LISTENER

Alan

London, United Kingdom
  • 15
  • reviews
  • 35
  • helpful votes
  • 19
  • ratings
  • A Mother's Reckoning

  • Living in the Aftermath of the Columbine Tragedy
  • By: Sue Klebold
  • Narrated by: Andrew Solomon, Sue Klebold
  • Length: 11 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 154
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 153

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill 12 students and a teacher and wound 24 others before taking their own lives. For the last 16 years, Sue Klebold, Dylan's mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating and sad

  • By Dell Tasker on 27-02-16

An import book

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

Reviewed: 21-08-17

A stunning account from a different perspective. We seldom think of the family of murderers and the burden of guilt they carry. This book tells the story of a mother who has spent years trying to understand how and why her son did what he did.

She makes no excuses and seemingly leaves no rocks unturned in her pursuit for some kind of reckoning or truth.

She also makes the case for understanding how these tragedies are primarily murder-suicides; her son chose to die that day, before he went on his murder spree. Her assessment and research into the brain illness that leads to suicide is rigorous and engaging and I left the book feeling that murder-suicide is behind the modern terrorism that has peppered western cities in recent years. Here, as in Columbine, we have young men (they're always men and they are usually young) carrying out mass murder but they are also choosing to die themselves.

If the author is still struggling with the regret, shame and horror of what her son did at least she has sued des in opening up a debate in which murder-suicide is taken seriously and parents, peers, teachers, health professional and law enforcers are better equipped to understand and hopefully prevent it.

  • 11.22.63

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Craig Wasson
  • Length: 30 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,128
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,943
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,934

What if you could go back in time and change the course of history?11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless.... King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill who becomes the love of Jake's life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Return to top form

  • By John on 14-12-11

Plenty of time needed for this one

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

Reviewed: 26-07-17

A great imagining of the perils of time travel but way, way, way too long. Has Stephen King got an editor? Where is the rabbit hole so I can get those 24 hours back?!

  • This Boy

  • By: Alan Johnson
  • Narrated by: Alan Johnson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 297
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 267
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 270

Alan Johnson's childhood was not so much difficult as unusual, particularly for a man who was destined to become Home Secretary. Not in respect of the poverty, which was shared with many of those living in the slums of postwar Britain, but in its transition from two-parent family to single mother and then to no parents at all.... This is essentially the story of two incredible women: Alan's mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better life for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age and who fought to keep the family together.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A warm, candid, moving memoir

  • By Saffy on 28-05-13

Nostalgia, not what it used to be...

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

Reviewed: 14-04-14

Where does This Boy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best, if not the best, listens I've bought from Audible.

What was one of the most memorable moments of This Boy?

Johnson manages to mix his excellent memory with fine research to make a compelling read. Lots of anecdotes to savour, but my favourite is the one about being at an Everton match and trying to keep up with his uncle smoking Woodbines, aged 16. He collapsed at half-time but was given an upgrade to the posh seats.

Have you listened to any of Alan Johnson’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I think this is his only title. I've listened to him prattle in the House of Commons though...

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

Laugh more than cry. Although the story of poverty makes me sad and reminds us that the past wasn't a golden era for millions of working class people who lived hand to mouth in appalling slums. It reminds me that the progressive society we live in didn't happen by accident: everyday rascism, divisive education policies, working class hovels, corporal punishment, unprotected workers, were all standard fare in the 1950s and 1960s. The progressive politicians and campaigners fought hard to erode these elements from society. Makes me angry when I hear working class people who nowadays call for a return to these "halcyon" days.

Any additional comments?

A fantastic memoir Alan. I have to admit that I also enjoyed the book because of the parallels with my own life. Grew up near North Kensington (in the shadow of Trellick Tower), poor background, council houses, QPR, used to be in a band, postman (who delivered to Southam Street!) Happy to say I never got the smoking thing, so am spared the Woodbine wobbles.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Schopenhauer: Philosophy in an Hour

  • By: Paul Strathern
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 39
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38

Philosophy for busy people. Listen to a succinct account of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in just one hour.Arthur Schopenhauer, the ‘philosopher of pessimism,’ makes it clear that he regards the world and our life in it as a bad joke. However, if the world is indifferent to our fate it doesn’t thwart us deliberately – its façade is supported by what Schopenhauer calls the universal Will. He saw this as a force that is blind and without purpose, bringing on all our misery and suffering.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Diatribe

  • By Richard Fairley on 09-08-17

One miserable philosopher..

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

Reviewed: 23-03-14

Would you consider the audio edition of Schopenhauer: Philosophy in an Hour to be better than the print version?

The audio has the advantage of being delivered by an accomplished orator. A really enjoyable listen.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Schopenhauer: Philosophy in an Hour?

Can't pick out one bit. The whole experience was like wading through a swimming pool of miserable treacle. Schopenhauer is so miserable, so fatalistic and misanthropic I needed to take a shower after having listened to his analysis, lest I become infected with his pessimism. Despite the depression, I strangely enjoyed myself.

What does Jonathan Keeble bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

His delivery is perfect. It felt like he was talking just to me about someone he actually knew on personal terms.

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

Disgusted but educated.

Any additional comments?

Schopenhauer is a pessimistic old soul, but we can at least thank him for giving birth to psychoanalysis. Freud, often cited as the originator behind the idea of the subconscious, can thank this wild-haired German philosopher for asserting the notion with his idea of world as representation and will. Freud definitely read Schopenhauer and would have been fascinated by his licentious lifestyle and his odd relationship with his father who committed suicide long before the thinker flourished.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • On Being a Therapist

  • By: Jeffrey A. Kottler
  • Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
  • Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 120
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 103
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 101

An updated revision of Jeffrey Kottler's classic book On Being a Therapist reveals the new realities and inner experiences of therapeutic practice today.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well Worth it

  • By Marie on 17-02-13

Analysing that...

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

Reviewed: 23-03-14

What did you like most about On Being a Therapist?

A fascinating insight into the world of the talking therapies. The author makes a good case for therapy while at the same time exposing its foibles, inadequacies and is always shining a bright light on the sheer fogginess of the profession. The author isn't afraid to discuss his doubt and whether he knows what he is doing at all. As he says, imagine how you'd feel if a surgeon expressed the same doubt prior to carrying out you heart bypass.

What was one of the most memorable moments of On Being a Therapist?

I was moved by the author's efforts to start a charity in Nepal to help children who would otherwise be sold into the sex trade. Showing that while therapy has a place in trying to "cure" individual ills, other actions are required to repair societal problems.

Which character – as performed by Rob Shapiro – was your favourite?

A whole host of therapists (good, bad and ugly) make up the considerably tome of anecdotal research.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

If you can afford it, it may or not be good to talk...

Any additional comments?

A enjoyable listen, but I was slightly disappointed by the North-America centric survey. It could have been weighted by more referencing to British and European therapists and thinkers. Freud of course is mentioned but there is no place for Lacan. Also, given that the author describes the job of a therapists as a "practical philosophy" it's a shame he never referred to some of the heavyweight thinkers whose writing and thinking gave birth to the pyschoanalitic movement in the first place.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • R.E.M.'s Murmur (33 1/3 Series)

  • By: J. Niimi
  • Narrated by: Fred Berman
  • Length: 4 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    2.5 out of 5 stars 2

R.E.M.'s debut album, released in 1983, was so far removed from the prevailing trends of American popular music that it still sounds miraculous and out of time today. J. Niimi tells the story of the album's genesis - with fascinating input from Don Dixon and Mitch Easter. He also investigates Michael Stipe's hypnotic, mysterious lyrics, and makes the case for Murmur as a work of Southern Gothic art.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Pop music was never so high-brow.

  • By Alan on 20-02-14

Pop music was never so high-brow.

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

Reviewed: 20-02-14

Would you consider the audio edition of R.E.M.'s Murmur (33 1/3 Series) to be better than the print version?

I love hearing about the minutiae of an album I'd never really heard from I band I don't particularly like. The narration was, at times, mesmeric - something print couldn't have achieved. I even enjoyed listening to the deadpan, emotionless reading of the lyrics in the appendices.

Would you be willing to try another book from J. Niimi? Why or why not?

Yes. He could bring gravity to outer space if he tried hard enough. A genius.

Which character – as performed by Fred Berman – was your favourite?

The character of the audiophile obsessed with R.E.M.'s debut, with a penchant for Greek Myth, semiotics and literary theory.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Dream-sleep absent from R.E.M fest.

Any additional comments?

Audiophiles and R.E.M. fanatics will love the detail of this production. The sleeve, the lyrics, the instruments, the recording equipment and personnel, the studio, the band history in a nutshell, the reference to gothic literature and Greek myth - it is, and so much very more, all there. I hope someone one day writes a similar tome about Virtue, by Emmy the Great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Foul Play

  • The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport
  • By: Mike Rowbottom
  • Narrated by: Philip Rose
  • Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    2.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars 1

From plain old doping to claiming a marathon victory despite having driven the middle section of the race, from match-fixing to diving for a penalty - cheating in sport is as old as sport itself. But what constititues cheating and where do we draw the line? Are some sports cleaner than others? Is cheating in one sport the same as cheating in another or does each sport's distinctive culture set different standards? Is there such a thing as a sport without sin? Or, indeed, a sporting competitor?

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • A dim light shining on the dark side of sport

  • By Alan on 16-02-14

A dim light shining on the dark side of sport

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

Reviewed: 16-02-14

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who hasn't watched the news, read the news, or followed the news for a couple of decades. I'm not an avid follower of the subject matter of this book, but found most of the stories very familiar.

Would you ever listen to anything by Mike Rowbottom again?

I doubt it. I was expecting to hear more stories from other not-so-popular sports. Cricket, football, athletics and cycling take centre stage. Also, the whole psychology of cheating was hardly expanded. Rowbottom can write, but he rarely went deeper than covering the events. I can't remember hearing of any primary research carried out by the author. Did he talk to a single psychologist, anthropologist, behaviouralist or sportsperson for that matter? A revistation of Maradona, Ben Johnson, Lance Armstrong and Rugby's blood gate: Hardly coverage of new ground.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

My wife walked in when I was listening and genuinely asked: "Why are you spending so long listening to Siri?" He really did sound like an automated voice and made a hat-load of pronunciation errors: Jock Stine (for Jock Stein) to name one.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. I just wish I walked away from this book having learnt something. Cheating bad. Doping bad. Everyone else is doing it, bad excuse. That's all I learnt from this title. Oh, and ancient Olympians ate rams balls to enhance performance.

Any additional comments?

The author takes his hack's hat off to all those competitors who don't cheat when they compete. But he has hardly exposed why those who bend the rules on the field of play. What makes people cheat? Why do we resort to underhanded tactics even if we are likely to get caught? Sadly, I'm still none the wiser after this book.

  • Bedsit Disco Queen

  • How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star
  • By: Tracey Thorn
  • Narrated by: Tracey Thorn
  • Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 75
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 71
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 72

The Sunday Times top ten bestselling memoir of Tracey Thorn's 30-year pop career with Marine Girls and Everything But The Girl, and her collaborations with Paul Weller, Massive Attack and Todd Terry. 'I was only sixteen when I bought an electric guitar and joined a band. A year later, I formed an all-girl band called the Marine Girls and played gigs, and signed to an indie label, and started releasing records. Then, for eighteen years, between 1982 and 2000, I was one half of the group Everything But the Girl.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Everything but the juicy bits.

  • By Alan on 11-02-14

Everything but the juicy bits.

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

Reviewed: 11-02-14

What did you like best about Bedsit Disco Queen? What did you like least?

Lots about this book was fab. The early years, sticking out as odd in Suburbia, Popstar Tracy at Hull Uni, buying a guitar and signed a year later with the Marine Girls. But as with most celeb biogs it's the "missing" bits that are most felt. The whole story was overly padded out with verbatim reviews from various magazines such as NME and Q Magazine. I wanted to get inside her head rather than into the cuttings file.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I learnt lots about the Indie scene I hadn't really followed at the time and enjoyed the refreshing take on parenting while on tour. Milk and Haribo on the rider etc. The reviews and diary entries went too far though. It did feel a bit like an undergraduate overly quoting and foot-noting references in a first year essay. A lot of people will find this bit fine. Especially fans.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

I enjoyed the bit where George Michael turns up in his Chelsea tractor on the school run. While Tracy felt embarrassed I couldn't help wondering what kind of school the ex-red wedge girl was sending her kids to. Strangely, finance is hardly discussed in the book - something that might be none of the reader's business. But how soundly does a millionaire bedsit disco queen sleep at night given her past principles??

If this book were a film would you go see it?

Yes. The soundtrack would be amazing.

Any additional comments?

My review sounds a bit harsh, but I did really enjoy the listen. I was entertained, amused and informed. The musical interludes were a fantastic addition that really complemented each chapter. As with most autobiographies the writer seems like a closed book. Over reliance on old diary phrases and press cuttings and even quotes from her partner's book in place of genuine revelation from the heart. In the end, hugely listenable but not enough juicy bits.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad

  • By: M. R. James
  • Narrated by: David Suchet
  • Length: 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 1,470
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,263
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 1,250

The story tells the tale of an introverted academic who happens upon a strange whistle while exploring a cemetery on the East Anglian coast. When blown, the whistle unleashes a supernatural force that terrorises its discoverer. Montague Rhodes James was a noted British mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905–1918) and of Eton College (1918–1936). He is best remembered for his ghost stories which are widely regarded as among the finest in English literature.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Creepy Short Story

  • By Lynn Worton on 29-03-14

Whistling a shaggy dog story

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

Reviewed: 26-01-14

What did you like best about Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad? What did you like least?

Suchet was masterful. Great narration brought this wordy tale from a doyen of the ghost-story genre to life. I thought the ending was like a shaggy dog story - massive build up and all you are left with is a bunch of ruffled bedclothes. I think if he shouted "BOO" at the end I'd be less disappointed.

Has Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad put you off other books in this genre?

I'll try others, but not in a hurry.

What does David Suchet bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The narration far outweighs the story. I would have switched off while reading the two page description of his finding the whistle. Suchet was able to convey that particular verbosity without me wanted to skip forwards screaming: "Ok, ok, we get it! He's just found the whistle mentioned in the title of the story!!"

Could you see Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

A movie. David Soul should lead.

Any additional comments?

Is it possible that the invisible spectre, clothed in a bed sheet, inspired the popular costume that trick or treaters wear today?? I hope so. Now there's an interesting story...

  • Great Britain's Great War

  • A Sympathetic History of Our Gravest Folly
  • By: Jeremy Paxman
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan, Jeremy Paxman
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 375
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 341
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 333

Penguin presents the unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Jeremy Paxman's Great Britain's Great War. Read by the actor Roy McMillan, this magnificent history of the First World War tells the story of the war in one gripping narrative from the point of view of the British people. We may think we know about it, but what was life really like for the British people during the First World War?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Highly accessible social history of the Great War

  • By Bromide Badger on 26-01-15

A good book about a Great War

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

Reviewed: 26-01-14

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

Yes. The easily digestible journalistic prose makes it easy to listen to in long chunks. Paxman has managed to debunk numerous myths about this turning point in British history while supplying a host of human interest stories from the time.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Great Britain's Great War?

Each chapter was memorable but the introduction stands out most because Paxman himself reads it. I can see how time constraints may have prevented the author from narrating the entire book. McMillan gives a commendable, professional voice to the text but let's face it, when you're listening to a celebrity tome, you want the celebrity to deliver it.

What does Jeremy Paxman and Roy McMillan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Both have excellent narrator's voices. McMillan supplies a variety of accents to quotations without sounding like a cliche or parody.

Do you think Great Britain's Great War needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Yes, let's have a similar study of WWII.

Any additional comments?

This is usually a book that I'd read in order to additionally access tables, photos and bibliography. I wonder if such a tie-in might be considered by the publishers in the future? Paxman is a trained journalist and has thus written a journalistic survey of aspects of this complicated event. It's not clear what his methodology is. Where did he get his material from and what material did he leave out? Has he uncovered previously unreleased material? These questions might not have been asked after reading the work of a professional historian. Also, as for Paxman's thesis of writing a sympathetic understanding of Britain's greatest folly, I'm not sure if this has been achieved. I finished the book sympathetic for those who suffered in the conflict but unable to sympathise with a nation and a people with such a hubristic and elevated opinion of itself, as Britain clearly had at the time. But as Paxman says at the end, it took this war to hammer this fact home.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful