Zachary Brannock

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The Link audiobook cover art

Hype and Spin are Nauseating

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-25-09

The book appears to be written by several different authors: a public relations man, a journalist, and maybe a few paleontologists desperate for a burst of attention and money; and together they have written a very confusing and self serving book. Consider the title: The Link, Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor. 1) The authors do not actually assert that the fossil is a link between any two groups of animals; 2) the authors actually believe that the fossil is probably not an ancestor of ours. However, you must dig pretty deep to uncover these facts. I had to go through a discovery process myself to realize I did not understand what the authors were trying to assert. I read the scientific paper published by the scientists/authors involved. I had to go back and listen to more of the audio book, read a few editorials in leading scientific journals, and listen to parts of the audio book again. This is a lot of trouble to go through just to get to some basic facts about what the authors are trying to put out here. It boils down to this: the fossil is the best preserved primate ever found, it is extremely old (closer to the age of the dinosaurs than to us), and while it is probably not a direct ancestor of monkeys, apes or humans, it does look like what scientists might expect an early relative of our ancestors would look like. And, if I am wrong about any of this, well, it's not for a lack of trying. Regardless, this discovery is simply not "like a comet hitting the earth", nor like any other such hyperbole, and I found myself a bit indignant having to listen to all that (I guess this shows). I do not believe a presentation based on spin and duplicity is the best way to bring science to the public. In fact, I won't be surprised when some of the spin tactics in this book backfire and find their way into an argument against supporters of evolution. On a positive note, the description of the Eocene epoch was nice and enjoyable.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Not so young

2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-09-09

I bought this for my 11 year old son because he was interested in ancient Rome and especially Hannibal. However, I did not realize this book was written in 1887. The Victorian era prose was, shall we say, not to his liking. After reading the Publisher's Summary, I had for some reason thought the book was more current. Anyway, I would have liked to have been aware of this before buying it.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful


4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-25-08

This is tough going. An audio version of Tacitus is really hard to follow even if you have a good background in Roman history and perhaps the best narrator in the business. There are many other excellent productions of works on ancient Rome that I would recommend before investing an effort in Tacitus, e.g. those of Robert Graves, Julius Caesar, Harold Lamb, Cyril Robinson, Sallust, Plutarch, Suetonius, (all available on Audible). I give you this list in the order that I would probably have preferred to hear them. MB

41 of 41 people found this review helpful

Absolutely Brilliant

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-25-08

If you are looking for a novel several cuts above the standard Grisham kind of thing, then I suggest you invest in this one. I admit that my brain did not immediately adapt to the 18th century style of language. During the first hour or so, I had to play-back the recording frequently to understand what was going on. Then something clicked and I found myself slack-jawed in amazement at Fieldings exquisite and clever use of the English language. I also admit that I read Sparknotes synopses before listening to each chapter (free on the web). This helped a great deal with following the story and understanding who is who. The novel is thoroughly packed with brilliantly turned phrases describing human nature and society, the former of which appears to be exactly the same now as it was 250 years ago. The novel is also fun; it is hilarious. The narration is the best you will find anywhere. MB.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

All But My Life

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-07

I hesitated for over a year from writing a review of Gerda Weissmann Klein's -All But My Life- for the strange but simple reason that this book is my favorite book of the Holocaust and I simply could not put the phrase -favorite book of the holocaust- into print. The Holocaust is something beyond ordinary human experience and I lack the proper means to express the gravity with which I feel about it. I have listen to most everything Audible has on Holocaust literature: Night, Day, The Nazi Officer's Wife, Defying Hitler, Schindler's List, Anne Frank, and have read many more. Gerda's story appeals to me precisely because I cannot relate to her. She has a purity of soul and a set of survivor skills that I simply do not have. It also helps that she was rescued and had a good life in America after the war. Anything positive in these accounts is very welcome indeed to a reader. A word to the wise, at any one time, be careful how much Holocaust literature you read. Regarding the narration, I did not require authentic European accents or pronunciations, only that I understood what was being said, in English, and the narrator provided this in a dignified and attractive style. MB

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

Science writing at its very best

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-08-06

Wow. Someone once said to me, “If you can’t do the job without being a jerk, then you can’t do the job.” Ann Gibbons clearly spells out for us, the uninitiated, this: there are some serious jerks in paleoanthropology. Without naming names, let's just say that the quality of the insulting hyperbolic nutty criticisms and analogies documented here is only slightly superior to what you might find exchanged among some affluent US middle school students. So, do jerks help or inhibit science? Or, how much of a jerk do you have to be to be a successful paleoanthropologist? How does being a jerk help you find hominid fossils? Surprisingly, answers to these apparently ridiculous questions begin to reveal themselves as you listen. In all seriousness, this is an exciting book about an exciting time that is happening right now. I did not want the book to end, but when it did, I realized that it ended exactly in the present, and I was in the thick of it. Now I feel like I am part of this exciting, unprecedented, lucky, agonizing, contentious, rush to find where we came from. It really is that good. MB

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

Ward Churchill, Ethnic Studies Professor, on 9/11 and Freedom of Speech (2/9/05) audiobook cover art
  • Ward Churchill, Ethnic Studies Professor, on 9/11 and Freedom of Speech (2/9/05)
  • By: Ward Churchill

15 minutes of fame

1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-07-06

What is lacking in Churchill’s speech is his stated intention: clarity. What does he intend the phrase “little Eichmann” to mean? He will not say. Who are the little Eichmanns who died in the World Trade Towers? He tells us who they were not, e.g. the janitors, food workers, passers-by, but he is unable to articulate exactly who these little Eichmanns are (were). He thinks that everyone should understand and appreciate that by invoking Eichmann’s name, he is referring to the technocrats that do the work of empires whose policies result in genocide.

What? Let us have some perspective here. Adolph Eichmann knowingly and enthusiastically organized the identification, assembly, and transportation of Jews from occupied Europe explicitly for the purpose of killing them in the extermination camps in Poland. No one disputes this. Everyone understands this. What does “Eichmann” mean other than this? Who in the World Trade Towers does Ward think is guilty of this?

Ward talks about connecting the dots? Ward is a sophomore preaching at sophomores. I use the word “at” intentionally. MB

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

The Peloponnesian War, Volume 1 audiobook cover art

Come prepared

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-15-06

A solid background in ancient Aegean history is essential before listening to the Peloponnesian War. Having a map, committed to memory, of Aegean geography is also essential. There are three essays by relatively modern historians that precede the actual text of Thucydides. The first is a quick and good biography of Thucydides. The second is an Introduction to the Peloponnesian War. I strongly recommend that you skip this part. It is not an introduction; it is more like a summary and analysis, and I found it confusing and irritating because it is almost incomprehensible unless you already know the basic facts behind what is being discussed. I actually stopped listening for a while because of this, and I would hate for anyone-else to do the same. Moving on, the third essay is excellent – I have listened to it three times now. Entitled War and Civilization, the author puts the Peloponnesian War in a modern context, and demonstrates the importance of the works of Thucydides to the history of western civilization. The essay is very well written, fascinating, and more than a little scary. It starts about 88 minutes into Vol. one. After this, the history of the Peloponnesian War, as written 2400 years ago by Thucydides, is narrated with absolute perfection by Charlton Griffin. There is no better audio version of this most famous and important work, and I would not be surprised if this audio production is still appreciated 2400 years from now. MB.

49 of 49 people found this review helpful


3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-29-05

This is a good book, yet Washington’s Crossing surpasses 1776 by a wide margin. There are many distinctions between the two, but I think the most important is the character development provided by WC – deep and engaging. 1776 is more a recitation of facts, which will not be easy to remember devoid of a more human attachment. I was very disappointed with 1776, but this is probably because I had first read John Adams and then Washington’s Crossing, so my expectations were very high.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

Read Arrian first

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-16-05

I listened to both Alexander of Macedon by H.Lamb and Alexander by Arrian. Each provides insight and detail that complement the other, however I enjoyed the account by Arrian much more. Regardless, I highly recommend both and I guarantee that listening to both books will only increase your fascination with Alexander the Great. Each work is narrated to perfection by Charlton Griffin.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful