Jump to content
Brian.

Brian's Book Log - Ongoing

Recommended Posts

It's time for another update to my mini reviews.

 

What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde (4/5)

The second of three books from The Willoughby Book Club I received as part of my 3 month subscription. I assume they sent me this as I told them that I really liked The Kite Runner, once again this isn't the kind of book I would have picked up. The book tells us the story of Nahid and Masood, two young lovers from Tehran in the late 70's. They get caught up in the Iranian revolution in a way that puts their very existence at risk. Escape is the only option so they travel to Sweden on forged passports. The story then jumps to the present day with Nahid fighting cancer and with everyone else in her life. Along the way she reflects on the decisions she had made in her life and how everything turned out.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (5/5)

Yes, yes, yes. I have always avoided any books and TV shows based around this period of time and social class as it hasn't interested me. My knowledge therefore was very limited going into reading this. I had heard of Mr Darcey but couldn't tell you what book he was in or if he was a character we are meant to like or not. One of the things I aim to do this year with my reading was to tackle some more of the classics and more books written by women and this book meets both criteria.

I wouldn't say this is an easy read but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I needed to read it in silence as it required concentration and the short chapters really helped me as I could read for a bit and then take a short break. At first I didn't really see the fuss but the deeper I got into the book the more and more I wanted a happy ending for the characters. I enjoyed it so much it went straight on my 'to keep' bookshelf when I was finished, I imagine I will read this again in the future. I still don't care for the era or social class depicted in the book but the underlying story was more than sufficient to make me want to read more of Austen's work.

 

The Beach House by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge (2/5)

I have an old Kindle in my locker at work which is crammed full of what I would call "guilty pleasure authors" in case I forget to bring anything with me. My criteria is well known authors who write easy to read books which don't require much concentration. On Friday we had a particularly quiet day and I had forgot to bring a book with me so I dug the Kindle out and settled on The Beach House, the first James Patterson I have read. The story revolves around Jack Mullen, a law student who receives news that his brother Peter has been found dead following a night working as a parking valet at an elite house party. No one in power seems all that interested and try to write the dead off as a drowning or suicide. Jack is sure this isn't true but everyone in a position of authority seems to have been paid off, why?

This book was ok and kept me entertained well enough to get me through the shift, it wasn't great and it won't win any prizes but it was ok.

 

Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron (3/5)

I am pretty sure I have read this before but for some reason I can't find any record of it on my goodreads account. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun of some repute and has written a variety of English language books. This particular book is about learning to accept yourself and your situation whatever that may be, and how to develop compassion for others in even the most trying of circumstances. Many of Chodron's books are very accessible and approach things in a very practical and pragmatic modern way. This book however isn't one of those, it digs deeper into some of the more esoteric Buddhist ways. This doesn't mean that there is nothing of practical value, in fact there is plenty, but I personally prefer not to have to rely on belief to get results.

This isn't a bad book, it just isn't quite what I was hoping it was.

 

Edited by Brian.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Update time. I've not had as much time for reading in the last two weeks as I would have hoped but still managed to finish 4 books.

 

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid (4/5)

The second book in the Karen Pirie series by Val McDermid. This book is set across two different timelines, 1984 and 2008, with the plot revealing itself as it switches between them. It all starts in 1984 in a community with 2 very different class structures. Most of the people are miners or mining families but there is also the local Maclennan Grant  family who are very rich and own a large estate. The heiress of the family, Catriona is kidnapped along with her baby son. During the ransom payoff it goes very wrong, Catriona is killed and her son disappears and is never seen again. Leap forward to 2008, Tuscany, and a journalist is on a holiday with some friends. One morning while out for a jog she finds an abandoned house and decides to investigate and stumbles on a copy of the ransom poster/noye from 1984.

I really enjoyed this book and as the series goes on Karen Pirie is becoming a favourite of mine. I look forward to reading the next book in the series when I get a copy of it.

 

Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope (3/5)

I found this in a charity shop and the blurb on the back instantly grabbed me. In early 2009, after finishing Wharton School of Business a young Malaysian called Jho Low manages to get up a government investment fund in his native country, funded by the Malaysian government. Over the course of the next 10 years he goes from being a quiet unassuming young man to hosting huge lavish parties frequented by the rich an famous in a variety of entertainment industries. Is this wealth and extravagance a product of his investment vehicle performing well?

As it turns out, it's a huge con involving the Malaysian prime minister, rich Arabian governments, and financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs.

This book is very interesting if a little bit repetitive in places. It is well written but some of the finanical tools used are not particularly well explained and this is a bit of a let down as I had to find out how they work in other places.

 

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (2/5)

As an attempt to spread my reading wider I have been buying books that I probably wouldn't have a year ago and this is one of these. I was aware of Jeanette Winterson by name but that is about it. I decided on this book as it is relatively short so if I didn't get on with it wouldn't be a huge drag. The book is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story of Jeanette, a young girl adopted and brought up by her mother in a very religious household. At sixteen she decides to leave the family home for the woman she loves.

I found this book only ok, but as usual this isn't a reflection on the book itself but more that it just wasn't for me. Had I had any first hand experiences covered in the book it probably would have resonated more with me.

 

Wild Nights by Phoebe Smith (4/5)

I picked this up at my local library. This is a non-fiction book about solo wild camping in the UK but what makes this slightly different from the norm is that it is written by a woman. Phoebe isn't a chancer, she is a writer for some of the big 'outdoor pursuits' magazines in the UK. She decides to set herself a challenge of sleeping wild at the highest peaks in England, Scotland, and Wales, and also the furthest points north, south, east, and west.

This is a really well written book which really made me yearn for the mountains again. I particularly liked the fact that Phoebe talks about the doubts she had about herself when doing the challenge, doubts we all have, and how she felt about her failures and successes.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Exphoria Code by Antony Johnston (3/5)

Another one of my charity shop finds, selected because of the blub on the back. Our main character Brigitte Sharp is an M16 computer hacker who is slowly getting back to normal after a field operation goes wrong. In her own opinion she isn't a 'Jane Bond' and she is far more comfortable behind a computer hunting the bad guys at distance. She is a bit of a loner and spends a lot of her time on the internet and in particular on message boards dedicated to the goth scene. She becomes intrigued by some ASCII art published in an obscure french language goth group which leads to a mole in the Exphoria project.

 

This was a pretty entertaining read but nothing ground breaking. I can't help but feel a bit tired of the amount of computer hackers in a similar mould as Lizbeth Salander appear in books these days. Bridge, as she likes to be known, works for the government instead of being a complete lone wolf but a lot of the other typical characterisations are there. I sussed out who the mole was very quickly but I am unsure if this was intentionally easy to demonstrate how inexperienced Bridge is in the field with real people. Overall it was a good book and I am a little disappointed there isn't a next one in the series yet.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Update time. I've struggled a little with my reading in the last week for some reason despite having plenty of opportunities.

Since my last update I have finished the following:

 

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (3/5)

A non fiction book about the transition into the Trump administration and some of the decisions taken with regards to civil service in the following months. Instead of looking at the big picture Lewis picks certain individuals in civil service and explores their background and what Trump has changed since taking power. It is fair to say that a lot of these decisions were taken hastily and without appreciation of the ripple effect they caused. This was a decent read but both a little repetitive and not up to the same standard as his usual work in my opinion.

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (3/5)

This book follows a black slave called Cora as she tries to escape the cotton plantations of Georgia. I heard about it on a podcast and decided to take a chance on it despite not being the sort of thing I would normally read. In the end I was left a little disappointed by it and had hoped for a lot more from it. It wasn't a bad book, I think the style just didn't agree with me which can happen from time to time. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters and if I'm honest I didn't really care what happened to any of them.

 

Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett (3/5)

A book about mobility with regards to running. Not much to add except to say it would have been nice if the author had dedicated the end of the book to detailing mobility plans to deal with specific problems. It's all there but you will need to spend time pulling out the bits you think will work for you.

 

Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky (4/5)

A non-fiction book written by Jack Barsky about his time as KGB agent working undercover in the USA. Living in the west most of the spy books I have read have been about agents working for the west and how they operated. This book is much the same but looks at it from the other side which is an interesting change of view. It is a well written book but Barsky didn't actually achieve much in his time as a spy which makes it all a little mundane when compared to spys such as Aldrich Ames or Oleg Gordievsky.

