Audiobooks – April 2022

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming

Bond tracks Blofeld to a Swiss hideout. He infiltrates it and must discover and foil Blofeld’s plot. A romantic subplot adds interest. 3/5

The years of Lyndon Johnson 2 – Means of Ascent by Robert Caro

LBJ dodges the war, makes serious money from radio stations and steals the 1948 Senate Primary. Easy to follow and fascinating. 4/5

Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan

The book is 90% interviews and talks to a wide range of people involved with the movie. A wealth of interesting stories. 4/5

Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green

Mainly covering early 2020 to mid-2021, Each author writes alternating chapters covering the development and rollout of the vaccine. 3/5

Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys by Joe Coulombe

A story of the author taking the chain through various stages. Keys ways they did business compared to other firms and stayed profitable. 4/5

How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom by Matt Ridley

Examples of how innovation works in the real world followed by the characteristics of innovation, how to promote it, and how it can go wrong. 4/5


My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – March 2021

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute
by Zac Bissonnette

The toys, the bubble and the crazy guy behind it all. Fun roller-coaster of a read. Second review. 4/5

Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There: How a Few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America by David Hepworth

A bunch of amusing stories and observations of the British Invasion and it’s followups. I love Hepworth’s style but your mileage may vary. 3/5

This is Not Normal: The Politics of Everyday Expectations by Cass R. Sunstein

A fairly short book that packs some interesting ideas. Mainly concentrating how societal norms change. Worth a read. 4/5

Post Wall, Post Square: Rebuilding the World after 1989 by Kristina Spohr

An analysis of the upheavals of 1989 and the 3 years that followed them. Especially following the actions of Bush, Gorbachev and Kohl, it is mostly a history of the leaders and their policies. 3/5

A Naturalist at Large: The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich by Bernd Heinrich

Around 35 short ( main around 10-20 minutes ) essays on plants, insects and birds. A delight to listen to. 4/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – February 2022

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier

A fairly straight story about the company, lots of fun anecdotes. A little biased towards founder Kevin Systrom, probably due to more access to him (and none to Zuckerberg). 3/5

A Walk Around the Block: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About) by Spike Calsen

Short chapters about various bits of infrastructure and the people who manage them. Not huge amounts of detail but a few gun facts on each. An okay quick listen. 3/5

Yeager: An Autobiography by Chuck Yeager

A well written account of an aviation legend’s life. Interesting stories of World War 2 service, test pilot and other parts of his career and life. 4/5

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

A first person account by a young women. Fleeing some unfortunately love affairs via a road trip she meets Gangsters and James Bond. Different feel from most Bond books. 3/5

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

After a heat-wave kills 20 million in India. A UN Agency (The head of which is the main character) and others start getting serious to reverse climate change. Interesting and engaging. 4/5

The years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power by Robert Caro

The first volume of the series covers Johnson from birth through his unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1941. Detailed, entertaining and easy to follow. 4/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobooks – January 2022

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

In the near future, a Texas billionaire starts a geoengineering project to counteract global warming. International intrigue results. Similar feel to his other books. 4/5

An Economist walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk by Allison Schrager

Examples of how people in unusual situations handle risk and how you can apply it to your life. Interesting and useful. 4/5 – Accidental reread from July 2020.

The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood by Julie Salamon

A start-to-finish tale of the making of the 1990 big-budget Hollywood bomb. The writer embedded in the production and talked to just about everyone from the director down. fascinating amount of behind-the-scenes detail and insight into people making the film from the director down. 4/5

Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

Covering what little we know of his life but with analysis of his major works and notebooks. Helps if you have the PDF with all the pictures but listenable if not. 3/5

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Thought I’d try this new version. I think I still prefer Rob Inglis. My general feelings are:

Pro: He does distinct voices for each character and generally good ones. The voice are influenced by actors in the movies.
Con: His voice is a little indistinct. Not to bad since he’s an actor but separate words are not always clear. He’s not the best with the songs/poems, I’ve heard similar about his LOTR presentation. 4/5

Footprints in the Dust: The Epic Voyages of Apollo, 1969-1975 edited by Colin Burgess.

Covering all Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and Soviet programs. Mostly tries to take different angles from other books so some new stuff even if you’ve read a few of them. 3/5

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all

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Audiobooks – December 2021

How Smart Machines Think by Sean Gerrish

An introduction to Machine learning, covering advances of the last 10 years or so via stories about self-driving cars, the Netflix prize etc. 3/5

Harrier 809: Britain’s Legendary Jump Jet and the Untold Story of the Falklands War by Rowland White

Covering the Sea Harrier’s part in the Falkland’s as well as other parts of the air war like operations in Chile and Argentinian units. Well research and written. 4/5

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

A retelling of Little House on the Prairie from the perspective of Caroline Ingalls. Interesting re-reading events though an adult’s eyes. Second external review. 3/5

My Adventurous Life by Dick Smith

Autobiography by Australian Entrepreneur and Adventurer. Well packed with interesting stories of both business and other endeavors. 3/5

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Serhii Plokhy

Draws on Soviet and Ukrainian sources to give more details from the Russian side than previous books. Emphasizes the role of luck as both sides misread the other. 3/5

999 – My Life on the Frontline of the Ambulance Service by Dan Farnworth

Stories from the author’s career plus their personal struggles and advocacy for better mental-health support for Ambulance officers. 3/5

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson

As well as profiling Doudna it covers others in the field as well as the technology. Some early responses to the Covid19 pandemic. 3/5

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

James Bond travels to a Health Camp(!) and then to the Bahamas to investigate stolen Nuclear Weapons and Blackmail. Usual action ensues 3/5

See also: Top Audiobooks I’ve listened to

My Audiobook Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all

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Audiobooks – November 2021

The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr

Several sections each looking at different aspect of the American Supermarket. From workers to suppliers to owners. Engaging. 4/5

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The lessons we learned from eighties movies (and why we don’t learn them from movies any more) by Hadley Freeman

A tour through mainstream 80s movies concentrating on one per chapter. Fun but covering serious topics too 4/5

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Clint Howard and Ron Howard

Alternatively narrated by Ron and Clint about their family, growing up in Hollywood and acting. Only briefly covers events after the mid-1980s. Excellent. 4/5

Remote, Inc. : How to Thrive at Work . . . Wherever You Are by Robert C. Pozen & Alexandra Samuel

Lots of good advice for people suddenly working at home due to the pandemic. Tells you to think of yourself as a “business of one”. 3/5

The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad by Joyce E. Salisbury

24 Lectures on Spanish History from the Stone age to the early 2000s. Interesting and easy to follow. Covers culture etc, not just kings and politics 3/5

For Your Eyes Only and other stories by Ian Fleming

Five short stories involving James Bond. Three straightforward Bond adventures and two others. I found them all very enjoyable. 3/5

See also: Top Audiobooks I’ve listened to

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobook Reviews – October 2021

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

The 1950s Gold Standard results in wacky smuggling operations and golf. Bond is on top of things until he’s not. But he survives anyway. 3/5

Spark: How Genius Ignites, From Child Prodigies to Late Bloomers by Claudia Kalb

Profiles of 13 great achievers from Yo-Yo Ma to Isaac Newton who found their calling at progressively greater ages. Some interesting profiles across varied fields. 3/5

Shoot for the Moon by James Donovan

The story of Apollo 11 and the space race that led up to it. Some stories I hadn’t heard before and well written but in a crowded field. 3/5

The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age by Steve Olson

The history of the creation of Plutonium and the Hanford Nuclear Site that was built to manufacture it. 4/5

Captain Cook’s Epic Voyage by Geoffrey Blainey

The story of James Cook’s first voyage and it’s significance. Also covers the contemporary voyage by Jean de Surville. A good read that kept me interested. 4/5

Just the Funny Parts … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking Into the Hollywood Boys’ Club by Nell Scovell

A life as a female writer, producer and director in TV. A mix of funny stories, sexist stories and career highs and lows. 4/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobook Reviews – September 2021

The Second World War by Antony Beevor

A single volume covering the whole conflict in reasonable detail. Covered a few areas ie China that other volumes skip. Does the job. 3/5

Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention by Kathryn D. Sullivan

Mostly an astronaut memoir with some extra material on the Hubble development and launch. Some good anecdotes and insights into the work to make the Hubble serviceable. 3/5

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders

Memoir rather than self help. Okay read but not very actionable. 2/5

Space 2069: After Apollo: Back to the Moon, to Mars, and Beyond by David Whitehouse

A “future history” of Space travel for the next 50 years (to the 100th Anniversary of the moon landings). Plausible ideas and good science. 3/5

Second Best: The Amazing Untold Histories of the Greatest Runners-Up by Ben Pobjie

A series of amusing stories about people who didn’t come first. About 50% Australian examples. High jokes/minute with okay hit rate. 2/5

To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski

A very readable book on Engineering successes and failures and what can be learnt from them (and how things should be learnt). 3/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobook Reviews – August 2021

Antarctica’s Lost Aviator: The Epic Adventure to Explore the Last Frontier on Earth by Jeff Maynard

Biography of Lincoln Ellsworth “an insecure man in search of a purpose” concentrating on his various polar expeditions in the 1920s and 30s culminating in an attempt to fly across antarctic. 3/5

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer by Steven Johnson

The story of Medical, Public health and other measures in the last 150 years that have dramatically raised life expectancy. The reality behind some well known stories. 3/5

Dr No by Ian Fleming

Bond returns to Jamaica for a soft assignment that turns out not to be soft after all. He dodges assassins and investigates a mysterious island. 3/5

Never Lost Again: The Google Mapping Revolution That Sparked New Industries and Augmented Our Reality by Bill Kilday

A insider’s account of the mapping company Keyhole that became Google Maps. Good mix of stories and analysis. 4/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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Audiobook Reviews – July 2021

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough

Another McCullough classic. Centered on designers/builders the Roebling family but covering everything about the build. 4/5

Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race
by Roger D. Launius

Very much a short overview, but unusually covers the Soviet programme as well. Concentrates on the politics more than technical details. 3/5

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

The Russian counter-intelligence agency sets a trap for Bond. Interesting the first third of the book is the Russian preparations. Bond is not seen. Exciting read. 4/5

Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma and Louise Drove Hollywood To the Edge by Becky Aikman

Well written book about the pre-production, production and reaction to the movie. Well researched with quotes from most people involved. Enjoyable. 4/5

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

A semi-repeat of The Martin where a lone astronaut has to science the shit out of a bad situation. This time to save humanity. I enjoyed and if you like the Martian you will too. 4/5

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen

Profiles of 8 VPs who became US President. A biography, circumstances of evaluation and assesment of Presidency. Plus some near-misses and Ford who misses the main list?! 3/5

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Set in 1930s England, a group of children aged 7-12 sail in boats, camp on islands and have adventures on a lake. Fun Children’s adventure book. 4/5

My Scoring System

  • 5/5 = Brilliant, top 5 book of the year
  • 4/5 = Above average, strongly recommend
  • 3/5 = Average. in the middle 70% of books I read
  • 2/5 = Disappointing
  • 1/5 = Did not like at all
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