Based on a lifetime living in and reporting on Germany and Central Europe, award-winning journalist and author Peter Millar tackles the fascinating and complex story of the people at the heart of our continent. Focussing on nine cities (only six of which are in the Germany of today), he takes us on a zigzag ride back through time via the fall of the Berlin Wall through the horrors of two world wars and the patchwork states of the Middle Ages to the splendour of Charlemagne and the fall of Rome.
This is a great book; to quickly sum it up it's a look at Germany through the major cities in (or what was) the German speaking world: Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg, Dresden, Munich, Konigsberg (formerly in East Prussia, now Kalingrad in Russia) and Strasbourg (now in France). The author weaves his insanely interesting personal experiences living, working (as a Reuters journalist), and visiting these places to tell their histories. Some great ones included living in East Berlin in the 1980's and being under surveillance by the Stasi, accidently starting a pro-Democracy protest in Dresden (then in the DDR), and having a friendship with the late Otto von Hapsburg. But this isn't just a travel book; the history is seamlessly weaved in. Ignore the crazed review below and take the plunge on this book if you are interested in Germany.
In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the distant, nearly impassable regions where these mysterious religions still cling to survival. He lives alongside the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates in their rituals, and comes to understand the threats to their communities.
This is simply the best book I have listened to on audible for quite awhile.
The author, Gerard Russell, is a former British diplomat who speaks both Arabic and Farsi and has traveled extensively in the Middle East. I wish there were more people like him guiding our foreign policy (in the US) today. His knowledge is extensive yet very practical at the same time. This is not a tough listen by any means.
Russell chronicles the Yazidis (Iraq), Druze (Lebanon, Syria), Coptic Christians (Egypt), Zoroastrians (Iran, India), Samaritans (Israel), and Kalasha (Pakistan) among others.
Previously, I had known only a little about the modern Druze, some idea of what Zoroastrians in the ancient world were like (being that it was the state religion of Persia), and very shallow knowledge of the Copts in Egyptian history. This book fleshed out what I already knew and added much to my knowledge base. I had no idea ancient Manichaeism was alive in the world today at all. I never would have guessed the Druze had Pythagorean influences. The struggle of these peoples to survive in the modern world, especially after the insanity of the Iraq War and the rise of ISIS, touched me greatly. They are the living past.
This book is fascinating and I would suggest it to anyone interested in history or expanding what you know about the Middle East.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
In this sweeping, enthralling biography, acclaimed historian David Hackett Fischer brings to life the remarkable Samuel de Champlain - soldier, spy, master mariner, explorer, cartographer, artist, and Father of New France. We remember Champlain mainly as a great explorer. On foot and by ship and canoe, he traveled through what are now six Canadian provinces and five American states. Over more than 30 years he founded, colonized, and administered French settlements in North America.
This is a great listen on Champlain and the "Québécois/Habitants" that is sadly abridged. The narration is highly professional. "Champlain's Dream" is part of a series of sorts, about the roots of various regional cultures in North America. Audible really needs Hackett Fischer "Albion's Seed" which chronicles the early US and the roots of New England, Tidewater, Appalachia, and the Midlands, and "Fairness and Freedom" which contrasts the origins and culture of the US with other English-speaking settler colonies, specifically New Zealand.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
The French Foreign Legion has established a reputation as the most formidable of military forces. Created as a means of protecting French interests abroad, the legion spearheaded French colonialism in North Africa during the nineteenth century. Accepting volunteers from all parts of the world, the legion acquired an aura of mystery—and a less than enviable reputation for brutality within its ranks.
This was a decent audiobook; it's well done and will keep you interested.
Gilbert, a former Legionaire himself, really shines in talking about how one joins the Legion, the brutal training, and the unit's unique traditions and outlook.
The author does a great job of including first hand accounts of life and war in the Legion, dating back to the 19th century.
The latter part of the book, the Legion's wars and battles, is a hit and miss affair. It seems like Gilbert really rushed to cover everything. The Legion's role in Algeria (1954-1962) was especially abridged; fortunately Alistair Horne's ridculously good "A Savage War of Peace" is available here on audible as well.
I would love to see this book with a more detailed second half, and an updated one that includes the Legion's role in Afghanistan, and its return to North Africa in the Mali operation that is ongoing as I type this.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson penned groundbreaking works as outrageous—and provocative—as the author himself. His memoir Kingdom of Fear provides compelling insight into his life and literary output.
"Kingdom of Fear" is essentially a collection of articles and essays by Hunter S. Thompson, chronicling his well-documented problems with authority starting at a very young age.
In the preface, HST gives some thoughts on the immediate post September 11th world, which are revelant even today (a dangerous, long lasting "anti-terrorist" security apparatus, for example).
"Kingdom" goes on to Hunter's early run-ins with the law in Louisville, his rise in the journalistic scene and the "Freak Power" campaign for Sheriff of Aspen that Thompson ran; Hunter being falsely accused of sexual assault by pornstar Gail Palmer; his hilarious guerilla war aganist a nouveau riche businessman who decides to set up his massive estate in Woody Creek, and of course, "Fear and Loathing in Elko" which poses the question "what if Clarence Thomas was really more depraved than previously thought?"
To conclude this is a decent compilation, but I would suggest "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone" (also available on audible) first and foremost. That compilation includes some overlap with this one (such as "Fear and Loathing in Elko") but has far more content.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
The Battle for Berlin was the culminating struggle of World War II in the European theater. The last offensive against Hitler’s Third Reich, it devastated one of Europe’s historic capitals and marked the final defeat of Nazi Germany. It was also one of the war’s bloodiest and most pivotal battles, whose outcome would shape international politics for decades to come.
Somehow, "The Last Battle" is probably Cornelius Ryan's lesser known work on WWII, after his very famous books "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge Too Far" (yes, both prominent WWII films are based on his material).
If you've seen "The Longest Day" film, you have some idea what this book's narrative is going to be like. It covers the events from as many perspectives as possible...from high-ranking commanders to infantrymen to civilians...many of whom were interviewed by Ryan himself in the 1960's. In fact, many of the most poigiant moments of "The Last Battle" are told from the perspective of German civilians, who attempt to go about their daily lives as the Third Reich collapses in flames all around them.
Essentially, "The Last Battle" covers the invasion of Germany proper, on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, and the titular Battle of Berlin.
But, the heft of this work is in the individual stories. German commanders describe to Ryan how Hitler reacted to his own lunacy coming full circle in the last days of the war. Soviet generals compete to see which Russian army will seize the city first. American pilots reveal how the last aerial dogfight in WWII involved US scout flyers shooting down a opposing German observation plane with Colt .45 1911 pistols. In Berlin, Zoo keepers desperately try to save the animals they were charged with caring for. Nuns struggle to prepare their maternity ward for the worst once Soviet rear-eschelon troops, drunk and prone to rape, arrive to exact revenge for atrocities commited aganist the USSR.
This book is a powerful, moving, and highly informative work.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
North America was settled by people with distinct religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics, creating regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Subsequent immigrants didn't confront or assimilate into an "American" or "Canadian" culture, but rather into one of the 11 distinct regional ones that spread over the continent each staking out mutually exclusive territory. In American Nations, Colin Woodard leads us on a journey through the history of our fractured continent....
I stumbled into this book at a Barnes and Noble, and while I did not buy it, I made a mental note to listen to it on here. Extremely glad I did.
Woodward essentially builds off of earlier works to spell out eleven regional cultures that he argues make up the US (minus Polynesian Hawaii and Latin-Caribbean south Florida), Canada, and northern Mexico. Here's a few of them.
First Nations: Encompassing Northern Canada, Greenland, much of the Yukon and Alaska. The "First Nations" of course refers to areas where Native Americans (and their values) still are predominant.
El Norte; The first non-native regional culture to develop. Essentially a pioneer Latino psyche, born on the fringes of Mexico, and what would become the Southwestern US after 1848.
Tidewater: The region including North Carolina, some of Maryland, Virginia proper, and Delaware. Centered on the Chesapeake, this was the first region inhabited by English-speaking colonists.
Interestingly, Woodward includes the greater New York City Metro Area as it's own culture, and makes an excellent case for it. He argues that "New Netherland" is not much different from its early Dutch roots today.
Yankeedom, is essentially New England and its most direct diaspora, stretching West bordering Canada over to the easternmost counties of the Dakotas. Yankeedom also includes New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada. Yankeedom was founded by the Puritans...the Pilgrims...who first set foot in the region in 1620.
Woodward argues that most political issues in US history were in fact motivated by regional differences and rivalries. While Woodward shows his own colors at the very end of the book he is very unbiased throughout the rest; hard-right Conservatives may hate the idea that their modern ideas on economic deregulation, cheap labor, and a powerful 1% is largely born of Deep South influence. Very cosmopolitan, secular, Progressives may cringe to learn that their beliefs owe a lot to the plain, very religious, paternalistic Puritans.
If you're interested in American politics this is a must-listen.
35 of 40 people found this review helpful
“Buy the ticket, take the ride,” was a favorite slogan of Hunter S. Thompson, and it pretty much defined both his work and his life. Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone showcases the roller-coaster of a career at the magazine that was his literary home.
Being someone that has read a lot of Hunter S. Thompson's work, I was a little skeptical about this compilation. But it's very well done...as the preface states, Rolling Stone attempted to create a narrative out of his various writings done for their magazine and they succeeded in a big way.
It essentially cronicles Hunter's time at Rolling Stone magazine starting in 1970. His personal correspondence with Rolling Stone's editoral staff (mostly unpublished until now) is included, as well as his account of the "Freak Power" local political movement that attempted to prevent Aspen, Colorado from becoming the high-brow Yuppie haven that it is today; "Strange Rumblings in Azltan" about the LAPD violence aganist Chicanos; the hilarious District Attorney's conference of his famous "Las Vegas" book; a sizeable chunk of "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail, 72'"...still an extremely relevant work. A ton of his "Politics from the Sports Desk" Rolling Stone features show up in this audiobook as well.
The narrator, Phil Gigante, does a good impression of Thompson as well when reading from Hunter's perspective.
It's a great listen, definately worth the credits. Now, what audible really needs is some more Hunter S, works...."Hell's Angels", the entire "Campaign Trail, 72'" and "The Curse of Lono" would be awesome I would listen to all of them.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Founded by Alexander the Great and built by self-styled Greek pharaohs, the city of Alexandria at its height dwarfed both Athens and Rome. It was the marvel of its age, legendary for its vast palaces, safe harbors, and magnificent lighthouse. But it was most famous for the astonishing intellectual efflorescence it fostered and the library it produced. If the European Renaissance was the "rebirth" of Western culture, then Alexandria, Egypt, was its birthplace.
I'm extremely torn on this book; probably more so than any of the dozen or so history titles I've listened to on audible so far.
On one hand, it is extremely imformative. Note that this book is really about the academics/scholars/scientists that were from Alexandria, or those who studied/lived there for a time. It's less about the city itself and it's history, although that of course works its way into Reid and Pollard's narrative...especially and the beginning and the end of the book.
There's some great stuff in here....Reid and Pollard argue that Archimedes may have lived in Alexandria; discuss the important Alexandrian Jewish community and its impact on early Christianity; flesh out the geographer Ptolemy; and discuss Celsus, an early critic of Christianity and its origins. Among other topics.
That said, I feel like this book would work better in print form, as the voiceover can drag on and there isn't the kind of narrative that makes a history book work in audio format.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Americans are accustomed to thinking that World War II ended on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered unconditionally. Yet on the mainland of Asia, in the vast arc stretching from Manchuria to Burma, peace was a brief, fretful interlude. In some parts of Asia, such as Java and Southern Indonesia, only a few weeks passed before new fighting broke out between nationalist forces and the former colonial powers.
This was an extremely interesting listen, on several not so well-known subjects: what happened after the Japanese surrendered in 1945, ending World War II...but not open hostilites, by any means.
Spector surveys events in China, Korea, French Indochina (Vietnam), and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) that would have wide and far-reaching consquences to the present day.
The start of the Cold War is on full display in China and Korea; in Indochina and the East Indies fledgeling independence movements are on the rise.
The Japanese did not simply go home either. Often they were fighting alongside their former enemies, the British Commonwealth, as both were sucked into trying to quell local unrest in the Indies and Indochina not long after VJ day.
A great book; I ordered this in print recently to own a physical copy.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful