Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is absolutely the best book I have read or listened to in years. I could just listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson read a laundry list, but he makes astrophysics and the history of the universe so smooth.

I have read up a lot for a layman on a lot of the things he covers, yet with just this short book lasting less then four hours made it so much clearer.

While I hate the whole schtick of “we are made of stardust” that is liberally spread everywhere on t-shirts and memes. However, the way he explains why that is true makes it a lot easier to accept and actually does a lot to give you that wonder of the universe.

This book is good for whatever your religious or non-religious belief. He makes no attacks on people, only explains what science has uncovered.

I cannot urge people enough to read/listen/whatever this book. I think it would be great to start with all kids in high school. It would take less then a day and it might open up some eyes, or at least some minds.

I just saw that he has a Great Lessons course called the “Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries”, I think I need to pick that up ASAP.

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Great Courses: Other Side of History – Daily Life in the Ancient World

The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient WorldThe Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World by Robert Garland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This course made me miss going to college.

Professor Garland is clear, crisp and smooth with the material. I never realized how interesting it would be to have 48 lessons that cover the common person’s life from Neanderthal through the medieval times.

It was interesting to hear how a common person lived. Ranging from slaves, to women (sometimes one and the same, sadly more often then sometimes), to citizens, soldiers and merchants. It was interesting to hear about what their day to day lives were like, who they married and what they did when they had a day off.

I have no complaints about this Great Course, and definitely no complaints about the professor. The only thing is I did wish it had more with other cultures, but that is because I knew a lot of the information from my other studies. However, that isn’t a problem because of the Course.

This was definitely 24 hours worth of instruction that was worth it. I am going to pick up my next set of lessons from the Great Courses immediately.
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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern WorldGenghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again this is for the audiobook version.

I have read about Genghis Khan before, but this book delves so deeply into the topic that I was surprised constantly by it. The story of his family, the betrayals, in-fighting and both luck and skill on the battle field.

Funny enough, the one fact that sticks with me the most is that the Mongols were not a literate people, but to retain the knowledge of all the laws, and to relay orders across hundreds and thousands of miles without losing detail they would sing it in verse.

Evidently Mongols sung constantly when riding, and not just songs, but laws, instructions, etc. Singing is one of the ways to trick your mind not to forget specific wording, and avoid the horrid “telephone game” effect.

It is a very long listen, but it was worth all of it.

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The Skeptic’s Guide to American History

The Skeptic's Guide to American HistoryThe Skeptic’s Guide to American History by Mark A. Stoler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was much better than I had hoped.

This is my first of the “Great Courses” I have listened to, and it was definitely worth it. It is a brief retelling of history without our myths or outright lies about the origins of America. What we have been taught in school is at the least propaganda, and in many cases outright falsehood.

Even with the conservative viewpoint of Dr Stoler, it was eye opening to see the realities behind previous presidents, and historical events. He especially eradicated the myths of our “defense only” military history.

There is nothing I can fault on this course. It is 12 hours of information I may have heard bits about, but never the full story. I cannot recommend this enough.

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