E-books/audiobooks reviews: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 3:50pm

The World until Yesterday
by Jared Diamond (read by Jay Snyder)
Penguin Audio (audiobook)

The emergence of the ecology movement in its diverse shades of green has obliged humankind to look for answers to considerable questions: how did our species come to dominate the planet? How did we grow powerful enough to threaten its existence? Assuming our continued survival, what can we learn from prehistoric societies to help bring redress? Beginning with his signal Guns, Germs and Steel (1997), Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, has annexed a significant market share in learned, revelatory but always engaging books on the place and importance of humans in a picture much larger than ourselves. Now, in demonstrating that we can learn new tricks from traditional societies, Diamond returns to New Guinea. Comparing their social systems with those of the West, he turns his familiar, sweeping searchlight on to questions of crime and punishment, diet, disease and language, rendered here in the urgent tones of an enthusiastic Jay Snyder.

Antiques Don't Bounce
by Richard Bullivant
Amazon Digital Service (e-book)

It's only at the end of Antiques Don't Bounce that you realise Richard Bullivant intends a sequel, which will leave some readers feeling shortchanged. His first offering, although offering a fascinating glimpse of antiques trading in Britain and elsewhere in the 1970s, is weakened by ample padding, which has the narrative meandering through a year of the author's work experience at a company transporting antiques and fine art. Too much time is spent chronicling the mundane instead of giving readers choice anecdotes. Cleverly, also as part of the business degree he is hoping to achieve, he dreams up a trip around Europe for a project analysing the practices of Lloyd & Taylor (the company he entered) and similar companies. Most interesting are the differences between British and US antiques markets and why planeloads of Americans used to visit with bags of travellers' cheques. Bullivant also lists favourite haunts of dealers, who in the days before smart phones, would take Polaroid photos of furniture to tempt buyers.