Audio book reviews
Books I've enjoyed (mostly from the Austin Public library):
(10 the best)
Title Author Comments Date 10 Steven Pressfield An amazingly well written novel that explores the Spartan culture. 01/2003 10 Hunger Games Suzanne Collins Taking her cue from the Greek myth of Theseus and the Roman culture of spectator violence Suzanne Collins weaves an incredible tale of a flawed, yet heroic girl, Katniss Everdeen. 08/2011 9 Longitude Dava Sobel Wonderful book about John Harrison's quest to solve the longitude problem. Although he solved the technical difficulties, the politics around him stymied his progress, while sailors died for lack of longitude 11/1999 9 Tides of War Steven Pressfield Very interesting historical novel of the Peloponnesian war between Sparta and Athens and Alcibiades. Pressfield highlights the turn of history influenced by Pride and petty Jealousy; somewhat like a Greek tragedy - oh wait - it is a Greek tragedy. Excellent abridgment, the language is rated PG13 at times. 02/2001 9 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created Charles C. Mann Interesting stories of how the exchange of foods, ideas, and people from the New and Old Worlds had unimaginable consequences. 11/2013 8 The Zeros Scott Westerfeld A fun, well-written novel about a circle of friends with mystic powers. Did I mention it was well-written? 12/2015 8 Guns of August Barbara Tuchman Insightful novel about World War I. A few things struck me.
Many of the top leaders for the war were not well prepared, nor suited temperament-wise for their duties.
How garbled all the communications were during the war. The leaders had no idea what was really going on during the battles or where the enemy was.
How cruel the Germans were to the inhabitants of Belgium and France.
How little justification the Germans had for the war. The Kaiser just craved the respect of his cousins and plunged the entire world into a carnage that overwhelms the imagination.
04/2010 8 State of Fear Michael Crichton I enjoyed the story, but "State of Fear" is really more a Greek dialog discussing the various views on global warming. Drama and action are spread liberally through the book, but ultimately it's all about the conversations between those who have a clue about science and those who just want to feel good about doing something. however misguided. 12/2005 8 The Lost Gate Orson Scott Card A fun coming of age novel of a young gate mage. 10/2015 8 The Lion's Gate Steven Pressfield A great overview of the Six Days War through the eyes of the combatants. 10/2015 8 Catching Fire Suzanne Collins Suzanne Collins continues her tale of Katniss Everdeen. 08/2011 8 MockingJay Suzanne Collins Suzanne Collins completes her tale of Katniss Everdeen. 08/2011 8 Cardinal of the Kremlin Tom Clancy A fast-paced action story about the closing days of the cold war 11/2000 8 Micheal Lewis The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine This is a great story about the collapse of the sub-prime housing market and how clueless the Wall Street mavens were. Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side, makes the story eerily compelling. Three items stood out to me:
1. How the fund managers were paid well to be ignorant of the true details; they were making lots of money with no thought to the future ramifications of their actions other than their annual bonus.
2. Almost all the people responsible for this terrible catastrophe actually came through the debacle making tons of money, which, for the most part, the taxpayers ended up paying.
3. The problem really was OPM - Other People's Money. Once the brokerage firms went from partnerships to publicly owned companies, the risks they were taking were not with their own money, but the stockholders money. Hence the temptation to gamble with Other People's Money in a way they would not have done with their own. If they bet right, they'd make a ton of money, if they bet wrong, well, they will lose their bonus and the stockholders will lose money.
02/2011 8 Dean Koontz This fast paced mystery novel was a treat. The first person narration worked well. 5/2004 8 Vinh Chung A wonderful story about a Vietnamese-Chinese family's history of growing up, surviving the Vietnam war, and their ordeal to come to America. 11/2022 8 S. C. Gwynne This is a great overview of the character of Jackson, both the myth and the man. It's also a good overview of the early days of the American Civil War. 7/2015 8 Marcia Clark Compelling story of the O.J. Trial 12/2000 8 John Grishom Good, fast paced novel, great abridgment. I loved the book, but thought the identity of the final informant was lame. 04/2001 8 Billy Graham A very good overview of his life. 03/2001 8 Clive Cussler His best book yet. Fast paced, intriguing. Clive knows how to tell a story well. 4/2002 7 George Dyson
A big, elliptical story about the birth of the computer age. Dyson often strays from the topic at hand, like the history of the area around Princton, but it works. Dyson details how incredibly smart Turing, Von Neumann and the other were. He chronicles the relationship between the computers and nuclear weapons.
01/2013 7 Connie Willis
A fun book about invention and fads. Willis superbly blends commentary about how science progresses with an entertaining story.
11/2012 7 Nathaniel C. Fick
Interesting, well-written novel about the training of Marines and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The most interesting vignette was about his translator, Mish, who after talking with a group of Iraqis on good-will missions would always get cigarettes handed to him. When Fick asked him why people gave him cigarettes Mish replied, "I told them to hand over some cigarettes, or you'd kill them."
Another interesting message of the book is the amount of civilian causalities. Large numbers of innocent civilians were killed during the operation not necessarily from the intent of either side, but just as "collateral damage".
07/2009 7 America and the New Global Economy Timothy Taylor Interesting overview of globalization and the world economy 1/2011 7 Economics Timothy Taylor Although it starts slowly, the lectures are well worth your patience until the latter chapters. My notes are here. 10/2010 7 Journals of the Pioneers 1 Frederick Drimmer I loved the pure, unadulterated stories from the mouth of the people who witnessed and lived the culture of the Amerindians. Most of what we read today has been processed and refined for political and social reasons, so this book is a valuable resource. According to many of the writers, the warriors would eat the bodies of defeated warriors who died valiantly, but refuse to eat the body of cowards. The writers also said that many whites were kidnapped to take the place of tribe members who had died. The Native Americans would also set prairie fires to flush game. 10/2010 7 Tom Clancy A fast paced fun action story about a possible WWIII. 12/2002 7 Sherry Sontag A well told story of submarine covert actions in the Cold War. 3/2002 7 Caroline Alexander Story of the incredible saga of Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic is gripping. His crew was trapped in the ice and then stranded on a small island. He undertook the greatest sea voyage ever in a lifeboat in very adverse conditions. The story is tough sledding at first, but picks up speed; its difficult to listen to at times, but worth it. 5/2000 7 Neal Stephenson An imaginative view of the future. One of the early cyberpunk novels. The language is fairly harsh with profanity, but very original and a good story. 03/2002 7 Jerome Groopman How do doctors sift through possible causes for our ills? The author explores the question and concludes you should ask these questions of your health care provider when given a diagnosis: What else could this be? Could there be two problems? What other organs are around that area? 10/2010 6 Sam Gwynne Mr. Gwynne, a former executive editor of Texas Monthly, chronicles the rise and fall of the Comanche people who started in the Northern Plains as a stone-age people, and through their intimate relationship with the horse, rose to completely dominate the American Plains for centuries. 01/2015 6 William Rosen A facinating read on the history of the steam engine and the history of inventing. His major premise is that the Industrial Revolution happened in England and America due to patent protection for inventors which allowed inventors to spend many years working on an invention, knowing that it could make them rich in the end. 03/2013 6 Ken Davis An interesting and even handed account of the War of Northern Aggression 06/2000 6 The Intruders Dean R. Koontz Good story of a Vietnam Navy Intruder pilot 12/2000 6 Power Plays / Shadow Watch Tom Clancy and Martin Greenberg A good story 12/2000 6 Tom Clancy, Chuck Horner A story of Chuck Horner's career. 12/2002 6 Stephen King Mr. King's thoughts on writing the novel. 5/2004 6 The Boglehead's Guide to the Three Fund Portfolio Taylor Larimore guide to investing. Buy three funds: a total US stock index, a foreign stock index, and a bond fund. That's it. Done. 1/2020 6 Dark Pools Scott Patterson Very readable history of electronic trading. 8/2012 5 The Ten Thousand Harold Coyle The story was not very plausible, the scenarios of battle were interesting, but the editing onto two cassettes was "an abridgment too far". 4/2000 5 2034 Ackerman and Stavridis Interesting story about a future war between the US and China. 12/2021 5 Foundation the Psycho-historians Isaac Asimov A highly edited version of a the Foundation book. If you read the book, it's a fun review. Without reading the original book, you'll be lost. 11/2000 5 Icebound Dean R. Koontz Mildly entertaining 12/2000 5 Atlantis Found Clive Cussler A highly imaginative Dirk Pitt novel on two cassettes 7/2000 5 Cyclops Clive Cussler A fairly typical Dirk Pitt novel on two cassettes 4/2000 5 Simon Winchester A leisurely walk through the events surrounding the eruption of Krakatoa. Winchester is informative and entertaining. 01/2005 5 Dean Koontz An interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling story of fantastic events. As always Koontz is a wonderful storyteller with well textured characters we care deeply about, but it doesn't quite save the plot line. 05/2005 5
"The Blessing Way"
Tony Hillerman An interesting look at the Navajo culture through the story of a series of murders on the reservation. The story starts slowly with some clues, and then picks up steam about 2/3 of the way through the book. 06/2023 5 The Checklist Manifesto Dr. Atul Gawande
An entertaining review of how checklists from the aviation industry have helped the restaurant, building and medical professions. Tasks in modern professions are so complex that a single "Master Builder" can no longer keep everything in their head, but due to the weakness of our frames, we must commit the tasks to a checklist used by everyone involved in the operation. Not every activity should have a checklist - some are too simple, some are too complicated requiring too much expertise, like child rasing. Most people don't like using checklists although the statistics Dr. Gawande provides are stunning - infection rates went from 11% down to 0% in trials.
Characteristics of a Good Checklist (a checklist for checklists:)
- Must be simple and brief: 5 to 9 items
- Obvious things should not be on the list, only killer items
- Must be beta tested and refined continually
11/2012 4 History of Warfare John Keegan Keegan tackles a difficult subject, but comes up with little. He seems intend on having a Clausewitzian encounter with the premises of Clausewitz. He tries so hard to prove that Clausewitz was wrong, and it gets tiring. Keegan is also not afraid to make the facts stand on their heads - like his description of site 117. He really wants us to believe that the Greeks invented "total war", but neglects other cultures like the Hawaiian that do not fit in with his views. Overall this book was a great disappointment. 06/2000 5 Blink Malcolm Gladwell Gladwell describes how humans can make instant judgments and be amazingly accurate. The most interesting example was predicting which doctors would be most likely to be sued. People were able to predict the likelihood of a doctor being sued for malpractice not by looking at his grades or IQ, but how well she interacted with patients. By watching a short video clip of the doctor and patients, observers could predict if the doctor would be likely to be sued. If the doctors treat their patients kindly and respectfully, the threat of a malpractice suit is low. 09/2009 4 When We Cease to Understand the World Benjamín Labatut Fascinating story about the history of science and technology with a slant to quantum mechanics. Somewhat unsatisfactory in that it was a mix of history and fiction, so I never knew what was true. 04/2022 4 Inca Gold Clive Cussler An adventure action story that strains credibility often, but entertaining 11/1999 4 Miller An informative history of germ warfare in the US showing that the issue is truly complex. Parts of the story get very tedious. 05/2005 4 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte That woman can write dialog. I'm amazed at the speech that just flows from her characters. 9/2014 3 F. Scott Fitzgerald I'll save you the trouble, old sport, and give you the one line summary: "J. Gatsby is madly in love with Daisy who is married to Tom who is having an affair with Myrtle whose husband George kills Gatsby because Tom told George it was Gatsby's car who struck and killed George's wife Myrtle, even though it was really Daisy driving his car." 06/2011 3
""A Farewell To Arms
Ernest Hemingway Quite disappointing - tedious at times. 03/2013 2
""Life of Pi
Yann Martel It's an interesting story with great characters. It moves along well and has depth. Pi becomes a Muslim, Hindu, and Christian. The basic theme seems to be that all religions are equally false, but useful to make this world seem less brutal. I did not like the book. The ending is quite gruesome for younger readers. 03/2023 2 The Commodore Patrick O'Brian I listened to the 3hr condensed version. Don't bother. I think all the character development, action, and story line where all abridged out. 9/2000 1 White Shark An action story that completely strains credibility. Not recommended. 8/1999
Following is a list of my audio books. If you are a personal friend and would like to borrow some titles, please let me know.
My Audio Library from the The Great Courses
- Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos by Steven Pollock
- History of Science: Antiquity to 1700
- Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition by Richard Wolfson
- Iliad of Homer by Elizabeth Vandiver
- Odyssey of Homer by Elizabeth Vandiver
- Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World by Daniel N. Robinson
- Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations by Brian M. Fagan
- Greek Tragedy by Elizabeth Vandiver
- An Introduction to Greek Philosophy by David Roochnik
- The Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis by Louis Markos
- The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer
- The Foundations of Western Civilization by Professor Thomas F. X. Noble
- Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning by Professor David Zarefsky
- Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor by Professor Kenneth W. Harl Tulane University
- The History of Ancient Rome Vol I-IV
- Alexander and the Hellenistic Age Vol I-II by Jeremy McInerney (12 CDs)
- Age of Pericles by Jeremy McInerney (12 CDs)
- Ancient Greek Civilization by Jeremy McInerney (6 CDs)