 

Gather the Daughers by Jennie Melamed (3/5)

A bit like the M. Night Shyamalan movie, The Village. On an island there is a small community who live by their own rules and stay away from the mainland due to an unspecific apocalypse. In this society boys rules the roost and women are effectively used to keep house and produce children. This is quite a chilling book to read and some of the subject matter is tough going as it involves incestuous paedophilia and rape. Melamed should be praised for the way she describes these acts without actually describing them. She writes as if we are seeing it through the eyes of the children on the island who know no better and who feel it isn't quite right despite innocence of the subject. There are a lot of characters which can be hard to keep up with a times but this is mitigated by the fact that each chapter focuses on one character at a time.

 

Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins (2/5)

David Goggins is an ex Navy Seal, Ultra runner, and all round bad ass. This book is part biography and part self-help in that it mixes his upbringing with what he took from each event. David is a good speaker and story teller which helps this book but he misses one thing constantly in this book. He repeatedly claims that if he can achieve these great feats anyone can as long as they put the work in. However, the one thing he fails to address is the level of sacrifice his feats have required. He came from a broken home and yet his two failed marriages show that he always put his ambition before family life. I'm not going to criticise anyone for a failed relationship as it can happen to any of us but he doesn't even address the reasons why in passing. His physical achievements have also put an insane toll on his body and could have cost him his life of numerous occasions. "You can achieve this if you are willing to die trying" isn't a good message.

I believe David has a strong message at the basic level and has good intentions at heart, but I cannot get on board with his "at any cost" message. Maybe thats why he is super-human and I am only human?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Shame most of these reads weren't that great for you. I've heard good things of Underground Railroad but decided it didn't sound like something I would like. It's nice you read a mix of fiction and non-fiction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say your reading looks like it's going really well! Especially since there's been a few you didn't hugely enjoy. You're doing much better than me, anyway!

 

I think you've been kind about Can't Hurt Me, it sounds terrible and a lot like it's promoting a mindset that's mentally and physically harmful. I don't think the author is super human, but I do suspect he has some psychological issues from his childhood that he needs to address.

 

I hope your next book will be a good one!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2 more books to add to my list for the year so far.

 

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (2/5)

Book number 5 in the Millenium series, the 2nd written by Lagercrantz after the passing of the originial writer Stieg Larsson. Like many people, I absolutely loved the Larsson written books and felt unsure about another writer continuing the series. I found the first Lagercrantz book ok and picked up a copy of book 5 in a charity shop hoping that it would be better than book 4. Sadly this was not the case and I found it worse. It feels rushed, messy, and unfinished in my opinion. Larsson always made Salander the anchor of the story, everything and everyone came back to her, she was undoubtedly the star. In book 5 she is almost a peripheral character and I would argue that the story would have worked equally well (or badly) without her at all. There is a major event in this book which pretty much passes her by and it definitely should have had a big reaction from her. It's not a bad book per se, it's just not up to the level that it needs to be to be justified as part of the millenium series.

 

Why we Eat (Too Much) by Andrew Jenkinson (5/5)

This book promises a lot a the cover. It advertises itself as "A practical, accessible guide to understanding the diet myth and the secret to lasting weight loss." Andrew Jenkinson is a doctor and surgeon who specialises in bariatric (weight loss) surgery. In fact, his expertise is so highly regarded that he travels all over the world to consult on cases and pass on his knowledge to others in the medical field. In this book he spends the vast majority of it explaining the science (and some psychology) behind weight gain and loss. This is done in a very concise way and is backed up with numerous sources and at times with case studies of patients he has treated. Where there are differing views in medicine on a topic he explains why there are differing views and why he believes one holds more weight than the other. One of the stand out things in this book is that where the evidence isn't 100% he clearly states 'we believe' or 'we think', this is welcome break from the dogmatic approach often taken in other weight loss books.

 

Jenkinson starts off with a question along the lines of, "If weight gain is based purely on calories in vs calories out and we often eat an excess of calories above what we need, why don't we continue putting on weight forever?" In fact, if you look at the data collected, and weight gain = calories in - calories out, a great many of us who eat western diets should weigh in excess of 300kg, we don't, why is this? This question really sucked me in right from the start and Jenkinson looks at what causes obesity and why it really isn't simply a matter of willpower. Jenkinson then goes on to look at the role upbringing, genetics, environment, nutrition, food availability, etc all come into play.

