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  • Schlesinger

  • The Imperial Historian
  • By: Richard Aldous
  • Narrated by: Norman Dietz
  • Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (1917-2007), known today as the architect of John F. Kennedy's presidential legacy - and the myth of Camelot - blazed an extraordinary path from Harvard University to wartime London to the West Wing. The son of a pioneering historian - and a two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner in his own right - Schlesinger redefined the art of presidential biography. A Thousand Days, his best-selling record of the Kennedy administration, remains immensely influential.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Court Historian, Gadfly, or Serious Academic?

  • By Amazon Customer on 09-26-18

Court Historian, Gadfly, or Serious Academic?

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

Reviewed: 09-26-18

To be fair, I have always enjoyed and respected the work of Schlesinger but there is always the lingering sense that he clung to politics because in a sense he was a star-struck boy until late middle-age. I was always interested in what changed this ivory tower intellectual into a court historian of sorts, and it really struck me that what stood out, even amid his precocity, was his somewhat immature idealization of figures of glamor and authority. Even in youth, the author makes the point that Schlesinger was a passionate fan of films and it seems fair to wonder if his lifelong adoration of JFK and RFK aren't more evidence of his attraction to them as stars of the political world.


I don't want to push that thesis too far because Schlesinger was a passionate and lifelong liberal, seeing FDR as the apotheosis of effective leadership and he worked on the campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 as well as serving as a public intellectual after the deaths of the Kennedy brothers, but nothing before or after working in the White House ever seems to have been as fulfilling. Aldous lays out a fair case for Schlesinger as an intellectual but there is more than a hint of regret for what might have been. Schlesinger while not a one dimensional figure is also not one that I can wholly admire. I think he was out of his depth when it came to working in Kennedy's Administration and I wonder if there might have been some sense of recognition of that. The passage about bringing up the state of the White House tennis courts as JFK grappled with the Civil Rights crises in Birmingham and beyond is a poignant example of the clear disconnect between them. Also the squabbling with Ted Sorensen over whose contributions are more important seems kind of pathetic.

But all told, I enjoyed this book except for one thing--the narration. Although Dietz has a pleasant enough voice, though not one of my favorites, his frequent mispronunciations set my teeth on edge. Also, there is a metronomic quality to the reading that can be annoying. While I won't avoid books that are narrated by him, I will look for alternative editions where possible.

  • The Many Lives of Catwoman

  • The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale
  • By: Tim Hanley
  • Narrated by: Rachel Dulude
  • Length: 8 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 21

For more than 75 years, Catwoman has forged her own path in a clear-cut world of stalwart heroes, diabolical villains, and damsels in distress. Her relentless independence across comic books, television, and film set her apart from the rest of the superhero world. When female-led comics were few and far between, Catwoman headlined her own series for over 20 years. But her unique path had its downsides as well.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Another Foray into Comic Book History

  • By Amazon Customer on 08-06-18

Another Foray into Comic Book History

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

Reviewed: 08-06-18

Another foray into comic book history by Tim Hanley (his other being a look at the evolution of Wonder Woman). The key word here is evolution. As with Wonder Woman, Hanley demonstrates that Catwoman has evolved over time. What makes Catwoman's saga a little less coherent I suppose is that her origin myth is not as finely crafted as Wonder Woman's. Catwoman is in general a less coherent, even a less cohesive character. Her relationship with Batman is always problematic. Her status as a villain just as much. As Hanley points out, Catwoman is partly sex symbol, partly a foil. I think that a lot of the problem with Catwoman is that for a long time there never was a clear understanding of not only who she was and who she was in relation to Batman, but also who her audience was. Catwoman has a lot of fits and starts as a character, and a lot of what drives the changes have been the highly sexualized screen portrayals of the character. Hanley does a good job chronicling the erratic history of Catwoman. This is an enjoyable dip into pop history.

  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Volume I: Visions of Glory 1874-1932

  • By: William Manchester
  • Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
  • Length: 41 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,041
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,606
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,603

Winston Churchill is perhaps the most important political figure of the 20th century. His great oratory and leadership during the Second World War were only part of his huge breadth of experience and achievement. Studying his life is a fascinating way to imbibe the history of his era and gain insight into key events that have shaped our time.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb - Review of Both Volume I & Volume II

  • By Wolfpacker on 01-23-09

Favorite even better the fourth time around

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

Reviewed: 08-01-18

Yes, this makes it four times that I have immersed myself in the life of Winston Churchill. This is the first time I have listened to the book, however, and the experience was superb. The late great Frederick Davidson is the narrator of this book and he imbues his reading with just the right amount of Churchillian verbal swagger. Indeed, I am a little apprehensive of listening to the second and third volumes because they do not have Davidson as the reader. Still, the subject is such a great one that I am sure I will love it too.

