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Catherine Spiller

  • 11
  • reviews
  • 23
  • helpful votes
  • 60
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  • From Colony to Superpower

  • US Foreign Relations Since 1776
  • By: George C. Herring
  • Narrated by: Robert Fass
  • Length: 40 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 204
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 163

This prize-winning and critically acclaimed history uses foreign relations as the lens through which to tell the story of America's dramatic rise from 13 disparate colonies huddled along the Atlantic coast to the world's greatest superpower.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Rise and Stall of the American Empire

  • By Doug on 06-13-12

More effort to say that decisions were good or bad than to describe them.

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

Reviewed: 09-12-17

The, as yet incomplete, series that this book is a part of is generally exemplary in giving equal space to the more and the less popular periods of American history; books pretty consistently cover thirty year periods.
Herring has talked in interviews about how much he was thinking about Iraq when he wrote this book, and boy does it show. The first two and a half books of the Oxford history take America up to independence. These books receive no counterpart pages in this; "From Colony to Superpower" includes the superpower part, but not the colony. In general, events that can be used to talk about Iraq get a lot of space, which means that the first century and a bit he does cover goes by quickly.

While the superlative volumes of the series at its best do include value judgments, this book repeatedly devotes three or even four sentences in close proximity to describing Herring's view on the correct policy (often in the form of deriding the intelligence or education of those who disagreed with him; it appears from this volume that no intelligent or moral people were on the wrong side of historical foreign policy debates, no hucksters and charlatans on the right side).
Given the degree to which details are often smoothed over, this is not because he had space to spare.
We are told that the Afghan war was important, for instance, in the context of deriding Bush for Iraq, but we receive no description of the importance of Afghanistan. The degree to which this position mirrored the Obama speeches at the time may just be coincidence, but, Wilson and Vietnam aside, it falls into a general pattern of Democrats being uniformly correct in their foreign policy positions. The decision not to intervene more in the Chinese Civil War, for instance, is not a trade off that later saw America pay a high price in Korea (to say nothing of the price paid by China in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution). Rather, this was a struggle between the noble Truman and villainous and ignorant Republicans.
To put it another way, the language used is that appropriate to the OUP, but the substance is that of the Victorian children's histories parodied in 1066 And All That.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Long Game

  • A Memoir
  • By: Mitch McConnell
  • Narrated by: Mitch McConnell
  • Length: 8 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34

The Long Game is the candid, behind-the-scenes memoir of a man famous for his discretion. He tells how his mother helped him beat polio by leading him through long, aching exercises every day for two years. He explains how his father taught him the importance of standing up to bullies, even if it meant taking the occasional punch. And he reveals what he really thinks about the rivalry between the Senate and the House.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Look at a Career Politician

  • By Jean on 07-24-16

The best Senatorial book of the cycle

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

Reviewed: 06-04-16

The book is an even handed, readable and enjoyable romp through the last thirty, but particularly the last few, years of Senate history, accompanied by a large dose of all American personal story. I'd particularly recommend this book to students as it provides an excellent framework from which to judge future political claims.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Crippled America

  • How to Make America Great Again
  • By: Donald J. Trump
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Lowell, Donald J. Trump - introduction
  • Length: 4 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,303
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,172
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,169

The audiobook will explore Trump's view on key issues including the economy, big CEO salaries and taxes, health care, education, national security, and social issues. Of particular interest will be his vision for complete immigration reform, beginning with securing the borders and putting American workers first.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Straight forward

  • By M. Miller on 01-05-16

Stream of consciousness wonder

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

Reviewed: 04-26-16

Hilarious introduction, much less impressive body. Some gems (vets come back and discover that somebody(singular) has taken all the jobs; clearly an industrious villain), but mostly a multi hour version of a Trump speech.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • A Time for Truth

  • Reigniting the Miracle of America
  • By: Ted Cruz
  • Narrated by: Ted Cruz, Jason Culp
  • Length: 12 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 985
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 909
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 912

Liberals love to hate Ted Cruz. The outspoken Texas Senator has a knack for getting under their skin. His quotable remarks - and even more, his principled stands on numerous national issues - have made him a political lightning rod and the most Googled man in Washington.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • love this!

  • By Phelicia on 02-28-16

Sucks up to people who employed or helped him, catty about others

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

Reviewed: 08-11-15

On the plus side, that means that John Roberts, Pat Roberts, Bush 41, Josh Bolten, and Paul Clement get supported. On the downside, it means plenty of cattiness about unnamed Republicans (which attacks the party without the accountability you get with names), and unending complaints about McConnell. There doesn't appear to be principle involved in either the criticism or the praise except for personally helping Cruz or not. Paul is principled when he agreed with Cruz, awful when he disagreed.
There are some good jokes, but there's nothing solid and worthwhile here.

