August 2019: Reading Round-Up

August 2019: Reading Round-Up

The latest one sentence summaries of the 11 books I’ve read between the last round up in June and the end of August 2019.

Non-fiction

Joe Boyd “White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s”: Terrific account of the music industry at a time of great upheaval when folk and rock collided, including working with the likes of Nick Drake, and Sandy Denny.

Sue Nelson “Wally Funk’s Race for Space”: The story of the force of nature that is Wally Funk, part of the Mercury 13 female astronauts programme that was cancelled, and trailblazer for women in aviation.

Ben Ratliff “Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music Now”: Interesting notion, but too pretentious by far, relying on way too many musical examples for illustration that won’t feature in most people’s music collections.

Helen Jukes “A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings”: Brilliant book about how an interest turns into a near obsession, it works both as a sort of introduction to how to get started in bee keeping as well as personal tale of self-discovery.

Mary Beard “Women & Power”: The excellent Mary Beard’s two London Review of Books lectures on feminism, using the classics to illustrate the length of history of the problem, and pondering on the need to redefine what we mean by “power” in order to solve it.

Peig Sayers “An Old Woman’s Reflections”: A wonderful collection of oral tales and reminiscences from Big Peig, one of the last people to live on the island of Great Blasket off the coast of County Kerry.

Fiction

Jon McGregor “Reservoir 13”: A near stream of consciousness diary-style account of life in a village in the years following the unexplained disappearance of a young girl.

Jorge Luis Borges “Fictions”: The cleverly written, classic set of short stories which often appear to be more than fiction.

Andrea Camilleri “The Pyramid of Mud”: In the 22nd Montalbano book, which is just as good as all of the rest of them, corruption in the construction industry forms the canvas for the inspector’s investigations.

Max Brooks “World War Z”: You want zombies, this book has the them, a fictional reportage of what happened during and after the world waged war on the undead.

Poetry

Jalal-Din Rumi “Selected Poems of Rumi”: An interesting, short, curated volume of some of the works of the legendary Sufi mystic Rumi.

June 2019: Reading Round-Up

June 2019: Reading Round-Up

The latest one sentence summaries of the books I’ve read since the last round up at in April and the end of June.

Non-fiction

Amy Liptrot “The Outrun”: Excellent autobiographical book about coping with alcoholism while living in London, and family mental health issues, with more than a little help from a return to the the wild and wondrously beautiful surroundings of Orkney.

Patti Smith “Devotion”: An easy-to-read short triptych of a book, part autobiographical/diary, part novel, part analytical (on how she writes).

Richard Holmes “This Long Pursuit”: Britain’s greatest living biographer reflects on a career as a Romantic biographer using a wide-ranging selection of biographical chapters ranging from Mary Wollstonecraft to William Blake.

Naomi Klein “This Changes Everything”: Very detailed analysis of climate change issues, highlighting how things have gone wrong, but retaining an optimistic note.

John Thackra “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”: A journey through many of the issues we need to confront to cope with the effects of climate change, and how people are dealing with things in a bottom-up way.

Extinction Rebellion “This is not a Drill”: The Extinction Rebellion handbook is an excellent series of short essays (including one by Caroline Lucas) that tell you everything you need to know about who they are, what they do, and how you can get involved.

Fiction

Jo Nesbo “The Snowman”: First Nesbo I’ve read: it has one too many plot twists to be perfect, meaning it’s about 100+ pages too long to be an excellent book.

M.R. James “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary”: A fine collection of short ghost stories from the master.

Italo Calvino “Our Ancestors”: A trilogy of the master storyteller’s best shorter works, with lots of highs, lows, and intrigue.

Kate Macarenhas “The Psychology of Time Travel”: An interesting read, which has several clever and unexpected twists, with the events laid out in a non-linear timeline: a sort of Sci-Fi whodunnit.

Poetry

Lemn Sissay “Gold from the Stone”: A compendium of the inspirational man’s poetry, including some of his newer works.

William Blake “Songs of Innocence and Experience”: A very nice almost pocket-sized edition of two of Blake’s calssic works, with facsimile reproductions of his engravings.

April 2019: Reading Round-up

April 2019: Reading Round-up

Books That I've Read in the Last Few Weeks

A one sentence summary of the books I’ve been reading over the last few weeks.

