san diego, CA, United States | Member Since 2008
This was the book that made Paul famous. It isn't as long as the newer Ghost Train To The Eastern Star, which is also a revisit of this classic Paul Theroux. The description evoke vivid imagery throughout the fast paced trip. The narrator, however was a bit too fast paced. I would have been happier had he slowed down long enough for me to digest Paul's descriptive writing. I have taken the trains in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka. All are as dilapidated as Paul says they are, but they are cheap, slow and comfortable. A few of the Chinese trains are very sleek and clean now. The characters are what made these train books so great. I have to wonder if some of them aren't fictional. I met a few interesting people on the trains, but it was mostly traveling salesmen in China. I can speak fairly well, so interacting with the locals is what the train adventure is all about.
Gavin Menzies has illuminated us with an alternate history of the world that is backed up by his extensive research. I still had to feel that whatever books were shared with the Europeans had to have been in Chinese,so without good translators I find it a bit hard to believe that the Italians could have simply copied many designs from the Chinese and set off the Renaissance in Europe. Maybe Michael Angelo was simply a talented artist who set about taking these ancient texts and vividly improving the quality of the pictures within. Much like 1421, I think this book might be one best read and so when I have some time I will check out both from the library and have a good look at the pictures provided. The maps and artifacts demand visual representation that an audiobook simply can't provide. This was an entertaining book and was well narrated by Simon Vance, who has an excellent British accent. Maybe Audible could provide us with a PDF of these photos to further enhance our understanding of what could be a very clear and significantly different history from what we learned in school. Some other good histories were provided by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel and a pair of books called 1491 and 1493, which also challenge the dogma we have been presented.
This is a global trip that takes us first to England, then to India and finally America. All the while sowing the seeds of why coal came to be used so frequently and why we would not be enjoying the use of our computers, wearing our colorful clothes or simply being fat and satisfied. This is the history of Industrialization itself. It made me realize that bigger countries or countries with the right resources have an unfair advantage. Coal is not the cleanest of fuels, but it is cheap and abundant in some places and after the English cut down trees to build house and simply keep warm they needed an alternate source of heat. Perhaps America became such a revered place after the discovery of what coal could do for it. A combination of things occurred to position the country for greatness. Coal was certainly the fuel for that abundance.
This is a good overview of China and I often think of some of the words when I am walking around here now. The one that most comes to mind is disparity. I see the construction workers and cleaners who lead a hard scrabble life working all day and often sharing squalid dormitories at night, where they play cards and sit around simply constructed tables with stools playing cards or eating. This is in sharp contrast to the so called middle class guy that now has a car, an apartment, built by one of the hard working migrants mentioned above and all the trapping of success we have come to associate with a decent life.In all fairness, I live near Shanghai, so my perspective is perhaps a bit too optimistic. There are plenty of other provinces where this disparity is greater and the infrastructure isn't as modern as where I am based. Yu Hua gives us a great overview in this brief account of a large and complex country that is hurtling towards modernity. I especially liked his account of how he learned to be a dentist. A profession he took up after high school. He describes in poignant detail how a veteran dentist showed him how to extract teeth and then had him copycat the process after having only watched two times. He was nervous and couldn't even look the patient in the eye. The book is by no means an exhaustive work, but it was entertaining and provoked some better understanding of a place I have been in for nearly 5 years. Chinese people are not usually so forthcoming and so it can be a place that seems barbarous and even bizarre at times. It is always interesting and many times shocking and surprising to simply observe life in China.
We are introduced to a number of species and what led to their demise. It seems mostly big and slow to reproduce animals are doomed in man's world. We shot the great Auk, killed off the elephant from its once great number of 10 million to its now endangered level of 500 k and even things like the ocean have been altered by coral bleaching and ocean warming trends. I thought it was interesting that corals not only reproduce but also form shelters for smaller creatures. Man destroys the earth and sometimes even kills one another. This book and several others have convinced me that science is not always good for the earth. It is only good for man. The book is basically divided into chapters based on various extinct species and sums things up by helping us realize that we too may become extinct one day if we aren't good stewards to the animals, environment and one another. The reader was well paced and clear.I also liked The Ragged Edge of The World and anything written by Jared Diamond seems to also raise and awareness of how irresponsible we are being towards the world we live in.
This was a great listen. The author starts out with the history of trains in England and moves on to take trains in India, China, Russia, Spain and yes even in America. All along the way he tells us why this is such a wonderful way to travel despite being slower than planes or buses at times. We learn that the federal government could have supported trains, but instead opted for roads, so now America is car dependent. We learn that Chicago was once the stop for pork and Texas the stop for beef. This hasn't changed much, since airline travel across the U.S. typically has us stopping in one of these cities before touching down where we intended to. I especially liked the part about India. A place where they have had a hard time maintaining the tracks, but the prices remain low and the system is still heavily used. Ghandi was one to complain about the industrial revolution and we come to realize that trains are still vital to today's movement of goods. People just don't seem to have the time to take a train. I always thought that technology would make life easier, but instead we are working more than ever. Maybe Ghandi was right and a return to a simpler life without so much virtual interference might benefit everyone including the planet itself. The reader was very enthusiastic and seemed very professional and it really was a great compliment to a story we should all understand. It was the first way that large numbers of people were moved from one place to another. It can help us understand what the future holds.
