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  • Move Fast and Break Things

  • How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us
  • By: Jonathan Taplin
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Taplin
  • Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 43
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 37

Google. Amazon. Facebook. The modern world is defined by vast digital monopolies turning ever-larger profits. Those of us who consume the content that feeds them are farmed for the purposes of being sold ever more products and advertising. Those that create the content - the artists, writers and musicians - are finding they can no longer survive in this unforgiving economic landscape. But it didn't have to be this way.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Worth a listen and a think!

  • By Greig Stirling on 19-09-17

Whither humans, arts & culture in TechTopia??

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

Reviewed: 16-03-18

Does the specter of mass unemployment loom ahead for humanity as 47% of jobs will disappear in the next quarter century because of what a 2013 Oxford University study of 702 occupations termed as “computerisation”? Or are we headed towards a wonderful future, with 6 billion humans shed from the burdens of working and instead engaging in arts, culture and scientific discoveries, as tech visionaries like Marc Andreessen would have you believe?
Jonathan Taplin, who references the above study as well as an interview of Andreessen, firmly believes that its time to worry – and take a stand. He tears into the characterization by the latter of worries about growing unemployment as simply a matter of “reskilling” of workers – suggesting that only someone as rich, and hence out of touch with the common man, as Andreessen can think that a 50-year-old oil technician can simply reskill, learn coding and work for Google when he loses his job.
“Move Fast and Break Things” is a broadside against big tech, as a threat to democracy and cultural values. The growing role played by technology in everyday lives have been examined in quite a few books recently, although those generally focus on either the risks people take with allowing tech too deeply into their lives (broadly termed cybercrime) or are visions of what a future brave new world is going to look like. Taplin’s book worries about the socio-cultural impact, flowing in part from the economic impact of the growing dominance of a few tech giants which is the gist of his arguments.
Citing data showing that inequality has increased significantly in the US (and around the world) in the past 25 years, the book holds tech monopolies and near monopolies as a major factor in creating inequality. Rules that apply to normal companies such as anti-trust, monopolies, taxes - don’t apply the same way to internet companies, as internet entrepreneurs have convinced successive governments that these will come in the way of “efficiency”. The result is a few outsized winners, and many losers.
The problem is that the internet is particularly good at creating monopolies or duopolies as scale is easily achieved. An example of this dominance - Google’s Herfindahl-Hirschmann Index score in the online search segment is 7200. Regulators usually consider markets with HHI of 1500-2500 to be moderately and >2500 to be highly concentrated. The book contains numerous examples to illustrate this fact and its negative fallouts, whether it’s the slow death of traditional magazines and newspapers as online advertising sucks away their ad revenues, or Amazon leading to a shuttering of bookshops, small publishers as well as mom and pop corner stores.
Taplin’s bigger argument is socio-cultural, that society has put tech innovators on a pedestal and is not paying attention to the enormous costs their mode of thinking inflicts on societal cohesion, while almost exclusively celebrating their successes and innovations. As someone from the media and communications industry, he is a passionate believer in the value that artists of all kinds bring to society, something is being sharply eroded by the high concentration levels we are witnessing. He cites examples from personal experience to show how the music industry, or the film-making has changed, and how the artists are actually much worse off in the new regimes.
With insights into the thoughts of various Valley personalities, and their visions of tech driven Utopia, Taplin suggests that their underlying belief is that of a government hands-free libertarianism as espoused by Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand. As he points out, these people forget that the internet was started through government funding, and the initial idea of the internet’s early pioneers, such as Tim Berners Lee, was to democratize and equalize everyone, not to create more inequality. In similar vein, he highlights the internal contradictions and personal and professional moultings of Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal and spawner of the “Paypal Mafia” (those who worked at Paypal and went on to found Yelp, Linked, Youtube, Palantir, etc.)
There is a lot of merit in the central arguments which bears thinking about, but the book also suffers from various flaws. Stylistically, there are simply too many quotes! At times chapters feel like assemblages of quotations. That is not to say that he doesn’t have his own mind; he does marshal and furnish various views primarily to support his hypothesis. However, the constant intrusions of quotes make for a jarring reading or listening experience.
His personal experience in the media, entertainment and communications industry make his views on them most authentic, and make his suggestions innovative and positive (such as artists cooperatives much like the Californian orange farmers’ cooperatives to combat Youtube and improve film-making). And it does appear that things have gone off-course a fair bit, whether it’s what we read in the news about Peter Thiel’s increasing megalomania, or of the scarcely believable words of Andreessen considering his Netscape was the first to cry bully at Microsoft in the late Nineties.
But it’s not as if concentration is a problem exclusive to the tech industry, as the author himself acknowledges when he quotes (yes, again) Elizabeth Warren stating the growing concentration in industries as diverse as airlines, drugstores, and health insurance. This suggests that there may be larger factors at play in the American economy.
Finally, apart from the above innovative suggestion for the film industry, Taplin has no positive recommendations to offer other than government intervention to break the monopolies. And here lies the second flaw – the views are US-centric, but while they apply broadly to the world since these same companies dominate these fields in most countries, there are notable exceptions such as China. Knowing the Chinese government’s authoritarianism and the local tech giants’ willingness to abide by government diktats, their state is likely to be even worse. And the recommendations of this book are likely to hamstring one set of American companies against essentially Chinese competition for everything future tech related.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Games

  • A Global History of the Olympics
  • By: David Goldblatt
  • Narrated by: Roger May
  • Length: 22 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

The Olympic Games have become the single greatest festival of a universal and cosmopolitan humanity. Seventeen days of sporting competition watched and followed on every continent and in every country on the planet. Simply the greatest show on earth. Yet when the modern games were inaugurated in Athens in 1896, the founders thought them a 'display of manly virtue', an athletic celebration of the kind of amateur gentleman who would rule the world. How was such a ritual invented?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The symbolisms of the Olympics, beyond just sports

  • By IYER on 09-03-18

The symbolisms of the Olympics, beyond just sports

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

Reviewed: 09-03-18

I intended to read this book just before the 2016 Rio Olympics – when it was released. I ended up reading it just before the 2018 Winter Olympics began, finishing it just in time for the opening ceremony. But it feels rather appropriate - delayed starts, races against time, and “time (as well as cost) overruns”, have become increasingly common in Olympic host cities, as highlighted by David Goldblatt in his thorough and well researched “The Games – A global history of the Olympics”.
The book is not a dry or plain recounting of various events, winners, facts and stats. Instead, this is an opinionated and well-argued history of the Olympic movement, the socio-cultural and political backdrops of the various games, the different metaphors and symbolisms that they represented at various times. The sporting greats and achievements are recounted too – but those are not Goldblatt’s only focus.
In fact, those uncomfortable with being reminded of the corruption – and poor governance, political one-upmanship, petty bureaucratic squabbles, pompous officials, heavy handed government handling of the poor and homeless who come in the way of the construction projects - will find the book too critical and not celebratory enough. Sadly, corruption and mismanagement are a reality not just at the IOC, but also at world ruling bodies for football, athletics and volleyball, among others, as a strong of high profile scandals that have come to light in recent years show. But the author’s opinions are well supported by facts, and the blending and juxtaposition of the Games themselves with the backdrops and side-stories make for an engrossing read.
He starts with a brief history of the ancient Olympics and similar events that sporadically took place over the centuries, and of Baron de Coubertin, the French aristocrat whose passion to recreate the ancient games led to birth of the IOC and the modern Olympic movement. Goldblatt sees the history of the Games as one that’s intertwined with global power dynamics. While the first few Olympics struggled find a footing (the 1900, 1904 and 1908 Games were held as an adjunct to “World Trade Fairs” in those cities) and those even in the 1920s were small affairs, Berlin 1936 changed it all. Held as a showcase of the political ideology of Nazism and to directly serve as a form of state-directed global soft power, these were the first Games to have a purpose built gargantuan stadium, multi-sports Olympic Park, a new concept called Olympic torch relay and spruced city that was prepped to be an actor on the global stage.
The war that followed, and the post War austerity days meant a return to less showy Games in the 50’s, but from the 1960s, they again served as announcements of countries’ arrival on the global stage, such as Tokyo as a futuristically modern city in 1964, Mexico as an industrialized nation in 1968 and Rome 1960 and Germany 1972 as symbols of re-emergence from the post War aftermaths. Seoul 1988 and Beijing 2008 were similar. This period also coincided with the onset of the television age, and Olympics began the journey to being the multi-billion dollar spectacles that they now are. With the desire of host cities to be as much a star of the show came skyrocketing costs on grandiose projects, and corruption that usually goes with it. Montreal set a new record for the time with the builder-government nexus, something also very evident in the construction-linked corruption scandals washing over the entire political firmament in Brazil in the run up to Rio 2016.
The book also shows how the personalities of those heading the IOC also meshed with the kind of Games that were held – from the anti-Semite Avery Brundage who fended off some American calls to boycott the Berlin games, the genteel old-boy Lord Killanin to the pompous Juan Antonio Samaranch, who treated the IOC like his personal fiefdom – and accorded himself status equivalent to a Head of State, with similar security, mandatory presidential suites and usually met with presidents, kings and heads of states wherever he travelled.
Along with that, Goldblatt also has an eye for the delightful and the quirky, not just for the greatest. Thus, while the achievements of Michael Phelps, Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt, Olga Korbut and the Indian national hockey team are highlighted, he also finds space to highlight stories of human interest. How at the 1964 Tokyo Games the Sri Lankan runner Karunananda lagged by 4 laps when the race was won, and yet continued to finish the laps to a standing applause from the crowd – a celebration of the spirit, which also won him an audience with the Emperor. Or the fan mania at the same Games for swimming champion Don Schollander, who then featured in Japan’s English teaching books. Or the coach of the US ice hockey team that beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Games and then exclaimed to the President at a White House audience that “this proves our system is better than theirs”!
Baron de Coubertin had in mind an almost austere, almost spiritual celebration of sport as a character building activity and pastime. He did not really intend his creation to become a global bureaucracy and the global norm in sport. Nor did he envisage the Olympic Games to become a place for collective delirium, or the stage for battles of race, gender, class or international relations. But that’s what they have become.

