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The History Club

Los Angeles
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  • The Whisperers

  • Private Life in Stalin's Russia
  • By: Orlando Figes
  • Narrated by: John Telfer
  • Length: 29 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6

Drawing on a huge range of sources - letters, memoirs, conversations - Orlando Figes tells the story of how Russians tried to endure life under Stalin. Those who shaped the political system became, very frequently, its victims. Those who were its victims were frequently quite blameless. The Whisperers recreates the sort of maze in which Russians found themselves, where an unwitting wrong turn could either destroy a family or, perversely, later save it: a society in which everyone spoke in whispers - whether to protect themselves, their families, neighbours or friends - or to inform on them.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Real Life Dystopian Nightmare

  • By The History Club on 08-31-18

A Real Life Dystopian Nightmare

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

Reviewed: 08-31-18

It’s hard to even begin to explain the tragedy detailed in this book. It reads like a horrible dystopian nightmare that people cannot wake up from and often don’t even understand they are in. It’s hard to imagine that this world ever existed, but it was very real for millions.

Soviet repression and Stalinism is rightly associated with the Gulag and the extensive network of Soviet prisons. But compared to the entire population, only a small part of Russian society experienced these places. This work explores what happened to the rest of Russian society (it is a book that primarily looks at urban Russia, but much of it could be expanded to the broader Soviet Union).

It details the repressive Soviet “social engineering” experiment, the attempt to control every facet of life – where they lived, who they lived with, where they went to school, who went to school, where you worked, what, when and where you ate. It demonstrates the relentless attempt to destroy every vestige of private life and with it a person’s sense of being an individual. It also shows how ordinary people coped with living in such a oppressive system and how they attempted to mitigate it and maintain some small piece of private life and individuality as a form of resistance to the destruction all around them.

The narration in the audiobook is excellent

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Henry Clay

  • The Man Who Would Be President
  • By: James C. Klotter
  • Narrated by: James Anderson Foster
  • Length: 19 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

Charismatic, charming, and one of the best orators of his era, Henry Clay seemed to have it all. He offered a comprehensive plan of change for America, and he directed national affairs as Speaker of the House, as Secretary of State to John Quincy Adams - the man he put in office - and as acknowledged leader of the Whig party. As the broker of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, Henry Clay fought to keep a young nation united when westward expansion and slavery threatened to tear it apart. Yet, despite his talent and achievements, Henry Clay never became president.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful book by a talented writer and historian

  • By The History Club on 08-24-18

Wonderful book by a talented writer and historian

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

Reviewed: 08-24-18

Excellent and thought provoking. Like any good work on history, the reader will be left with many new questions and many fresh ideas to explore further. I was constantly wanting to put this down and explore the issues it raised, but the author consistently keeps you with him until the end.

Two items struck me the most while reading. The first is the relationship between the development of Clay and the development of Kentucky. Was Clay’s development more a product of Kentucky’s experience, or did Clay have the greater influence on Kentucky’s development? How mutual was the influence? I started believing that the two had more or less equal influence on each other, a back and forth push pull as they developed together. I was left feeling that Kentucky was more of an influence on Clay than he was on Kentucky, a conclusion I don’t think the author would share, but the one I was left with. It is an interesting open question in my mind and left me wanting to read more about the early life of Kentucky.

The second was the person of John J. Crittenden. He is usually more of a background figure in history, a piece of furniture the actors work around. This is clearly not the case and this work leaves you wanting to know more about him. Hopefully we will see a new biography of this important figure. This author would be an excellent choice to write such a book.

The audiobook narration is excellent. James Foster is wonderful. Tantor Audio meets its usual high standard.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Inheritance of Rome

  • Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000
  • By: Chris Wickham
  • Narrated by: James Cameron Stewart
  • Length: 32 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35

Prizewinning historian Chris Wickham defies the conventional view of the Dark Ages in European history with a work of remarkable scope and rigorous yet accessible scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of new material and featuring a thoughtful synthesis of historical and archaeological approaches, Wickham argues that these centuries were critical in the formulation of European identity. Far from being a middle period between more significant epochs, this age has much to tell us in its own right about the progress of culture and the development of political thought.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Intro to An Obscure Period

  • By Earth Lover on 07-30-18

Wonderful book by a talented writer and historian

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

Reviewed: 07-20-18

This is a wonderful book by a talented writer and historian. As the title suggests, the continuity between Roman times and the early middle ages is an important theme in the work. The author blends secular and ecclesiastical history together in a way that never becomes tedious and provides insight into both the eastern and western inheritance of Rome and the post-Roman Islamic world. It never bogs down in political history and gives the reader a view of the social and cultural history of the period. The narration is great, 32hrs by any single narrator can get stale, but this one never does. Highly recommended

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Stalin, Volume I

  • Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928
  • By: Stephen Kotkin
  • Narrated by: Paul Hecht
  • Length: 38 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 344
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 303
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 303

Volume One of Stalin begins and ends in January 1928 as Stalin boards a train bound for Siberia, about to embark upon the greatest gamble of his political life. He is now the ruler of the largest country in the world, but a poor and backward one, far behind the great capitalist countries in industrial and military power, encircled on all sides. In Siberia, Stalin conceives of the largest program of social reengineering ever attempted.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Book But First Time Listener Beware

  • By IRP on 03-23-15

A fresh and different look at Stalin

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

Reviewed: 08-24-17

Would you consider the audio edition of Stalin, Volume I to be better than the print version?

