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Mark Grannis

Washington, DC
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  • 229
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  • The Reformation

  • A History
  • By: Diarmaid MacCulloch
  • Narrated by: Anne Flosnik
  • Length: 36 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 141
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 133
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 132

At a time when men and women were prepared to kill - and be killed - for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning history brilliantly recreates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians - from the zealous Martin Luther and his 95 Theses to the polemical John Calvin to the radical Igantius Loyola, from the tortured Thomas Cranmer to the ambitious Philip II.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent

  • By Eli Shem Tov on 05-15-17

Thanks for trying, but it's just too big a topic

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-31-18

Many people have a view of "the Reformation" that is as narrow as Martin Luther's 95 theses or Henry VIII's first divorce, but I think MacCulloch is right to treat it as a much larger phenomenon, something that happened throughout the entire Western world over a period of at least 300 years. I also think MacCulloch is right to begin with a lengthy description of the Christian world prior to the Reformation, because that helps us make sense of what came later.

But it doesn't help enough. The phenomenon is just too big, and all of the competing theological movements saw themselves as thoroughly international, so there are German thinkers popping up in Scandinavia and French thinkers popping up in Switzerland and English churchmen popping up in Rome--it's impossible to tell the story from any fixed vantage point.

Except, perhaps, from Rome. One could defend the decision to treat "the Reformation" as a movement that united many disparate sects of which the one totally common element was opposition to Rome. But I get the sense that MacCulloch would never do that. I get the sense that MacCulloch doesn't like Rome very much. The reformers definitely wear the white hats in this account.

I don't want to be too hard on the author; it's a monumental amount of scholarship, and I'm grateful to have been able to listen to it; I also bought a print copy of the book. But in the end, the subject is just too big to be encompassed by very many useful generalizations. That's not MacCulloch's fault, but it's a little unsatisfying to finish 36 hours of narration with little more than a sense that a lot of stuff happened and it was really complicated.

Bravo to the narrator, though. She tackled a big one.

  • The Scarlet Letter

  • By: Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Narrated by: Kate Petrie
  • Length: 6 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 452
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 416
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 418

One of the most important novels in classic literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter tackles the subject of adultery, with the notorious Hester Prynne at the forefront of the scandal in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the beginning of the novel, Hester is serving time in prison for having a child out of wedlock and is forced to wear a scarlet A on her clothing at all times, so she cannot run from her sin no matter where she goes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 'Thou Wast Not Bold! Thou Wast Not True!'

  • By Gretchen SLP on 12-20-15

Great book, disappointing narrator

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-11-18

This is an all-time great book; enough said about that.

But there are many versions and I’m inclined to think there must be a better one. I listened to various samples and chose this one because the voice was so pleasant. But she has an inexplicable tendency to put the emphasis on the wrong syllable of some words, and I found it very distracting. Every time she said igNOMiny, PURport, or ANalogy, it took me out of the book as surely as cold water in the face takes one out of a daydream. (And she said igNOMiny a lot, as you might guess if you know the story.)

In addition, this is a book in which the dialogue is sparse but meaningful, and a better narrator would make some attempt to render those lines more like they would be spoken by someone actually experiencing the emotions appropriate to the scene. This narrator mostly just reads them.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Song of Roland

  • By: Michael A. H. Newth (translator)
  • Narrated by: Greg Marston, Summe Williams, Julian DouglasSmith
  • Length: 4 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 39
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 37

The Song of Roland is acknowledged today as the first masterpiece of French vernacular literature and one of the world’s greatest epic poems. Written down around the year 1090, The Song of Roland finely crafted verses tell of the betrayal and defeat of Charlemagne’s beloved nephew at the Pass of Roncevaux in the Pyrenees and of the revenge subsequently sought on his behalf.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent production

  • By Tad Davis on 11-09-11

On Winning and Losing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-29-18

This is an under-appreciated gem of the western canon. Yes, it’s culturally insensitive because it’s an authentic representation of medieval Christendom. But look past all the skull-splitting and the forced conversions and you’ll find timeless questions that deserve more reflection than most of us give them. Start with this one: Does Roland win or lose?

  • The Benedict Option

  • A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
  • By: Rod Dreher
  • Narrated by: Adam Verner
  • Length: 8 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 586
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 533
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 526

The light of the Christian faith is flickering out all over the West. American churches are beset by a rapidly secularizing culture, the departure of young people, and watered-down pseudo-spirituality. Political solutions have failed, as the self-destruction of the Republican Party indicates, and the future of religious freedom has never been in greater doubt. The center is not holding. The West, cut off from its Christian roots, is falling into a new Dark Age.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Framing is wrong. But not all bad

  • By Adam Shields on 04-20-17

95% Twaddle

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-23-18

I would never have read a third book by Rod Dreher except my book club keeps picking them. This time, I must admit that I do not know how he manages to keep making each book worse than the last. His “Little Way of Ruthie Leming” managed to make his sister’s illness all about him. After I finished his similarly self-absorbed book on Dante, I shut the cover and said, “Well, that’s it. The worst book in the Universe. The search is over.” And now this. Oy.

I can’t even list all the big problems with this book in a way that does them justice, but let me briefly describe three.

First, homophobia. I hasten to acknowledge that many people misuse that word by applying it to situations in which someone condemns homosexuality without any hint of fearing it. But this book struck me as literally homophobic. Dreher really contends that legal recognition of a right to gay marriage was the last straw that broke the back of Christianity in the West. Is it really plausible that something that has been quite common in every age could provoke catastrophe in ours? Or that the decisive difference is that we don’t judge others as harshly for it as Christians sometimes have in the past? Would more condemnation make us more Christian?

Second, Dreher is either a very bad reader of philosophy texts or else he is none too scrupulous in how he summarizes them. His attempt to co-opt the work of Alasdair McIntyre was the first to raise my eyebrows, as I happen to have reread that book just a month or two again, and Dreher’s summary bore little resemblance to the original. But Dreher was just getting started. He portrays the Enlightenment as a response, a reaction, to the European wars of religion, a search for a new basis for peaceful coexistence. Sorry, but that’s just not what Copernicus or Vesalius or Galileo or Kepler or Newton or Harvey were doing. Hobbes and Locke, maybe, but they were writing about politics rather than science, and that was only a small part of the Enlightenment. Also, Dreher says it actually all went off the rails several hundred years earlier, with the nominalism of William of Ockham. Huh. Who knew that Ockham was such a triumphant philosophical figure, sweeping away the realism and commitment to truth more characteristic of that lunkhead Thomas Aquinas, whom nobody read after the 14th century? I wish Siri could tell me quickly how many high schools and colleges are named after St. Thomas. I’m pretty sure there is not a single Ockham High. The alleged triumph of Ockham and his nominalism is pure paranoid fantasy parading as an informed analysis of the root causes of the Decline of Christendom.

Third, Dreher seems to have an unhealthy obsession with top-down control of individual behavior through the political order. Instead of diagnosing the problems in orthodox Christianity as a lack of connection with our Creator in all God’s transcendence, he says the problem is that we don’t know the rules and we don’t condemn people harshly enough for breaking them—and on this view the major problem with society today is that our laws fail to reinforce traditional Christian ethics. (Neither did the laws of Jesus’ time, of course.) Dreher similarly decries the decline of sacramental thinking not because it leaves us with less awareness of God’s presence but because it undermines our ritual. At each turn, he is obsessed with rule-following rather than love. This is the attitude of a compliance officer, not a spiritual guide. And it is this obsession with controlling behavior that makes the overtly political discussions in the book so tedious. Can he really fail to distinguish between recognizing gay marriages and attacking the Church? Mr. Dreher, sacramental marriage between a man and a woman is still perfectly legal. Stop writing as if the law now makes homosexual union compulsory.

Our society has big problems; our Church has big problems. The problems are much too serious to be solved by rabbit-hearted critics who counsel us to run for the hills just because men who were already having sex with each other can now be legally married. Contrarian paranoia may sell books, but what we need right now is courage.

  • To Change the Church

  • By: Ross Douthat
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Todd Ross
  • Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 87
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 79
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 76

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936, today Pope Francis is the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis' stewardship of the church, while perceived as a revelation by many, has provoked division throughout the world. "If a conclave were to be held today," one Roman source told The New Yorker, "Francis would be lucky to get 10 votes." In To Change the Church, Douthat explains why the particular debate Francis has opened - over communion for the divorced and the remarried - is so dangerous.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fine Book, Risible Narration

  • By Superfluous Man on 04-01-18

Hammer, meet nail

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-07-18

Aspiring writers should heed this lesson in the perils of writing opinions for a living. This book imparts almost no information apart from rumor and no understanding apart from its author’s. If you happen to be interested in Douthat’s understanding of Catholic theology, though, this book is for you.

I gave the book two stars only so that I could give the narrator just one. I don’t think he’s ever read much Catholic writing.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sapiens audiobook cover art
  • Sapiens

  • A Brief History of Humankind
  • By: Yuval Noah Harari
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 15 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17,813
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,857
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15,766

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the Earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Sums it up nicely

  • By Mark on 05-15-15

Thoughtful, lively, and occasionally ridiculous

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-29-17

This author has a very lively style, and is often quite witty, so it was generally a pleasure to read. However, I did find the aggressive nihlism offputting. And then when the author got to his description of the banking system, the wheels really came off the bus. It should be obvious, but I guess it needs to be said: no one knows enough of human knowledge to write a book this ambitious. I was quite willing to take this author’s observations about anthropology, evolutionary biology, and early history at face value because I just don’t know very much about those areas. However, I was forced to reconsider when I read his treatment of theology and economics. I would now classify this book as nonfiction-ish.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Blackout

  • By: Connie Willis
  • Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren, Connie Willis
  • Length: 18 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,316
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,479
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,485

In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds - great and small - of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collideand the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Double review - Blackout and All Clear

  • By Monica on 06-03-12

FYI, it's a cliffhanger

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-25-17

Superb narration of an enjoyable book. But I wish I had known that the story does not conclude with this book, because I don't have time to continue to All Clear right now. Start this book when you're ready to roll through two in a row.

  • You Have the Right to Remain Innocent

  • By: James Duane
  • Narrated by: James Duane
  • Length: 2 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 409
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 363
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 361

Law professor James J. Duane became a viral sensation thanks to a 2008 lecture outlining the reasons why you should never agree to answer questions from the police - especially if you are innocent and wish to stay out of trouble with the law. In this timely, relevant, and pragmatic new book, he expands on that presentation, offering a vigorous defense of every citizen's constitutionally protected right to avoid self-incrimination.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good to know and remember

  • By Marie on 11-04-16

Listen to this right away and then recommend it to everyone you know

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-20-17

Unless you have a lot of experience with the criminal justice system, you probably have no idea how many traps it contains that jeopardize the liberty of innocent people. Professor Duane does a fantastic job of undoing the damage that Pollyanna treatment of this subject may have done during your high school civics class. Seriously, read this now.

  • How Dante Can Save Your Life

  • The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
  • By: Rod Dreher
  • Narrated by: Sean Runnette
  • Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 106
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 97

Following the death of his little sister and the publication of his New York Times best-selling memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Rod Dreher found himself living in the small community of Starhill, Louisiana, where he grew up. But instead of the fellowship he hoped to find, he discovered that fault lines within his family had deepened. Dreher spiraled into depression and a stress-related autoimmune disease.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Dante as Healer and Friend

  • By Amazon Customer on 02-07-16

Self-absorbed, melodramatic, and shallow

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-22-17

This book is primarily about the author's lifelong emotional struggles with his family, and only incidentally about Dante. If you are looking for something that will help you understand Dante or renew your appreciation for Dante, this is not your book, though the author does recommend some other resources at the beginning and the end. If you are looking for a book that will help you grow spiritually, I can't understand why anyone would choose Rod Dreher as a guide.

By the way, on the family struggles, my sympathies are with the family.

7 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • From Colony to Superpower

  • US Foreign Relations Since 1776
  • By: George C. Herring
  • Narrated by: Robert Fass
  • Length: 40 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 209
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 170
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 168

This prize-winning and critically acclaimed history uses foreign relations as the lens through which to tell the story of America's dramatic rise from 13 disparate colonies huddled along the Atlantic coast to the world's greatest superpower.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Thoughtful History Of U.S. Foreign Policy

  • By Andrew on 01-20-14

Increasingly biased after 1900

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-27-15

I thought I was learning a lot from this survey until we got to the eras I already know pretty well. Then it went farther and farther off the rails. Did you know that the Bay of Pigs was Ike's fault? That Détente was a Kennedy-Johnson initiative rather than Nixon and Kissinger? That Iran-Contra was a much more significant part of Reagan's foreign policy than his Cold War politics? And so on.

7 of 14 people found this review helpful