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  • The Overstory

  • By: Richard Powers
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 22 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 633
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 582
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 582

The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable that range from antebellum New York to the late 20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. An air force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits 100 years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Astonishingly powerful writing.

  • By Alexandria on 04-18-18

I love the cover, but ...

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

I wanted to love this book. It has a beautiful cover, the topics of climate change and forests interest me greatly, and several goodreads friends whose reading tastes often align with mine have given it five stars, but this is just not the book for me. I can't even give it a fair rating. The first chapter, "Roots", is worthy of five stars, but the later chapters "Trunk", "Crown", and "Seeds" were disappointing, disjointed and confusing. I can't deny Powers' extensive research, but even that along with some great writing couldn't save this one for me. I'm tempted to try Barkskins by Annie Proulx or maybe Managing Forest Ecosystems: The Challenge of Climate Change by Felipe Bravo would be a better book for me.

  • Farsighted

  • By: Steven Johnson
  • Narrated by: George Newbern, Steven Johnson - introduction
  • Length: 6 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 85
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 79
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 79

There's no one-size-fits-all model for the important decisions that can alter the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. But Farsighted explains how we can approach these choices more effectively and how we can appreciate the subtle intelligence of choices that shaped our broader social history. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyed it - Not what I was expecting

  • By William Coppage on 10-08-18

Decisions are hard.

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

Farsighted is an interesting book, but it seems to mainly illustrate just how very complex decision-making can be. These are not the single-variable, binary, yes or no type of decisions, but instead the complex and complicated type where changing types of variables are considered. Many of these decisions that matter the most are group or societal ones; I had hoped for more focus on individual decisions.

  • Unsheltered

  • A Novel
  • By: Barbara Kingsolver
  • Narrated by: Barbara Kingsolver
  • Length: 16 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,047
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 964
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 965

Brilliantly executed and compulsively listenable, Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum, as they navigate the challenges of surviving a world in the throes of major cultural shifts. In this mesmerizing story told in alternating chapters, Willa and Thatcher come to realize that though the future is uncertain, even unnerving, shelter can be found in the bonds of kindred - whether family or friends - and in the strength of the human spirit. 

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Spring for a professional narrator, please!

  • By Gail Dragon on 11-05-18

Kingsolver is much better when she isn't preaching

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

Despite the time shifts, and being beaten over the head with what's wrong with Trump's America, Medicaid, higher education and associated debt, I did finish Unsheltered, but just barely. It's clear that Barbara Kingsolver has something to say, and the funny thing is that I agree with most of her opinions (yes, he is the Bullhorn), but this is not how I want to learn that there really isn't much to the American dream for many of us any more. I can learn much of this by living with the consequences of medical and educational debt in real life, so a book populated with sound bites instead of characters is not for me.

There were a couple of happy surprises - the Baby Surprise Jackets that Tig knits and learning about the real-life Mary Treat. Only those two things kept this book from slipping to one star for me. I liked Kingsolver's fiction much better when she wasn't preaching to me.

  • Becoming

  • By: Michelle Obama
  • Narrated by: Michelle Obama
  • Length: 19 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 18,177
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 16,739
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 16,634

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites listeners into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her - from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it - in her own words and on her own terms.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Didn't know what I was getting into

  • By Kenneth Woodward on 12-05-18

Michelle Obama sets the bar higher.

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

Becoming is every bit as good as you hope and think that it might be. Michelle Obama writes and narrates her own fascinating story about growing up in Chicago with a family who valued education and taught her the she mattered, about meeting Barack and having enough love and faith that she was willing to live the life of a political spouse even though it was not her choice, and about her otherworldly years in the White House.

I'm always fascinated by what happens when a strong, independent, opinionated woman gives up her career and much of herself for her husband. There are costs to be sure, but Michelle handles it all and almost makes it look easy. I honestly feel sorry for almost anyone who has to live in the secluded and removed atmosphere that surrounds the Presidency, but she managed to live that way for eight years and still be a wonderful wife, mother, and human being. Thank you, Michelle, for setting the bar higher for all of us.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Get Well Soon

  • History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
  • By: Jennifer Wright
  • Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
  • Length: 7 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,861
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,479
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,460

In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn't stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon 34 more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-19th-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome - a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Highly informative with a humorous twist

  • By alan on 05-29-17

Plagues and more plagues

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

Reviewed: 12-05-18

An intriguing look at plagues throughout history. Some I had heard of, others not, but most of them provide some interesting medical, social, and historical information. In some of these discussions I might have liked more in-depth information (the Antonine plague and lobotomies as a plague?) Jennifer Wright uses humor to make all of this slightly less scary, but she also states that even though we tend to forget about diseases once they no longer affect us, the World Health Organization reported that 126 people died of the bubonic plague in 2013. The next plague will affect us some day, especially if we refuse to vaccinate our children.

  • Coyote America

  • A Natural and Supernatural History
  • By: Dan Flores
  • Narrated by: Elijah Alexander
  • Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,316
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,195
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,196

Coyote America is both an environmental and a deep natural history of the coyote. It traces both the five-million-year-long biological story of an animal that has become the "wolf" in our backyards and its cultural evolution from a preeminent spot in Native American religions to the hapless foil of the Road Runner. A deeply American tale, the story of the coyote in the American West and beyond is a sort of Manifest Destiny in reverse.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very Enjoyable Book, Subject Matter, and Reader

  • By John Townsend on 03-17-17

Good, but could have been better with more science

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Dan Flores waxes rhapsodic about coyotes, delving into the name, history, man's interactions with coyotes, and how humans have created the conditions that have allowed the spread of the coyote population eastward across the whole country. While all of this was interesting, he also strays a bit too far from science for me. He uses folklore, mythology, and anthropology to point out how humans and coyotes share many characteristics, like adaptability and intelligence, (which I think they do, but I wouldn't base that conclusion upon folk stories). I think that the author could have spent some time with ranchers and farmers to better understand their intense feelings towards coyotes as predators and not just claim that our "hatred seems hard to square with anything rational.” I think that Mr. Flores could have written a better book if he had written about coyotes in a far less anthropomorphic way, and more about their biology, behavior, and how nature is always a fine and delicate balance.

  • The Unthinkable

  • Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
  • By: Amanda Ripley
  • Narrated by: Kirsten Potter
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 635
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 503
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 504

Today, nine out of 10 Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality - anything we've ever learned, thought, or dreamed of - ultimately matter?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • these days, you can never know enough......

  • By Andy on 10-29-10

We all need to think about the unthinkable.

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

Reviewed: 07-03-18

I hate to fly, but if I want to see my oldest son who lives 1700 miles away, I pretty much have to. When I was four months pregnant with this son, I was on a flight that had a fire in the cabin shortly after takeoff, so the pilot told us we needed to assume the crash position, return to the airport, land on a runway surrounded by fire trucks, and exit using the wing evacuation slides. Everything turned out fine, but it was pretty darn scary at the time. I've been terrified to fly ever since, asking my doctor for four Xanax four times a year when I had to fly. She has become less willing to prescribe them, so now I just have a drink before boarding.

When I saw this book at the library, even the title made my heart pound, but I decided to check it out and face my fear. Instead of being scary, I found this book to be interesting, informative, empowering, and a positive look at how people react when faced with a disaster. I hope I never have to learn what my "disaster personality" (how you respond in a crisis) would be if I was in the middle of a real disaster, but this book has given me a lot to think about, and at least listen to the safety presentation before takeoff, identify the plane exits as instructed, and learn where the fire exits are when I check into a hotel. I'm still afraid to fly, but after reading The Unthinkable, I can recognize that as an emotional response, and move beyond it by planning, preparation, practicing, and executing my plan. It's a fine line between telling yourself that the chances of a disaster happening to you or a loved one are slim and expecting disasters around every corner, but The Unthinkable provides an educational, logical, and positive approach to risk, fear, and disaster planning.

  • This Is Water: The Original David Foster Wallace Recording

  • By: David Foster Wallace
  • Narrated by: David Foster Wallace
  • Length: 24 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 687
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 553
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 544

Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. This is the audio recording of David Foster Wallace delivering that very address. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The best 20 minutes of my life.

  • By John Nosal on 10-09-12

Be aware and pay attention

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

Reviewed: 07-03-18

I've heard many graduation and commencement speeches in the academic careers of myself and my family. I would count only two as worthwhile, and this is one of them. It is simple, based in honesty, but without moral lecturing, and so truthful that it felt like David Foster Wallace was talking to me. I listened to this from Audible, and I think that hearing DFW give the speech made it even more powerful for me. But I also think that it's important enough to hear or read however you can, so google the pdf transcript or listen to it on youtube. Don't just revert to your default setting; choose to look differently, be aware, and pay attention. This one is staying on my ipod for multiple relistens, especially on those days when I'm lazy and have forgotten that "this is water".

  • How to Change Your Mind

  • What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
  • By: Michael Pollan
  • Narrated by: Michael Pollan
  • Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 6,720
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,077
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6,029

When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A delightful trip

  • By Paul E. Williams on 05-19-18

Perfectly researched, written, & read by Pollan

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

Reviewed: 07-03-18

I've enjoyed many of Michael Pollan's other books, but had already decided not to read this one as I have only a passing interest in psychedelics. But then I heard Terry Gross interview the author on Fresh Air and I was immediately intrigued. After reading the book, I think the best parts are still contained in the interview, but I did learn a lot about the history of psychedelic drugs (mainly LSD and psilocybin), the scientific research (then and now), the damage that Timothy Leary and his cavalier attitude may have done to the drugs' reputation, the possible mental health applications, and even possible enhancement of the lives of people who are not mentally ill.

Much of what makes this book interesting is Pollan's exhaustive research and boundless curiosity, along with his engaging writing style. I listened to the audio book, narrated by the author in his own perfect voice which also added to the experience. His approach is skeptical, which helped me to take the subject seriously because I feel pretty much the same. I rolled my eyes at some of the spiritual trip descriptions, but the author was doing some of the same, and he was able to convince me that there might be something to this through his non-judgmental, educational, and personal writing. I was especially interested in several areas that Pollan mentioned - treating terminally ill patients at the end of their lives with psychedelics to alleviate their fear of dying, and how his wife felt that his own trips had helped him be more present for the death of his own father. I've had recent experience with both of these situations (without the aid of psychedelics!), and if these things are true at all, it would seem almost inhumane not to provide some magic mushrooms that might help patients and their families.

  • Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief

  • Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life
  • By: Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Narrated by: Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Length: 1 hr and 55 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 284
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 211

If you're reading this, chances are your life, or the life of someone you know, is shaped by pain - and the physical and emotional suffering that usually accompany it. The good news: Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues have helped thousands of people learn to use the power of mindfulness to transform their relationship to pain and suffering, and discover new degrees of freedom for living with greater ease and quality of life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Like a friend talking to you

  • By A reader on 08-27-11

Mindfulness meditation can help

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

Reviewed: 07-03-18

This is probably a 3.5 star book in my opinion, but it was worth listening to, especially when my pain was at its worst. At the very least it provided a distraction from the head, neck, shoulder pain, and crippling headaches I was experiencing. The symptoms affected every aspect of my daily life, and much of the night, but I could often get back to sleep with an extra dose of ibuprofen and listening to this mindfulness meditation. I didn't find it a cure-all, but I do think it was a valid part of treatment that includes ibuprofen, topical arnica, Traumeel, Aspercreme, and physical therapy. Things are better (not perfect), but so far I've avoided surgery for cervical herniated discs. Mindfulness meditation may not fix everything in your life, but it can help in many ways.