal arts. Lecture 3: The liberal arts as "the tools to rule." Lecture 4: Can the liberal arts make you a better person? Lecture 5: The best reasons for studying the liberal arts: Solving complex problems, and preserving and transmitting culture. Lecture 6: Case study: Beowulf. Lecture 7: What's wrong with the liberal arts, and how to fix it. Lecture 8: Answering the critics of the liberal arts.
As the title indicates, this lecture series mainly focuses on C. S. Lewis's fiction (the Chronicles of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces), though Professor Shutt does spend some time discussing C. S. Lewis's life and his non-fictional writings. Shutt assumes you've read the books he's discussing (at one point in one of the lectures, he says "You've read the book; what do you think?"), and you'll get the most out of the lectures if you're familiar with Lewis's books; but even if there are some you haven't read, or haven't read in a long time, the lectures are still worth listening to.
I found these lectures to be consistently interesting and insightful, and they left me with new appreciation for C. S. Lewis. Shutt is knowledgeable, not only about Lewis's own writings, but about the literary background that Lewis himself loved and was influenced by. Shutt comes across as an appreciator of Lewis, but not an uncritical, gushing fanboy. He doesn't hesitate to talk about what he or others have found flawed or unsuccessful in Lewis's writings in addition to talking about the things Lewis did particularly well. And Shutt doesn't shy away from talking about Lewis's Christian faith and its influence on his writing, but in a way that neither Christian nor nonchristian listeners should find off-putting.
This is a series of western audio dramas, in the style of the Old Time Radio dramas from the "golden age of radio." Unfortunately, it suffers in comparison with the best of the classic radio dramas. The sound and production quality are just fine, but the writing and voice acting occasionally struck me as distinctly amateurish (especially in the case of a few of the guest actors), to an extent that made it hard for me to suspend disbelief and lose myself in the story.
Earlier episodes seemed juvenile, focused around the young Chad McMasters, and some of them didn't have much action. Later episodes became "grittier" and more violent (though still not unsuitable for any but the most sensitive of young listeners).
My review only refers to this first "season"; I see there are others available, and if the show finds its feet they may be worth listening to, but this is the only set I've heard as of now.
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