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Sceptic

London
  • 13
  • reviews
  • 18
  • helpful votes
  • 23
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  • Debt - Updated and Expanded

  • The First 5,000 Years
  • By: David Graeber
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 17 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 138
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 125
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 123

Here, anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: He shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods - that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Looking for economic and social clarity?

  • By John Hodgson on 29-05-17

An interesting anthropological take on debt

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

Reviewed: 16-06-18

This book is definitely worth a listen. The book itself is informative and original in its opinions and accounts and offers interesting insights into the history of human exchange and debt from the perspective of an anthropologist and left intellectual - and makes it an exciting read, nonetheless; quite a feat! The historical sweep is very alluring in the seemingly unifying concept of debt as a feature of temporally distant societies and peoples and modern capitalism, but with different social meanings and consequences. I found some of the later sections superficial after reading with excitement the earlier sections. I don't think David Graeber has succeeded ultimately in giving an account of modern capitalism that offers much in the way of an alternative for social movements wishing to change it. He also avoids going to areas where, I think, if he did, his arguments might start to look a little shaky including his view of the concept of "the economy" (he daren't engage with the marxist concept of mode of production), class in general and the consequences (or not) of the falling rate of profit on the current crisis in capitalism. It might seem arcane and tiresomely marxist to raise things like this but the author really is making a valiant attempt to supplant a dominant critique that has much going for it in its explanatory power (the marxist tradition and thinkers) with something else (an human anthropological critique). I think he adds quite a lot original thinking and illuminating perspectives but, perhaps, should have talked to and about other critiques a little more. Having said that I really enjoyed the wonderfully narrated book and will read the paper book at some point. Perhaps he'll deal with these issues in follow up books which I would definitely read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion

  • By: Bill Messenger, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Bill Messenger
  • Length: 5 hrs and 59 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 47
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41

Jazz is a uniquely American art form, one of America's great contributions to not only musical culture, but world culture, with each generation of musicians applying new levels of creativity that take the music in unexpected directions that defy definition, category, and stagnation.

Now you can learn the basics and history of this intoxicating genre in an eight-lecture series that is as free-flowing and original as the art form itself.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A nice introduction but needs more content

  • By Chris on 03-07-17

The vacancy is still open...

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

Reviewed: 28-01-18

I have listened to some great lecture series from the Great Courses stable but alas this isn't one of them. It certainly has interest but the overall package doesn't add up to much. While Bill Messenger seems to have taken the elements of jazz, notably improvisation, to heart and tried to mirror this in the series form it doesn't always work and overall leaves this being a superficial and overly brief saunter through the history of jazz. Bop gets one lecture which with all the playing adds up to about 20 minutes talking.

So there is still a vacancy for a good audible book on Jazz or, even better, another Great Course from a different voice.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Imperium

  • By: Robert Harris
  • Narrated by: Bill Wallis
  • Length: 13 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,106
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,007
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,007

When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history. The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb story, utterly superb narration.

  • By Amazon Customer on 09-01-17

One of the best audiobooks - a great performance

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

Reviewed: 28-01-18

Bill Wallis really excels himself bringing to life the characters in this book. Not only the central characters, Tiro and Cicero but the whole cast. The book itself is an exciting read, an historical political thriller, but with enough detail and confidence about the quotidien realities of ancient life to make it all work. You can forgive the contemporary voice as it doesn't get in the way of the overall narrative effect.

I am really looking forward to the next instalment!

White Teeth cover art
  • White Teeth

  • By: Zadie Smith
  • Narrated by: Jenny Sterlin
  • Length: 23 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 189
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 147
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 146

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, 2000.
Archie's life has disintegrated. Fresh from a dead marriage, middle-aged Archie stretches out a vacuum hose, seals up his car and prepares to die. But unbeknownst to him, his darkest hour is also his luckiest day. With the opening of a butcher's shop, his life is saved and soon he is on his way to beginning a new life with a young Jamaican woman looking for the last man on earth.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Not Zadie Smith's words....

  • By Victoria on 20-11-12

Urban family saga full of London life.

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

Reviewed: 13-06-17

I had been meaning to read this for years but not got around to it. I'm glad I didn't as I can't imagine the reading would have bettered the listening experience.Jenny Sterlin sustains your belief in a broad cast of characters that she brings to life brilliantly recreating the urban mixed-heritage cast of the book. It's long, but it's worth it.

ps. ignore the pedantic snipings of some reviewers that mention that a few americanisms have creeped into the story, I'm a Londoner and I didn't notice.

  • Sapiens

  • By: Yuval Noah Harari
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 15 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 12,635
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,112
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,027

Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it. Us. We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us sapiens? In this bold and provocative audiobook, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here, and where we're going.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Thought provoking but overconfident

  • By Jan W. H. Schnupp on 24-09-15

Overall an interesting listen and polemic.

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

Reviewed: 23-02-17

This is an interesting and entertainingly written popular philosophy and (in some ways) history book. I felt this book often veered into polemic rather than reasoned argument, e.g. it's conflation of any ideology with a religion (a specific ideology) eliding any fundamental differences (i.e.belief in a magical supreme being) against some other (perhaps) utopian goal. Given the popular nature of the book this is no great crime but the imperious author might signal when he is going off piste. I agree with some other reviewers that one of his main concerns (the organising features of ideological systems) is very interestingly dealt with.

The speculative arguments around the cognitive revolution and its apparent dating to 70,000 years ago is certainly not justified by the arguments he presents. GIven that the products of human culture has only survived in a fragmentary way from this date and discoveries seem to come by the month, if not the week, that undermine previous theories, it seems unreasonable to be so prescriptive about when our species genius took off and why. I suspect our perspectives will change enormously on this subject in the years to come.

The final chapters on the future might tickle some readers fancies but me, not so much.

Well worth a listen.

  • Fingersmith

  • By: Sarah Waters
  • Narrated by: Juanita McMahon
  • Length: 23 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 603
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 559
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 560

London 1862: Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves - fingersmiths - under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her 'family'. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue's fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant!

  • By joanna on 02-10-14

A Dickensian masterpiece

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

Reviewed: 24-01-17

Just a quick review from me. I really enjoyed the book and, particularly, the reading. It kept me engaged and interested right the way through. I would strongly recommend you download this and give it a listen.

  • The Invention of Nature

  • The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science
  • By: Andrea Wulf
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 14 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 158
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 157

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) is the great lost scientist: more things are named after him than anyone else. There are towns, rivers, mountain ranges, the ocean current that runs along the South American coast; there's a penguin, a giant squid - even the Mare Humboldtianum on the moon. His colourful adventures read like something out of a Boy's Own story.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful book

  • By Andy on 05-01-17

The resurrection of a forgotten hero.

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

Reviewed: 24-01-17

I enjoyed this comprehensive resurrection of this hero of natural history. It's part history, part travelogue and the odd bit of historical gossip. My main take-home is how we seem to have overlooked this giant of natural history, even though a quick look at the map of the world would remind us of his enduring history. I would suggest that for people interested in the history of science and particularly those particularly drawn to the period around the start of the 19th century when romanticism and science came together, briefly, to produce something bigger than the sum of its parts, this is the book for you. Much as I liked the book I was only luke warm about the narrator - but I wouldn't let that put you off, he was ok.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge

  • By: Thomas Hardy
  • Narrated by: Tony Britton
  • Length: 13 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 142
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 120
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 123

This audiobook is about the rise and fall of Michael Henchard. While out-of-work he gets drunk at a fair and impulsively sells his wife and baby for five guineas to a sailor. Eighteen years later he is reunited with his wife and daughter, who discover that he has gained wealth and respect and is now the most prominent man in Casterbridge. Though he attempts to make amends he is no less impulsive and once again loses everything due to bad luck and his violent, selfish and vengeful nature.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent reading

  • By Richard on 02-09-11

First class adaptation

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

Reviewed: 10-08-16

What did you like most about The Mayor of Casterbridge?

The narrator has really brought to life the cast of characters in the novel and even manages to play the few women with some real feeling - quite a task in my opinion and having listened to a far less successful Tess of the D'urbervilles in the same series. The book is really a study in character of the Mayor, a bitter and lifelong misanthrope that manages to poison all good in his life. In spite of the heavy moral load that we are expected to shoulder the story and descriptions are leavened with enough wit, acute observation and commentary on the life of the country people in Dorset to make it well worth the listen. I would recommend it.

Which character – as performed by Tony Britton – was your favourite?

Excellent performance.

  • The Good Soldier Svejk

  • By: Jaroslav Hasek
  • Narrated by: David Horovitch
  • Length: 6 hrs and 40 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30

A soldier in the First World War who never actually sees any combat, Josef Švejk is the awkward protagonist - and none of the other characters can quite decide whether his bumbling efforts to get to the front are genuine or not. Often portrayed as one of the first anti-war novels, Hašek's classic satire is a tour-de-force of modernist writing, influencing later writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner and Joseph Heller.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A great listen

  • By Terry on 03-04-12

Funny but slightly dated comic war novel

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

Reviewed: 10-08-16

What made the experience of listening to The Good Soldier Svejk the most enjoyable?

The narration is first class in this adaptation of the classic. Editing it down to its current size was a good idea and I don't think anyone will miss any of the filler.

What about David Horovitch’s performance did you like?

Excellent performance and very suited to the book.

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

It's funny but you won't need to change your underwear.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Handmaid's Tale

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Joanna David
  • Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,028
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,594
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,599

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed . If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A favourite

  • By Raison on 10-11-13

Solid performance.

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

Reviewed: 10-08-16

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would recommend this for fans of Margaret Atwood's speculative fictions.The first person narrator did, in the end, for me, get a little trying. I particularly liked the historical notes tagged onto the end!

What three words best describe Joanna David’s performance?

Joanna David does a decent job narrating this tale but hamstrung by her cut glass and slightly breathy english accent. This tale is set in New England or Maine and is peppered with references and allusions that have a local colour. Why, then, didn't we have an american reading the book. I think this would have made more sense and might have even have made it a little more engaging. (ps I am Welsh and not being nationalistic!).

11 of 11 people found this review helpful