 

The final section of the book is a general guide to how we should eat to maintain a health weight. Importantly he states that this is a slow process, he explains how crash diets work (or don't) and why we often end up putting more weight back on than we started with. He is also clear that our genetics pay a part in how we look and if you are naturally a 'bigger' person it is unlikely you can become a super skinny racing snake. This is a crucial message in my opinion. We can all change how we look and more importantly our health but there is no one 'perfect physical state' that will work for everyone.

 

In case it's unclear, I really liked this book and it is one I will be referring back to time and again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two final reviews coming up to round out the first quarter of the year. I think this must be the best start I've had to a year since I started to track my reading back in 2013. I finished my 25th book last night and despite trying to not get caught up in numbers I can't deny I have developed an urge to go for 100 books for the year. The only issue with this is that I fear it will lead me to go for short books instead of things I really want to read so I will have to be aware to avoid this.

 

My two favourite books this quarter have been A Man Called Ove and Pride & Prejudice. The two most disappointing books have been The 7th Function of Language and Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

 

Looking forward to the next quarter I have no real targets except to keep reading regularly and to try and post more often on here. With Covid-19 causing absolute havoc there is a decent chance I will be on unpaid leave soon which would give me as much time to read as I like. Hopefully in 3 months time everything is looking up for the world as it's a pretty sad situation at the moment.

 

Onto the mini-reviews.

 

The Backpacker by John Harris (2/5)

I've had this in my wishlist for a long time but I am not sure where this came from as it doesn't seem to be a widely read book. I suspect it might have been a recommendation from either Goodreads or Amazon as I can't see it being a personal recommendation. The blurb advertises it as a non-fiction account of a backpacker's adventures in south east Asia and this is probably best summed up as 'The Beach but for real'. I loved The Beach by Alex Garland and also liked the movie based on it so I had high hopes for this books.

Firstly I will deal with the positives. The book is well enough written, sure it will never win any literary prizes but it flows well and trots along at a decent pace. There was more than enough adventure and detail to keep me interested throughout and did made me wish I was back in SE Asia myself. However there are quite a few negatives. Firstly this is written entirely with the mindset of an immature young man and it is dripping in casual racism and misogyny. All the Asians speak with r's replacing their l's when they talk, eg "herro" instead of "hello", and after a while this gets very tiresome. Every female character bar none is basically a sex object and the stereotypical SE Asian party girl. I don't mind books about the darker and seedier side of life, in fact I often find them enjoyable, but this is just cheap titillation with no end point. There are several Asian countries included in the tale and they are all potrayed in the same way.

Despite these negatives I read it fairly quickly so it would be unfair for me to give it 1 out of 5. Realistically it's probably closer to 1.5 than 2 but that's the nature of giving books scores. One final point, there is no way this book is a true story, it is pure fantasy and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.

 

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (2/5)

I have read one of Binet's other books, HHhH which I enjoyed so I decided to give his more recent books a go. This book revolves around an accident, the knocking down of Roland Barthes just after meeting Francois Mitterrand who is in the middle of a battle for the presidency of France. Police Captain Jacques Bayard is called in to investigate the accident and it soon turns out that Barthes may have been carrying a document with vital importance. Bayard is an everyman type of character and all the people involved in Barthes' life are philosophers and intellectuals so to help him understand he ropes in Simon Herzog.

Every so often a book comes along that makes me feel dumb and this is one of them. I'm sure people with decent knowledge of French intellectuals would find this a blast but I was left grasping the 'standard' plot items with a lot of the rest going over my head. Reading this felt like being in an insane fever dream which is a shame because the underlying plot was really enjoyable. In summary, probably a good book, just not for me.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 30/03/2020 at 10:41 AM, Brian. said:

I think this must be the best start I've had to a year since I started to track my reading back in 2013. I finished my 25th book last night and despite trying to not get caught up in numbers I can't deny I have developed an urge to go for 100 books for the year. The only issue with this is that I fear it will lead me to go for short books instead of things I really want to read so I will have to be aware to avoid this.

Good luck - way ahead of me!  Just finished my eighth, slowest first quarter since 2013.

 

Quote

My two favourite books this quarter have been A Man Called Ove and Pride & Prejudice. The two most disappointing books have been The 7th Function of Language and Oranges are not the Only Fruit.

Hated A Man Called Ove with a passion - a genuine1 star read. Loved both P&P (6/6, a favourite) and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (5/6), which I read as the Lancashire book for the English Counties challenge - I didn't expect to but found it both funny and moving.

 

Looking forward to the next quarter I have no real targets except to keep reading regularly and to try and post more often on here. With Covid-19 causing absolute havoc there is a decent chance I will be on unpaid leave soon which would give me as much time to read as I like. Hopefully in 3 months time everything is looking up for the world as it's a pretty sad situation at the moment.

You're doing even better if you're working AND reading 25 books in a quarter!  Hope you stay well, and that if you are on unpaid leave it doesn't hit you too badly.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Update time.

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (1/5)

This book has popped up a few times in podcasts and YouTube videos of creative people I follow. The basic premise is that creating art of any kind is a battle against ourselves and our habits. This book promises to explain how to overcome all this and in particular our habit for procrastination. Some how Pressfield manages to spread the message 'just get on with it' over 190 pages of constant repetition and talking about god. This book seems to have a some what cult following and I am foxed if I know why.

 

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 by Laura Spinney (4/5)

There is a horrible virus going around and I realised I don't really know how viruses work or how bad pandemics of the past have been. On Goodreads I have noticed a few people reading this in recent weeks so I decided to join the crowd. The book starts off detailing some of the pandemics of the past and how much, or how little, we know about them. It then looks into how the Spanish Flu spread across the world, why there were 3 waves, and how it got it's name. The final sections explain how viruses, in particular the influenza virus, work, how they spread, how they mutate, and finally how the Spanish Flu changed life forever.

This is a really good book, the only thing I didn't really care for was the section on how the Spanish Flu changed art. There was nothing wrong with this section, it just didn't interest me.

 

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1/5)

I should have loved this book, it contains things that I usually really like but despite my best efforts I just couldn't finish it. In general I give books about 100 pages before abandoning them but I gave this book almost 300 pages before finally admitting defeat. I don't think it is bad, in fact many people love this book but it just didn't grab my attention. I didn't care for the characters and it felt very sloppy to me. It's a huge shame because I wanted to love this book and I had high hopes for it.

 

I'm currently reading The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 09/04/2020 at 3:33 PM, Brian. said:

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 by Laura Spinney (4/5)

This is one of the large pile of library books I took out before lockdown, having meant to read it for some time.  It's near the top of the pile!  I read Catherine Arnold's book Pandemic 1918 last year, and was a bit disappointed with it - just ordinary,  even a bit woolly in places - but this looks to be a completely different kettle of fish.  Not sure why I didn't read this first, but I'll be interested to compare with your notes. Certainly very topical (and rams home how dangerous a virus like this really could be - we really have to learn from this).

 

On 09/04/2020 at 3:33 PM, Brian. said:

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1/5)

 It's a huge shame because I wanted to love this book and I had high hopes for it.

I've only read the one Stephenson, Cryptonomicron, which is huge doorstopper and took a little while to get into, although I loved it overall.  I think, though, that his books are very varied in style, and this looks very different.  Cryptonomicron links in with another series of three books, the Baroque cycle, which are next up for me when it comes to his writing.  All I'm really suggesting, I think, is not to give up on him based on this one book (although I've no idea what his other books are like, other than those above!).

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, willoyd said:

All I'm really suggesting, I think, is not to give up on him based on this one book (although I've no idea what his other books are like, other than those above!).

 

 

I always give authors a few goes before casting them aside permanently, I'm sure everyone has a bad day (or book) once in a while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Brian. said:

I always give authors a few goes before casting them aside permanently, I'm sure everyone has a bad day (or book) once in a while.

 

You're more patient than me then, even though I've plenty of evidence that you're right.  Standout on that front is David Mitchell: I absolutely could not get on with Cloud Atlas, but loved Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet, and enjoyed Slade House and Bone Clocks (the latter two were book group reads, otherwise not sure if I'd have gone to them). I'm not sure why I picked up the second after my Cloud Atlas experience, but am so glad I did.  Tried Cloud Atlas again, and still haven't been able to make any progress.  But then it took 5 goes with David Copperfield before I went back to it as a book group read, and absolutely adored it, so there still might be hope!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/04/2020 at 12:07 PM, willoyd said:

 

You're more patient than me then, even though I've plenty of evidence that you're right.  Standout on that front is David Mitchell: I absolutely could not get on with Cloud Atlas, but loved Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet, and enjoyed Slade House and Bone Clocks (the latter two were book group reads, otherwise not sure if I'd have gone to them). I'm not sure why I picked up the second after my Cloud Atlas experience, but am so glad I did.  Tried Cloud Atlas again, and still haven't been able to make any progress.  But then it took 5 goes with David Copperfield before I went back to it as a book group read, and absolutely adored it, so there still might be hope!

 

 

I even gave Bret Easton Ellis a second go after being disappointed with American Psycho. Sadly I liked Less Than Zero even less. I've given him a fair go but I think it's unlikely I'll darken my bookshelves with any more of his writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have finished 2 more books this week.

 

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid (5/5)

This is the 3rd book in the Inspector Karen Pirie series and probably my favourite so far. The plot involves the Croation War of Independence and in particular the Siege of Dubrovnik, both things I knew very little about. A skeleton is found in an old building in Edinburgh and Karen Pirie is given the case as the murder appears to have occured many years previously. As the investigation is going on, certain chapters jump back in time to fill in the backstory of the main characters much like the previous book in the series. We also learn a little more about Karen Pirie and her life away from the police force.

 

I really enjoyed this book and wavered between 4 and 5, but opted for 5 as I just didn't want to put it down. Recently I have been watching The Great British Menu in the evenings, and as a result, when reading the book, in my minds eye Karen Pirie looks exactly like Susan Calman.

 

The Tour According to G by Geraint Thomas (3/5)

I added this to a recent amazon order as it was only a few quid and I doubt if it would interest anyone who isn't already a cycling fan. The book is a ghost-written account of the 2018 Tour de France in which Geraint Thomas went on to win. It was an enjoyable if unspectacular read which I finished in a day. Thomas' humour comes across pretty well but I wish he would reveal more of the politics that goes on inside cycling teams. Perhaps he left that out as he is still racing, but the only juicy thing he revealed was that Bradley Wiggins could be a pain to ride with as he was very prone to mood swings.

 

It kept me entertained for a day but there are far better cycling books out there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some more quick reviews. These will probably be a bit shorter than usual as I am struggling a little bit at the moment for reading motivation despite having plenty of time for it.

 

Waking Up by Sam Harris (5/5)

A non-fiction book about spirituality without religion. I'm not sure what I expected from this but a lot of the book was about things like meditation and the nature of consciousness. Luckily this is right up my street and I really enjoyed this. The subject matter is very deep and I found myself re-reading several parts of the book. I expect to be revisiting this many times over the years.

 

Moskva by Jack Grimwood (3/5)

A sort of crime thriller based in Russia, specifically Moscow in the mid 80's. Tom Fox is newly arrived at the British embassy in Moscow when the ambassador's young daughter goes missing. Everyone suspects that she has got annoyed at not being allowed to attend a party and Fox is told to find her. What should be a relatively quick tasks turns into quite a drama. I found the book pretty good overall but I did have a few issues with it. The main issue I had was some of the more intriguing characters are completely wasted or simply disappeared all together with no explanation.

 

Friends from Philadelphia and Other Stories by John Updike (3/5)

A very small book with a collection of about 5 or 6 short stories. I found two ok, 2 I didn't really care for, and two I really liked and wanted them to continue. This was my first dip into Updike and I was very impressed by his writing style so I will definitely read more from him in the future.

 

80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald (3/5)

I've been running for years but one thing has continually bugged me and that is my injury rate. I want to be able to run a marathon and an ultra marathon before I die as I have run all the smaller distances many times. One thing that I suspect has been my downfall in the past is running too fast in training as it feel good and it feel like you are achieving something. In this book Fitzgerald explains why 80% of your running should be at a very easy pace and how to judge your pace and heart rate accordingly. I thought this was a decent primer on the subject and something I am giving a go in my current training.

 

I've got several books on the go at the moment but none really seem to be sparking my enthusiasm at the moment. The books are Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, The English Civil Wars by Blair Worden, and Master & Commander by Patrick O'Brian.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My reading rate has dropped a little since my last update but I have still managed to finish a few books.

 

The English Civil Wars by Blair Worden (2/5)

A lot of people from other countries are surprised that most people my age in the UK know little about certain periods of our history. For me one of there periods centres around the wars between the Crown and characters like Oliver Cromwell. I picked to this book as a introduction to this subject with the hope that it would provide an easy to read overview. It does provide an overview but not necessarily an easy read. However, my biggest gripe is that you will need to have previous knowledge of most of the people and the different religious groups involved to get the most out of this.

 

Schoolgirl by Osaumu Dazai (4/5)

This is a literary novella following a day in the life of a schoolgirl in Japan. That is a very basic premise and it's very hard to include more detail as not much happens. What makes this book work so well is the use of language. It is a very bleak book with no happy ending and no salvation and I really liked it for this.

 

Soccernomics by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski (2/5)

I've had this book waiting to be read on my bookcase for as long as I can remember. I've picked it up several times but always decided to read something else due to the length of it (450ish pages). It is written by a football journalist, Kuper, and a football fan economist, Szymanski, with the view to exploring the truth behind a lot of the generally accepted football maxims. While there are parts of the books which are really good, such as exploring why teams started to sign black players in the 80's when the league was basically racist, most of it feels slightly cherry picked. There are also some startling contradictions. For example, in the first half of the book Rafa Benitez is portrayed as doing a poor job because he spent a lot of money on players per point achieved. Then towards the end of the book he is portrayed as a good manager because of his wage bill per point achieved. Even if you ignore this contradiction most football fans accept that managers rarely get the final say in the signings they make and it if often done by committee. I know for a fact that Benitez really needed a winger when he first came to Liverpool. The club wouldn't or couldn't buy who he wanted so he ended up with Antonio Nunez as he was the only available player who fitted the price point. Nunez was a poor signing but Benitez should not be held solely accountable for it.

 

Another telling section deals with how Barcelona train kids at their youth setup and how this delivers value for money. Unfortunately for the writers this section was written after the academy had produced the likes of Victor Valdez, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Sergio Busquets, and Leo Messi. I say unfortunate because since then they have produced very few if any players who have gone on to become stars in the first team with Sergi Roberto being the only real exception. Successful academies tend to have 'golden generations' which excel. The academies then produce players who mainly end up transfered to other teams with the odd player making it in the first team and Barcelona have followed this common pattern. The writers also extol the fact that the academy focuses on techincal skill and not athleticism when it comes to training their players. Being a small player is not a problem to them and they actively look for players other teams have overlooked. They use Leo Messi to prove this point. This convieniently misses the fact that Messi had a condition that needed growth hormone treatment from the age of 13 until he became an adult. When he joined Barcelona as a kid one of the big drivers was that the club would pay for the medical treatment he needed, something his family couldn't afford in Argentina. His size was an issue, and although there was a medical need, they never the less took steps to ensure he wasn't too small to succeed. Admittedly this is a minor point but I felt it would have been better suited to use Andres Iniesta for this example.

 

A final nail in the coffin for me is the fact that Damien Comolli is used as an example of the direction teams should go in when appointing a director of football. Unfortunately, he proved to not be particularly good at identifying talent during his time at Liverpool and left after a string of players failed to make the grade. He was also considered a failure at Saint-Etienne and is currently not working in football at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Time for another update. Not really reviews but a line or two of my thoughts, I'm just not in the mood for reviews at the moment.

 

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (5/5)

A fantastic book focusing on two different people. One is a scientist on earth who may be the last person alive after a war, the other is an astronaut on her way back to earth and is unable to contact anyone on the ground. I can't do this book justice, it is fantastic and I will be reading it again.

 

No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier (3/5)

A vegan cookbook gear towards those who do endurance sports. I bought it as I want to eat a bit less meat than I currently do. The book is pretty good but it lacks nutritional information for the recipes which is a pretty big oversight in my opinion.

 

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (3/5)

I initially found this to be a very slow plodding read and seriously considered putting it aside for another time. Willoyd recommended sticking with it and also said that the other books in the series were better. I decided to stick with it and about half way through I was glad I made that decision. The nautical terms get a little too much but to be fair it does help build the atmosphere. I found the action scenes very well written and overall it was a good read.

 

Sapien by Yuval Noah Harari (5/5)

I listened to this on audiobook over the last 4 weeks or so. Frankly it's a remarkable book and I found pretty much all of it utterly fascinating.

 

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (4/5)

A really good thriller that stands the test of time really well.

Edited by Brian.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×