Non-fiction

Mark Miodownik “Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World”: A fascinating analysis of the materials that appear in a photograph of everyday life (the author drinking coffee in his roof garden).

Thom Eagle “First Catch: Study of a Spring Meal”: A cookery book based around a single menu, First Catch will change the way you think about cooking.

Andrea Wulf “The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science”: Excellent biography of the genius who highlighted the links between humans and the natural world, and flagged up how deforestation was linked to climate change in 1800.

Gaia Vince “Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made”: A brilliant eye-opening exploration of the issues facing the planet as a whole (water supply, food production, electricity, climate change and so on) covering how they are linked and what we can do about it.

Fiction

Olivia Lang “Crudo”: A few hectic weeks in the life of fictional author, Kathy Acker, trying to deal with the problems of surviving in a post-EU referendum, Trumpian world.

Kurt Vonnegut “Cat’s Cradle”: Vonnegut’s eerie, satirical picture of a dysfunctional world is as relevant today as it ever has been.

Philip Hensher (Ed.) “The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story”: Proof that the short story is alive and kicking in Britain, including works from Ali Smith, A.L. Kennedy, Irvine Welsh, Rose Tremain and many more.

Hannah Rothschild “The Improbability of Love”: An intriguing fictional biography of the life of an artwork (which gives the book its title) presented as a detective story which slowly reveals its chequered past.

Films, Books and Music Round-up – 2018 (Q1)

A round up of some of the films, books and music that I’ve (mostly) enjoyed so far this year.

Films

Darkest Hour: Oscar winning performance by Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in a film focusing on his early days as Prime Minister during WWII.

Early Man: Latest Ardman stop motion animation based around when the Stone Age met the Bronze Age. Lots of gags for adults as well as kids.

Makala: Great documentary following a charcoal burner in Democratic Republic of Congo as he hussles to make a better life for his wife and children.

Sweet Country: Very good, hard-hitting (in all respects) Australian western, exploring racism in the Western Territory. Based on true events.

You Were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance as a war veteran who routinely uses violence to rescue young girls from prostitution. Then he finds himself caught up in something much deeper than he thought. Another great film from Lynn Ramsay.

Books (Fiction)

Ascension by Gregory Dowling: Very good murder mystery with a good helping of political intrigue. Set in Venice in the mid 18th century.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham: Excellent crime thriller in which the action centres around a self-help group of addicts. Decidedly different, and a real page turner.

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard: Crime thriller set around a cruise shipping company. Critically acclaimed, but some of the plotlines are rather preposterous.

The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer: Very good crime thriller. A crime reporter who is very closely tracking a serial killer explores the lengths she would go to in order to get a scoop as their lives become intertwined..

Books (Non-fiction)

Wild Tales by Graham Nash: Biographies are normally narcissistic, but this one takes the biscuit. The first part is interesting (about his early career including the Hollies), but then the book mostly drones on about the dysfunctional nature of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young), and drugs, covering ground that he’s been documented before elsewhere.

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen: Frank appraisal of the life and times of Springsteen and some of the people of America that often get overlooked. Even if you don’t like Springsteen’s music, it’s worth reading.

Music

Whyte Horses “Empty Words”: The mighty psych-poppers are back. Their first album was very good indeed, and this one is even better. Dom Thomas is a genius!

Hookworms “Microshift”: Hookworms add a dance spin to their previously raucous sound. Shades of LCD Soundsystem, in places, only much better.

Hollie Cook “Vessel of Love”: New label, but same old Hollie Cook, sounding better than ever as she works her way through 10 original reggae songs, all neatly produced by Youth (of Killing Joke fame).

Johann Johannsson “Englaborn and Variations”: A fitting epitaph to the sublime Johannsson’s life. Includes a re-mastering of debut album “Englaborn” and several variations of some tracks, either by Johannsson himself, or by others, such as A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Nils Frahm “All Melody”: Frahm celebrates his new studio in Berlin with a blend of the classical and the modern, going for a bigger more expansive sound than usual. He also captures some of the sounds of the new studio along the way.

Loma “Loma”: Quite a low-key album (no pun intended), with shades of Low and even a bit of Clinic. This one’s a real grower that rewards repeated plays.

Field Music “Open Here”: If Talking Heads had been British, this is what they would have sounded like. This time around the brothers Brewis are trying to make sense of the Britain we now live in, in their own inimitable pop/funk style.