R. E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman was the recipient of the 1935 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was a richly deserved honor, for Freeman's biography of the distinguished Virginian went on to become one of the most celebrated of all American biographies, a favorite of General George Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower, among many others. Since his death, thousands of American soldiers have sought to emulate Lee's example of virtue, courage, and duty.
A straightforward, workmanlike narrative that takes us through the first fifty-five years of Lee's life, ending with his recall to Richmond in 1862. We follow Lee throughout his prewar career, so we get some dull chapters about river engineering as well as more interesting adventures such as Harper's Ferry.
There was one close call in the Mexican War that I'm amazed he survived. It fascinates me, the little chance events that history is contingent on.
Freeman does seem to have had some bias in favor of his subject, especially noticable when discussing Lee's interaction with slavery, but not so bad that I doubt the general accuracy of what I'm listening to.
A solid biography book, solidly narrated.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
In the dark winter of 1917, as World War I was deadlocked, Britain knew that Europe could be saved only if the United States joined the war. But President Wilson remained unshakable in his neutrality. Then, with a single stroke, the tool to propel America into the war came into a quiet British office. One of countless messages intercepted by the crack team of British decoders, the Zimmermann telegram was a top-secret message from Berlin inviting Mexico to join Japan in an invasion of the United States.
A fine listen. Tuchman conveys a great deal of information in just seven hours, yet The Zimmermann Telegraph never feels crammed. Wanda McCaddon turns in a solid reading. The narration, I think, highlights this book's sense of the absurd. At times, it was almost like these people were vying with each other in folly, a contest that Zimmermann eventually "wins".
On April 6, 2003, 26 Green Berets, including those of Sergeant First Class Frank Antenori's Special Forces A-Team (call sign Roughneck Nine One), fought a vastly superior force at a remote crossroads near the village of Debecka, Iraq. The enemy unit had battle tanks and 150 well-trained, well-equipped, and well-commanded soldiers. The Green Berets stopped the enemy advance, then fought them until only a handful of Iraqi survivors finally fled the battlefield.
A wholly conventional book of this type, and well-worth the sale price I paid for it. The usual characters all show up: the unlikable journalists, the incompetent superiors, the unwieldy military bureaucracy, and so on.
I liked the account of the training mission. The idea that the higher-ups would pull everyone out of something like that to make them attend a lecture on domestic violence is too stupid not to be true.
Recommended, of course, for fans of military non-fiction.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The industrial age made possible by fossil fuels will surely decline as these fuels run out. In The Ecotechnic Future John Michael Greer alerts the listener to possible changes future generations may face as these dwindling fuel supplies lead first to a deindustrial age, then to a society which salvages the remnants of our current plenty, and eventually to a time in which people may learn to live in balance with the environment: an ecotechnic society.
In The Ecotechnic Future, the ever-interesting, ever well-read John Michael Greer gives us his take on how the world will change as Peak Oil increasingly becomes felt. His viewpoint is appreciated: he gives his theories and predictions without falling into either fantasies of green utopianism or visions of Mad Max-style anarchy. Sober, I think, is the word to describe it. It'll be harder for all of us, and that is sad, but it is what it is.
The book starts with a discussion of general principals before getting into a topic-by-topic discussion of such subjects as "Food", "Work", "Culture", and "Science". Those familiar with his other work will recognize his way with words. In describing his writing style, the first thing that comes to mind is "Greer-like". Yes, John Michael Greer's prose is very Greer-like.
Tony Craine gives a fine reading. As much as I enjoyed the mad wizard flavor that Kristoffer Tabori gave Greer's "Decline And Fall" (also on Audible), I think Craine did the right thing by reading this book in a dispassionate manner.
400 Things Cops Know shows police work on the inside, from the viewpoint of the regular cop on the beat - a profession that can range from rewarding to bizarre to terrifying, all within the course of an eight-hour shift. Written by veteran police sergeant Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know brings the listener into life the way cops experience it - a life of danger, frustration, occasional triumph, and plenty of grindingly hard routine work.
Is there anything you would change about this book?
As might be expected from a book of this type, some of Plantinga's things were misfires: either the thing was banal or he was trying too hard to be snarky or solemn. That said, this book was, on the whole, pretty interesting.
Would you recommend 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons From a Veteran Patrolman to your friends? Why or why not?
If they're on a true-crime kick, if they're thinking about signing up, if they ever happen to need realistic sounding tidbits to round out a cop novel, or if they want something that they can listen to at check-out lines.
Have you listened to any of Mark Boyett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, but I'd have no problem listening to him again. Boyett did a good job with what he'd been given, bringing out the text's dry humor.
Could you see 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons From a Veteran Patrolman being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
Sadly, yes. Don't let those sports people fool you, The True American Pastime is watching TV shows about other people fighting crime.
As to who should star, that's obvious. It doesn't matter if the role is Adam Plantinga or George Washington or Hermione Granger: the answer is always Samuel L. Jackson. He can do anything.
Any additional comments?
I liked how this book deglamorizes police work while still showing it's appeal. I also liked it as a sort of glimpse into a cop's point of view.
Like some of the other listeners, I felt a sense of appreciation for the risks that police officers take. However, I felt a greater sense of appreciation for the fact that I'm not one of lowest-of-low human beings described in this book, nor one of those who have to live their lives navigating around them. "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below". At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old Devil to his nephew, Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man.
The thing I love best about C. S. Lewis is on full display here: he could make observations as insightful and as piercing as a Chesterfield or a Rochefoucauld without instilling a sense of "no hooope...no hooooope..."
The letters are essentially Lewis making such observations continuously for three and a half hours. He hits the right balance in a lot of ways. These letters manage to preach without being preachy and be darkly funny without making light of eternal damnation. Sometimes I found myself questioning the internal consistency of Screwtape's Lowerarchy, but a carefully constructed world probably isn't what most people are here for.
Ralph Cosham does a okay job with the material. His style leans to reading rather than acting. I liked it for Watership Down, but I think he was a little too reserved here, occasionally monotonous. If five stars for performance means "stellar" and three means "acceptable", I'd give him a three point five.
Ninety-nine elite American soldiers are trapped in the middle of a hostile city. As night falls, they are surrounded by thousands of enemy gunmen. Their wounded are bleeding to death. Their ammunition and supplies are dwindling. This is the story of how they got there - and how they fought their way out. Black Hawk Down drops you into a crowded marketplace in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia with the U.S. Special Forces and puts you in the middle of the most intense firelight American soldiers have fought since the Vietnam war.
...as written by a civilian.
And he starts off running, too, with Blackburn's fall happening midway through chapter two of ninety-seven. Bowden then takes us through the following day and night and morning of combat at the same pace, quick asides fleshing out the history of Task Force Ranger and how it all went wrong. He effortlessly jumps between every viewpoint you could think of: grunts, commanders, civilians, militia, pilots, medics, Delta, you name it. All these varied people bring a different perspective, have a different part to play, and Bowden keeps it clear who is doing what and why. The reader is told everything he or she needs to know as soon as he or she needs to know it, in an easily grasped way. Above all else, Black Hawk Down is an immersive, engaging piece of nonfiction.
But also, I think the book represents something more universal. We hear the human stories of so many people, mostly soldiers: their motivations for enlisting, reactions to combat, snippets of army life, and so on. It layers glimpses and slivers and stories on top of each other, the end result being a mosaic of humanity under extreme conditions.
Another charm point for this book is its tone. Bowden never judges the subjects of his narration for thinking or doing anything. He simply recites. Whether it reflects good or ill, be it a petty mistake or a substantial act of bravery, it gets related.
I felt Alan Sklar gave a solid performance. His tone, like that of the book, was one of detached recitation. He delivers the right amount of emotion when the book calls for it, and does the dialogue decently enough when it comes up.
On a side note, I think my favorite person to follow was Delta Force operator SFC Howe. I loved his amusingly jaundiced view of everything that was going on. "Everything about this situation was pissing him off: the goddamned Somalis, his leaders, the idiot Rangers..." Even when he was feeling respect for the enemy it felt like he was doing it in part as a screw you to the Rangers around him.
Less fun was when the narration followed SPC Stebbins. I knew going in that he would later be sentenced to thirty years for raping his daughter. It doesn't invalidate his bravery, but I cringed to hear how he was becoming a sort-of legend in the unit when I knew how far he and his fortunes would fall. "Then, he got married, and his wife had a baby-" Eeeee....
22 of 22 people found this review helpful
Grasp the important ideas that have served as the backbone of philosophy across the ages with this extraordinary 60-lecture series. This is your opportunity to explore the enormous range of philosophical perspectives and ponder the most important and enduring of human questions-without spending your life poring over dense philosophical texts.
It will not take long for the listener to realize that Professor Robinson is one smart cookie. I worked it out less than two minutes in as the narrator reeled off his accomplishments: Ph.D in Neuropsychology, positions at prestigious universities, author of seventeen(!) books- even by the standards of Great Courses teachers, Robinson is in a class above.
This man will make you THINK. All of these lectures are packed with content. Now, you don't need a grounding in philosophy before going in, but you do need to give your undivided attention. When I listened to this while walking, commuting or doing chores, I'd often find my mind slipping away only to jump back after he's moved on. When I come back to these lectures, I'll be bringing a pen and a notebook.
Here are some passages to help get the vibe of the course:
"Now, just as for Protagoras, one, two, three and four are not mere numbers. Neither can it be a coincidence that the harmonic structure of music should have, as it's reliable effect on our auditory system, that is, that we should hear as harmonious what in fact is governed by the mathematical laws of harmony. Why is it that the perfect fifth sounds the way it does?"
"...Let me stay with materialism for a moment, it is useful to point out that defenses of it often rely on evidence gathered by methods that presuppose the validity of the claim. Namely, methods suited to identify and quantify matter, or material things. There tends to be a certain circularity, even a vicious circularity, between the ontological position we take and the methods that we employ to vindicate, or confirm, or as we like to say, objectively test it. This will be apparent in more than one major theory considered in subsequent lectures..."
"...It is a credit to Socrates' lasting genius that he understands the interconnectedness of these questions, that the problem of knowledge, the problem of conduct, and the problem of governance are various phases of the same kind of problem, and that problem is how we come to know ourselves, and realize our humanity in the course of a lifetime..."
"...and I'm going to pause here to make clear just what it means to be a radical empiricist, and to be the radical William James, for it is this that gives power and consistency to the entire range of James' thought. Now, the usual adoption of, or concession to, empiricistic philosophies is a hedged one. The apologist is likely to say something along these lines, 'Well of course, a lot of the things we know we know as the result of experience, there are some things we can't know by way of experience, this being sort of abstract Leibnizian, Cartesian sorts of things, and anyway the senses really can deceive us from time to time, but by and large I'm certainly willing to use my senses in most of the ordinary business of life." Now this, I say, is a position that is as boring as it is probably faultless. It most assuredly is not the position of a radical empiricist..."
"...In just about every area of expertise, there are achievements that simply cannot be defined in words, but only exhibited in the performance itself. So from an ontological point of view, the question must arise whether our conceptions of reality are also shaped by intuitive and tacit modes of knowing, with skepticism arising as a result of the inability to articulate or justify the grounds..."
"...Now I want to make point that I think is at once controversial and commonsensical, and those two can go hand-in-hand. The resources of the law, in matters of this kind, very often seem far more developed, far more supple, more protean, more capable of finding controlling maxims on the basis of the thick record of juridical reasoning than does the book of moral philosophy itself..."
As the poet says, "A little learning is a dangerous thing/ Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring." If you're interested, here's a nice deep well for you.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of speculation over what really happened.
Dead Mountain is composed to two narratives: the 1959 story which reconstructs the hikers journey, disappearance, and attempted rescue; and the 2012 story which recounts Eichar's investigation into the case. Interspersed throughout are various tidbits about Donnie's own life, how schooling worked in the USSR, facts about Russian history, and other not-wholly-relevant tidbits that give the story a somewhat padded feel.
The best audience for this book are those who are new to the Dyatlov Pass case. Donnie Eichar should be given credit for presenting a solid overview of the case, but he doesn't go into the nitty-gritty. He comes up with a theory about the "unknown compelling force" which is rather intriguing.
The reading was fine, though it had a somewhat recited quality to it. Perhaps it would have been better if a professional had read it, but it's not like books of this sort lend themselves to showcasing vocal talent. This story is about the author as much as the mystery so I think his reading it was a good idea.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
‘This was the original GAME OF THRONES' George R.R. Martin' Available for the first time in English, THE KING WITHOUT A KINGDOM is the seventh and final volume of The Accursed Kings series. The reign of the Capetian kings has ended and John II, ‘The Good', second of the Valois dynasty, has taken the throne. Under his leadership the Hundred Years War, one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in history, escalates and England and France begin to tear each other apart.
This book can be summarized in one word: unnecessary.
The story of The Accursed Kings spans six books. The first was published in 1955, and the sixth in 1960. That book finished the story, epilogue included. Then, seventeen years later, book seven came out. This is pretty much a history-notes appendix taking us from book six to the Battle of Poitiers.
Unlike the prior books, The King Without a Kingdom takes the form of a monologue given by an old cardinal on a road trip, occasionally pausing to go on tangents or address someone off-screen. His narration is the only one we hear, confining Peter Joyce's talent to just one character voice and losing us his usual third-person voice (except in the prologue).
It's not all negative, however. Though not enough to carry the book alone, Cardinal Talleyrand-Périgord is still a well-written character and the history he's reciting can be engaging, especially Poitiers.
That said, I can only recommend this to completionists or those who, for whatever reason, want to hear a snarky, vain old man recount a chunk of medieval French history.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful