Thursday, June 8

REVIEW: History, Philosophy

Our Oriental Heritage: A History of Civilization in Egypt and the Near East to the Death of Alexander, and in India, China, and Japan from the Beginning to Our Own Day, withOur Oriental Heritage: A History of Civilization in Egypt and the Near East to the Death of Alexander, and in India, China, and Japan from the Beginning to Our Own Day, with by Will Durant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First volume in Will (and later Ariel as well) Durant's enormous series STORY OF CIVILIZATION, this is nearly glacial in movement, very old-fashioned in its approach, and yet completely compelling and endearing, as well as enduring. Filled with a wide variety of "asides", footnotes (heck, even the footnotes have footnotes...), and sometime quite amusing little bits of story, hint, and twist, the overall writing is, while very (almost overwhelmingly) pedantic at times, enjoyable.

Best sampled in small sips, the overall narration here is very good, not too "precious", and made for a lovely way to end the day, as "this sort of thing" is the majority of books I read (listen to, usually) for a half- or an hour each night last thing before bed. It helps slow my brain, gives me something to concentrate upon that is interesting without becoming "too much!", kwim?

The hardcover or digital editions are, of course, a lot more fun, as they have pictures, albeit black and white, but many of the places visited by the Durants in the 1920s and 1930s and the pictures shown here are gone now. And far too many of the beautiful and/or interesting artifacts are destroyed as well. But the pictures as described via audio may still be found on the web, or via the Kindle edition of this (and possibly other formats or PDF-type documents). Yay, for technology!

BOTTOM LINE: Superb but slow beginning to a long, deservedly considered "classic" multi-volume work of history, sociology, anthropology, archeology, philosophic thought, and a bit of psychology too.

Saturday, May 27

REVIEW: History

A History of EuropeA History of Europe by J.M. Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Long audio book, beautifully written but terribly narrated, alas. Best listened to in small bits as the reader has the most a-NOY-ing accent I've ever heard in an audiobook reader! I eventually got accustomed to him - there are over thirty hours worth of book - but for a while there, geesh...!

Otherwise this is actually a comparatively quick/short history of the entire continent; must admit, Mr. Roberts wasn't shy about tackling big subjects, was he? Enjoyed the fast pace and his rather sly writing - there's definitely humor here, both deliberate and otherwise (thanks to the narrator). The narrator uses an incredibly "posh" voice that cannot be real, simply must be affected in this day and age - he generally sounds as if he's auditioning for a Noel Coward play circa 1932 - that stilted sort of overly-"plummy" emphasis that the earliest sound actors in films used - it was terribly popular then as a shorthand for "upper class" but not now.The funny thing is I usually enjoy that sort of accent, just not one so, um, lavishly laid on, as it were... YMMV. I certainly hope he was just "having us on"...

2017 reread:
seem to have acclimated to narrator, enjoyed very much!