Orphan has got to be the most popular author in Turkey right now. His books are piled up everywhere.It was hard for me to relate to his spoon fed life, but the story of his first love was poignant and his decision to become a writer even though his parents had him enrolled to be an architect was also very interesting. The book jumps all over the place chronologically and there is an awful lot about French writers who came to sum up Istanbul after only very short visits. Orhan describes the city as black and white and melancholy. These seem to be right on point and I tried to look at some of the dilapidated buildings that sit often nearby the fantastic mosques that are ubiquitous here. There are lots of small neighborhoods with steep winding streets to explore. The place is surrounded by sea and teems with vitality.This was really a biography and we learn about Orhan's childhood and sibling rivalries and a great deal about his personal life. I wonder what a book exploring places like Anatolia would read like. In the end, Istanbul appears different than other cities. There is a reverence for the past, but there is the same desperate passion to get rich quickly that every city seems to exude in it's hollow pursuit of money that really lies at its heart.
My family immigrated from Scotland two generations back. Now I can see there are many people from Central and South America doing the same thing, but it has become very dangerous. furthermore, families are estranged from one another for years at a time as a result of this northern migration via train. It is definitely a hot button issue and it is a problem in many parts of the world. Frankly I can't see why some of these smaller countries can't come up with something to give their citizens a reason not to leave.Instead the politicians benefit from the sweat off these poor people's backs while not doing anything to give them hope for a brighter future for their families. I'm in Turkey right now and they have accepted 700,000 refugees from Syria. Lots of the people I have met are from Georgia, Pakistan and Iran. The Islamic world is far more cohesive than I had imagined. It is a bit off topic, but globalization is really bringing out the worst in bad countries, so people are not stupid. They will risk their lives for the prospect of a better life somewhere other than home. Enrique's story is one of tragedy and persistence to just get to the U.S. We take our easy lives for granted. Our forefathers must have also had a hard time adjusting, but we never risked losing limbs, robbery or rape just to escape the oppression of Europe.
The book grabbed my attention right from the beginning. I could relate to Mike's status as the black sheep. He was very poor and lived in abandoned building growing up and became a thief at the age of 7. They would lift him up into open window and he would run around and open the door for the older guys. They also had a soft spot of pigeons, so we learn all about Mike's love affair with pigeons. Later Mike is sent to juvenile hall and although it is a reunion with many of his thug friend he ends up meeting a guy who teaches him how to box. His trainer Cuz Dmato taught him so many things and kept him out of trouble. Unfortunately, Cuz dies. Mike finally reaches Cuz's dream for him of being the heavyweight champ and does so at the tender age of 20. This was a poor kid and now he became a millionaire overnight. Needless to say, his trainers and Don King didn't have his best interests at heart and neither did Robin Givens. It seems that everyone wanted a piece of this guys success. He was lost and medicated himself with things like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and numerous women. He was falsely accused of rape and went to jail for several years and still came back and kicked butt. Holyfield was head butting him when Mike bit off a piece of his ear, but we never heard about that side of the story. Mike is about my age and now has 8 kids from different wives, but he has settled down some. He keeps relapsing with drugs, so I think this is a guy that will one day be another Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson. He is a very talented man who doesn't know how to handle all that has been bestowed upon him. From listening to his book I know that he is a regular guy like you or me that was given a gift and worked very hard to make something special of himself only to throw it all away. Maybe his mind is set to fail no matter how well he does in this life. Good luck Mike. I hope you find some peace in this life.
I had previously listened to The Elephant Whisperer last year while traveling through Sri Lanka, where I got to see Asian elephants up close. It was a very heartfelt book. Thinking The Last Rhinos would be a similar kind of book I came away somewhat disappointed. We are treated to lots of wildlife adventure, but the rhinos don't take center stage. Instead we learn all about Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistance Army in the Congo. The book descends into a very politically charged story. Later we hear a pretty decent tale of an escaped elephant and how Lawrence gets him to be an integral part of Thula Thula. There is a tragic ending that educates us about the rhinos plight, but there is more to it and I don't want to spoil the ending. This was a decent African bush adventure, and at times I felt like I was transported there. I suppose I still feel Elephant Whisperer was much better. For a really lighthearted African safari try the book Whatever You Do Don't Run, which had me in stitches. I only wish that it had been a bit longer. They mention another book called, Babylon's Ark, which I would gladly pick up, but it isn't on offer here. It was Mr. Lawrence's first book about the rescuing of animals in a zoo in Afghanistan.
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