adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT
adbl_ms_membershipImage_includedwith_altText_B076FLV3HT

1 audiobook of your choice.
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
$14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $29.65

Buy for $29.65

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

The maestro storyteller and reporter provocatively argues that what we think we know about speech and human evolution is wrong.

Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. The Kingdom of Speech is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech - not evolution - is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements.

From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hardwired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zigzags of Darwinism, old and neo, and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Speech.

©2016 Tom Wolfe (P)2016 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this mettlesome, slyly funny takedown, Wolfe spotlights two key scientific rivalries, each pitting a scrappy outsider against the academy.... Wolfe's pithy and stirring play-by-play coverage of compelling lives and demanding science transforms our perception of speech.... As always, white-suited Wolfe will be all over the media...stirring things up and sending readers to the shelves." (Donna Seaman, Booklist)
"A fresh look at an old controversy, as a master provocateur suggests that human language renders the theory of evolution more like a fable than scientific fact.... Wolfe throws a Molotov cocktail at conventional wisdom in a book that won't settle any argument but is sure to start some." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Narrator Robert Petkoff's bright and energetic delivery reflects the author's well-known penetrating intelligence and curiosity." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Kingdom of Speech

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    153
  • 4 Stars
    58
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    8
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    161
  • 4 Stars
    40
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    5
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    134
  • 4 Stars
    52
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    9

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Both witty and deep; and brilliantly narrated too.

Any additional comments?

Tom Wolfe has always been a felicitous and clever writer. Here he takes on the serious topic of language and speech as the unique characteristic of humans. Tracing the evolutionary perspective, with due respect to both Wallace and Darwin, and then exploring both the genius and the arrogance of Chomsky, Wolfe explores much more than language.

Class status, scientific controversy and battles between and among academics, the tension between those who are called "fly catchers" working in the field and the "proper academics" sitting in front of their computers in air conditioned offices, and the extent to which trends in science that spill over into culture are quasi-religious wars, are the infrastructure of this wonderful book.

Sitting in the Disney Hall listening to a Beethoven symphony I marveled at the greatness of Western Civilization. Every aspect of the evening was a triumph of what the West had produced, from the automobile that I drove, to the freeway and safe streets, to the beauty of the building, to the splendid acoustics in the auditorium, to the assembly of musicians, to the composition of the symphony itself, and to my safe return home after the concert, all was the result of our civilization. And none of that would have been possible but for the acquisition of language many thousands of years ago.

Wolfe makes the central place of language the dividing line that separates us from the rest of the world of living creatures, and does so with a combination of story, humor, humility, and confidence.

And Robert Petkoff narrates this splendid book with just the right cadence, just the perfect expression, and just the right tone to bring out its best. Thank you to the author and thank you to the narrator.

6 people found this helpful

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

Nope

Big book without a point. Fun to listen to though. Wanted a little bit bigger thesis than "chomsky was wrong"

2 people found this helpful

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

Tom has done it again!

Tom Wolfe is one of the few people that have the guts to take on idols like Chomsky, and speak the truth. Just like he did in the painted word. This book is a great resource for learners to learn from and to gain confidence to stand up to the bullies that inhabit academia

11 people found this helpful

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

Takedown of a pseudointellectual bully!

In a battle of octogenarians Tom Wolfe uses simple words to take down academic and major bully Noam Chomsky. Along the way he destroys the modern theory of how human language "evolved". That was fun! He also takes some effective shots at Charles Darwin who likely stole his theory of evolution from Alfred Russel Wallace.

The Kingdom of Speech examines the one thing, language/speech, that separates humans from all other animals. I love this little book!

12 people found this helpful

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

Simply Brilliant

A most enjoyable read. Riveting in fact! Wolfe does a great job of stripping away the academic arrogance of the so called intellectual elite who cling so doggedly to Darwin's theory of evolution as a theory of everything. The dogma associated with this theory is beautifully challenged by asking the question "what is language, and where did it come from?"

1 person found this helpful

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

Same Great Tom, Minor Qualms but still great

What made the experience of listening to The Kingdom of Speech the most enjoyable?

Tom's consistently biting witty sarcasm, backed by generally exhaustive research - even when taking on such lofty topics (when doesn't he) Is here as always has been the case (in the growing number of his works I have absorbed since finding the Painted Word excellent a year or so ago)....

His depth and angle of attack alone always are a marvel to me, though I preferred for example (of his 'new journalism' rather than novel works) Hooking Up - my favorite at this point i think....

I find always that - as with someone like Christopher Hitchens - even though I often don't agree with Wolfe's stance or thesis - though it always adds something of a brilliant new perspective I am fascinated with looking at via new lens, the mastery of presentation and his awesome craftsmanship within his own (as with Hitch's) very personally compelling and personal voice and milieu. A style and method unique and thrilling in own ways..... too often lacking.

Any additional comments?


these guys are artists and characters who - refreshingly in what has become a sniffled atmosphere of polite PC norms - where saying what one thinks is a mine field (where i certainly agree and have for ages with Noam Chomsky about the way control is deployed through a now fairly clearly documented history of the PR industry, mass media and now less transparently online with too few people ever noticing....).

What is clear to most tough is what a brutal crime it is to make others feel discomfort.... i suppose this is what i find poignant and worthy of big respect for both the mentioned writers above but as this is a review of Wolfe's late and most recent work here - certainly specific to him and consistent even in his early writings I have to this point gotten to....

whereas a Dawkins for example I think does mass disservice as a masthead for science (in contrasting same opinions and stance with hitch, as convenient example)- he is a put off for lacking all the kind of qualities and tact, approach, etc. that a Tom Wolfe, a Hitchens, a Hunter Thomson can and has.... so miserable, lacking in character or seeming human qualities.....

--- I profoundly agree with Wolfe's point that speech (language - maybe specifically more written language.... though the thrust of his point is very very solid).... and yet i find one core point he hammers on - that Chomsky et all admit to not really knowing what language is.....

this is NOT such a big issue IMHO. Science for the most part - at least of the most serious sort - (look at most physics) doesn't tend to reveal much on the 'what' of anything.... it can - as a method and philosophy - help us dramatically figure out how things seem to 'work' (from a human pov) and through experiment let us manipulate and achieve seemingly fantastical things (go to moon) yet in the process - even if we figure out basic notions like 'here are these elements, here are these atoms, we can use this idea of them - a kind of mental jig - as particles or waves or that gravity pulls us towards mass etc.... but that doesn't say much of anything about WHAT any of it is. To say its a mineral is just a word..... it slots it into this system we've created, a model, but its always alll model.....

As Tom asserts as to the vitality of language in what makes us uniquely human- and surely (likely) a necessary trait to be able to consider - through whatever consciousness is - that WHAT in terms of these things is something one cannot ever really (though of course hotly debated now more than ever) though to expect linguistics as a scientific area of study to get at the what of language - its not really surprising at all that it doesn't shed any light on that answer.

This topic cluster has I guess struck a minor nerve as it surrounds some topics I have been finding myself at odds with common wisdom of the day very often - and wrestling with myself in many ways.

Ultimately I think (due to his points so often raised about Nietzsche and his prognosis for what has already occurred in 20th century and where we find ourselves - not so different from much Baudrillard thinking .... or frankly Aleister Crowley's! ) .... that I generally share Tom's critiques - though as I have gotten to know his ways and approach more and more - I think something I especially like about him (and I think is missing from much critique) is that though biting he doesn't absolutely separate himself from what he is brilliantly shreding to whatever intensity.... in fact I sense he knows - in the theatrical and not to be taken ever etirely seriously - human nature and folly... in some way he is celebrating whatever he is simulataneously duelling skillfully with such wit and vivacity.

Thrilled to have come across this release from a talent I am so happy to have come across (and yet more material to devour in his back catalog!)

5 people found this helpful

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

Great book on a needed subject.

Darwin needed this debunking of his plagiarized theory 150 years ago. Well written and spoken 👏 🙌 👍 👌

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

Good read

As always Tom Wolfe has great insights and an interesting look into a particular field. The ending sort of fizzles out. But it's not the destination, it's the journey

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

Intellectually stimulating

Very intellectually stimulating, and could understand the importance of Darwin’ book of evolution. I was surprised Tom Wolfe writing this kind of book.

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

Rollicking takedown of Neo-Darwinism

This seems to me an unusual book: a book that aims (and succeeds) in showing that the neo-Darwinian "modern synthesis" (and all of its derivative modern incarnations) is a complete failure in explaining how humans developed speech.

Written in a style that pure Tom Wolfe and with hilariously on-point narration by Robert Petkoff, this is a short book that I found fascinating from beginning to end. I learned about Darwin conspiring with Charles Lyell to present his idea of natural selection before Alfred Russel Wallace; how Wallace later turned on the theory due to its lack of explanatory power, how Noam Chomsky lorded over the linguistics world for 5 decades and how his biggest theory of language has proven to be a house of cards. All in all, a fascinating read. Highly recommended for all those with an interest in science and/or language or for those who can't get enough Tom Wolfe!

FIVE STARS.