Audiobook Reviews September 2015 by Jonathan Lowe



THE PATIENT’S PLAYBOOK by Leslie D. Michelson is a must hear for anyone who expects to be a patient at a hospital sometime during their life. Yup, that’s everyone. What the book does is give you a broad view of how to choose a doctor right for you, when to seek a second opinion, and an understanding of the pressure on hospital staff to overprescribe drugs and to do unnecessary tests. (This protects them from malpractice while enabling them to maximize profits.) What to ask in such cases is good to know, plus clues are given as to when the word “unnecessary” may apply to your case. Medical care is rising in cost at three to five times the rate of inflation, while hospitals are bringing in more technology, not necessarily to increase good patient outcomes, but to offset losses to those without insurance. As the title suggests, it can be a game. And so you need a playbook to read the runaround strategies employed to charge more to you (and to your insurance company, and to Medicare.) Many case studies are innumerated of patients whose misdiagnosis led to complications and needless suffering (or even death.) This is because, says the author, many physicians unfortunately must see 40 patients a day to keep their practice, and are inclined to take a “try this and see” approach instead of taking the time to coordinate holistic care after studying one’s medical history. “If their solution is to send you to specialist rather than spend time with you, you probably have the wrong primary physician. With your life at stake, you need to find the right doctor.” This doctor/author also narrates, and handles the job with the professional ease of a longtime speech giver. His listenable, encouraging tone and voice augments the experience.


THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY isn’t cheap, but it may change your life by changing how you perceive goals and the errors of logic that make people victims of repeated mistakes. (now $29.95 /reg.$39.95 / 20 hours) I chose it as one of the top ten most amazing books I’ve ever heard (among thousands.) A bold and all-embracing exploration of the nature and the progress of knowledge from one of today’s great thinkers: Throughout history, men have struggled with competing philosophies, and played games with logic to deceive others and ultimately themselves. In this important book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that EXPLANATIONS have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. The stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand and achieve. In this book, he applies logic to a wide range of issues and unsolved problems, from creativity, static thinking and free will to the future of technology and society. Filled with startling new conclusions about human choice, optimism, scientific explanation, and the evolution of culture, The Beginning of Infinity is a groundbreaking audio book praised by the New York Times as one of the most astonishing and ambitious science books ever written. Not only for what it proposes, but for the fallacies of logic it exposes, which have caused stagnation in the past and continue to do so in the present. Move past these, and the sky (and war and global warming) is literally no limit. Narrator Walter Dixon is a longtime broadcaster and voiceover artist with a knack of maintaining focus on the material at hand.

COMBAT READY KITCHEN by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo is an examination of packaged foods in America, and her thesis (which she proves) is that the reason you are eating so much processed food with additives, fillers, and artificial stablizers, is because the U.S. Military cooked up our food system from the beginning, from K-rations to combat ready meals. Not only has the Army developed the packaging (in direct cooperation with major industries), but they have insisted that fast food franchise conglomerates be a kind of fifth column, ready to churn out combat meals on an assembly line as needed in case of another world war. Read by C.S.E. Cooney (multiple names read like a food label), the audiobook provides much history into development and marketing of TV dinners, canned goods, energy bars, and juices in boxes or bottles. The partnership between the military and ConAgra, General Mills, and others is partly secret, but the author gained access by various means, and took notes. As the military develops new technology for food production and packaging, she says, the multinationals get the patents as part of the deal. This may not seem like a political book, but in some ways it is, since the author apparently is okay with this arrangement, in awe of how it has all come about, despite the inefficiencies and imposition of supplements to make up for the lost nutritional quality of foods engineered for long shelf life (a battlefield necessity.) Toward the end, she loads up on qualifiers, in case listeners from the raw food movement are listening, saying that processed food isn’t as good as real food, and giving personal examples from her own family to show that free range meats are better than the concentration camp factory farms which the military must rely on, being the number one buyer of processed foods. (So if America, as Col. Andrew Bacevich in “Washington Rules” says, is now in a state of “permanent war,” then are we all in our present state of fake food (or Frankenstein food) out of necessity to prepare for those coming wars, waving the McDonalds flag as we march and munch?) Narrator C.S.E. Cooney sounds like the lady in the next bunk on the base…if you’re female. She’s skeptical but smart, but slow to offer quick opinions.

Speaking of factory farms, listen to PIG TALES: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, by Barry Estabrook. While hard core meat lovers attending Trump barbecues may find this book absurd liberal PETA nonsense, you can’t fault his logic (which is the same as the author of MEATONOMICS, whom I interviewed, although that book argued that with subsidies, cheap meat is anything but cheap.) Estabrook is not a vegetarian, he’s for free range and more healthy meat (better for human nutrition and animal health.) Unfortunately, as he shows, some 97% of America pork is processed by unsavory means: boil them alive (waterboard’em) as if they were enemy combatants, and imprison them in tiny cages where they sleep in their own feces, and can’t even turn around. “You save money that way,” goes the argument. But remember: hogs are highly intelligent creatures, and feel pain acutely. Factories like Smithfield Foods or Tyson don’t care, of course. If dogs were legal as meat—and dog meat tasted like bacon—they’d be allowed to justify it, and would be chopping Lassie up while alive too! The point here is that we don’t have to be cruel, and if we’d be willing to pay more, the meat would end up tasting better as well. (Fact proven by examples in the book.) Paul Boehmer, a “seasoned” Broadway actor, reads the audiobook with a natural clarity and proper awe at certain passages too graphic to detail here.

Finally, another controversial book, BASE NATION: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, by David Vine, a writer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. Read on audio by Jon Yen, this book makes the case for shutting down many of the over 800 bases which the American taxpayer is asked to support overseas, while deficits skyrocket. Not only do they incite more violence and tensions across many regions by exasperating ill will toward American interventionism (Osama bin Laden cited American military presence in Saudi Arabia as his motivation, and there are many other examples), but with new rapid deployment strategies in case of crises, many of the bases are not even needed. “Yet few in military appropriations or Congress are willing to face this fact, due to lobbyists for contractors, despite the massive costs.” The base on Diego Garcia he calls a shame. And WHY are we financing South Korea’s security when they have a better economy than we do? (Lower debt rate, more growth, more job creation.) Vine shows that when America is everywhere, our military is stretched to its limit, is rife with inefficiency, gets less respect, and ends up costing lives on all sides. It’s a lose-lose for everyone. But if voters are sold jingoism as patriotic? Then it’s a win-win for politicians with contractors in their state, and with their own retirement funds.

New fiction audiobooks: THE PROMISE OF HOME by DarcieChan, read by Amy Rubinate; THE LURE OF THE MOONFLOWER by LaurenWillig, narrated by Kate Reading (yes, that’s her name and her job!); THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER by JonathanKellerman, read by Kathe Mazur (most Kellerman novels are read by actor John Rubenstein, grandson of pianist Arthur Rubenstein); THE BOURBON KINGS by J.R. Ward, read by broadway and TV actor Alexander Cendese (Beauty and the Beast); THE ADMISSIONS by Meg Moore, read by Allyson Ryan (Law&Order, One Life To Live); WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, narrated by Emma Bering (Mad About You) and Robbie Daymond; THE SOLOMON CURSE by CliveCussler, read by Scott Brick. Finally, I am pleased to announce that my own suggestion to Blackstone has resulted in the first audio publication of Jack Vance’s classic science fiction novel TO LIVE FOREVER, out Sept. 1. Have not yet heard it, but it was one of the reasons I penned “The Methuselah Gene.” It is narrated by Kevin Kenerly, who read Stephen King’s “The Running Man,” and is a longtime member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

(Novelist and reviewer Jonathan Lowe is a longtime judge in the Audie awards. His own books can be sampled at

Audiobook Reviews Archives Prior to July 2014

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