1 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

  • By: The Great Courses, Kathleen M. Higgins, Robert C. Solomon
  • Narrated by: Kathleen M. Higgins, Robert C. Solomon
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 952
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 841
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 818

Who was Friedrich Nietzsche? This lonely and chronically ill, yet passionate, daring, and complex man is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood of all contemporary philosophers. Why are his brilliant insights so relevant for today? How did he become the most misinterpreted and unfairly maligned intellectual figure of the last two centuries?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect entry point for understanding Nietzsche

  • By Charley Yeager on 03-09-15

An apology (classical sense) for Nietszche

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

Reviewed: 05-19-15

Thoughtful, but with much more of a focus on defending Nietszche from attacks than actually exploring his thought. We learn speculative theories, but relatively little about specific works.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Our Kids

  • The American Dream in Crisis
  • By: Robert D. Putnam
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 327
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 280
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 280

It's the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in - a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last 25 years we have seen a disturbing "opportunity gap" emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A more relatable, less rigorous, Coming Apart

  • By Catherine Spiller on 03-28-15

A more relatable, less rigorous, Coming Apart

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

Reviewed: 03-28-15

This book is filled with fascinating nuggets of data, insights, and explanations for our world. I sometimes felt like the selection of anecdote was a little manipulative. Putnam admits that some examples were chosen that were particularly vivid to make the lesson clearer. When talking about the macro data though, Putnam seems fair, modest, creative, and insightful. The policy recommendations feature unsurprisingly less modest suggestions about the scope of our knowledge, but again he's open about this. An excellent read either in conjunction with Charles Murray's Coming Apart or for those who find lengthy data analysis a struggle to read.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

  • A Memoir
  • By: Kate Braestrup
  • Narrated by: Kate Braestrup
  • Length: 5 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 19

Kate Braestrup has been married and widowed, betrayed and betrothed, her personal spirituality constantly evolving along the way. How do God and love figure in our everyday lives and bonds with others? In Marriage and Other Acts of Charity she tackles these big questions with stories from her own relationships--romantic and familial, platonic and professional--much as Anne Lamott weaves her spirituality through her tales of parenthood.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Humble, theologically orthodox, charming and fun

  • By Catherine Spiller on 03-16-15

Humble, theologically orthodox, charming and fun

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

Reviewed: 03-16-15

The author is a Unitarian Universalist and there are many references to her outsider status, some explicit, some subtle.
Aware that her audience is diverse, though, the theology she expounds is modest and avoids controversy. As an argumentative theology major myself, I have grumbled while listening to at least some passages of every theological audiobook I own (around a dozen). Insight after insight is cleverly delivered without the overstatement that it so hard to avoid.
There is one three sentence passage that explains UU theology in a manner that sounds mildly missionary ("God is love. That's it.... Really.) and gay marriage is briefly addressed in a non-polemic manner, but the book would make an excellent text for people looking to return to orthodoxy, or gift from someone hoping the recipient might enjoy an appealing and gentle advertisement for the life of faith that would avoid teaching heresy. Catholics and high church Protestants may find it particularly surprisingly good, but no denomination will find it offensive on issues that the denomination is in the mainstream on, with the exception of the above caveats and the author's position as a female chaplain, a position Catholics will be comfortable with (no mention is made of communion or other sacraments Catholic female chaplains, rather than priests, could not, in extremis, officiate at), and most, albeit not all, Protestants should have even less issue. The question is only implicit, albeit obvious; again Braestrup avoids *advocating* anything that could be felt to be heretical.

  • God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

  • By: Mike Huckabee
  • Narrated by: Mike Huckabee
  • Length: 8 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 131
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 118
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 115

In Mike Huckabee's new book God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, he asks the question, "Have I been taken to a different planet than the one on which I grew up?" The New York Times best-selling author explores today's American culture, drawing from his travels as a presidential candidate to present average, small-town people and families, and their optimistic resilience in the face of hard times.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Review

  • By Dorothy Ella on 02-13-15

Endless grievances mongering, some folksiness

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

Reviewed: 02-03-15

Very little policy, insight, or history. You will hear him say "as we say in the South" many times, along with endless repetitions of statements about where he lives, his parents' lack of education, his preference for simple things, etc. and when I say repetitions, I mean repetitions; the same words and phrasing, assertions of generic southern-ness, rather than Huckabee specific anecdotes, with the half formed anecdotes (he was spanked as a child, but that's all the detail there, despite him telling us over and over) being heavily recycled.

I've always enjoyed watching Huckabee, and would recommend traveling to hear him speak, but the book reads like a parody of a campaign book, with very little substance indeed.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • A History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts

  • By: Robert Bucholz, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Robert Bucholz
  • Length: 24 hrs and 32 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 685
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 631
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 626

During the 229-year period from 1485 to 1714, England transformed itself from a minor feudal state into what has been called "the first modern society" and emerged as the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world.Those years hold a huge and captivating story. The English survived repeated epidemics and famines, one failed invasion and two successful ones, two civil wars, a series of violent religious reformations and counter-reformations, and confrontations with two of the most powerful monarchs on earth.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Old-fashioned and inaccurate

  • By E. Stein on 02-26-14

A traditional patriotic history for Americans

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

Reviewed: 01-30-15

But with modern scholarship and insights. This book looks at the modern fields of social history and describes the abuses and awfulness, but does so without becoming drenched in self loathing or anger, and without losing the backbone of wars, politics, and art that provide most of the relevance to American audiences.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Outlaw Marriages

  • The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples
  • By: Rodger Streitmatter
  • Narrated by: Christopher Hurt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 105
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 94
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 95

For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. Pairs of men and pairs of women joined together in committed unions, standing by each other "for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health" for periods of 30 or 40 - sometimes as many as 50 - years. In short, they loved and supported each other every bit as much as any husband and wife. In Outlaw Marriages, cultural historian Rodger Streitmatter reveals how some of these unions didn’t merely improve the quality of life for the two people involved but also enriched the American culture.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • very well documented and interesting

  • By Mercedes on 08-21-13

Moving, charming, but not amazing

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

Reviewed: 01-09-15

The format of a series of biographies is hard to keep from being repetitive, but this book succeeds in remaining interesting throughout. Unfortunately the limited space given to each subject requires a degree of superficiality that limits one's understanding of each marriage, but the book remains worthwhile. The slow but inexorable pace of change is particularly well documented.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful