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Libby

Eastern U.S.
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  • 30
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  • Nonzero

  • The Logic of Human Destiny
  • By: Robert Wright
  • Narrated by: Kevin T. Collins
  • Length: 16 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 291
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 210
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 211

At the beginning of Nonzero, Robert Wright sets out to "define the arrow of the history of life, from the primordial soup to the World Wide Web." Twenty-two chapters later, after a sweeping and vivid narrative of the human past, he has succeeded and has mounted a powerful challenge to the conventional view that evolution and human history are aimless.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Nice Follow-Up...

  • By Douglas on 12-18-10

Game theory logic tackles cultural evolution

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

Reviewed: 07-20-18

This is a refreshing take on human history and cultural evolution, I found it very persuasive. He has a lot to say, and he says it well, with each point flowing logically to the next, making it easy to follow. He doesn't re-tread a lot of ground from his last book (Moral Animal), which is good if you've read that, but I will say it could make it difficult for someone who hasn't. For instance, he doesn't spend much time at all defining what he means in the first place by a non-zero sum game - the very heart of the point he's trying to make - and doesn't give the classic example (the prisoner's dilemma) at all in the main text. He instead directs you to an appendix, which doesn't exist at all in this audio version, so don't bother trying to look for it. Therefore I would recommend this book more to people who have already read some other book where the basic topic is treated more in depth - like Moral Animal, or Selfish Gene. If you are determined to read this anyway, at least google the prisoner's dilemma first. There are some good YouTube videos on it. There's also a fun Game Theory simulation called The Evolution of Trust that I'd recommend.

That said, I found this book fascinating, eye-opening, and perspective-altering! Much of it has to do with long-term human history, viewed from the perspective of cultural evolution by way of "non-zero-sumness". It may make you look at history in a different light! I particularly liked his treatment of the so-called Dark Ages, and all the technological innovation that was actually taking place. A lot of people have complained about the last part of the book where he strays from strict factual interpretation to speculation and philosophy. But I think if you can get over yourself enough to listen with an open mind he has some interesting things to say in that section as well. For example there was a cool thought experiment that made me question my flippant dismissal of the "hard problem" and "mystery" of consciousness. Plus, even if you disagree with him, it's interesting to hear and think about. I do wish he'd write an update, as this was originally published in 2001. But it's still relevant, and an overall great book!

  • The Pursuit of Power

  • Europe: 1815-1914
  • By: Richard J. Evans
  • Narrated by: Napoleon Ryan
  • Length: 41 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 389
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 360
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 356

Richard J. Evans's gripping narrative ranges across a century of social and national conflicts, from the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 to the unification of both Germany and Italy, from the Russo-Turkish wars to the Balkan upheavals that brought this era of relative peace and growing prosperity to an end. The first single-volume history of the century, this comprehensive and sweeping account gives the listener a magnificently human picture of Europe in the age when it dominated the rest of the globe.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Terrific comprehensive history

  • By Awake Tex on 02-02-17

Choppy and tedious

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

Reviewed: 01-23-18

This book started out good, but I couldn't maintain interest as it kept going. It kept getting bogged down in details until I couldn't even remember the larger point he was trying to make. The choppy, non-chronological order in which things were presented, too, made it frustratingly difficult to synthesize all the ideas.

Maybe it would've been more easily digestible with a different narrator. Napoleon Ryan has a fantastic voice. But the repetitive cadence, the way he inflects EVERY SINGLE sentence exactly the same, wears you down. I'm sure not everyone's as sensitive to cadence as I am, so it might not bother you, but listen to the sample. If you find yourself wondering if he's going to keep up this exact repetitive inflection for the entire giant book, the answer is yes.

I've listened to quite a few history programs on Audible, mostly the Great Courses and Will Durant. This suffered in comparison to the engaging and straightforward styles of those. I'm nine hours in, but I'm going to cut my losses, and get the Great Courses course The Long 19th Century instead. This is the first history book I've actually returned.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution

  • By: Peter C. Mancall, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Peter C. Mancall
  • Length: 24 hrs and 35 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 211
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 198

The years between 1760 and 1800 rocked the Western world. These were the years when colonists on the eastern fringes of a continent converted the ideals of Enlightenment thought first into action, then into an actual form of government. Now you can learn why this happened and how the colonists did it-in a series of 48 insightful lectures from an award-winning teacher and author.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Teaching style and approach did not resonate with

  • By Tommy D'Angelo on 11-05-16

First-hand perspective + historical retrospective

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

Reviewed: 06-07-17

The structure of this course took a little bit to get used to, but I really enjoyed it once I figured out how it was going to be laid out. To save you that inconvenience: Much of the course is made up of the professor reading through a bit of source material (be it newspaper clipping, proclamation, letter, pamphlet, diary) from the Revolutionary period line-by-line, explaining it as he goes. He kind of translates it into modern English, explains the context, and just generally makes it understandable, line-by-line.

This approach may seem like a waste of time to some, but it provides a unique opportunity to understand history not just from the perspective of 200+ years in the future, but from the perspective of those that lived through it. Afterwards he always makes sure to explain how history views the situation as well, often contrasting the two. Very interesting! It makes you realize how turbulent and uncertain it can feel to live through things, even things that seem obvious and inevitable in retrospect. He never mentions it, but of course it makes you wonder how history will view your own time!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Life's Engines

  • How Microbes Made Earth Habitable
  • By: Paul G. Falkowski
  • Narrated by: Nick Sullivan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 275
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 241
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 239

Paul Falkowski looks "under the hood" of microbes to find the engines of life, the actual working parts that do the biochemical heavy lifting for every living organism on Earth. With insight and humor, he explains how these miniature engines are built - and how they have been appropriated by and assembled like Lego sets within every creature that walks, swims, or flies. Falkowski shows how evolution works to maintain this core machinery of life, and how we and other animals are veritable conglomerations of microbes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Best Science Book Ever Written. Period.

  • By serine on 07-28-15

Some Experience Necessary

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

Reviewed: 05-30-17

Normally, I'm all for scientists being the ones to write their own popular science books. But this book is a good example of the potential problem that arises there: namely, that the scientist has been working with their field for so long that they've forgotten what it's like not to know anything about it. To badly paraphrase from Steven Pinker's wonderful writing style guide: Good writing makes you feel smart, bad writing makes you feel stupid. This book made me feel stupid.

The author really wanted you to understand the microbial mechanisms in detail, often bringing things down to the sub-atomic level. Which is awesome, but if you want me to really grasp the nuts and bolts of things, you're going to have to back way up, slow down, and take it from the beginning. Instead, he just glazed over things and pushed right on through to the next (admittedly interesting, but hopelessly opaque) topic.

I've read a smattering of science books, including the truly excellent Great Courses series on Biology by Stephen Nowicki, and I'm glad I have, or I probably would've been even more lost. If you have a degree in biology or chemistry, I'm sure this book is fascinating. But if you're not already comfortable talking about the cleavage of phosphate groups or the pumping of ions across membranes, this probably won't make it any more understandable for you:

"The basic currency of energy in all cells is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a single nucleic acid molecule that is found in both DNA and RNA and contains a sugar and three phosphate groups linked one after another. When this molecule is used in a biochemical reaction, it is cleaved to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a lone phosphate. The cleavage of ATP produces chemical energy, which is used for many purposes. One of the major functions of ATP in all organisms, especially in microbes, is in the synthesis of proteins. Another is for motility. Yet another is to pump ions, such as protons, sodium, potassium, and chloride, across membranes."

That's from chapter four, and it doesn't get much more comprehensible from there. I slogged through all of it, because the material itself really is fascinating, but it was a slog.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Stuff Matters

  • Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
  • By: Mark Miodownik
  • Narrated by: Michael Page
  • Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,632
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,278
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,267

Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does a paper clip bend? These are the sorts of questions that Mark Miodownik is constantly asking himself. A globally renowned materials scientist, Miodownik has spent his life exploring objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Surprisingly good

  • By D. MacLeod on 01-29-15

Sense and Sensibility

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

Reviewed: 01-10-17

This is that rare breed of pop-science book that manages to be accessible and entertaining, while still being technical and not dumbing down the material, or talking down to its audience. It's written by an actual scientist in the field, and his deep understanding of the subject shines through, as does his great enthusiasm for it. This combination makes the science of materials truly compelling.

If you are curious about the stuff our world is made of, I highly recommend this book. It gives me a sense of wonder and awe at the staggering complexity of our world. And makes me wonder why I didn't learn this kind of stuff in school! It proceeds as a series of vingettes, taking each material in turn and talking about it in a style full of frank curiosity and delight.

But my favorite part might have been the very last chapter, "Synthesis," where he ties it all together and gives you a unifying concept to organize your conception of the structures that make up all materials. This concept is the hierarchy of different specific size scales, namely atomic (scale of an atom), then nano (scale of large molecules like proteins), then microscopic (scale of biological cells), then macro (scale of liquid crystals that make up the pixels of an LCD screen), then miniature (scale of a strand of hair), then human scale (scale of a sandwich). Each of these scales is nested inside the last, and interactions on each of these scales gives a material its properties which we see and feel. I've learned a smattering of science, but nobody has ever laid it out for me that way! What emerges is a very integrated way of looking at the structures that make up the things around us, and our very selves. I wish more scientists had the time and ability to write such engaging and informative primers on their field of expertise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Righteous Mind

  • Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
  • By: Jonathan Haidt
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Haidt
  • Length: 11 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,337
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,620
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,546

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • This should give you pause.

  • By Floyd Clark on 10-26-15

Necessary book for a divided people

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

Reviewed: 11-18-16

I'm so glad I heard this book during the 2016 U.S. election season. We are a divided people, and if we're going to move forward we need to find our way back to an understanding of each other. If you want to try to understand people who think differently than you, buy this book. You'll probably come away knowing more about yourself too.

Even if you don't agree with all his conclusions, the information in here's too important to skip over! I have heard some other evolutionary psychology books, so I wondered if this would just be redundant, but it wasn't. It really brings the evo psych knowledge to bear on political and social problems. Also the most convincing argument for group selection I've heard. But I think this would also make a great introduction if you've never heard any evolutionary psychology before. I intend to foist it on my unsuspecting husband next road trip.

Jonathan Haidt (pronounced like 'height', btw, not 'hate') gets an extra star on the performance because he actually verbally describes photos, charts, and graphs (!) as well as making sure they are available online. He must be an audiobook listener himself.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Homer Box Set: Iliad & Odyssey

  • By: Homer, W. H. D. Rouse - translator
  • Narrated by: Anthony Heald
  • Length: 25 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,393
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,274
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,273

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are unquestionably two of the greatest epic masterpieces in Western literature. Though more than 2,700 years old, their stories of brave heroics, capricious gods, and towering human emotions are vividly timeless. The Iliad can justly be called the world’s greatest war epic. The terrible and long-drawn-out siege of Troy remains one of the classic campaigns. The Odyssey chronicles the many trials and adventures Odysseus must pass through on his long journey home from the Trojan wars to his beloved wife.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Revisit the Classics

  • By The Kindler on 07-28-16

A Classic Delivered with Force and Verve!

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

Reviewed: 10-29-16

I picked this version out of the many that are available here because I'd previously heard Anthony Heald breathe life into another classic (Crime & Punishment). He has a very distinctive voice that I don't think would be right for every book, but for this it is. It's one of those voices that is masculine and very emotive at the same time.

This is the only translation I've read so I can't compare it to others, but I liked it. Do be aware it is a prose version. But it's rendered in plain, understandable, compelling English. Another reviewer complained about the use of old words like "doth" which surprised me, because most of the language used is so modern. Old phrasing was brought in intentionally, I think, only very occasionally when a line was supposed to have extra ceremony or import (sort of like it still is today).

I'm so glad I finally got around to hearing these stories that have been so formative to my culture, and happy there was such an engaging rendition to be found. I won't say that there weren't any parts that were boring or confusing, but just the fact that we can still read and enjoy three thousand year old literature says a lot for it! I recommend Professor Vandiver's Great Courses series on each of these once you're done with each one, for enhanced understanding and appreciation.

  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel

  • By: A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 9 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,360
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,131
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,115

It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder. Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Something Rotten in Denmark...

  • By Carole T. on 08-23-14

An engaging, fast-paced reimagining

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

Reviewed: 10-17-16

I'd been curious about this book for awhile, and I finally bought it when I realized it was narrated by Thorin Oakenshield from the Hobbit movies. I knew his gruff, grim, masculine voice would be perfect for this moody tale. What I did not expect was all his OTHER voices! He totally impressed me with his diversity of characters, accents, and moods - he really gets into character for each one!

The book itself was great too, quite a bit different from the original, but here I think a reverence for the original text would have really bogged it down. This was fast-paced and engaging. Also I was grateful for the little explanatory epilogue from the authors. Yay context!

And in case you're wondering, no you don't need to be very familiar with the play to enjoy this. I had only a vague memory of the plot from high school English, and a couple movie versions, and I loved it.

  • The Iliad of Homer

  • By: Elizabeth Vandiver, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Elizabeth Vandiver
  • Length: 6 hrs and 4 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 720
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 650
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 646

For thousands of years, Homer's ancient epic poem the Iliad has enchanted readers from around the world. When you join Professor Vandiver for this lecture series on the Iliad, you'll come to understand what has enthralled and gripped so many people.Her compelling 12-lecture look at this literary masterpiece -whether it's the work of many authors or the "vision" of a single blind poet - makes it vividly clear why, after almost 3,000 years, the Iliad remains not only among the greatest adventure stories ever told but also one of the most compelling meditations on the human condition ever written.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great!

  • By Audible Fan on 11-29-15

Instructive and Enlightening

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

Reviewed: 09-20-16

This was a very good companion to the Iliad! It put the story in much more satisfying context than just reading it alone would have, specifically about the things that the ancient author would've assumed his ancient audience would've known about their culture and story background that today we might not know. The instructor seemed very knowledgable and erudite.

I listened to the whole Iliad first before listening to the course, which is how I'd suggest going about it. She seems to assume that we all, as educated people, at least know the basic gist of the story and how it ends, so she gives away some pretty big spoilers right at the very beginning! Well I, as an uneducated plebeian, did NOT know these things and so I was glad I'd heard the whole thing first. Not that you're exactly listening to it for the express purpose of getting to the thrilling conclusion like it was a mystery novel, but still. It was nice to have a little element of surprise.

My only complaint is that it was too short, which is a good complaint to have I guess. But it would've been nice to have a lecture at the end about the legacy of the epic throughout Western literature, thought, and linguistic idiom. And maybe a short note about choosing from the different translations, and a few practical tips for clearer understanding like explaining their system of naming. Even so, I highly recommend this course and look forward to hearing the one on the Odyssey once I finish it!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Mrs. Dalloway

  • By: Virginia Woolf
  • Narrated by: Annette Bening
  • Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 507
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 473
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 463

Mrs. Dalloway, perhaps Virginia Woolf’s greatest novel, vividly follows English socialite Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party in post-World War I London. Four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening ( American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right) brings Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling to life, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life in a brilliant performance.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Surprisingly enjoyable

  • By january on 03-01-13

Exquisite, poetic prose

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

Reviewed: 09-20-16

I was almost scared away from this book by reading some of the reviews, but I'm glad I wasn't. I've read and disliked some books that have been described as "stream of consciousness" before, but I totally loved this one - I guess it just depends on whose consciousness you're streaming. Virginia Woolf's communicates the beauty and terror of existence as fully as the best poetry, even while sticking to the realm of everyday life.

I'm glad I listened to it instead of just reading it, because I was able to hear more of the lyric beauty in the sounds of the language than I would've in print. Still, I'm not sure Annette Bening was the right choice for this one. Her reading was too breathy and precious, I think a delivery with more frankness and straightforwardness would've let the beauty of the writing shine through better, rather than getting in the way. Still, this is definitely one I'll listen to again.