Audiobooks – December 2022

The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Book Four: The Passage of Power by Robert Caro

Covers 1958-1964. Especially the 1960 Democratic primary and election, Johnson’s unhappy Vice Presidency and the first months of his Presidency. As good as the others in the series. 4/5

England’s Villages: An Extraordinary Journey Through Time by Dr Ben Robinson

An archaeologist writes about the evolution of English Villages, their people, buildings, names and forms. Okay but not exceptional. 3/5

Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles

A good single volume biography. Works hard to explain Jefferson’s attitudes especially on slavery. Good coverage and easy to follow. 4/5

Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy by Adam Tooze

Covering roughly 2020 plus a few months on each side it mostly concentrates on the government and central bank measures to stabilise economies. 3/5

Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference by William MacAskill

A Introduction to Effective Ultruism and how you can do the most good in the world via carefully picking charities to give to and other alternatives. 4/5

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather by Mark Seal

Covers the writing of the book by Puzo, adapting and then filming it. Lots of Behind the scenes stories. A fun read 4/5

The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States by Jeffrey Lewis

A future/alternative history where Trump’s America fights North Korea. Well done and relatively plausible. 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 – November 2022

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

Aliens arrive on present-day Earth and one befriends a Canadian paleontologist. These of religion & alien civilizations are covered. Good read. 3/5

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A Caro

A series of articles on the author’s process & experiences researching and writing his biographies. Short but interesting. 4/5

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

A “spy story” within a interstellar conflict, it introduces “The Culture” civilization. Reasonable main character and lots of stuff for Hard Core SF fans. 3/5

The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson

Fun story following a few main characters (Thomas Edison has a cameo). 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 – October 2022

The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann by Ananyo Bhattacharya

A good overview of von Neumann’s life and introduction to his most important work. An accessible read that keeps things interesting. 3/5

Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton

Covers the authors life and especially the creation and growth of Walmart. Lots of details about running the business and the industry. 4/5

The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World by Robert Garland

48 lectures covering daily life in Egypt, Greece, Rome and Medieval Britain. Plus a few other times & places. Quite interesting. 3/5

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines

An overview of the making of the movies. Some good stories and I’m sorry it wasn’t longer 3/5

The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit—Unlocking the Secrets of Greatness by Craig M. Wright

The “14 key traits of genius, from curiosity to creative maladjustment to obsession”. Some interesting stories but not much really actionable. 2/5

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 – September 2022

Washington: A life by Ron Chernow

Very well written single-volume biography of the president. Covers his whole life in detail without being boring. Strong recommend. 5/5

The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich

How the “normal” psychology of western individuals differs from other societies and how it got that way. Interesting ideas and a good read. 3/5

Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History by Richard Thompson Ford

A mix of fashion orientated and enforced dress codes. I found the pre-1900 stuff more interesting than then later US-centric stories. 3/5

FDR by Jean Edward Smith

Biography of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Extensive but not comprehensive, so some gaps where I wanted more. Would recommend though. 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 – August 2022

The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won by Victor Davis Hanson

Compares the Allied and Axis powers in just about every aspect one by one and in the majority find the Allies ahead. Strongly recommend to those interested in WW2. 5/5

The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming

The final Bond novel by Fleming. Bond investigates gangsters and spies in Jamaica. Readable but not the best in the series. 3/5

The Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke

A Hard Core SciFi story set in the year 2109 involving an asteroid threatening to hit earth and the life of captain of the ship sent to stop it. Fans of Clarke and similar authors will enjoy 3/5

More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of the New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby

A history of Hedge Funds in the US up to just after the 2008 crash. Profiles of people and companies at each stage. Interesting and easy to follow. 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 – July 2022

The Library: A Fragile History by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

A general history of the library. Main problems are a bit verbose and skipping Asia but enough to keep my interest. 3/5

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement by Daniel Kahneman

Wasn’t able to finish this. Just kept repeating the same thing over and over again. Forgot the “Pop” in “Popular social science”. Just read a summary like the linked Guardian review. 2/5

Who Can Hold the Sea: The U.S. Navy in the Cold War 1945-1960 by James D. Hornfischer

What it says on the description. Covering Nuclear power and weapons, the Revolt of the Admirals the early Cold war and Korea. 3/5

Inside the Star Wars Empire: A Memoir by Bill Kimberlin

Some ILM stories but less than what some people might expect and mixed in with other things. Definitely not film-by-film coverage. But still fun. 3/5

Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story by John Bloom

Story of the Space-based phone system. The books concentrates on the complex deals to save it after it’s original failure and Motorola’s plan to de-orbit it. 3/5

The Accidental Scientist: The Role of Chance and Luck in Scientific Discovery by Graeme Donald

A short book of short chapters covering various stories of scientific discovery. Fun Breezy read. 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 – June 2022

Binge Times: Inside Hollywood’s Furious Billion-Dollar Battle to Take Down Netflix by Dade Hayes, Dawn Chmielewski

An account of the last 5 years of the streaming wars as multiple new services were launched. Tries to cover most of the main US services and how they responded to the threat of Netflix. 3/5

Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro

3rd Volume of Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson covering 1949-1960. Large sections on Johnson gaining control of the Senate, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1956 Democratic presidential nomination. 4/5

Write It All Down: How To Put Your Life on the Page by Cathy Rentzenbrink

A short book about who to write a memoir as well as general advice about writing (especially a book). Interesting and nice to listen to. 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 – May 2022

The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King

The definitive single volume NZ History book. Publish in 2003 it is still relatively up-to-date. Designed for the general reader, easy to follow and fairly comprehensive. 4/5

Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott

A study of ways governments has forced change on their population for the convenience of the state rather than the people. eg forced resettlement. 3/5

Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car by Alex Davies

The story of the Autonomous car industry. Mainly framed around the DARPA Grand Challenge races and disgraced engineer Anthony Levandowski. Pretty good. 3/5

Transatlantic Television Drama: Industries, Programs, and Fans Edited by Hills, Hilmes, & Pearson

A series of semi-academic articles on the exchanges of Television programmes between the US and UK. Felt like 30% introductions but some good bits. 3/5

The Hero Code: Lessons Learned From Lives Well Lived by William H. McRaven

10 short chapters each on a specific virtue & a story to illustrate it. Courage, Humility, Sacrifice, Integrity, Compassion, Perseverance, Duty, Hope, Humor, and Forgiveness. 3/5

You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

After falling into a funk Bond is sent to Japan on a difficult mission. I felt this didn’t age very well and was below average for the Bond books. 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 – 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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