  • Future Crimes

  • A Journey to the Dark Side of Technology - and How to Survive It
  • By: Marc Goodman
  • Narrated by: Marc Goodman, Robertson Dean
  • Length: 20 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 198
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 178
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175

The New York Times best seller. Technological advances have benefited our world in immeasurable ways, but there is an ominous flipside. Criminals are often the earliest and most innovative adopters of technology, and modern times have led to modern crimes. Today's criminals are stealing identities, draining online bank accounts, and wiping out computer servers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Thought provoking

  • By John Thurman on 24-08-15

An insider guide to cybercrime

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

Reviewed: 09-03-18

Marc Goodman is a cybercrime expert who has both assisted organizations such as INTERPOL, NATO and the FBI as well as worked as a street police officer and undercover investigator. This has given him first-hand experience in witnessing and dealing with cyber-crime, an experience that he has used well in “Future Crimes”, a grand tour of the fast developing and evolving world of high-tech crime, primarily cybercrime. Goodman clearly knows his subject – his main thesis being that as technology penetrates ever deeper into our lives, our worlds grow more connected to one another, therefore more dependent on one another, and as a result more vulnerable.
Goodman spells out the field well – as the AI variant of Moore’s law drives exponential growth in the usage of data and tech in our lives, so grows our susceptibility. And it’s not just criminals that are out to exploit – as users most of us have handed over vast reams of data to companies that are using it, for commercial purposes at best, and at worst, are selling personal information to a new breed of intermediaries, “Data brokers”, who then sell on. We are no longer the customers; we are the products as it is information that we hand over that enables the companies to profit. The risks in this are obvious. And with big data, there is also big crime as organized crime looks to fully penetrate this space. The information we leave on social media is prime ground in this regard.
The author is keen to warn particularly of the insecurities in the ubiquitous mobile phone. He also warns that with increasing penetration of the internet of things (IOT), all things are about to become hackable. The mid-section of the book spells out in detail the diverse ways in which tech-related crime is being perpetrated. While fairly exhaustive, it is perhaps a bit too long winded and therefore at times starts feeling a little tedious. Still, the warnings are well intentioned.
In the very useful closing chapters Goodman spells out what can be done to survive technology without shunning it altogether, if that is at all possible! He calls for software companies to be more responsible with the quality of their codes. He also points out that in the mostly free model of internet, the incentives are misaligned as the users are giving away data that they are unable to value, but maybe far better off going for a data retentive and advertising free model by paying a small fee. He also rightly castigates the hard to follow security protocols that most corporate IT departments implement, which perversely raise risks by making users less likely to follow them strictly. And he also calls on governments and industry for more “big thinking” on cyber-security.
All of this is fascinating and educational. But more than anything else, you are guaranteed to think again before using Facebook or Google to log in to another site the next time you are about to do it.

  • The Gene

  • An Intimate History
  • By: Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 19 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 215
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 197
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195

The Gene is the story of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in our history, from best-selling, prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee. Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function. The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856, where a monk stumbles on the idea of a 'unit of heredity'.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 20 hours very well spent

  • By Judy Corstjens on 21-09-17

Primer on genetics, not just history of Gene

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

Reviewed: 09-03-18

Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “Gene: An Intimate History” is an engaging combination of the science of genetics, the history of its discovery and progression, and some thoughts on the future where we can design our own genes and the ethical and moral dilemmas this is likely to raise, of a scale even more than that raised by the practice of Eugenics in the early part of the last century, which culminated in the monstrosity of Nazism. There indeed is a lot of accessibly written science – on the probabilistic nature of genes, on the effects of environmental conditioning, and on the observation that mutations are a statistical phenomenon, not a pathological one.
But along the way, the book is full of tit-bits about the main historical players behind the key achievements and breakthroughs in the field, with animated stories of some of the misses and hits in their course.
Interesting characters and tableaux abound – there’s Francis Crick and James Watson, one a studious biologist and the other a happy-go-lucky ornithologist who later decided to study zoology and then biology. And their race with Linus Pauling to discover DNA – as Mukherjee tells it, they were terrified of the thought that one morning they would wake up to find news of Pauling’s discovery in the morning papers. Then there’s Rosalind Franklin, a rare woman in the then still male dominated field, who did a lot of the work which M/s Crick and Watson built upon and used. Ms. Franklin was the first person to photograph the DNA – but sadly never got the acclaim that came the others’ way.
Going further back, There’s Gregor Mendel, a failed teacher and pastor who had the tonnes of patience required to experiment and unravel the theory of heredity, and its basis in genes. Of course there is Darwin – and also his cousin, Francis Galton, a biologist in his own right, who was an early believer in the concept of eugenics.
Laid out sequentially, the book takes one through the state of thinking in the fields at various points in time, to the present, where we look ahead with some trepidation to what it holds – with gene editing, or fixing of “faulty” genes – already a reality, and availability of full scale designer genes surely only a matter of time. Positive possibilities abound – think about altering a gene to cure a disease. But so do the not so salubrious ones – can one change genes to make the offspring more white? Or black? Or to change sexual orientations?
These are serious thoughts which come towards the end of this engagingly written book.

  • Dreamland

  • The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
  • By: Sam Quinones
  • Narrated by: Neil Hellegers
  • Length: 13 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37

In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America - addiction like no other the country has ever faced. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Shocking and absolutely gripping

  • By FFigwit on 30-01-19

Drug gang as consumer focussed enterprise

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

Reviewed: 08-03-18

There is a certain image of a drug dealer in most people’s minds. It is likely that of a scruffy African-American, selling crack on a shady side street of a large city. But while that is the popular image, there is another world, perhaps more insidious and yet lesser known – where the dealers carry no weapons, keep balloons of “stuff: in their mouth, and carry only as much heroin as they can without running the risk of being tried for drug dealing if caught. Oh, and they also offer bonus hits to long standing clients, free samples if you have suddenly stopped ordering your dope, and follow up with “sales calls” to check on the quality of stuff offered – customer servicing of a standard to make any consumer marketer proud.
It is this world of new wave dealers, unscrupulous pharma marketers and addiction that Sam Quinones explores in his well-researched “Dreamland”.

The Dreamland in the title was the name of a company built swimming pool in Portsmouth, Ohio, a typical company town in the industrial heartland of America. Until the Seventies and Eighties, this was the social center of the town. But as deindustrialization enveloped and turned the erstwhile industrial belt into a Rust Belt, the town now lies almost deserted with no jobs – a story seen in many towns across the region. “Dreamland” visits such towns and is the story of the drug epidemic that has swept in there as people battled joblessness, the loss of careers and indeed their futures.

The decline of America’s industrial heartland and rise of blue collar unemployment coincided unfortunately with the discovery of a time release opioid painkiller, OxyContin, by Purdue Pharma, which promised pain relief with just one tablet every 12 hours. The active ingredient, Oxycodone, is almost identical in its chemistry to heroin, with the same euphoric effect, the same brain damage and the same withdrawal symptoms. This combined with the growing belief among some physicians that every patient had the right to seek pain relief, something aggressively promoted behind the scenes by Purdue, which then had just the drug that was needed.
Since 1999, 200 thousand Americans have died from overdose related to OxyContin or other prescription opioids; 145 now die every day; by the time you have read this review another person would have died of opioid overdose. And 4 out of 5 addicts today are those who started with painkillers.

Of course, as demand for these drugs burgeoned, along with Purdue Pharma’s sales so did cheaper substitutes, in the form of cheap “black tar” heroin, supplied by Mexican groups based mainly out of the states of Xalisco and Nayarit. This forms a particularly intriguing sub plot, of the afore-mentioned dealers who behaved like small-franchise business owners rather than a dreaded gang criminals. The book follows and juxtaposes the parallel paths of legal and illegal drugs, both prescription opiates and black tar heroin.

The two have combined to create a silent crisis which, owing to its location away from the spotlights of the coastal metropolises, has long hidden under the collective consciousness – an epidemic affecting the unemployed, the disabled, and particularly the young (some of the saddest stories are those of young men, usually white and middle class, who were prescribed the drug as a result of college sport injuries, and who then were hooked – until they suddenly died, even as their parents hid from society the truth of their children’s’ addiction, saying they dies of heart attack or some other disease)

As Quinones investigates, other sad but fascinating vignettes emerge – pill mills where doctors run practices almost entirely based on prescriptions of OxyContin; a sub-economy among addicts based on OxyContin pills as barter or a substitute for money; and stories of Mexicans doing 2 to 3 month stints in the drug pushing business until they were caught and deported, their close knit lives in their home towns, and their fascination with the Levi’s 501.

“Dreamland” is both an enlightening and a deeply disturbing study of the health and social crisis caused by deindustrialization, unscrupulous corporate marketing, unethical medical practices, and dismayingly efficient supply chain management and customer servicing by criminals.
The only grouse with the author would be that while he is rightly appalled and castigates the prescription opioid trade, he is far less trenchant and almost sympathetic to the Mexicans supplying the alternative heroin and their methods.

  • Admissions

  • A Life in Brain Surgery
  • By: Henry Marsh
  • Narrated by: Henry Marsh
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 260
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 231
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 231

Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered. Prompted by his retirement from his full-time job in the NHS, and through his continuing work in Nepal and Ukraine, Henry has been forced to reflect more deeply about what 40 years spent handling the human brain has taught him.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Admissions. A life in brain surgery.

  • By Brenda Holliday on 07-03-18

A personal contemplation

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

Reviewed: 04-03-18

As the NHS in Britain lurches into yet another “crisis”, in what appears to be turning into an annual winter affair, reading comments by a retired doctor on the failings of recent management techniques that have added to the bureaucracy more than making life better for patients and medical practitioners seem aptly timed. But such criticisms are just a small part of neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s sequel to “Do No Harm”, his first book that focused on the neurosurgeon’s craft and on the medical system in which he worked. “Admissions” is more a compilation of musings by Dr. Marsh, now retired, on post-retirement life, his experiences as a visiting doctor in developing countries, and an appraisal, of sorts, of his career.

Readers should know that “Admissions” is at its core the author’s very personal contemplation of his career and his especially post-retirement life, even though the blurb on the back cover overstates the case by describing the book as a “searing, provocative and deeply personal memoir”. At its best, apart from being a frank assessment of his own life and career, it also offers personal and quirky insights into unrelated areas such as gardening, carpentry and bee-keeping.

Dr Marsh does not like the bureaucracy of modern medical systems, which is what prompts him to retire as soon as he can and then spend his time, gratis, as a visiting doctor in Nepal and Ukraine. He is particularly critical of the current medical management thinking that places an emphasis on processes and checklists, something that has been encouraged by books such as “Black Box Thinking” which juxtapose the differences in the way the airline and medical industries react to failure, and suggest that there is a culture problem with the practice of medicine. That pilots don’t routinely need to decide what risks are worth taking (leave alone discuss those risks with passengers), that patients don’t choose to fall ill (unlike passengers who chose to fly), that passengers and their relatives don’t need constant reassurance, or the fact that when planes crash, the pilots usually also die, but when a patient dies, the doctor does not – all these are cited to suggest the fallaciousness of fashionably comparing two professions that are vastly different.
But he also talks later, looking back at his life, of the importance of learning and of self-criticism when things go wrong, and of how a doctor needs to change his mindset from necessary self –delusion about his own abilities (in order to help maintain patients’ confidence) to actually getting better from experience and unlearning this self-delusion since it will now make critical self-appraisals, crucial to getting better, harder.

Dr. Marsh has a knack for writing in an engaging and self-deprecating way (“It is better to leave too early than too late…but the problem is to know when that might be”), and this also leads to insightful observations about modern day Nepal ( less so about Ukraine, where he seems to have engaged less with the people). Along the way you get vignettes such as the practice among doctors to pay for each other’s services with wine, and reflections on carpentry, which is a favourite hobby, gardening, and the remodeling of an old house – which gets meaninglessly vandalized and then leads him to mull on the slow myelination of frontal lobes in teenagers’ brain as the culprit.

  • Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight

  • A young man's voice from the silence of autism
  • By: Naoki Higashida, David Mitchell - translator, Keiko Yoshida - translator
  • Narrated by: David Mitchell, Thomas Judd
  • Length: 3 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 36

Following his groundbreaking international best seller The Reason I Jump, written when he was only 13, Naoki Higashida offers equally illuminating and practical insights into autism from his current perspective as a young man.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Help us out!

  • By Rachel Redford on 26-07-17

Eye opening

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

Reviewed: 04-03-18

“Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8” is the second book by Japanese author Naoki Higashida, following his “The Reason I Jump” in 2013. It is not so much his autobiography as it is a series of short pieces and musings on various aspects of life as seen and experienced by him. Herein lies the surprise. Higashida suffers from autism, what has been classified in his case as severe autism. But while Higashida can barely speak, his thinking faculty sparkles, and he has learnt to transcribe his thoughts into words by painstaking use of an alphabet grid – a sort of computer keyboard where he puts his thoughts out, word by word. The sheer perseverance and doggedness involved in this is amazing, as indeed is his ability to voice thoughts not just on the world around him, but on autism and the world’s attitudes. Higashida has given a few interviews that can be seen on Youtube – evidence of the sheer improbability of such writing coming from someone so obviously challenged. And he is just 19.

In “Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8” Higashida, in brief chapters rarely longer than a page or two, talks both about his day to day life, as well as life around him as he sees it. A simple thing we “neuro-typicals” take for granted – opening and closing an umbrella – is a challenge that provides the basis for a statement – “people with autism may need more time, but as they grow they can do more things” – that brings a tear to the eye. He then meditates on how it is hard for those with autism to combat their emotions even when the cause of the problem is known, and how much short positive instructions help.

In other pages Higashida talks about his daily life, the need to do things by routine and the issues he faces with time management. In fact, in that and in many other things, he could be talking for many of us! The issue of whether autistic children should go to special or normal schools is addressed in an illuminatingly balanced way. There is also humour – he states plainly he doesn’t “get” fashion, for example as to why some buttons should be left unbuttoned in a coat, for example. And goes on to add “The daily lives of the fashion conscious, with all its dos and donuts must be exhausting.”
There is also a foray into fiction, in what is the longest chapter of the short book.

“Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8” would be a fairly well written memoir of the thoughts of a teenager even if its author wasn’t who he is. But the reality only serves to highlight the potential of those afflicted with autism, and how society as a whole has done so very little to realise this, instead letting the majority of sufferers slink away since the task of integrating them into mainstream society is too costly, or more likely, too difficult – but how difficult can it be compared to the difficulties that haven’t stopped someone from writing a book like this?


  • All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class

  • By: Tim Shipman
  • Narrated by: Rupert Farley
  • Length: 32 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 360
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 334
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 334

Based on unrivalled access to all the key politicians and their advisors - including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Dominic Cummings, the mastermind of Vote Leave - Shipman has written a political history that reads like a thriller and offers a gripping day-by-day account of what really happened behind the scenes in Downing Street, both Leave campaigns, the Labour Party, Ukip and Britain Stronger in Europe.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magnificent blow by blow account

  • By Mr SA Lambe on 02-03-17

Comprehensive and Riveting

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

Reviewed: 24-11-17

Tim Shipman’s “All Out War” is an exhaustive (688 pages!) and excellent journalistic account of Brexit. It is also extremely well read, with the narrator managing to effortlessly change the tenor and voice when directly quoting what someone said, without making this sound cheesy. Well done!
Shipman details the run up in the years before that made David Cameron take the huge gamble of calling the referendum – after all this was a prime minister who before taking up his post stated that he did not want his premiership to be defined by Europe, and who at 49 became the youngest British ex-Prime Minister in over a 120 years.
The referendum itself and the various technicalities surrounding it which were also keenly contested, and minutiae surrounding some of the battles on the question to be put before voters (apparently a simple Yes/No question would have had 4% more voting to stay in the EU) are described in some detail. Also addressed is the role of the press, particularly the BBC, as the appropriateness of the policy of “balanced coverage” is called into question when equal time is mindlessly devoted to both sides regardless of the quality of arguments presented or personalities involved. And the aftermath or fallout from this “all-out war” takes up the third and final section of the book.
The subtitle of the book, “how Brexit sank Britain’s political class”, rings even truer. Following the referendum, not only did David Cameron resign - just a year after leading the Conservatives to a resounding victory at the hustings in 2015 – but none of the other party leaders, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, remain in their positions.
Shipman holds his judgement on whether Cameron was right in calling for a referendum. What he does instead is offer an unabashedly elitist account of Brexit by focusing on the key figures – the leaders, their aides and their motivations, machinations and thoughts.

  • The Blood of Heroes

  • The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo - and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation
  • By: James Donovan
  • Narrated by: James Donovan
  • Length: 12 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4

On February 23, 1836, a Mexican army thousands of soldiers strong attacked a group of roughly 200 Americans holed up in an abandoned mission just east of San Antonio, Texas. For nearly two weeks, the massive force lay siege to the makeshift fort, spraying its occupants with unremitting waves of musket and cannon fire. Then, on March 6th, at 5:30 A.M., the Mexican troops unleashed a final devastating assault: divided into four columns, they rushed into the Alamo and commenced a deadly hand-to-hand fight.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Detailed

  • By IYER on 24-12-12

Detailed

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-12-12

Picking up just one episode in American history and building a whole narrative around it would not be an easy task, but the author manages to do it in an interesting manner, by painting wonderful word pictures of the backgrounds of the various protagonists in this history. Even someone (like me) with a limited knowledge of American history found the book both educative and entertaining.

James Donovan has narrated the book himself, and as is often the case when the author and narrator are the same, this adds to the pleasure of listening to the audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Outliers

  • The Story of Success
  • By: Malcolm Gladwell
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Gladwell
  • Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,073
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,625
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,616

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" - the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Riveting - enjoyed it much more than the paperback

  • By Dawn on 20-05-10

Spellbinding

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-12-12

A tour de force from Malcolm Gladwell – again! Gladwell throws up multiple examples in an attempt to answer a generic question – what drives success. While other have attempted to answer this question from the standpoint of psychology, history, and even climate, Gladwell takes the micro approach in trying to see what determines peculiar cases of success, and whether the received knowledge and consensus views on the ingredients of success holds true. The results are a surprise, and eye opening!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful