LISTENER

Nik Jewell

  • 35
  • reviews
  • 146
  • helpful votes
  • 150
  • ratings

Scary times

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

Reviewed: 16-05-18

An enjoyable chronological narrative of 13 days directed at the non-specialist. If you have heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but don't know much about the detail, or were young or not yet born at the time, then you will certainly enjoy it and learn a great deal. As time goes on more and more material is declassified and the book is replete with the latest information at the time of writing, certainly on the US side; I expect there is more yet to be learnt from the Russian perspective.

Whilst packed with detail and fresh insights, like good narrative history it reads aa a thriller and sustains your attention. The events depicted were genuinely serious and scary and the clock has never since got so close to midnight.

An enjoyable hagiography(?)

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

Reviewed: 16-05-18

This is an immensely enjoyable listen but a questionable history book, tending more towards hagiography than accurate biography.

I have had the good fortune to spend a couple of months traveling around Mongolia, where 'The Secret History of the Mongols' is treated almost as scripture, and Temujin/Genghis/Chinggis is the national hero.

That, however, doesn't make it true, but Weatherford, nevertheless, bases his book around it. This leads to a revisionist history that somewhat glosses over the inconvenient details of cultural eradications, massacres of entire cities and up to 40 million deaths. Not for nothing was the Great Khan known in the West as "accursed of god".

That said, I still feel that this is a great addition to the literature and one which, like Frankopan's 'The Silk Roads', opens our eyes to the narrow perspective of our Eurocentric historical tradition. Genghis brought free trade, freedom of religion, freedom from torture etc., but only as long as you didn't resist him. If you did ...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Rubicon cover art

The Best of Holland

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

Reviewed: 15-05-18

I've read or listened to most of Holland's books now and this is by far the best.

With ample source material to work with, and one of the most fascinating periods in human history, Holland's pacy narrative works well and comes across as sufficiently grounded to be believable.

Whilst it is, ultimately, 'faction', I doubt I will ever read or listen to a more enjoyable account of the end of the Republic, the First Triumvirate, and the rise and demise of Caesar.

Provides context and analysis

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

Reviewed: 15-05-18

This is a fascinating introduction to The Histories, the major source for the Greco-Persian Wars.

Great context is provided for Herodotus' life and times, evaluation of his role as the (first) historian (or otherwise) and coverage and analysis of the content of the work. My understanding was greatly enhanced as a result.

It is good to see that Herodotus is now being re-evaluated and that after years of having many of his stories dismissed as fantasies scholars and archaeologists are now finding the buried truths within them.

The accompanying lecture notes, timeline, glossary, biographical notes and bibliography are comprehensive and detailed.

Prof Vandiver's presentation is very good and I am sure I will listen to some of her other Great Courses in the future.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Extraordinary

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

Reviewed: 13-05-18

Shackleton's story is so well known that one might think that there is nothing new that Lansing could bring to the table. I came to this book with low expectations as a result but came away dazzled. It is an extraordinary retelling of the possibly the most extraordinary survival stories of all time.

Other reviewers have written in detail about the story itself, about the way Lansing brings it to life and about how good the narration is. (Lazily) I have nothing to add to their superlatives.

At the end of the day it beggars belief that either group survived but they did. I doubt many millennials would last more than a day or two.

Very entertaining

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

Reviewed: 13-05-18

Having seen Jon Sopel so many times on the news over the years I thought I would give this a punt when it came up as a Daily Deal.

If you were not born yesterday, have spent years watching the news and reading, watching and listening to US cultural output, and have been to the US, then you are not going to find anything particularly surprising in this book.

However, it is well-titled, well organised and entertainingly written, bringing together many of the ways in which are US cousins are so very different to us. It certainly fuels one to get more inside their mindset.

I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the 'special relationship' (and the infamous snub by Obama of Gordon Brown) and also the very entertaining catalogue of fake new stories during the Trump election.

Freed from the shackles of having to give balanced and rather sterile news reports from Washington for the BBC, Sopel's great sense of humour shines through, making this a much better book than I expected.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Great reading

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

Reviewed: 13-05-18

When reviewing an audio book version of an ancient classic it is hard to decide what you are assessing: the classic itself, the translation or the performance.

The Histories stands on its own; if you are contemplating listening to this then you know why you have chosen to do so and have a good idea what it is about. Suffice it to say that if you have the slightest interest in the ancient world you then you owe it to yourself to read or listen to it.

Being unable to translate the Greek I am in no position to comment on the quality of the translation. The translator is not specified. As well as listening I also read Tom Holland's translation; the version here seemed no better (or worse).

I can, however, comment on the performance of the reader, which really is quite excellent.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

An Exhaustive Account

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

Reviewed: 11-05-18

Given that most of what we commonly know of Persia comes from a Greek perspective, through Herodotus and Arrian, detailing the battles of Marathon, Thermoplyae, Salamis and Platea and then Alexander's conquest, Lee sets out to provide a corrective to this, telling the story from the Persian point of view, and filling in the missing years.

Adding to the account using mainly Ctesias and Xenophon, rock inscriptions and the Persepolis Tablets, Lee largely succeeds in the attempt, teasing out significant levels of detail.

This is fairly exhaustive, by which I mean than almost every possible detail is utilised to its full extent, leaving one with the impression that there is not a lot more of general, rather than specialised academic, interest to be known.

Lee's presentation is good, the accompanying notes comprehensive, and all in all this one of the best Great Courses I have listened to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Interesting Asides

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

Reviewed: 09-05-18

Whilst this course is organised chronologically its thrust is not really to provide a comprehensive history of Archaic and Classical Greece; those expecting the same should look elsewhere.

Instead, there numerous reasonably detailed forays into topics of interest to the lecturer from which, whilst I am reasonably well read on Ancient Greece, I learnt genuinely new things.

It is briskly presented with lots of content; no need for the usual 1.25x or 1.5x speed that I listen to The Great Course at.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Interesting and Moving

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

Reviewed: 05-05-18

An immensely enjoyable listen. Frank, a feature of our TV news here in the UK, gives an interesting account of his early life, education and travels in the near east and north Africa, moving on to his banking career in Bahrain, before becoming a freelance journalist, BBC World journalist and eventually assuming his current role as BBC Security Correspondent.

If you have seen Frank on the TV you will be aware that he has a military bearing; indeed, this is because he has had a military career in the Army Reserve. Strangely, there is not one mention of this as far as I recall in the whole book.

The account of his brutal shooting in Riyadh and being left for dead (which the book opens with) and of his recovery and rehabilitation (which the book ends with) is very moving and the honesty of his attitude towards it refreshing. He is not traumatised by being shot (in a modern world where many are increasingly 'traumatised' by the slightest thing) but he rails against his disability and refuses for a long time to accept the severity of his condition.

Perhaps slightly disappointing though is his analysis (or lack of it) of what was going on with al-Qaeda with its shadowy CIA funded past and (contemporary with his shooting) Saudi funded present. Perhaps he is in a difficult position as he needs visas for his job and to be able to secure interviews but this is an area regrettably unexplored in his book.

Nevertheless, a brave man who has lived a fascinating life (thus far) and who is able to write about it with panache.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful