AudioBooks – December 2019

Call the Ambulance! by Les Pringle

Stories from a British Ambulance driver in the late-1970s and 1980s. A good range of stories from the funny to the tragic. 7/10

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

An autobiography by the NSA Whistle-blower. Mostly a recounting of his life, career and circumstances that led up to him leaking. Interesting. 7/10

Life in the Middle Ages by Richard Winston

As the titles describes. Unusually for English Language books it focuses on France. Not much history just daily life & only 5h long. Probably works better with pictures. 6/10

Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future by Alice Gorman

A Mix of topics. Some autobiography & how she worked her way into the archeology of spaceflight. Plus items of Space History & comparisons with earth archeology. But it works 8/10

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Only 3h 40m long and roughly covering a year. The author describes her life (aged 5-6) and her family in a cabin Wisconsin in the early 1870s. 1st in the series. 7/10

Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Volume One) by Michael Burlingame

50h and covers up to his 1st inauguration. Not a good 1st Lincoln bio to read but very good. Some repetition as multiple sources a quoted on some points. 7/10

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Donations 2019

Each year I do the majority of my Charity donations in early December (just after my birthday) spread over a few days (so as not to get my credit card suspended). I’m a little late this year due to a new credit card and other stuff distracting me.

I also blog about it to hopefully inspire others. See: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

All amounts this year are in $US unless otherwise stated

My main donations was to Givewell (to allocate to projects as they prioritize). Once again I’m happy that Givewell make efficient use of money donated.

I donated $50 each to groups providing infrastructure and advocacy. Wikipedia only got $NZ 50 since they converted to my local currency and I didn’t notice until afterwards

Some Software Projects. Software in the Public Interest provides admin support for many Open Source projects. Mozilla does the Firefox Browser and other stuff. Syncthing is an Open Source Project that works like Dropbox

Finally I’m still listening to Corey Olsen’s Exploring the Lord of the Rings series (3 years in and about 20% of the way though) plus his other material

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Audiobooks – November 2019

Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

Starting from the early 18th century each chapter covers increasing greater accuracy and the technology that needed and used it. Nice read 8/10

The Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional Peloton by The Secret Cyclist

An okay read although I don’t follow the sport so had never heard of most of the names. It is still readable however and gives a good feel for the world. 6/10

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell

A father takes his 15 year-old daughter for two trips to a remote cabin and a 3rd trip hiking/canoeing along a remote river in Alaska. Well written and interesting. 8/10

The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America by Robert Wuthnow

Based on Interviews with small town Americans it talks about their lives and frustrations with Washington which they see as distant but interfering. 7/10

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brookes

This was the “almost” full text version. Lots of different actors reading each chapter (which are arranged as interviews). Great story and presentation works well. 9/10

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Audiobooks – October 2019

The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places by Neil Oliver

Covers what you’d expect with a good attempt not just to hit the “history 101” places. Author has an accent that takes a while to get used to. 7/10

Death’s End – Cixin Liu

3rd in Trilogy wrapping things mostly up. Just a few characters so easy to keep track of them. If you liked the previous books you’ll like this one. 7/10

Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality by Melissa & Chris Bruntlett

Talking about Dutch Cycling culture. Compares 5 different cities (some car orientated) and how they differ in their cycling journey. 7/10

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

A general memoir by the actress. A bit disjointed & unsystematic and by no means a tell-all. A few good stories sprinkled in. 6/10

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Lots of case studies of businesses built off relatively little capital (and usually staying small). Plenty of good advice although lists don’t translate well in audio. 7/10

Atomic Adventures: Secret Islands, Forgotten N-Rays, and Isotopic Murder-A Journey into the Wild World of Nuclear Science by James Magaffey

A bunch of really good stories from the Atomic age (not just the usual ones) including a view from inside of the Cold Fusion fiasco. 8/10

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Audiobooks – September 2019

Off the Rails: A Train Trip Through Life by Beppe Severgnini

A collection of train journey articles (written over about 20 years). A good selection on interesting and amusing. 7/10

Exoplanets: Hidden Worlds and the Quest for Extraterrestrial Life by Donald Goldsmith

A history of the discovery of exoplanets, covering the different groups, techniques and rivalries. Good although I got the people mixed up sometimes. 7/10

Save the Cat! : The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

A guide to screenwriting with a few stories and observations on movies thrown in. Good even if you are just reading it for fun. 7/10

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

A book about geriatric and end-of-life care and choices. Lots of points about how risking all for aggressive treatment is often a very bad idea. Thought-provoking. 9/10

Ancient Alexandria: The History and Legacy of Egypt’s Most Famous City by Charles River Editors

Just a two hour long overview of the history. Covered the basic stuff and maybe worth skimming before you hit something meatier. 6/10

Vulcan 607 by Rowland White

The story of the long-distant bombing raids during the Falkland’s war. Lots of details on the history of the Vulcan, the crews, background and the actual missions. 9/10

101 Secrets For Your Twenties by Paul Angone

I really can’t remember this book well. I think it was okay but serves me right for getting months behind on reviews. On list for completeness. ?/10

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Audiobooks – August 2019

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Various depths of coverage (usually by interest of the story) of the discovery, usage and literature/cultural impact around each of the elements. 8/10

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Autobiography read by the author. Covers his whole career and personal life. Well written and lots of details and insight. Well read too. 9/10

The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King – The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea by Walter R. Borneman

A Biography of the 5 Admirals and the interactions of their careers before and during World War 2. 7/10

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

I really can’t remember this book (serves me right for delaying reviews). I think it was okay though. [67]/10

The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek

Pretty much what the subtitles says. Worked fairly well at keep the different people distinct and technical explanations made sense. 7/10

The Unopened casebook of Sherlock Holmes written by John Taylor with Simon Callow as Sherlock Holmes and Nicky Henson as Dr Watson

6 audioplay stories. Quality is okay although I detected a theme with the villains. 7/10

Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

A run though of the great (and a few not) movies that came out in 1999. Some backstories on many with industry and world news from the year. 8/10


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Audiobooks – July 2019

The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien. Narrated by Rob Inglis. Excellent although I should probably listen slower next time. 10/10

Why Superman Doesn’t Take Over the World: What Superheroes Can Tell Us About Economics by J. Brian O’Roark

A good idea for a theme but author didn’t quite nail it. Further let down in audiobook format when the narrator talked to invisible diagrams. 6/10

A Fabulous Creation: How the LP Saved Our Lives by David Hepworth

Covers the years 1967 (Sgt Peppers) to 1982 (Thriller) when the LP dominated music. Lots of information all delivered in the authors great style. 8/10

The Front Runner by Matt Bai

Nominally a story about the downfall of Democratic presidential front-runner Gray Hart in 1987. Much of the book is devoted to how norms of political coverage changed at that moment due to changes in technology & culture. 8/10

A race like no other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York by Liz Robbins

Covering the 2007 New York marathon it follows the race with several top & amateur racers. Lots of digressions into the history of the race and the runners. Worked well 8/10

1983: Reagan, Andropov, and a World on the Brink by Taylor Downing

An account of how escalations in the cold war in 1983 nearly lead to Nuclear War, with the Americans largely being unaware of the danger. Superb 9/10


The High cost of Free Parking (2011 edition) by Donald Shoup.

One of the must-read books in the field although not a revelation for today’s readers. Found it a little repetitive (23 hours) and talking to diagrams and equations doesn’t work in audiobook format. 6/10



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Audiobooks – June 2019

Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov

A collection of short Robot stores and very short essays. Lots of classic stories although the essays are mostly forgettable. 7/10

Foreigner by Robert J. Sawyer

An alien counterpart of Sigmund Freud psychoanalyzes her race’s equivalent of Galileo. 3rd in the trilogy. I like it enough. 7/10

In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law by Sarah Langford

An English Barrister describes 11 cases she has worked on. The lives and cases are mostly tragic but the writing is very compelling. 8/10

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley

A wide tour of the various ways people react in disasters for ignoring to freezing. Lots of interesting stories, some investigations into the psychology and some practical advice. 8/10

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien. Narrated by Rob Inglis.

The first time I’ve ever listened to this version. Excellent in every way. 10/10

Podcasting: The Ultimate Guide to Record, Produce, and Launch Your Podcast and Build Raving Fans by Martin C. Glover

A quick (40 minutes) intro to podcasting, some do’s and don’ts for perspective podcasters. Worth a listen if you are new to the topic and considering. 6/10

Nothing is real: The Beatles Were Underrated And Other Sweeping Statements About Pop by David Hepworth

A collection of essays, many about the Beatles but covering lots of other Pop-Music topics. A lot of good ones in there. 7/10

Safely to Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home by Jack Clemons

A memoir of a engineer who worked on the Shuttle and Apollo programs about his time there and what he worked on including the shuttle software. 7/10


The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien. Narrated by Rob Inglis.

10/10

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Audiobooks – May 2019

Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss

Great book. Simpsons insider stories, stuff about show business, funny jokes. 9/10

Combat Crew: The Story of 25 Combat Missions Over Europe From the Daily Journal of a B-17 Gunner by John Comer

Interesting 1st-hand account (with some borrowings from others in unit). Good details and atmosphere from missions and back at base/leave 8/10

Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer

“An allegory about Galileo on a planet of intelligent dinosaurs”. 1st in a Trilogy by one of my favorite authors. Balanced between similarities & differences from humans. 7/10

Working Actor: Breaking in, Making a Living, and Making a Life in the Fabulous Trenches of Show Business by David Dean Bottrell

Lots of advice for aspiring actors along with plenty of interesting stories from the author’s career. 8/10

Becoming by Michelle Obama

A good memoir. Lots of coverage of her early life, working career and the White House. Not exhaustive and it skips ahead at time. But very interesting and inspirational. 8/10

Fossil Hunter by Robert J. Sawyer

2nd in the Trilogy. The main human analog here is Darwin with a murder-mystery and God checked in for fun. 7/10

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Well written as expected and concentrates on the period when the brothers were actively flying which is the most interesting but avoids their legal battles & some other negatives. 8/10


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Audiobooks – April 2019

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

Amazing good book, well argued and lots of information. The only downside is he talks to some diagrams [downloadable] at times. Highly Recommend. 9/10

A History of Britain, Volume : Fate of Empire 1776 – 2000 by Simon Schama

I didn’t enjoy this all that much. The author tried to use various lives to illustrate themes but both the themes and biographies suffered. Huge areas also left out. 6/10

Where Did You Get This Number? : A Pollster’s Guide to Making Sense of the World by Anthony Salvanto

An overview of (mostly) political polling and it’s history. Lots of examples for the 2016 US election campaign. Light but interesting. 7/10

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf

Pretty much what the titles says. I got a little lost with all the similarly names species but the general story was interesting enough and not too long. 6/10

Apollo in the Age of Aquarius by Neil M. Maher

The story of the back and forth between NASA and the 60s counterculture from the civil rights struggle and the antiwar movement to environmentalism and feminism. Does fairly well. 7/10


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