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Publisher's Summary

This historical magnum opus covers 4,000 years of the extraordinary history of the Jews as a people, a culture, and a nation. It shows the impact of Jewish character on the world - their genius, imagination, and, most of all, their ability to persevere despite severe persecutions. Compelling insights into events and individuals are chronologically detailed, from Moses and Jesus to Spinoza, Marx, Freud, the Rothschilds, and Golda Meir.
©1987 Paul Johnson (P)1989 Blackstone Audio, inc.

Critic Reviews

"It's no mean feat to successfully compress 4,000 years of history into 645 pages, but Johnson has more than met the challenge....an excellent, nonscholarly history for general readers." ( Library Journal)
"A tour de force....A remarkable achievement." ( The New York Times Book Review)
"A marvelous book....This is history: richly textured, provocative and wise." ( The Plain Dealer)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    147
  • 4 Stars
    89
  • 3 Stars
    39
  • 2 Stars
    19
  • 1 Stars
    16

Performance

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    96
  • 4 Stars
    39
  • 3 Stars
    42
  • 2 Stars
    23
  • 1 Stars
    22

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    134
  • 4 Stars
    54
  • 3 Stars
    17
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    8
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent History

This is a great book: lively writing, well researched and for the most part, well paced. Criticism of the narration are petty: the woman is English and pronounces some words per the Queen's not American English. Jewish words are in fact recognizable. I almost didn't buy this book because of the complaints about the narration. I am so glad I did not heed the naysayers. A GREAT listen.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jayna
  • Yukon, OK, USA
  • 03-05-08

well done and educational

Quite engrossing. A bit long, but very interesting and well done. If you aren't accustomed to British pronunciation, you may be thrown off on the meaning of some words initially.
I will listen to this 4 part book again in the future.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Steve
  • OCALA, FL, United States
  • 09-24-11

Great book; worth listening to

I am disappointed by the less than positive reviews on this history of the Jewish people written by Christian author, Paul Johnson. Readers might not agree with Johnson's every insight on the history of the Jews, yet they are worthy of consideration. Arthur Hertzberg (New York Times Book Review) wrote on the back cover: "A tour de force....A remarkable achievement." I would hate to think these reviews might turn away audible readers. Nadia May has a fine, crisp voice. She reads this book well. It is well worth listening to in my opinion.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Bruce
  • Dublin, OH, United States
  • 03-01-08

buy the book

This book gave me a much better understanding of Jewish, Christian and Muslim history and is worth reading.

The production and narration, however, are the worst in my experience of 100 or so audio books.

The narrator should not narrate again. Her voice is impossible- she has spectacular voice modulation of both pitch and volume. I listened to this first using my standard I pod ear phones and then through my car stereo. Neither was tolerable- she was intermittently inaudible with low pitch and volume and then deafening with high pitch and volume. I ended up using a high end Boise noise canceling headset which made listening barely tolerable- and had to watch out for police since head phones are illegal in Ohio while driving.

It is easy to tell the points when she stopped a session and started a new one. She actually, on 2 occasions, reread several lines, apparently having forgotten where she had ended.

The producer needs a new job and/or better equipment.

The production is terrible- talking in the background and poor sound characteristics. Did no one proof this?

I wish I had gotten the book and skipped the audio.

22 of 26 people found this review helpful

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

Excellent survey

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but if I had it to do over again, I'd read it in print because of the narrator. Nadia May, whose performances I've very much enjoyed when she reads British literature, is quite possibly the worst narrator the producer could have chosen for this particular title. The pronunciation is so egregious it is of the fingernails on a chalkboard variety. I could barely stand it, so I switched to print halfway through.

That aside, this is a book very much worth reading. It is one of those delightful histories that makes you want to learn more about many of the subjects and periods discussed. The author's erudition is impressive and extensive, and his style accessible and forthright. I highly recommend it, but in print.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable

I have enjoyed this book quite a bit, the narrative is clear and lucid, and so the reader or the listener can understand the situation and the social and political dynamics of the Jewish people. I basically give up on remember the Jewish names, I'll have look look up on wiki a bit later, but otherwise, the history is good and fluent.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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

The book is great but the narrator is terrible.

What did you like best about this story?

The historical sweep of the Jewish experience from biblical days, through the Kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon, the diaspora, the rise of antisemitism in Europe and the emergence of a successful Jewish secular society is captured in large and small details.

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator's voice has an annoying up and down quality, where she hits one syllable loudly and the next softly and the next loudly. It's unpleasant, and it makes it very difficult to hear what she is saying, particularly if you are driving in a car with road noise. The audio should have been modulated in post-production so that the sound maintained a more level loudness. Also, her pronunciation of Jewish names was often odd; perhaps they are the English pronunciations. For example, Maimonides was pronounced My-ma-NI-dees.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The growth of antisemitism sanctioned by the Church and the States of Europe and the horrible things that were done to innocent people in the name of Christ or the King is very difficult to listen to.

Any additional comments?

If you don't know much about the history of the Jews and would like to know more, this is a terrific book.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Would be better in hard copy

This is not the book to buy as an audiobook. This book needs to be in hard copy. You need a highlighter and some postits. Too much information, some needs to be read twice and the audio book just goes too fast for such a dense subject. I have never made it through, but I have listened to 30 minute sections from anywhere in the middle and its fine wherever you start to wherever you listen to. It does not have to be read contiguously, and I might add it several times has put me to sleep. Also the narrator is kind of monotone and boring.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Bruce
  • Minnetonka, MN, USA
  • 02-28-08

Difficult to listen to

I have read one other Paul Johnson book and found it somewhat interesting, However, the narrator of this book makes it so boring that after several hours of listening I simply turned it off for good.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

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

Very complete history

A good general history, very thorough. The audio book could have benefitted from a narrator who pronounced the Hebrew names in a more familiar way. In spite of this, it is a good treatment of the Jews.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful