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Darwin8u

Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 927
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  • Norwegian Wood

  • By: Haruki Murakami
  • Narrated by: John Chancer
  • Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 813
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 728
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 731

This stunning and elegiac novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has sold over four million copies in Japan and is now available to American audiences for the first time. It is sure to be a literary event.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Beautiful, Wistful...

  • By Douglas on 02-18-16

This Bird Has Flown

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

Reviewed: 10-13-18

I'm a little conflicted about 'Norwegian Wood.' I love Murakami and I think I get what Murakami was trying to say (at least partially) in this novel. I was just a little too bored and too disinterested to find myself caring about the novel. I finished it, just to have finished it, and kinda felt that Murakami might have felt the same way after writing it. By the end, I was almost begging for some Japanese 'Deus ex Machina' to suddenly appear and rescue me from the plastic bag-like suffocation of the life and death narrative. Ugh.

That all said, perhaps it really is me and not you with this one Murakami.

  • Bunker Hill

  • A City, a Siege, a Revolution
  • By: Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Narrated by: Chris Sorensen
  • Length: 12 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,190
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,070
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,069

Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another Fantastic Story by Philbrick

  • By Rick on 09-30-13

Liberté, piété, prostituées!

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

Reviewed: 10-13-18

"Boston was known for its love of liberty, its piety, and its prostitutes."
- Nathaniel Philbrick, Bunker Hill

I'm an unapologetic fan of Nathaniel Philbrick. I've enjoyed his maritime histories: In the Heart of the Sea, Sea of Glory, Mayflower, etc., but I've also started appreciating his New England histories. Mayflower was actually not just about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower, but was also a solid history of King Philip's War.

Philbrick has moved solidly into the popular (find his books at Costco and Walmart) and award-winning historian category with others like of McCullough, Ellis, and Kearns Goodwin. I haven't read his history of the Little Big Horn yet, but now that I've finished a non-maritime history by Philbrick, I'm completely comfortable that he can write on land as well as on sea.

The book, like his history of the Mayflower, expands beyond the history of the title. The actual history is focused on Boston from 1773 to the evacuation of Bunker Hill in March of 1776, so it includes Lexington & Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Siege of Boston, and the fortification of Dorchester Heights. My greatest thrill with this book is the focus it give to General Joseph Warren. He, in my opinion, is underappreciated by most Americans for his contributions to the Revoutionary War. If he hadn't died prematurely, he would have easily been ranked up there with Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson. He was a polymath and amazing.

  • The Spanish Civil War

  • A Very Short Introduction
  • By: Helen Graham
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 5 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 69
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 48
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 47

This Very Short Intoduction integrates the political, social and cultural history of the Spanish Civil War. It sets out the domestic and international context of the war for a general readership. In addition to tracing the course of war, the book locates the war's origins in the cumulative social and cultural anxieties provoked by a process of rapid, uneven and accelerating modernism taking place all over Europe.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very Short Introductions is the best collection!!

  • By Jose on 05-12-11

The Past is another Country

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

Reviewed: 10-08-18

"You may conquer but you will never convince."
- Miguel de Unamuno, quoted in Helen Graham's The Spanish Civil War: VSI

This subject and project, for me, seems like the perfect realization of the goal of Oxford Press with the VSI. Some subjects just aren't easily made for or summarized in 100-150 pages. And while Graham necessarily left much unsaid in her brief introduction to the Spanish Civil War, she covered a lot of ground and effectively introduced the subject to me.

My past experience with the Spanish Civil War was usually through the literary works of Hemingway, literary reporting of Orwell, or the historical fiction of Alan Furst (Midnight in Europe, etc). Because these are fragments of the story, beyond that I only picked up pieces here and there while reading other historical books on WWII. Graham filled in the gaps perfectly. She went over the events and issues that lead up to the military coup, described the protacted fight between the rebels and the Republic, explained the involvement of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and the difficulties (for the Republic) of the International Non-Interventionist embargo. She also spends an appropriate amount of time on the anti-fascists fighting with the International Brigades. She ends the book with a fascinating chapter on memory and silence in the post-Franco Spain.

The book was moving, well-paced, and wet my appetite to learn more. It also serves as a political and historical parable about how quickly Republican government can be overturned by apathy, aggression, and cultural wars between the haves and have nots, the military and civilian leadership, the church and state, etc., etc.. Fascism is always closer than we would like to think. The Spanish Civil War also serves as a reminder about how differently things might have gone if England and France had stood with the Republic.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction

  • By: Helen Morales
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 3 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

From Zeus and Europa, to Diana, Pan, and Prometheus, the myths of ancient Greece and Rome seem to exert a timeless power over us. But what do those myths represent, and why are they so enduringly fascinating? Why do they seem to be such a potent way of talking about ourselves, our origins, and our desires? This imaginative and stimulating Very Short Introduction goes beyond a simple retelling of the stories to explore the rich history and diverse interpretations of classical myths.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Myth-making and myth-makers

  • By Darwin8u on 10-07-18

Myth-making and myth-makers

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

Reviewed: 10-07-18

"Classical mythology only happens when the stories become active agents; when people use them."
- Helen Morales, VSI Classical Mythology

An interesting take on Classical Mythology. Just like Mary Beard begins and ultimately frames her examination of the Classics for VSI by exploring the British Museum's Bassae room and the Temple of Bassae in Greece, Helen Morales uses Europa on the Bull (on the Euro and on a 3rd Century Roman coin) to BEGIN to examine how myth is used and transformed by cultures, governments, etc., as emblems and powerful statements. While she travels beyond the myth of Zeus (as Bull) and Europa (and beyond governments), she will often return again and again to this myth to explain and illuminate other aspects of classical myths.

In the book Morales looks at the context of Classical myths, Gods and heros, the metaphorphoses of mythology (muthos to logos), she looks at Freud's role in our modern view of Classical Myths (how myth impacted analysis and analysis impacted Classical myths), the sexual politics of myth, and myths and the New Age.

I liked it. I'm always interested how scholars will attempt to tackle the distilation process of VSI. Some cram, some thin, some find creative ways to obliquely tackle and introduce their subjects to amateurs. It is a venture that is (for many subjects) a challenge worthy of a mental Hercules (Heracles).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Fifth Risk

  • By: Michael Lewis
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 657
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 592
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 586

"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them. Michael Lewis’ brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Awkward and Disappointing

  • By Amit M on 10-04-18

Knowledge makes life messier

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

"It's the places in our government where the cameras never roll that you have to worry about the most."
- Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk

I've read several books about President Trump and his administration in the last couple years. They all depress me a bit. I feel like I'm reading some real-time version of Gibbons' 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. But none of the other Trump books scared me like this one did. Lewis isn't interested in the Fox/MSNBC politics or the Twitter-level anxiety of the Trump administration. He is interested, in this book, in the systematic and bureaucratic failures of the Trump administration and what risks this administration's lack of professionalism (this is beyond politics, thisis about competency of governance) might mean to our country and our people.

Lewis does this using his usual approach (which is a bit similar to John McPhee's new nonfiction approach). He finds interesting people who become narrative heros and guides to an area and ties them together into a compelling story or narrative. The areas Lewis explores? Presidential Transitions (guide: Max Stier); I Department of Energy/Tail Risk (guides: Tarak Shah, John MacWilliams), II USDA/People Risk (guides: Ali Zaidi, Kevin Concannon, Cathie Woteki), III Department of Commerce/All the President's Data (Guides: Kathy Sullivan, DJ Patil, David Friedberg).

This is a short book. It is relevant but still not top-shelf Lewis. I enjoyed it, but just wished it was bit longer and a bit deeper*. It

* I get the irony. This books scared the sh!t out of me. It made me sad. Therefore, I wish it were longer.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Logic: A Very Short Introduction

  • By: Graham Priest
  • Narrated by: Craig Jessen
  • Length: 3 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 48
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 47

Logic is often perceived as having little to do with the rest of philosophy, and even less to do with real life. In this lively and accessible introduction, Graham Priest shows how wrong this conception is. He explores the philosophical roots of the subject, explaining how modern formal logic deals with issues ranging from the existence of God and the reality of time to paradoxes of probability and decision theory. Along the way, the basics of formal logic are explained in simple, non-technical terms, showing that logic is a powerful and exciting part of modern philosophy.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not an easy listen

  • By Michael on 03-11-15

This book = short. This book = introduction ∴ ...

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

Reviewed: 10-06-18

"...with vagueness, nothing is straighforward."
Graham Priest, VSI Logic

I was going to try to write a VSR (Very Short Review) of this book using symbolic logic, but abandoned that idea about 1/3 of the way through this book as I began to remember that while I enjoy logic in theory, the practice of formal logic and its symbols sometimes drives me batty. I think it stems not from my computing power, just my weak will power and general lack of interest. Some people love symbolic logic with its ability to dodge some of the difficulties of vagueness, equivocation, and confusion from emotive significance that comes from thinking carefully using languages that are, by nature, all a little fudgy. But, like any language, symbolic logic requires practice, discipline, and time. I guess I lack all three. I could write that in symbolic logic too, I guess, but like I said earlier. Nah, not really interested.

The book is, however, a nice overview of logic. Going through the basics of: validity, truth functions, names and quantifiers, descriptions, self-reference, necessity and possibility, conditionals, the future and the past, identity and change, vagueness, probability, inverse probability, decision theory, and a quick survey of logic from the Greeks to Bertrand Russell (and a bit beyond).

Probably, my favorite parts were probability and decision theory. But that goes back to my days doing economic analysis and econometrics. I felt like I was partially on terra firma. Partially. I should also disclose I read this in the bath. That is neither here nor there, but I think part of my difficulties with this book might have come from the lack of an oak table, green lamp, and chewed-up pencil.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

  • The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe
  • By: Lisa Randall
  • Narrated by: Carrington MacDuffie
  • Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 288
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 264
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 261

Sixty-six million years ago, an object the size of a city descended from space to crash into Earth, creating a devastating cataclysm that killed off the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet. What was its origin? In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Lisa Randall proposes it was a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the solar system passed through a disk of dark matter embedded in the Milky Way. In a sense it might have been dark matter that killed the dinosaurs.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • SOME LIGHT ON DARK MATTER

  • By Ray on 11-22-15

“What is the speed of dark?”

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

Reviewed: 09-28-18

“What is the speed of dark?”
- Lisa Randall, Dark Matter

Lisa Randall is smart. But she is also able to take topics that most people know very little about (dark matter, dark energy, etc) and translate the hard science into books for the unwashed masses. She's good. I believe part of what makes Randall one of a handful of our country's great public intellectuals is her ability to translate and to transfer her specialized knoweldge into books that are largely accesssable to the layman. Also, she is curious. Part of what makes her a phenominal scientist and not just a very good one, is her curiosity beyond her specialized career. She is a theoretical physicist, a cosmologists, a model builder who works well with other theoretical particle physicists and cosmologists. But she doesn't stop there. She is curious about biology, evolution, geology, politics, art, literature, etc. She is a connector. She jumps into fields and links things that might have been easily missed. She sees a periodicity in large meteor hits, makes an argument that links those asteroids to dark matter and builds a model to explain it. She isn't easily kept inside a box.

Last year I was able to spend a couple days with her when my sister hosted her and some friends in Idaho for the totality. It was amazing to watch some basic standard physics (moon blocking the sun) with one of the most cited living physicists. I was literally in the dark with a dark matter expert.

At first with the book, I wasn't sure where she was going. She obviously needed to lay some basic groundwork about how the univeres was structured, what dark matter was, etc., but then she jumped into a discussion of meteors and comets, mass extinctions, and then we were back to discussing dark matter. But she pulled it off. She carefully laid the table to explain the contributions she made concerning dark matter. One of the things I loved about her writing was she was constantly reinforcing the importance of science, EVEN WHEN IT IS SHOWN LATER TO BE WRONG. Randall loves the idea of science more than even her own ideas. It is easy to adore someone who humbles themselves to the possibility of their theory being wrong, and uses that to further embrace the scientific method. I guess I'll let Lisa have the last work to summarize this book:

"This book is about the seemingly abstract stuff such as dark matter that I study, but it is also about the Earth’s relationships to its cosmic surroundings."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Fear

  • Trump in the White House
  • By: Bob Woodward
  • Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
  • Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,189
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,843
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,774

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One, and the White House residence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extremely Depressing...

  • By Sena on 09-11-18

And loathing

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

Reviewed: 09-28-18

Since All the President's Men there really hasn't been a Woodward book I've enjoyed. I once owned a bunch of his Clinton and Bush books, but I found them all a bit obnoxious and DC proximity porn. While I think some of the information gleaned by Woodward for this book is worth the proximity porn, I still don't like his style. I'm also not a fan of the actual writing of this book. It doesn't flow.

Does it convince me more that Trump is a danger, an idiot, self-absorbed, reckless, without a moral compass, lacking empathy, compassion, loyalty, etc.? Sure. But I figured most of that out from JUST Trump's tweets. There are some nice quotes from various Trump-enablers calling Trump various versions of dumb, but still, not anything new. We've caught glimpes and shadows of this already (see Comey's book, see the Wolff book, etc).

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Classics: A Very Short Introduction

  • By: Mary Beard, John Henderson
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 4 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 17

This Very Short Introduction to classics links a haunting temple on a lonely mountainside to the glory of ancient Greece and the grandeur of Rome, and to Classics within modern culture - from Jefferson and Byron to Asterix and Ben-Hur.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Cultural Importance of Classics

  • By Thomas on 12-10-14

Bassae-frame almost doesn't hold the subject

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

Reviewed: 09-28-18

"The aim of Classics is not only to discover or uncover the ancient world. Its aim is also to define and debate our relationship to that world."
- Mary Beard, Classics

Using the British Museum's Bassae room and the Temple of Bassae as a framework, Mary Beard introduces us to the Classics. There are points when her Bassae-frame almost doesn't hold her subject, but her metaphor/frame largely holds together. It acts like a map, allowing Beard and Henderson an opportunity to walk around and examine the classics from several perspectives. Readers of the Classics become tourists and Beard and Henderson become our tour guides. Like all VSI, I'm always left feeling a bit snubbed and short shrifted. My whistle is barely wetted and I'm asked to leave room and exit the museum.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Word for World Is Forest

  • By: Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Narrated by: Kevin Pariseau
  • Length: 5 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 314
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 263
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 262

The planet Athshe was a paradise whose people were blessed with a mystical awareness of existence. Then the conquerors arrived and began to rape, enslave, and kill humans with a flicker of humanity. The athseans were unskilled in the ways of war, and without weapons. But the gentle tribesmen possessed strange powers over their dreams. And the alien conquerors had taught them how to hate....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • She is talent incarnate

  • By Archaon on 07-10-11

Leaving the Shadow

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

Reviewed: 08-18-18

"--the anthropologist cannot always leave his own shadow out of the picture he draws--"
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for the World is Forest

The more Le Guin I read, the more I love her. Reading Le Guin for me these last couple years, reminds me of how I felt when I first discovered John le Carré. They seem to both be able to write the same theme in so many different ways. It makes me think of Monet's many versions of the same church front or pond. Masters all. An artist doesn't have to go very wide to create worlds, sometimes the best worlds are created by just going deep.

In this novel Le Guin explores two cultures colliding. In many ways, this book is an exploration of acculturation. Le Guin's parents were both anthropologists, so some of these ideas pop into many of her books. The novel, while dealing with big themes of cultural anthropology and environmentalism, still doesn't let the themes dominate the narrative. She creates an interesting story, fantastic characters, and lets the themes come naturally. Nothing is forced. Her ideas seem entirely native to the story.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful