• Amusing Ourselves to Death

  • Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
  • By: Neil Postman
  • Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach
  • Length: 4 hrs and 49 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (2,992 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this eloquent and persuasive book, Neil Postman examines the deep and broad effects of television culture on the manner in which we conduct our public affairs, and how "entertainment values" have corrupted the very way we think.

As politics, news, religion, education, and commerce are given less and less expression in the form of the printed word, they are rapidly being reshaped to suit the requirements of television. And because television is a visual medium, whose images are most pleasurably apprehended when they are fast-moving and dynamic, discourse on television has little tolerance for argument, hypothesis, or explanation. Postman argues that public discourse, the advancing of arguments in logical order for the public good, once a hallmark of American culture, is being converted from exposition and explanation to entertainment.

©1985 Neil Postman (P)1994 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A brilliant, powerful and important book.... This is a brutal indictment Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one." ( Washington Post Book World)
"[Postman] starts where Marshall McLuhan left off, constructing his arguments with the resources of a scholar and the wit of a raconteur." ( Christian Science Monitor)
"A sustained, withering and thought-provoking attack on television and what it is doing to us.... Postman goes further than other critics in demonstrating that television represents a hostile attack on literate culture." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Amusing Ourselves to Death

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Excellent Content Read at Warp Speed

As another reviewer noted the reader on this book goes way too fast for listening comfort. It's like he had someplace he needed to be. The content is the kind the calls for careful listening and I became frustrated with the speed reading approach. Even slowing down the delivery with my ipod didn't help because he was going so fast that the slower version came across as broken and with abnormal pauses. I ended up getting the book and reading it thoughtfully.

The content is dated only in its mention of particular shows/celebrities/current events and I would love to know what Mr. Postman would say about computers and all the new inputs. The argument is still completely relevant today and makes for fascinating study.

23 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

A Lesson in Speed Reading

I am writing this review after about five minutes of the book. I hope the reader and publishers will take note. The book appears to be excellent. The reader's voice is very good. But it is being read so fast I thought it was an error. Whether by choice or direction, Mr. Riggenbach seems to be simply reading as fast as he humanly can, gulping for air. The idea, possibly from radio commercials, is to transmit the maximum words per second. If you are under 18 and do not care to think very much as you listen, this may not bother you. Perhaps it is a way of saving money on production costs. I believe I remember the same reader doing this with another book I bought. I may request my money back, and I urge everyone to carefully preview books by this reader and/or producer. It is a shame, and really inexplicable. Mr. Postman would probably find this 10-second commercial mode "amusing." Or not.

22 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Incredible

This is the first book I have ever rated or commented on at Audible, and I only do so because I feel the need to commend the author and tell others to read it as well.

He has many other books on this subject that I would also recommend reading, but I HIGHLY recommend this book to any and everyone living in todays culture. If we're to make a difference, we must first understand the land of which we live...

19 people found this helpful

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JUST SLOW DOWN THE READING SPEED

What made the experience of listening to Amusing Ourselves to Death the most enjoyable?

Seriously negative reviewers, this book is so important for ANYONE and EVERYONE to be exposed to. Use the feature of Audible to slow down the reading speed of the book.

This book, along with books like The Influencing Machine and Republic Lost, are what are going to make difference in how hard or soft the USA falls from it's place as the super power in the world.

Reviewing based on the speed of the reading...you've GOT to be KIDDING ME.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Great Book - Narration too fast!

This is an excellent book that all serious people should read. It speaks to the profound impact that media has had on our culture. Specifically, it speaks to the "news" media that has more and more shaped and made the news instead of just reporting. But, this is college level reading. The narrator reads much too fast for the depth of the subject covered to allow for serious consideration by the person listening. I found it an exercise in "rewinding" repeatedly to listen again to Postman's complex ideas to ensure I understood them.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

When TV was king...

This book is a landmark for postmodernists everywhere!
I am currently studying this book for college level english composition and I have to say that this is a tough audio "read."
Neil Postman asserts that the television is causing our culture to evolve into that of a trivial nation. His book is far too small to cover every aspect of this argument, but the areas that he covers he leaves little doubt that the TV is causing us to care more about amusement than real topics and issues.
This is by no means Postman's only book on the topic. I would consider this a very good book, but in some ways it's merely a companion to his others.
This book has the tendency to persued a reader that the television is causing damage to our intellect, but I doubt that this reaction will remain constant as the internet, digital recorders, video on demand and the like become more prevelant. In many ways, listening to this book on tape rather than reading the paperback is sacrelige.
I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend taking it with a grain of salt; myself I let my toddler watch Seasame Street still.

6 people found this helpful

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ideas that stand the test of time

CS Lewis suggested that for every "new" book one reads, they should read three books of a different era. This book should be on every list of those interested in discerning ideas that stand the test of time!

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A frightfully prescient view of our trajectory

Hard to believe Neil Postman wrote this almost 4 decades ago. It is every bit as relevant today. The only thing missing is a deep dive into the risks of our culture's current obsession with social media. Even without it, one can easily imagine what Postman might conjecture -- we are in a whole lot of trouble as a society, as a nation, and as individuals if the trend of losing ourselves in the mindless entertainment of the media continues. And thats the optimistic prognosis: the reality is that a lot of damage has already been done to our society. If you doubt that, just look at the madness and pageantry of the last American election cycle... I think its at least clear, no matter your political leanings, that a great deal of society's current woes are due in large part to media maleficence.

Unfortunately, it seems that Postman saw this trainwreck coming a very long time ago, and had the werewithal to write it all down as a warning to consider exactly how the way in which we consume information effects the way we think, and even IF we think.

Its a relatively short book, and the narrator does a fantastic job of reading it, with just enough humor and emphasis in the right places to make it an easy listen, despite its bleak subject matter. Postman's thesis that modern media's influence over society more closely resemble Aldous Huxley's vision in 'A Brave New World' than that of Orwell's '1984' has merit. Just look at any of the last decade's popular reality shows, if you doubt it.

I admit that our household finally cut off our cable television access a few years ago, and that while we have access to a few streaming networks we only turn on the television for an hour a week, if that. So, I am probably biased in regards to this book. Long ago, I decided that most tv programming is little more than a shallow merry-go-round of leftist propaganda and sensationalism that had a habit of stealing hours of my life by virtue of being cathartic, but nothing more. I don't miss it at all. However, I worry about the grip it has over many households and families. If only more people just turned it (and social media) off, and picked up a book -- maybe this book would be a good place to start.



2 people found this helpful

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A fascinating but chilling treatise

Postman's philosophy and conclusions are hard to avoid, and no less relevant in 2022 (though more about the computer and Internet than television).

It's ironic that he dismisses the computer almost out of hand as not as significant as television on terms of the narrative ... but I don't think he envisioned the internet & social media in the manner we've arrived at.

Nonetheless, his landing from Huxley, that we continue to be assaulted by so much information that we rarely are able to tell truth from falsehood - and many times don't care - is still as true today as it was in 1985.

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One step removed from the unabomber manifesto

This book is the writings of a man pining for a past that wasn’t as good as he remembers, and is impossible to recreate. Imagine the audiobook equivalent of an old man yelling at you to get off his lawn, and you would have a good sense for what this book is like.

1 person found this helpful

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  • discerning reader
  • 03-14-17

Brilliant book read far too fast

Great ideas but they need to be digested. The fastest reader I have yet heard. I probably missed 70% of it

2 people found this helpful

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  • InBrewJ
  • 12-18-21

Replace 'Television' with 'Instagram'

Real chilling stuff. I've read /listened to 1984 a few times and I decided to stop listening to 'Amusing ourselves to death' to inhale 'Brave New World' upon the first mention of Huxley. If you haven't read / listened to either of those works, I suggest you take them in before finishing this book.

A lot has happened since 1985, the year Amusing ourselves to death was published. The most deliciously chilling part of the listen came when I realised that, in the Western world at least, we may live in a hybrid of the Orwell and Huxley nightmares. We have the soma of social media and xanax mixed in with the newspeak of meme and doublethink of fake news.

Orgy porgie, round and round.

I didn't suffer any of the problems other listeners experienced relating to the speed of narration. It's bearable, don't fret.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rob R
  • 08-22-21

You'll probably need to slow the narrator down

I slowed the recording down to 0.85, which made it easier to hear and disgest the many ideas in this excellent book

1 person found this helpful

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  • Plamen
  • 08-11-21

A rare book that can actually change a view

A fantastic critique on the modern visual platform of social discourse. I won't bash the narrator because the recording is very old and the narrator is not a professional narrator but an eminent journalist and outhor. And, by the way, focusing on the performance of the narrator is precisely the point Neil Postman makes against TV and, in effect, the internet.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Luke brooks
  • 11-04-20

Awful narration

The narrator chosen for this book is really not good and makes it unlistenable within 5 minutes. A shame really as it’s an important book. Avoid this version at all costs and buy the hardcopy instead.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-17-19

Utterly compelling in its proposition

A compelling argument with proofs on how entertainment media has generally dumbed us down. I had read 'The Plug In Drug' years ago but this was much more compelling.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-19-22

Read very robotically but great content

Dispute its age this book is as relevant today as it was when it was first published, replace TV with the internet or incoming meta verse and you have a profound warning to wake up and spread the word.

My only gripe is the narration, it’s awful and very fast. Allows none of the points to land and carries all the emotion of captain Spock, probably better to get the print version as I know I will.

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  • Levi
  • 06-12-22

WOW!

A great author, fascinating topic, intellectually sound, heavy for some but a must read/listen. Enjoy!

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  • Cerris
  • 05-19-22

Read to fast

Great book that doesn't just reflect thoughts already hold but makes you question others you hold by. Read way to fast but easily resolved by cranking the speed down a touch but not to a level it becomes slurred.

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  • Katherine M
  • 01-15-22

Excellent book - read WAY too fast!

I gave up before the end of the first chapter. I’ve always wanted to read this book, and I think it’s probably full of ideas most of us should be paying attention to… but this recording is just. too. fast.

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