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  • Leonardo da Vinci

  • By: Walter Isaacson
  • Narrated by: Alfred Molina
  • Length: 17 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,322
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,788
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,747

Leonardo da Vinci created the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and engineering. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wish the sample was not from the preface!

  • By Kristopher S. on 11-13-17

A Great Discovery

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

Reviewed: 07-11-18

Leonard da Vinci: Mona Lisa, of course. A flying machine, maybe. So what else of interest could possibly fill a book this size? Nearly everything! This is a fascinating story of a more-than-fascinating man, living in a time that changed the world and having a large influence on so many of those changes. A great read. The accompanying PDF is wonderful.

  • The Retreat of Western Liberalism

  • By: Edward Luce
  • Narrated by: Julian Elfer
  • Length: 5 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 192
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 170
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 166

In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy - of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a terrifying symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance towards society's economic losers, and complacency about our system's durability.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting, but biased.

  • By Megan Tilly on 12-18-17

Insightful and Succinct

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

Reviewed: 04-15-18

This was a a logical, thoughtful and convincing analysis of the current state of the world; unsettling as it may be.

  • The Age of Reason Begins

  • A History of European Civilization in the Period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo, and Descartes: 1558 - 1648: The Story of Civilization, Book 7
  • By: Will Durant, Ariel Durant
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 34 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 202
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199

The Age of Reason Begins brings together a fascinating network of stories in the discussion of the bumpy road toward the Enlightenment. This is the age of great monarchs and greater artists - on the one hand, Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and Henry IV of France; on the other, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne, and Rembrandt. It also encompasses the heyday of Francis Bacon, Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and Descartes, the fathers of modern science and philosophy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mostly 30 Years of War, but Reason bests War

  • By Michael on 05-01-15

Many great reasons to read this book

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

Reviewed: 03-27-18

Will & Ariel Durant are great writers and marvellous storytellers. This book is written with eloquence, deep insight and wit. It goes far beyond dates and places and helps connect the dispersed elements in a historical narrative.

I listened to Grover Gardner for nearly 35 hours, and could easily do it again! His command of a variety of languages and pronunciations is superb. And he delivers the Durants' style in a way that makes me feel like I am listening to the authors.

If you love history, The Story of Civilization is simply wonderful.

  • Heroes of History

  • By: Will Durant
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 227
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 128
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 126

At Will Durant's death at 96, in 1981, his personal papers were dispersed among relatives, collectors, and archive houses. Twenty years later, scholar John Little discovered the previously unknown manuscript of Heroes of History in Durant's granddaughter's garage. Written shortly before he died, these 21 essays serve as an abbreviated version of Durant's best-selling, 11-volume series, The Story of Civilization.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A celebration of history

  • By John on 07-06-05

Bite-size length, Enormous information and wisdom

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

Reviewed: 04-28-17

Will and Ariel Durant wrote The Story of Civilization. The eleven-volume, 10,000 page project took 40+ years and won a Pulitzer Prize. I’ve just re-read, Heroes of History, which was Durant’s condensation of the original into bite-sized pieces for a new generation. He died writing this book (in 1981 at the age of 96) before he could finish the last two chapters. But even unfinished, it is wonderful. Written with insight, wisdom and wit. One of my favourite quotes: “In history as in newspapers, only the names and dates change, the events are always the same”.
The narration is near perfect.

  • In the Garden of Beasts

  • Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
  • By: Erik Larson
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
  • Length: 12 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 5,411
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4,460
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4,462

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Frightening, Powerful, Deeply Thought-provoking.

  • By Chris on 06-04-11

Wonderfully Crafted. Narration, not so much.

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

Reviewed: 04-10-17

Having just visited Berlin, this book resonated with me, as I could visualise the places where William Dodd and his family lived and worked. It is a sober story, without many ‘heroes’. But fascinating just the same.

Stephen Hoye does a good job with many difficult names and locations. His pronunciation, to my ear, was perfect. But I was disappointed in his cadence. It felt like he was reading in verse, with the same pattern applied to nearly every situation; lacking emphasis, or emotion that I thought was present in the text.

  • The River of Doubt

  • Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
  • By: Candice Millard
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,384
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,149
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,162

At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • River of Doubt

  • By Steve1290 on 11-12-05

A Remarkable Adventure

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

Reviewed: 03-26-17

This book taught me once again about how little I know of the world. It was a fascinating story of a grand adventure in the Amazon. I enjoyed meeting the members of the exploring party, especially Cândido Rondon. Although I have travelled many times to Brazil, I was unfamiliar with this man.
And it help further complete my picture of Theodore Roosevelt. Having recently read "Mornings on Horseback", about his early life, this book took me to the end of it.
Candice Millard is a great storyteller and Paul Michael's narration was excellent, even with all the Brazilian, Indian and Portuguese names.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • By: Oscar Wilde
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,247
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 960
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 966

Dorian Gray, a handsome and narcissistic young man, lives thoughtlessly for his own pleasure. One day, after having his portrait painted, Dorian makes a frivolous Faustian wish: that he should always remain as young and beautiful as he is in that painting, while the portrait grows old in his stead.

The wish comes true, and Dorian soon finds that none of his wicked actions have visible consequences. Realizing that he will appear fresh and unspoiled no matter what kind of life he lives, Dorian becomes increasingly corrupt. Only the portrait grows degenerate and ugly, a powerful symbol of Dorian's internal ruin.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Picture of You and Me

  • By John on 02-18-14

A Classic

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

Reviewed: 02-07-17

I decided to challenge Mark Twain and his observation that “a classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”, by reading Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey. Although it is a dark and challenging story, it paints a wonderful picture itself; of English society in the late nineteenth century. Wilde certainly has a way with words, especially those depicted in conversations between Dorian and those with whom he converses. It is these conversations that kept me engaged more than the mystery of the painting. I always have wanted to read this book, and now that I have, I’m happy I did.

  • The Elements of Eloquence

  • Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase
  • By: Mark Forsyth
  • Narrated by: Don Hagen
  • Length: 5 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,304
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,185
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,164

In his inimitably entertaining and wonderfully witty style, he takes apart famous phrases and shows how you too can write like Shakespeare or quip like Oscar Wilde. Whether you’re aiming to achieve literary immortality or just hoping to deliver the perfect one-liner, The Elements of Eloquence proves that you don’t need to have anything important to say - you simply need to say it well.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Who knew rhetoric could be so much fun?

  • By Philo on 10-30-14

Ask not . . .

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

Reviewed: 01-16-17

. . . if this book is for you. Ask why you wouldn't read it.

That is just one of the many rhetorical techniques beautifully described in The Elements of Eloquence. This book is informative and entertaining. And if you'd like to improve your writing or public speaking, it is very helpful.

The writing moves with pace, with excellent examples of the various elements of Rhetoric, spiced with intelligent humour.

Don Hagen, I believe, captures the author's intent and kept me listening to the very end.

  • Hero of the Empire

  • The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill
  • By: Candice Millard
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 10 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,436
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,315
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,299

At age 24 Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal, he had to do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Outstanding work

  • By G on 10-04-16

The Drama of History

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

Reviewed: 01-10-17

Almost all of what I knew about Winston Churchill started with the second World War. So it was with real interest that I read Hero of the Empire, to get some sense of the early life of this great man.
Candice Millard tells the story of Churchill in a style that could be fiction. It kept my interest throughout. I was also pleased to learn about the Boers, South Africa and the conflicts and courage of people on all sides.
Simon Vance is wonderful with his command of language(s) and pronunciations as well as his interpretation of the drama in the story itself.

  • A Million Years in a Day

  • A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age
  • By: Greg Jenner
  • Narrated by: Matthew Lloyd Davies
  • Length: 11 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 52
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 49

Who invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old. Structured around one ordinary day, A Million Years in a Day reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Super interesting!

  • By Brandon on 07-07-16

I returned this book

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

Reviewed: 12-23-16

The premise of this book is outstanding. Understanding the development of our modern world in the context of a single day was compelling.

BUT I could not tolerate the lame jokes, wise cracking metaphors, and snide references to current events. Regrettably, the narrator struggles with the puerile tone. And that combination had me throwing in the towel.

An alternative I'd recommend is Bill Bryson's At Home.