LISTENER

Diana Black Kennedy

San Anselmo, CA United States
  • 16
  • reviews
  • 25
  • helpful votes
  • 28
  • ratings
  • Hillbilly Elegy

  • A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  • By: J. D. Vance
  • Narrated by: J. D. Vance
  • Length: 6 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39,684
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,698
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35,636

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis - that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over 40 years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enlightening!

  • By Gotta Tellya on 09-11-16

Wonderful, revealing memoir

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

J.D. Vance provides a compassionate, clear-eyed view of growing up poor, white and isolated from mainstream America. Although he cites academic research and speculates on the sociological and policy implications of his experience, the book is clearly memoir. As memoir of a person from a misunderstood, caricatured, obscured and often maligned group, simply speaking his truth and sharing his experience, impressions and thoughts and feelings is revelatory. And while clearly not even pretending to speak for every hillbilly or poor white person out there, Hillbilly Elegy proves the adage that the more specific writing can be, the more universal it becomes. If I were teaching a class, I would pair this with White Trash, the 400-year untold story of class in America--their juxtaposition, one a memoir and one a magisterial historical analysis, help shed light on a whole part of the US that is more often ignored or denied than elucidated.

  • The Strange Order of Things

  • Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures
  • By: Antonio Damasio
  • Narrated by: Steve West, Antonio Damasio
  • Length: 9 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 157
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 152

The Strange Order of Things is a pathbreaking investigation into homeostasis, the condition that regulates human physiology within the range that makes possible not only the survival but also the flourishing of life. Antonio Damasio makes clear that we descend biologically, psychologically, and even socially from a long lineage that begins with single living cells; that our minds and cultures are linked by an invisible thread to the ways and means of ancient unicellular life and other primitive life-forms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Homeostasis and Metabolism give self awareness

  • By Gary on 03-22-18

Fascinating look at humans and their behavior

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

Antonio Damasio is an excellent, working neuroscientist sharing the cutting edge of research into human nature, neurobiology and evolutionary biology. What he tells is a fascinating and mind-blowing story about the ancient predecessors of what we often think of as our most advanced human characteristics. Along the way he upends centuries of debate about human nature, the prized place of rationality and dualism of mind and body. Accessible yet not dumbed down or oversimplified, I highly recommend Damasio's book to anyone interested in the philosophy, biology or evolution of human nature.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • White Trash

  • The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
  • By: Nancy Isenberg
  • Narrated by: Kirsten Potter
  • Length: 15 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,007
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2,701
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,673

In White Trash, Nancy Isenberg upends assumptions about America's supposedly class-free society. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early 19th century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ's Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 400 Year Head Start Squandered

  • By Virgil on 10-11-16

Should be required reading for all Americans

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed about politics, history, race, class and gender in the United States, but Isenberg's carefully-researched history and insightful analysis blew me away. She offered so much more depth, context, history and understanding to a contentious and, as she points out, usually ignored piece of the American experience than I have seen. Her insights and analyses are especially important and pertinent now, in the age of the tea party, Trump and growing racial and religious intolerance. She excuses nothing, but explains how race and class have been tied together in a complex web calculated to obfuscate, divide and conquer. If i were teaching a course in American History, I would pair this with The COunter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, by Gerald Horne. Both books shed light on the primacy of race and class and their complex interplay and influence on the shaping of America, both the country and the ideal. Fascinating and revelatory. Recommend highly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Behave

  • The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
  • By: Robert M. Sapolsky
  • Narrated by: Michael Goldstrom
  • Length: 26 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,210
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,959
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,941

Why do we do the things we do? More than a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky's genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful, but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: He starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs and then hops back in time from there in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Insightful

  • By Doug Hay on 07-27-17

Funny, Thorough and Fascinating

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

I was introduced to Robert Sapolsky through NPR and, most specifically, Radiolab. I immediately developed an intellectual crush, so I was super excited to read his book. It was even better than I had hoped. He has such a gift for making difficult ideas clear, for shifting between wide-angle analysis to super focused and back, and for retaining the necessary complexity and sophistication of analysis while still being accessible, entertaining and outright funny. No easy feats!

His analysis, purposefully multi-layered and interconnected, is insightful, thorough and revelatory. The organization of the book guides his readers through a huge amount of information from a wide variety of overlapping but separate topics, leaving us with a more integrated understanding of each branch of science that speaks to human nature and the causes of our behavior. Sapolsky doesn't try to sugar-coat human nature and avoids all simple answers on the topic. Nonetheless, or perhaps because of his insistence on accuracy over easy answers, he offers optimism and grounded hope about where we go from here and how.

I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in science or in humans, and especially in the science of humans.

  • John Dewey & the High Tide of American Liberalism

  • By: Alan Ryan
  • Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
  • Length: 21 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17

When John Dewey died in 1952, he was memorialized as America's most famous philosopher, revered by liberal educators and deplored by conservatives, but universally acknowledged as his country's intellectual voice. Many things conspired to give Dewey an extraordinary intellectual eminence: He was immensely long-lived and immensely prolific; he died in his 93rd year, and his intellectual productivity hardly slackened until his 80s.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fine biography

  • By R. M. Lucas on 07-21-13

Historical and social context galore

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

I came to this book as in introduction to Dewey and his educational philosophy to supplement my "father of progressive education and hands on stuff" understanding of his place in educational history. I am so glad I read this book first, before any of his own or even any books on just his views on education. A broad look at him situated in the philosophical, historical, political and social context of his times (and quite long times they were!) provided so much more insight and understanding that simply reading his own books or educational books about him could ever do. It is so easy to lose sight of the intellectual life of the past, so this book is especially revelatory for someone in my generation. I would highly recommend, especially as an in-depth, accessible introduction to the man and his influence.

  • The Teacher Wars

  • A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession
  • By: Dana Goldstein
  • Narrated by: Nan McNamara
  • Length: 10 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 283
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 235
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 236

In other nations, public schools are one thread in a quilt that includes free universal child care, health care, and job training. Here, schools are the whole cloth. Today we look around the world at countries like Finland and South Korea, whose students consistently outscore Americans on standardized tests, and wonder what we are doing wrong. Dana Goldstein first asks the often-forgotten question: "How did we get here?"

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Makes one think

  • By Kristina Ayala on 04-07-15

Excellent analysis provides historical context

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

Reviewed: 11-06-18

Dana Goldstein has done her homework. This carefully researched exploration of America's often conflicting views of teaching and teachers provides historical context and depth to help connect the dots in today's confusing debates about education. Organized through an analysis of how moral panics project onto and play out through education, Goldstein brings fresh insight to current debates, demonstrating that there is nothing new under the sun, and that if we actually remember (or learn) our history, we could perhaps, just perhaps, avoid recurrent pitfalls and solve persistent problems. Accessible to anyone interested in education and offering fresh insight to those already steeped in educational theory, philosophy and history. Highly recommend.

  • American Revolutions

  • A Continental History, 1750-1804
  • By: Alan Taylor
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 18 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 209
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 190
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 189

The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. Alan Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, gives us a different creation story in this magisterial history of the nation's founding. Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor's Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fueled by local conditions, destructive, hard to quell.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best book on the American Revolution that I have read

  • By Peter Stephens on 11-16-16

Wide-lens view

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

Reviewed: 06-15-18

(quick confession--I am not writing this review immediately upon finishing the book, but after finishing one more, so my review may be more fuzzy than usual).

Alan Taylor takes a broad view of the Revolution, including far more territory than the eastern seaboard, and far more actors than the British and soon-to-be Americans. The broad view pays off in complexity, context and accuracy. It does trade a bit of depth and sometimes seems rushed. But it is a great addition to a thorough and nuanced understanding of the Revolutionary period.

  • The Three Lives of James Madison

  • Genius, Partisan, President
  • By: Noah Feldman
  • Narrated by: John H. Mayer
  • Length: 34 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 139
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 133
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 132

Over the course of his life, James Madison changed the United States three times: First, he designed the Constitution, led the struggle for its adoption and ratification, then drafted the Bill of Rights. As an older, cannier politician, he cofounded the original Republican party, setting the course of American political partisanship. Finally, having pioneered a foreign policy based on economic sanctions, he took the United States into a high-risk conflict, becoming the first wartime president and, despite the odds, winning.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Cogently organized, meticulously balanced

  • By Diana Black Kennedy on 06-15-18

Cogently organized, meticulously balanced

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

Reviewed: 06-15-18

This is the first book I have listened to about Madison, so it is hard to be sure it is a balanced view of such a complex figure, but I can say that Noah Feldman works hard to explore the good, the bad and the hypocritical. He shares the historical, personal and partisan contexts of Madison's words, actions and beliefs. One gets the sense of Madison the complex, brilliant, evolving, contradictory human. I found the explanations of his growth and changes more subtle and plausible than the "he was great and then Jefferson ruined him" narrative. I am happy I chose this as my Madison biography. Still not sure if I am satisfied and ready to move onto Monroe or want to stay with Madison a bit longer. I'd be interested in hearing other people's feelings about the thoroughness of the book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Counter-Revolution of 1776

  • Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America
  • By: Gerald Horne
  • Narrated by: Larry Herron
  • Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then living in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with the British. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne shows that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A revelation, a paradigm shift and a new view

  • By Diana Black Kennedy on 03-28-18

A revelation, a paradigm shift and a new view

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

Reviewed: 03-28-18

After just the prologue and intro, I was already riveted and fascinated by the ideas and interpretations based on extensive research reaching back before 1776 and beyond the borders of the 13 colonies. I’ve been grappling with the question of slavery’s place in the Revolution and development of the US post-independence, and was fascinated to see the sense Horne made of it based on his wide-angle, counter-hegemonic lens.

It was such a revelation--and I thought I was well-educated about slavery and about the American Revolution and the early years of the republic, and how they intertwined. Reading Horne's book, I feel profoundly ignorant. His historical scope reaches back to the Glorious Revolution (1688) in England and the privatization--and consequent proliferation--of the slave trade; the French and Spanish colonies and their relationship to African slaves in the British colonies; the Caribbean Island plantations and the violent uprisings of slaves there and their influence on the mainland; the creation of a category of Whiteness meant to paper over religious, ethnic and class differences and possible only in contradistinction with African blackness; and the active, angry, dangerous and continuous rebellions of the Africans themselves, sometimes in conjunction with the Spanish and/or the French and/or the Indigenous population.

Horne leads the reader through first-hand accounts and the debates and news of the day to show how London's fear of African insurrection led them on a path towards abolition while leading the American colonists to double-down on the lucrative slave trade. But the enslavement of the Africans was a two-edged sword--the more Africans were in the colonies, the more the white colonists feared them. Meanwhile, London's push towards abolition (motivated in great part on the same fear) pushed the North American colonists further towards revolution, or as Horne defines it, vis a vis the Africans, a counter-revolution.

Horne traces the ripples of the revolution and the African role in it through to the current racism in our society, arguing persuasively that you cannot understand it fully until you see it in its full context in the long view of history.

The Counter-Revolution of 1776 is fascinating, well-researched, funny, insightful, accessible and a constant challenge of our frame of reference about the founding of the US.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court

  • By: R. Kent Newmyer
  • Narrated by: Castle Vozz
  • Length: 24 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 23
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 22

John Marshall (1755 - 1835) was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. As the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1801 to 1835, he helped move the Court from the fringes of power to the epicenter of constitutional government. His great opinions in cases like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland are still part of the working discourse of constitutional law in America.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Long & Informative. Oyez.

  • By iKlick on 04-29-18

Excellent judicial, intellectual history

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

Reviewed: 03-17-18

First and foremost, this should not be your first biography of John Marshall. Had I not just listened to an excellent one, I think I would have been lost quite a bit of the time. Newmyer assumes a passing knowledge of both Marshall and the law, and knowing a handful of Supreme Court cases doesn’t hurt.

That being said, Newmyer offers a fascinating analysis of Marshall’s decisions, situating them vis a vis intellectual, juridical and historical context, looking back to their sources and legal traditions and forward to their effects, ramifications and influences. He deftly teases apart Marshall’s legacy, maintaining their complexity while unwinding the strands into accessible, coherent themes and arguments.

Marshall’s tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stretched over six presidents: John Adams, who appointed him, Jefferson, who hated him, Madison and Monroe, who respected him while disagreeing with him, John Quincy Adams, who defended him and Andrew Jackson, who opposed him as much as possible. Newmyer explores how his jurisprudence adjusted to the changing politics of the age, while illuminating the consistent strands that connect all his decisions.

Well worth reading to fill out and expand your knowledge of John Marshall, antebellum American history, constitutional law and the Supreme Court.