No. Unfortunately the audio version seems to omit any parenthetical statements in the text and these are valuable. If you're using Immersion Reading this is noticeable.

What three words best describe Paul Hecht’s voice?

Nice pacing and inflection. I rated the performance one star because unfortunately the audio version seems to omit any parenthetical statements in the text and these are valuable. If you're using Immersion Reading this is noticeable.

Any additional comments?

I believe what makes this volume special is how it shows Stalin's connection to the historical context of Russia and Europe -especially in regards to Germany - and does so without becoming meaningless Freudian psycho-history. The author also makes excellent use of primary source quotes that will be very helpful for teachers. Here is a passage that I think demonstrates these points:

"But Kamenev went far beyond separating Stalin from Bukharin. We are against creating a “leader” theory, we’re against building up a “leader.” We are against the idea that the secretariat, by combining both policy and organization in practice, should stand above the main political organ, that is, the politburo. . . . Personally, I suggest that our general secretary is not someone who is capable of unifying the old Bolshevik headquarters around himself. . . . Precisely because I have spoken on numerous occasions with Comrade Stalin, precisely because I have spoken on numerous occasions with a group of Lenin’s comrades, I say here at the Congress: I have come to the conclusion that Comrade Stalin cannot perform the function of unifying the Bolshevik headquarters. Kamenev, as he uttered these remarkable words, was interrupted repeatedly, and the jeering became nearly deafening: “Untrue!” “Nonsense.” “So that’s what they’re up to.” “Stalin! Stalin!” The delegates rise and salute Comrade Stalin. Stormy applause. . . . “Long live Comrade Stalin.” Prolonged stormy applause. Shouts of “Hurrah.” General commotion. The published stenogram continued: “Yevdokimov, from his seat: ‘Long live the Russian Communist Party! Hurrah! Hurrah!’ (The delegates stand and shout ‘Hurrah!’ Noise. Stormy, long-sustained applause) (Yevdokimov, from his seat) ‘Long live the central committee of our party! Hurrah!’ (The delegates shout ‘Hurrah!’) ‘The party above all! Right!’ (Applause and shouts, ‘Hurrah!’)”332 Stalin never had a birthday like this (nor would he again)."

This three volume biography will be a great compliment to Anne Applebaum's works on Stalinism - Gulag, Red Famine, and Iron Curtain
Highly recommended

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Ghoul

  • By: Brian Keene
  • Narrated by: Wayne June
  • Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 191
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 174
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 175

June 1984. Timmy Graco is looking forward to summer vacation, taking it easy and hanging out with his buddies. Instead his summer will be filled with terror and a life-and-death battle against a nightmarish creature that few will believe even exists. Timmy learns that the person who’s been unearthing fresh graves in the cemetery isn’t a person at all. It’s a thing. And it’s after Timmy and his friends. If Timmy hopes to live to see September, he’ll have to escape the Ghoul.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • CAN'T WAIT FOR THE MOVIE!!!!

  • By Amanda H. on 02-23-12

The narrator was good, the book was ehh

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

Reviewed: 12-19-16

What would have made Ghoul better?

I was surprised at this novel because the author is normally good but this was disappointing. The opening reads like a tawdry tabloid story and the rest is an awkwardly told Readers Digest version of King's "It". The ending is very abrupt and unsatisfying. I'm not sure if the author intended the epilogue as saying the story was all in their imagination and never happened or if it's just an awkward appendix to an awkward story. In either case all it did was ruin the two characters he developed beyond the other plastic cliche characters used. Again this was surprising and I would recommend reading another book by this author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Martian Chronicles

  • By: Ray Bradbury
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 524
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 439
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 444

Bradbury's Mars is a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor - of crystal pillars and fossil seas - where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a silently destroyed civilization. It is here the invaders have come to despoil and commercialize, to grow and to learn - first a trickle, then a torrent, rushing from a world with no future toward a promise of tomorrow.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Stands the Test of Time

  • By Kathleen on 11-06-12

Classic Book. Excellent Narrator

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

Reviewed: 03-20-15

What made the experience of listening to The Martian Chronicles the most enjoyable?

Classic book everyone that loves Science Fiction knows.
What sets this version apart is that the narrator is excellent and really makes the book come to life.

Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I definitively will. He is excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Age of Reason Begins

  • A History of European Civilization in the Period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo, and Descartes: 1558 - 1648: The Story of Civilization, Book 7
  • By: Will Durant, Ariel Durant
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 34 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 242
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 214
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 211

The Age of Reason Begins brings together a fascinating network of stories in the discussion of the bumpy road toward the Enlightenment. This is the age of great monarchs and greater artists - on the one hand, Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and Henry IV of France; on the other, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, and Rembrandt. It also encompasses the heyday of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and Descartes, the fathers of modern science and philosophy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mostly 30 Years of War, but Reason bests War

  • By Michael on 05-01-15

Very Enjoyable

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

Reviewed: 02-19-15

Any additional comments?

Every sentence is worth reading. The author is not only a very good historian, he is a master at telling the story in a way that engages the reader and naturally leads from one part to another.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • No Simple Victory

  • World War II in Europe, 1939-1945
  • By: Norman Davies
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 20 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 469
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 247
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 243

If history really belongs to the victor, what happens when there's more than one side declaring victory? That's the conundrum Norman Davies unravels in his groundbreaking book No Simple Victory. Far from being a revisionist history, No Simple Victory instead offers a clear-eyed reappraisal, untangling and setting right the disparate claims made by America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in order to get at the startling truth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Best Account of WWII in Europe

  • By Nikoli Gogol on 12-27-07

A book that defeats itself

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

Reviewed: 06-29-14

Any additional comments?

There are probably a good set of sermons here, but No Simple Victory is a labor to read. More of a collection of moralizing essays than a history, the author’s main points about the suffering on the Eastern front and the lack of Allied appreciation of the evil of the Soviet Union and Stalin, gets lost in the author’s obsession for assigning guilt to the western allies for crimes they had no real knowledge of and no control over.

The most serious problem is the author’s use of historical hindsight which he not so subtly uses to attribute knowledge of events and outcomes that the Allies simply did not possess. For example, he passes judgment on the Western bombing campaign against Germany as morally unjustified because it didn’t achieve all of the goals the Allies hoped it would. For example the Allies hoped that the bombing campaign would break the will of the German people to continue fighting. This obviously didn’t happen to the degree that the Allies hoped for, but they had no idea at the time how the bombing was effecting the German war effort.

I couldn’t escape the feeling while I was reading, that the author’s absolutely justifiable moral outrage over what happened on the Eastern Front (and especially Poland), had simply boiled over into a rage and the author was lashing out at any and all participants in an attempt to vent his anger. The author repeatedly returns to statistics about the suffering on the Eastern Front in a macabre dialog that basically amounts to “my pain is worse than your pain”.

Taken together, the unhistorical methods and selective remembering of events the author uses consistently combined with the accusative tone used by the author towards the reader make this a book that started with a noble purpose that degenerated into a long accusative diatribe that makes the reader want to stop reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • World In the Balance

  • The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement
  • By: Robert P. Crease
  • Narrated by: William Roberts
  • Length: 9 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 15
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 14

The epic story of the invention of a global network of weights, scales, and instruments for measurement.

Millions of transactions each day depend on a reliable network of weights and measures. This network has been called a greater invention than the steam engine, comparable only to the development of the printing press.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Great Story About Human Progress

  • By The History Club on 07-12-13

A Great Story About Human Progress

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

Reviewed: 07-12-13

What did you like best about this story?

This is a great story.The great deal of historical writing is filled with books about war and conflict, divisive political issues and depressing events. This is a book about human accomplishment, of people trying to build something. It takes a wide variety of circumstances and events, needs and wants, with a good deal of just plain common sense and shows how it all builds together into a positive accomplishment in human history.

The story telling is excellent and while this book definitely is not for anyone that is looking for more of "The Fast and the Furious", people that are looking for a story of positive human intellectual achievement this is an excellent book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • America's First Great Depression

  • Economic Crisis and Political Disorder After the Panic of 1837
  • By: Alasdair Roberts
  • Narrated by: Kevin Young
  • Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

For a while, it seemed impossible to lose money on real estate. But then the bubble burst. The financial sector was paralyzed and the economy contracted. State and federal governments struggled to pay their domestic and foreign creditors. Washington was incapable of decisive action. The country seethed with political and social unrest. In America's First Great Depression, Alasdair Roberts describes how the United States dealt with the economic and political crisis that followed the Panic of 1837.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent Story

  • By The History Club on 06-10-13

Excellent Story

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

Reviewed: 06-10-13

Any additional comments?

Very enjoyable book. The author does an excellent job of bringing together multiple threads of events that contributed to the 1837 depression in a way that tells a coherent story. The author also includes the necessary background information for the reader to place the events in an understandable context. Not really a narrative history, but a very strong analytic history of the event that doesn't sacrifice readability. The author often takes short sidetracks to add color and interest to the main story, but in a way that doesn't break the flow of the main story.

Excellent companion to read along with "Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times" by H.W. Brands. Another book that goes well with this is "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow which provides a great background to the Bank of the United States and the tension between the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian visions of the United States.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful