Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twelve Byzantine Rulers by Lars Brownworth

Source: 12byzantinerulers.com
Length: 5.5 hours, plus sidenotes
Reader: Lars Brownworth

The book: I initially was divided over whether to include this podcast as an audiobook or not. I usually only review individual episodes of a podcasts, but for this I felt it met my criteria of an audiobook for three reasons: 1) limitation of scope 2) consistancy of authorship 3) book-level quality. Unlike many podcasts, this one is limited in both the number of episodes and the scope of its subject: the lives and accomplishments of a select few emperors of the Byzantine Empire. Secondly, this is more like a book because of Brownworth's consistent viewpoint, unlike many podcasts which feature a different guest or author each episode. Lastly, Brownsworth delivers his information in the format of a well-written history, rather than the conversation, variety show, or audio magazine formats that many podcasts use.

The format works well, especially since Brownsworth is a remarkable storyteller. He has the ability to connect the events of the Byzantine Empire into a gripping narrative. The emperors and their contemporaries are introduced as complex people, some with heroic qualities, but all with some flaws. Told in this way, the little remembered eastern remenant of the Rome becomes a Tolkeinesque epic of how one nation stood against the Muslim empires long enough to allow Western Europe to become strong.

Rating: 8 /10

The reader: Brownsworth has a way with words that takes me back to some of the best courses I had in college. His speech is never dry, instead he varies his voice to share the enthusiasm he has for history.  The sound recording is a little bit noisy, but not bad. The main thread of the book is presented in individual chapters, with additional audio sidebars that can be downloaded seperately.

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