The Things They Carried

Written by: Tim O’Brien
Narrated by: Bryan Cranston
Originally Reviewed: 07-30-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

  An Intimate Look Into The Soul of A Veteran    

I saw a meme the other day on social media, posted by a Veteran Friend of mine. It was a diatribe of sorts, attempting to explain to civilians why combat Veterans are the way they are. Why we find dark humor so funny and why we seem detached from the regular day-to-day on-goings. The meme claimed that one cannot truly understand a Veteran unless one is a Veteran… this book helps bridge that divide.

For several years I was told to read this, but it was always at the back of my list. Preferring Islamic and Middle East History, philosophy, psychology, I justified this avoidance with the idea that I was better preparing myself for our current conflict. Ironically, this might be one of the most important books a Soldier (of any era) should read in preparation for the trauma of war. I usually listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Bryan Cranston as narrator of this book and will look for other things he’s voiced. I really enjoyed the epilogue written and narrated by the author regarding his thoughts during a visit to Vietnam. O’Brien could’ve narrated the whole book and I would’ve enjoyed it just as much.

One Second After

Written by: William R. Forstchen
Narrated by: Joe Barrett
Originally Reviewed: 08-15-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

 Wishing This Book Was As Long As The Stand    

Almost immediately – knowing the book was only 13 hours – I found myself wanting it to never end. Yes, it is that good. I’ve read several “post-apocalyptic stories” with Stephen King’s, The Stand, as my favorite. However, One Second After, hits closer to home; it’s more real, more daunting, more… everything, except King’s mastery of story telling and character development. That is not to say that this one lacks. One hopes for miracles in tales such as these, but the cold-hard reality of survival trump all such desires. Death makes no exception for your good deeds or intentions… you’re just statistically going to die. Just like, Nevil Shute’s, On The Beach, it’ll be an un-glamorous, inexorably slow, miserable demise – unremarkable in anyway because most of your loved ones are already dead, and those still living are just anticipating their own mediocre passing. My only criticism of the book is that it bills itself (in the forward) as a survival tale in the event of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), but other than being the cataclysmic event and a few working older vehicles that aren’t affected by an EMP, there’s not much to differentiate this book from another scenario without electricity. I would’ve liked to hear more about how the survivors managed and found other ways to manage without this modern lifeblood. The narration was excellent and I feel Mr. Barrett was an exceptional voice for the protagonist, but not necessarily for all the characters’ voices. I usually listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this version.

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire

Written by: Peter Stark
Narrated by: Michael Kramer
Originally Reviewed: 08-07-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

 A Perilous Journey By Land and Sea   

I’ve never been to Astoria, but have always wanted to go. I have friends living there now and I was in the midst of planning a trip to the Oregon Coast when I came across this book on an Audible sale; what a find. It’s funny how some of my most treasured books (audible, kindle, and physical) have been discovered accidentally and in preparation for a personal experience. One of the best parts of this book is found in the epilogue where the author relays his personal discovery of this story (this part also narrated by the author) and the adventure he took to retell it in this novel. This really completed the story for me as well as other non-fiction where the author gives a reason why. Unaware of this history, it was fascinating to learn a bit about John Astor and his two concurrent treks he dispatched to establish this eponymic city. If this tale were to be made into a move (or television series) I’d like to see two separate, but concurrent works with tie-ins to the other. This history has all the makings of a modern blockbuster with death, murder, explosions, betrayal, starvation, salvation, etc.. I can’t wait for my visit to the mouth of the Columbia. The narration was fine and I was able to listen at my normal 3x speed. I did think his pronunciation of the word ‘voyagers’ was distinct and that word was used often.

The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do about it

Written by: Warren Farrell PhD, John Gray PhD
Narrated by: Warren Farrell PhD, John Gray PhD
Originally Reviewed: 9-22-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

 Perceptive Past, Prognosis, and Prescription 

It was just the other day on social media where I was advocating on behalf of my two daughters and jokingly said, “I’m not worried about my boys… I just have to feed them, get them to practice, and keep them from knocking girls up.” Then this book slapped me in my face, followed by an uppercut, and finished with a devastating squirrel tap to my manhood. I – like most everyone else for the past forty years – have so genuinely cared about the future of our girls, that we forgot about our boys. How wrong I was, and Farrell and Gray (of, Men are From Mars…, infamy) had no problem providing the evidence and the cure; but will we listen. After the introduction and first two chapters, I was already recommending this book to my brother and his wife who just had a son, my wife, my parents who already have raised three kids, my in-laws who have already raised five (with one possible “failure to launch”), my friends, my Soldiers, my neighbors, parents on my kids’ sports teams, random strangers, anyone who’ll listen, etc.. Then, throughout the rest of the book, I couldn’t stop talking about it and the revelations within. This is one of my most valued books in my audible library (378 books with nearly 20% on psychology) and I’ll listen to it over and over. I’m also purchasing the kindle version as well as a physical copy for referencing. I normally listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this narration; both authors narrate.

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Written by: Simon Sinek
Narrated by: Simon Sinek
Originally Reviewed: 10-06-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

 Superb Prose From an Inimitable Thought Leader  

I pretty much take anything and everything from Simon Sinek as doctrine for guiding my life, both as a organizational leader (First Sergeant in the Army) and with my own family in teaching my kids. His speeches are so ridiculously galvanizing and this book is more anecdotal evidence of the philosophy he espouses. I read a lot of philosophy, both by our ancient leaders and contemporary as well. Sinek’s body of work is just as powerful as any. Since reading – for the first time – Start With Why, more than four years ago, I have tried (successfully and unsuccessfully) to implement the precepts in all I do and remember the results of those examples shared of potential results. I love his example of Apple even though I’m an anti-apple-product person myself, but you can’t deny the cultural phenomenon that they started and maintain today.

Unrelated to this particular book, but still a Simon Sinek promulgation, his video regarding the difference between being nervous and excited is another epic epiphany. My son was going into surgery the other day and I used this thought game of “changing the narrative” with him. I had him convinced that he was excited for this and being nervous was useless; pretty good for a four-year old. After the surgery, the anesthesiologist, came up to me and said that my son’s attitude and demeanor were so good that he’s going to start using the excited vs. nervous speech with all his patients. As a narrator, Simon is excellent. He obviously has much experience presenting these thoughts and switching to a long-format audio book was probably not an issue. I usually listen to my audio books at three-times speed and had no issues with this one

Starman Jones

Written by: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrated by: Paul Michael Garcia
Originally Reviewed: 10-06-18 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

 Every Boy’s Fantasy of Space and Significance 

Just like Wil Wheaton’s character in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Max Jones is a intellectual prodigy who finds himself in a position that every boy (at least all my contemporaries with adolescence prior to the 21st century), would die to find themselves. Max is unaware of how special he really is with an eidetic memory and access to books he never should have seen. But he did, and the adventure begins after he realizes that he has no future on earth. Although the story is predictable and we all know that Max will eventually “make it” to his destiny, the real story is about Max, his character, and his growth from those he meets along the way (both positive and negative). All of this prepares him for the inevitable decision he has to and is willing to make, the decision that others are relying on from him that only he can do. It’s a risky decision, but Max’s audacious personality invariably saves the day. This was my first book with Paul Michael Garcia as narrator and I enjoyed it. I’m kind of partial to Wil Wheaton as a narrator and due to the comparison of the two characters at the beginning of my review, I would have preferred the later. Again, Garcia was great. I usually listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this version. Heinlein is my favorite author and this book is a top 10 of all of his book for me.


Prisoners of Geography

Written by: Tim Marshall
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Originally Reviewed: 04-23-20 on
Rating: 1, must read for everyone

Required Reading for Comprehensive Understanding.. 

…of geopolitics on Earth. Although any history buff will know most of the information contained, the author packages it so succinctly and deliberate to areas manifesting today of high volatility. The introduction alone cemented this book a required reading for my Military Intelligence Soldiers, but each chapter focuses on an area of interest to current US Foreign Policy. How development – or lack thereof – due to geographic concerns should be common knowledge, but there’s so much historical evidence packed into this little book that everyone will learn something.

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

Written by: Colin Woodard
Narrated by: Lewis Greenville
Originally Reviewed: 10-8-18 on
Rating: 2 – if you have an interest in the subject

Not Bad, But I Found I Didn’t Really Care 

I can’t even remember when I purchased this book nor why I felt inclined to do so. It’s been sitting in my library for awhile and I keep seeing it as “unread”. Finally my OCD kicked in and I listened to this book. It has a catchy and verbose title and that’s about the extent of my praise. The book itself is great and there was obviously thorough research conducted along with a brilliant writer able to link the many loosely-tied-together strings of the history into one work, but I just found the entire thing unpalatable. It might be due to relevance and it might be due to the fictionalized Disney saturation and glorification, but really I just didn’t care about any of it. There are some good anecdotes of piracy and excellent narratives regarding truth and fiction. Unless you’re specifically looking for an accurate history on the subject, I just can’t make a recommendation here. I usually listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this one. I have nothing positive nor negative to say about the narrator.

The Coming Storm

Written by: Michael Lewis
Narrated by: Michael Lewis
Originally Reviewed: 10-6-18 on
Rating: 3 – don’t waste your time

Political Propaganda Disguised as Science

This is nothing more than slander. Michael Lewis is a great author and journalist, but this whole book – ostensibly about weather statistics – is slander toward Trump and encomiums toward Obama. I didn’t vote for Trump, don’t really like his entire demeanor, but this constant vitriol directed at him and about him has become monotonously wearisome. I’m so tired of the entire leftist diatribe of all things conservative and Trump that I can’t help but dismiss all of their accusations in disbelief… much like the boy who cried wolf.
There are some interesting tidbits contained in this book, but with so short a work I’m surprised at the initial lengthy introduction to a single scientist who makes no other appearance in the book. There’s really no conclusion other than Obama was great with regard to supporting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Trump is doing everything to stop their admirable work because he hates science. Get over yourselves!