Churchill is the giant of the twentieth century, at least the first half of it anyway. But what makes this book so enthralling is that this is Churchill in the decades before he became an icon. From his days as a neglected son to his uneven career as an MP and a Minister in varying capacities (Exchequeur, Admiralty) we see a man who absorbs the lessons of his distinguished heritage and the troubled life and career most particularly of his tragic father and applies them to the changing landscape of British politics and international crises. We also get valuable insight into Churchill as an author, a journalist, a painter, and most charmingly, as a wit.

It is hard not to like Churchill even when he is behaving not particularly well. Even though this is a biography written by a man who clearly admired his subject, Manchester doesn't gloss over Churchill's sins and flaws. Churchill was undeniably an egoist and seems to have retained many nineteenth century values and opinions well into the twentieth. Nonetheless, Churchill achieved so much largely it seems through force of intellect and energy. This book concludes as Churchill begins the crucial and, for him, defining part of his legend--the struggle to awaken the oblivious British political leadership to the enormity of the Nazi threat.

This is not an unbiased account. That being said, it is marvelous literature and stands the test of time. Manchester unfortunately died early on in the writing of volume 3 of this series. This first one remains the finest, or at least my personal favorite, and is one that every lover of history, or at least good biography, will enjoy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Cosmos

  • By: Carl Sagan
  • Narrated by: LeVar Burton, Seth MacFarlane, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and others
  • Length: 14 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,143
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,785
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,774

Cosmos is one of the best-selling science books of all time. In clear-eyed prose, Sagan reveals a jewel-like blue world inhabited by a life form that is just beginning to discover its own identity and to venture into the vast ocean of space.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Levar Burton channelling Captain Kirk

  • By DM on 09-11-17

Behold the Universe!

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

Reviewed: 02-17-18

LeVar Burton is the narrator of this science classic and is one of the real pleasures of this book. Burton reads with the excitement of a fan and it made this listener join in his feeling. After a warm introduction by the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, Sagan crafts a book which is a history of science, a history of Sagan's love of science, and a look at how scientific knowledge affects us. Some of the science is dated (I kept wondering if astronomers are still looking for a supernova explosion which at the time of publication in the late 1970s hadn't happened) and that is part of the appeal of Neil deGrasse Tyson's updating of the television show recently. Still, Sagan's book retains its appeal because he was a lively writer and one who popularized science without dumbing it down. I wish that all of my science education that I suffered through in high school had been this enjoyable. Or at least I wish I had been wise enough then to appreciate science. Follies of youth, I guess.

  • The Year of the Flood

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol, Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 14 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,261
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,596
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,605

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners - a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life - has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Atwood at her very best!

  • By Linda Novak on 10-18-09

Dystopian future expanded

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

Reviewed: 02-10-18

In this worthy second volume of a trilogy Atwood greatly expands and changes the narrative that she began in Oryx and Crake. In this volume we get a range of characters (Wren, Toby, and members of the Gardeners) each of whom has a new perspective. This serves to flesh out a story that in the first volume was told exclusively through the eyes of Snowman/Jimmy. To make this even more explicit, this audiobook has three narrators. I just have to say that one of the kooky delights of this book is the singing of Adam One's songs--they sound like the really schmaltzy Christian rock of my youth but the lyrics are the words of an eco cultist leader.

Unlike the first volume though there is more satire. As each narrator tells their story, Atwood seems to be taking pokes at our organic obsessed modern culture. Other bits that get their share of jibes, are the strippers and their wealthy clients, and the general culture of sex commercialism. I think Atwood has a very realistic and healthy perspective on the kinds of people who inhabit those worlds (strippers, prostitutes, voyeurs, and the like). None of the writing seems in the least mean-spirited or shallow.

The characters become very real--Amanda in the first volume just the one time girlfriend is actually realized in this book as an actual, three dimensional character with a backstory and nuance. Toby is the strong survivor character and Wren (I presume this is the spelling but I don't have a copy of the print book) is likable but kind of weak. And yes, Jimmy and Glen show up too. So the pandemic that is seen through the eyes of the lone survivor in the first book turns out to have more survivors but true victims as well.

This is a strong book and even though the story is an expansion and continuation of the first book, it can be read (or listened to) as a stand alone as well. But it is more richly enjoyed I think when paired with the first book and I now look forward to Monday when I will get the third book, Madadam.

  • Oryx and Crake

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Campbell Scott
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,707
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,484
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,514

As the story opens, Snowman is sleeping in a tree, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very Scary Stuff

  • By Doug on 07-21-03

Maybe even better than Handmaid's Tale

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

Reviewed: 01-30-18

My son, Paul, has been urging me to read this book for a couple of years. He had read it for an honors class at his high school and had decided to reread it over the holiday break from college. "Dad, you would love this book!". Over and over. Finally, he added the clincher--"I think you might like it more than Handmaid". So I decided that since I already had Oryx and Crake in my Audible library and it wasn't that long that I might as well give it a listen.

Wow. This book is amazing. And while I thought there was just enough credibility in the dystopian vision of Handmaid's Tale, the premise of this novel has even more credibility because a lot of it is already happening at a more basic level. The novel here centers around a character named Snowman who is foraging for food and other supplies on an Earth that has been catastrophically depopulated, and Snowman's interactions with the only other inhabitants (Crakers) who are genetically modified semi-humans. Interestingly, the novel shifts back and forth in time and space--but the switches are made very easy to follow because in flashback the character is known by his name (Jimmy) and in current as Snowman. Most compellingly, we learn about Crake's importance to Jimmy both as his childhood friend and later his superior. Crake is the most chilling character in the novel--Oryx shows up later and her character serves more as a conscience. Most significantly is that we learn of a society where genetic manipulation and social control is at a horrifying level and is totally accepted as normal. As the book winds to its climax, the reader (listener) is left to ponder the choices made and not made, and to reflect on our own trajectory as a species.

I look forward to the next book and although my son said it is not a follow up, it is he assured me, still dealing with the core philosophical and scientific issues raised in this novel. I look forward to it and to getting more credits so I can get the third volume in the series.

  • David Copperfield [Audible]

  • By: Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 36 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2,179
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2,037
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,020

Between his work on the 2014 Audible Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel, and his performance of Classic Love Poems, narrator Richard Armitage ( The Hobbit, Hannibal) has quickly become a listener favorite. Now, in this defining performance of Charles Dickens' classic David Copperfield, Armitage lends his unique voice and interpretation, truly inhabiting each character and bringing real energy to the life of one of Dickens' most famous characters.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A PERFECT narration of an English classic!

  • By Wayne on 09-03-17

Near Perfection for this fan

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

Reviewed: 01-19-18

That this book is a masterpiece is hardly revelatory. The great and enduring characters in what is my second favorite Dickens novel (Great Expectations still has a narrow lead)--the foolishly improvident but absolutely lovable Wilkins McCawber, the odious Uriah Heep, and of course, Copperfield himself, are brought to magnificent life by Richard Armitage. This book is an epic work taking young David from childhood where he suffers the death of his beloved father and the too quick remarriage of his angelic mother to the loathsome Murdstone (who brings along his hateful, spiteful sister Jane) all the way to his blossoming career as a journalist and then novelist. Along the way we listen as young David makes friends and eventually loses his mother (yes, Dickens has a fancy for killing off a lot of females in his fiction) but is triumphantly adopted by his aunt (Armitage has his most successful female character creation here with a thick Scottish brogue) and her dear friend, Mr. Dick. But the character who always stands out for me is the delightful Tommy Traddles, the boy at school who draws skeletons for fun and later becomes a key figure in retrieving Copperfield's aunts fortune. Just so much fun to this story, but as befits the whole era of fiction, plenty of tears as well. The Victorian novelists exploited the overwhelming sense of tragedy as industrialization brought pollution, filth, and crime as well as material wealth. Dickens was not just a great plotter, but his concern for the ills of his time were clearly sincere and make everything he wrote intensely memorable.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

  • By: Elvis Costello
  • Narrated by: Elvis Costello
  • Length: 18 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 552
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 519
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 524

This memoir, written entirely by Elvis Costello himself, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best known songs and the hits of tomorrow. The book contains many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and coconspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations on the less appealing side of infamy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Elvis by Elvis -- Best of the Best!

  • By Robert on 10-13-15

Enjoy the artist's journey

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

Reviewed: 12-24-17

Elvis Costello was one of the first artists that I ever discovered for myself--I bought the eight track (yikes what a horrid format!) of his debut and fell in love with his passion and musicianship. Costello weaves a fascinating tale of the son of a singer who surpassed his father's accomplishments but admired his father enough to repeatedly acknowledge his contribution to his own career.

This is not the easiest book. Although the latter half of the book proceeds in a more or less chronological fashion, the first half is more the in and out weavings through time and childhood, adolescence, and adulthood tumble headlong into the strange reveries of a man looking back on several decades as a professional singer. Don't let this be an obstacle. Costello tells magical tales of being influenced as a performer, of collaborations with other artists (the sheer number of artists who have collaborated with Costello probably outnumbers those that he performed as the sole or leading singer).

This is less though a memoir of the man than a look at the development of an artist. Although there are biographical details (his account of his love for wife Diana Krall is truly sweet), this is more about the music and performers who inspired him and motivated him. I really enjoyed the chapter devoted to his love for the country music of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and company. This was revelatory to me and made me appreciate even more the chapters about his collaboration with Paul McCartney (the Beatles autograph story is memorable), Toussaint, and the Brodsky quartet.

All told, this book is a gem. As a final part of what makes this such a good book to have is the inclusion of so many of the lyrics to his songs. The only difficult part is that at times Costello drops his voice to a whisper so you get to at times rewind to capture what made the lines so urgent. Other than that, one of the best books read by the author.

  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales

  • By: Oliver Sacks
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis, Oliver Sacks - introduction
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4,575
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,025
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,025

Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • "Lest we forget how fragile we are..."

  • By ESK on 02-23-13

Harrowing and Humorous?

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

Reviewed: 11-13-17

This was the book that started it all. The late great Oliver Sacks puts together a brilliant collection of anecdotes about his patients. Before I start, the only reservation I had was when I wondered whether his writing about his patients violated any codes of ethical conduct. Yes, the names are changed but I hope that Sacks sufficiently protected their identities.

Anyway, just to start with the title story--a brilliant music teacher who gradually loses the ability to discern the differences between human beings and objects or animals. What really struck me was how harrowing the disclosure was but also how the patient reconciled himself to his condition. And even more surprisingly, how his wife helped him cope with it by altering her conduct. The title comes from when the patient literally goes to put his wife onto his head at the end of the session with Sacks.

I came away from this book with both awe and sorrow. I was awed by how resilient people can be even when their brains inexplicably begin to misfire. But I was saddened by how random fate is. That of course is always the tragedy--as John Lennon put it "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Many of these patients were busy making other plans when life got derailed by their bodies and their brains. Sacks beautifully and compassionately records their cases and I am certain that they were fortunate to have a doctor as wise and warm as they got.

Audible 20 Review Sweepstakes Entry

  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

  • By: Richard P. Feynman
  • Narrated by: Raymond Todd
  • Length: 11 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,279
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,788
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,796

With his characteristic eyebrow-raising behavior, Richard P. Feynman once provoked the wife of a Princeton dean to remark, "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" But the many scientific and personal achievements of this Nobel Prize-winning physicist are no laughing matter. Here, woven with his scintillating views on modern science, Feynman relates the defining moments of his accomplished life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hilarious and inspiring

  • By Brad Grimm on 11-09-09

Brilliant, Eccentric, and Funny as Hell

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

Reviewed: 11-02-17

This book is one that I've always meant to read--and actually started years ago but just lost track of it and never picked it up again. Once again--Audible to the rescue! Raymond Todd is an absolutely perfect narrator of the offbeat memoir of Nobelist Richard P. Feynman. Todd captures the humor by never overselling the lines, letting the words work their magic so that his (Todd's) mastery of the text not override that of the author's. As to the story itself, well what's not to like? In Feynman, you have a character whose sheer zaniness stretches credulity at times--if he were fictional, I imagine an editor would counsel an author to tone it down. This brilliant scientist spends as much if not more time dwelling on his pursuit of carnal pleasure, learning to play the bongos and art, as he does with his growth as a scientist. In fact, I suspect that what makes Feynman so memorable is not only was he a genius as a scientist, but he seemed to have an overwhelming love of living itself. One of the most significant portions of the book is his almost comical aversion to being labeled a Nobelist. He seemed to worry that being a prize winner might lower his chances for just having a good time. Here I have a suspicion that Feynman might have protested a little too much. Anyway, the other great part--there is a second volume after this one which I intend to listen to next (look for my review of it in a week or so!).