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  • 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 out of 5 stars 23
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20

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

Excellent Intro to An Obscure Period

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

Reviewed: 07-30-18

Writing for a non-specialist audience, Wickham has summed up the past generation of research into this most obscure of Western historical periods. Usually characterized as the "Fall of Rome" and the "Dark Ages," this book traces continuities and evolution across the entire Western world (ie, everything West of Persia), with major coverage of Byzantium and Islam.

i'm not the scholar to review this book in detail, but compared to anything previously available - usually a few chapters in a book focusing on the later Middle Ages - this book raises the bar considerably.

Stewart is a capable reader. However, the recording itself is brassy and can be difficult for sustained listening. Audible could do us a favor by demanding better audio engineering from its contributing companies.

Still, this is a 5-star audiobook, and sets a high standard for the field.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition

  • By: Teofilo F. Ruiz, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Teofilo F. Ruiz
  • Length: 12 hrs and 24 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 263
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 239
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 233

Western civilization is closely associated with reason and science, and with exceptional accomplishments in art, architecture, music, and literature.Yet it has also been characterized by widespread belief in the supernatural and the irrational - with mystics who have visions of the divine and entire movements of people who wait in fervent anticipation of the apocalypse.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • For those who wonder why

  • By Christina on 10-07-13

Lightweight Intro to a Complicated Topic

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

Reviewed: 07-15-18

Professor Ruiz spends way too much time telling us that things are important, or difficult, or how much we really need to know them - then scants the actual content.

Case in point - the lecture on Jewish Mysticism. He actually tells us twice that he knows this is boring material. Thanks, Prof! Jewish Mysticism is not boring - what's boring is a lecturer who takes 8-10 minutes to get to the content of a 30-minute session.

For a Great Courses release, this is distinctly lightweight.

Much better audiobook about this material - Michael Bailey's Magic and Superstition in Europe.

  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

  • A New History of a Lost World
  • By: Steve Brusatte
  • Narrated by: Patrick Lawlor
  • Length: 10 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 815
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 758
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 748

In this stunning narrative spanning more than 200 million years, Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has emerged as one of the foremost stars of the field - discovering 10 new species and leading groundbreaking scientific studies and fieldwork - masterfully tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • what a great book!

  • By allen on 05-01-18

Me Me Me Me Me - and a Few Dinosaurs

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

Reviewed: 06-08-18

If I were a dinosaur, or a descendent of one, I would sue. The title of this book makes it look like a book about dinosaur history - but no, it's actually a book about Steve Brusatte. Oh, and all the amazing, brilliant, outrageous paleontologists he knows and all the fun things they do when they are not finding dino bones - which is a lot of the time, as it turns out.

I already thought 10 hours was too little to do justice to the topic - but this book doesn't seem to have more than a few hours about dinosaurs themselves.

For a better survey of life on Earth, try A New History of Life or Great Courses Origin and Evolution of Earth.

Now we just need a real book about dinosaur history!

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Art History: A Very Short Introduction

  • By: Dana Arnold
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 3 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 25
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 23

This clear and concise new introduction examines all the major debates and issues using a wide range of well-known examples. It discusses the challenge of using verbal and written language to analyze a visual form. Dana Arnold also examines the many different ways of writing about art, and the changing boundaries of the subject of art history. Topics covered include the canon of Art History, the role of the gallery, 'blockbuster' exhibitions, and the emergence of social histories of art.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An Introduction to Western Methodology and Theory

  • By yiwen on 03-21-17

Excellent Short Survey of Theory

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

Reviewed: 04-28-18

This is an excellent book on its own terms - an introduction to the theory of art and its history. It is a good, short intro to "Theory" in the broader sense, using art history as its subject.

This is not a book about "the history of works of art" - it is not a chronological description of how Western art has evolved, of periods of art, or of social causes of changes in art styles.

It is a discussion of the theory of art and art history. The book discusses issues like "What Is Art," how art is presented, what groups and classes benefit from certain ways of presenting art, etc.

I have found it a provocative book, and enjoy listening at random to see what thoughts it sets off.

  • Capital: Volume 1

  • A Critique of Political Economy
  • By: Karl Marx, Samuel Moore - translation, Edward Aveling - translation
  • Narrated by: Derek Le Page
  • Length: 43 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

It can be said of very few books that the world was changed as a result of its publication - but this is certainly the case of Capital: A Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1818-1883). Volume 1 appeared (in German) in 1867, and the two subsequent volumes appeared at later dates after the author's death - completed from extensive notes left by Marx himself.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Exploitation never goes out of fashion

  • By Gary on 05-06-18

Classic Economics Text - A Good Listen

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

Reviewed: 04-01-18

Capital is one of the half-dozen key economic texts of the past 200 years - and perhaps the most readable. Volume One contains the key material. How great to settle into a good reading.

Marx takes the labor theory of value as developed by Adam Smith and others and shows its implications for workers, managers, and owners - a worthy goal, and critical reading for anyone interested in economics regardless of your outlook.

No, Marx can't "prove" that labor is the basis of all economic value. That's because you can't prove ANY theory of value - you always wind up assuming what you set out to prove. All you can do is show the implications of starting from a particular theory.

What Marx shows is, IF you accept that labor is the core of economic value, here is how capitalism structures economic relations. He shows the source of profit (from the exploitation of productive labor, he famously concludes), how banks, insurance companies,and other non-productive firms fit into the picture, the role of management - and most of all, how working people are getting ripped off by owners, stock-holders, etc.

Big surprise, eh?

Basically, the labor theory of value makes sense to those of us who work for a wage or a fixed, contracted salary with no "stock options". For the managing and owning classes and those who dream of joining them, there are obvious incentives NOT to accept this theory. Suit yourself.

Have Marx's economic ideas ever been applied by "communist" countries? For the most part, no - so-called socialist countries have mainly applied totalitarian capitalist methods, with mixed results. Russia, China and the rest have been state-capitalist, not popular-socialist, systems.

We're still waiting for the world's first workers' democracy. The first steps include grasping how capital functions and how it structures our world. This recording is a welcome contribution.

30 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces

  • By: Joseph Campbell
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey, John Lee, Susan Denaker
  • Length: 14 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,413
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,281
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,268

Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell's revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In this book, Campbell outlines the Hero's Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world's mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Meaningful and thought-provoking

  • By Learner on 02-09-16

Trivial and Vastly Overrated

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

Reviewed: 12-31-17

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Campbell is well-read, but this book is a trivial Freudian reduction of all global mythology to the dominant Western psychological paradigm. Campbell draws worthy attention to the basic structure of myths, but his overriding concern is to fit every myth into his pre-conceived model.

What was most disappointing about Joseph Campbell’s story?

Too often Campbell's examples don't obviously illustrate his points, and seem chosen mainly to show off his wide reading. Many of the myths seem forced into pigeon-holes rather than read and explicated in their own right. Myths are unique. living entities, not exemplars of a universal (Freudian) structure.

Any additional comments?

The introductory chapter, which lays out the Freudian paradigm Campbell employs, is actually a very honest and open revelation of his (simplistic, reductionist) method. Read that chapter first, and then see if you think this book is so brilliant.

  • The Templars

  • The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors
  • By: Dan Jones
  • Narrated by: Dan Jones
  • Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 673
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 601
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 594

In 1307, as they struggled to secure their last strongholds in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Templars fell afoul of the vindictive and impulsive king of France. On Friday, October 13, hundreds of brothers were arrested en masse, imprisoned, tortured, and disbanded amid accusations of lurid sexual misconduct and heresy. They were tried by the Vatican in secret proceedings. But were they heretics or victims of a ruthlessly repressive state?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Unexpected

  • By Protogere on 10-30-17

Readable, Not Too Deep

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

Reviewed: 12-04-17

Would you listen to The Templars again? Why?

Probably not - it's a good book, but once was enough. I'd be more inclined to read something else about the period.

Which scene was your favorite?

Along with the narrative of the crusades, I appreciated the occasional sections on economics - how the Templars raised, stored, and used their vast income. The one thing I missed was an discussion of how the Templars and other Orders built the huge castles and compounds along the Mediterranean shore. Did they import European masons? Hire a master and train local workers?

Any additional comments?

Dan Jones does a good job narrating his own text in an understated manner. This is a crisp and informative book, a good overview of the Templars.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Beatleness

  • How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World
  • By: Candy Leonard
  • Narrated by: Tamara Marston
  • Length: 11 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6

Beatleness explains how the band became a source of emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual nurturance in fans’ lives, creating a relationship that was historically unique. Looking at that relationship against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, political assassinations, and other events of those tumultuous years, the audiobook critically examines the often-heard assertion that the Beatles changed everything.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Important But A Bit Tedious

  • By Earth Lover on 08-26-17

Important But A Bit Tedious

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

Reviewed: 08-26-17

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

OK, this book fills an interesting niche - interviews with original teenage Beatles fans. But Leonard manages to make the whole thing sound like a very long term paper. Each point is interesting and well-documented. But there's a difference between documenting the Beatles experience versus conveying the thrill of being there. Chalk this up as good research and let's hope other writers can build on it.

Would you be willing to try another book from Candy Leonard? Why or why not?

Depends on the topic - I'd expect it to read like a term paper.

What aspect of Tamara Marston’s performance would you have changed?

Less chirpy - just relax and read - no need to pump your voice up.

Did Beatleness inspire you to do anything?

One guess!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Worst. President. Ever.

  • James Buchanan, the POTUS Rating Game, and the Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents
  • By: Robert Strauss
  • Narrated by: Tom Perkins
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 159
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 153
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 154

Worst. President. Ever. flips the great presidential biography on its head, offering an enlightening - and highly entertaining - account of poor James Buchanan's presidency to prove once and for all that, well, few leaders could have done worse. But author Robert Strauss does much more, leading listeners out of Buchanan's terrible term in office to explore with insight and humor his own obsession with presidents, and ultimately the entire notion of ranking our presidents.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyable But Lightweight

  • By Earth Lover on 05-29-17

Enjoyable But Lightweight

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

Reviewed: 05-29-17

What did you like best about Worst. President. Ever.? What did you like least?

Breezy overview of a disastrous presidency. Little insight as to larger factors leading to the Civil War. The Impending Crisis by Potter & Fehrenbacher covers Buchanan's term with more insight and depth.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Rockets and Revolution

  • A Cultural History of Early Spaceflight
  • By: Michael G. Smith
  • Narrated by: JJ Langan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 6

Rockets and Revolution offers a multifaceted study of the race toward space in the first half of the twentieth century, examining how the Russian, European, and American pioneers competed against one another in the early years to acquire the fundamentals of rocket science, engineer simple rockets, and ultimately prepare the path for human spaceflight.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating and Difficult

  • By Earth Lover on 01-18-17

Fascinating and Difficult

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

Reviewed: 01-18-17

Any additional comments?

Fringe science, sci-fi, futurism, and a dash of radical politics c. 1880-1940 - the precursors of rocket science. A strange and fascinating melange of virtually unknown scientific sources, marginal novels, etc, with a special focus on the USSR.

On first listen I found this book nearly incomprehensible, it was throwing so much unfamiliar material at me. On second listen, the outline was clearer, and the research seems thorough and even-handed.

Little actual science or politics - mainly a review of fringe literature that laid the groundwork for the development of rockets.

Not for everyone, but on its own terms, an outstanding book.