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Recently absorbed aurally:

Who's In Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
By Michael Gazzaniga
Narrator Pete Larkin

Not as dismal as some brain science books, but still, "There is no 'you' consciously making decisions" is a fairly disturbing starting point. Not that Gazzaniga's survey of the science is bad, just that he seems to take a lot of glee in systematically tearing down the concept of a self, and I found it rather bleak.

The narrator has a nice professional voice and manages to sound like he's paying attention to the text and even understands it. Science books are a special challenge to read (and listen to), and Pete Larkin clears the bar.

How To Retire the Cheapskate Way
By Jeff Yeager
Narrator: Johnny Heller

Surprisingly amusing and informative, if one is, like me, planning to retire in the United States in the not too distant future. As the title suggests, this is not Luxury Retirement 101 (you'd have to read that book and implement its principles about 25 years sooner). It's just a lot of commonsense tips and clever ideas for getting by comfortably in various retirement scenarios.

The folksy-wisdom style of the author is extremely well-served by the humorous cracker-barrel voicing of the narrator, and I enjoyed the whole thing almost in spite of myself.

Mind Over Mind: The Surprising Power of Expectations
by Chris Berdik
narrator: Nick Oglesby

So execrably narrated that I almost can't tell you anything about the content. Laughably bad. I think the premise is that science is learning to quantify--and presumably either neutralize or leverage--the effect of expectation on outcomes. It starts with Mesmer and then leaps forward to Now, looking at placebo and nocebo effects, the importance of blind tasting in wine competitions, the power of "curses" in sporting events like basketball free-throws and football penalty kicks (or whatever they're called).

BUT! OMG. If I were hired to narrate a book containing whole chapters about wine and European stuff and, you know, foreign names and things, I might do a little pronunciation research beforehand. Nick Oglesby sounds like he trotted over to the studio from the frathouse to pick up some quick beer money by reading a book, and wasn't in class the days when other fratboys learned how to talk. So he refers to King Lewis the sixteenth, and the well known wines Chateau Nee-uff doo Popay (no, I'm not kidding) and Coats de Rhone. Nor does he neglect to mangle hard words in his native tongue: inexORable sticks in my mind, but I promise you there was at least one such plinker every five minutes. I can't imagine how the author must have felt on hearing it.

I actually couldn't finish listening no matter how hard I tried.

The City and The City
by China Mieville
narrator: John Lee

A brilliant piece of fiction that almost won me over. Perhaps not the world's best candidate for an audio treatment, since it is so very subtle and complex, involving a tricky murder and police procedural story set in an alternate-universe eastern European state in which two cities are superimposed on each other in some not-quite metaphysical way. Fascinating, demanding, and really quite memorable.

Narrator John Lee, presumably chosen for his ability to lend an authentic-sounding pronunciation to all the Slavic-type proper names, does a pretty good job of distinguishing voices, but his characterizations were not nuanced enough and I felt that I was missing quite a bit of the emotional impact of the story as a result.

The Singularity is Near
By Ray Kurzweil
Narrator George K Wilson

Kurzweil seems to be a bit of a crackpot, but he's not without some compelling insights into the near future of technology, based on a career that spans pretty much the whole history of computers. He basically says Skynet is coming, but that it will be really cool and we'll be immortal if we can live long enough to absorb all the live-preserving nanobots and gene therapies and stuff.

Singularity would have read more like some wacko engineer's masturbatory fantasy if it hadn't been for Grandpa Wilson's Story Hour narration. Just about drove me nuts till I discovered the setting in my Audible app that allows you to speed up the reader without making him into a chipmunk. 1.25x speed helped a lot.

Seriously, where do publishers get these guys? I need to get into this business.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.




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