A great resource for any of us who need to understand negotiation and the psychology of decision making (which you could argue is all of us). This is packed with interest, well researched examples of theories in practice and tips about how these can be put to work
At a number of points throughout "Jerusalem" I found myself thinking "How did he learn all this stuff and how is he managing to set it down in such a readable way?" The scope of the period covered by Simon Sebag Montefiore; the birth of civilization in the fertile crescent to the current day; presents real problems. The thing could just become a survey of historical events; it could get bogged down in detail or leave the listener dissatisfied by seeming to skim over crucial events. He avoids all of those pitfalls partly by opting to tell the story of Jerusalem through a number of families who shaped its history. So we get a gallery of intriguing and in some cases very obscure characters who are all fascinating company and who help to give a sense of the story barrelling along while also allowing Montefiore to slow down when he thinks it necessary and really explore a topic.
The city and it's buildings also feature with a satisfying level of detail about where the remains of ancient buildings can still be found in sometimes hidden corners of contemporary Jerusalem. As we get nearer to the modern day the author offers what seems like a fair and balanced account of the claims and behaviours of the various groups who still tussle for control of the city as a whole and the religious sites within it. I'm not religious so I just wanted this aspect of the book to feel like it was treating all parties with a bit of respect and so it did. The other way he grips the listener is through consistently excellent writing.
In addition to the absolutely excellent book itself praise is also due to John Lee, who narrates and the producers. Lee manages some pretty daunting pronunciations well throughout; he's clear as a bell and sounds like he's actually reading the book rather than just reciting it thoughtlessly. It's always nice when good narration makes a positive contribution to the listening experience.
Highly recommended. Sorry I can't give it 6 stars.
I spotted this after Alain de Botton name checked it as a book that would explain how the modern world got the way it is. Levinson manages to tell the story of how the invention of the container lead, through a mixture of overwhelming economic advantage and pure chance, to the rise of countries like China as industrial super-powers, to the hollowing out of small scale manufacturing from our towns and to the death of ancient ports like London. This could all be a bit dry but Levinson has a gift for story telling and keeps his narrative cracking along by letting the key characters in the development of containerisation carry the story. So we get Malcom McLean developing his trucking business during the depression; sitting in a queue at the docks and wondering how the process of transfer could be speeded up. McLean goes on to develop containerisation on roads and then on sea through a mixture of innovation and attention to detail while great ports make massive gambles on outfitting themselves for the emerging technology before near neighbours can get in first. A dominoe effect of economic and geographical drivers then leads us to a world in which it's cheaper to make everything from paper plates to i-pods in China and then ship them half the way around the world than it is to manufacture them near to consumers and save on transport costs. If you're interested in how the world works; this book is a must.