October 2019: Reading Round-up

October 2019: Reading Round-up

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

Non-fiction

David Ross “George & Robert Stephenson: A Passion for Success”: The story of the Father of the railways and his son is a very interesting look at the development of the railways in the early 19th century, although it would have benefited from some heavier editing, and fewer critical comments about other biographers’ reviews of the Stephensons.

Charles Shaar Murray “Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop”: An interesting, atypical biography that looks at Hendrix’s life through the impact he had elsewhere in music.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney “The Wavewatcher’s Companion”: Fascinating exploration of everything you ever wanted to know about waves of all different types, shapes and sizes.

Thomas Levenson “The Hunt for Vulcan”: Very readable tale of how there was once a planet called Vulcan, until Einstein came along and managed to explain why it didn’t exist.

Adam Smith “Wealth of Nations”: Long, but well worth reading; Smith wouldn’t recognise the bastardised phenomenon they call “capitalism” these days.

Ed Vulliamy “When Words Fail”: Excellent autobiographical book that tries to capture the relationship between music and war (and peace) from the some time war correspondent and music critic, with a very useful bibiography and discography.

Fiction

Mel Sherratt “Hush Hush”: Very good crime thriller in which DS Grace Allendale returns to her home town of Stoke and comes up against her criminal family when investigating a series of brutal murders.

Madame de StaĆ«l “Corinne, or Italy”: Fabulous novel that is all about (the fragility of) love: between two people; of people; of culture; and of places–Italy in particular.

Hania Allen “Clearing The Dark”: Another fine tale in which Polish Detective Dania Gorska tackles more of the criminal fraternity in and around Dundee, written by my neighbour!

Poetry

Raymond Antrobus “The Perseverance”: Latest set of fabulous, soul-searching poems from the brilliant D/deaf poet, Raymond Antrobus.

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.