Tag: Books

I always complain that I don’t read books often enough. This is proof.

Recently I have…

… laughed until I cried at the way Louise’s cousin tells stories. She is hilarious.

… bought some new music. More on that in another post though, but it’s been a while. I can always tell when I’m need a new ‘fix’ because I invariably start listening to old favourites on a regular basis.

… been enjoying the chorizo and black pudding tapas that Louise made. Recipe may follow if she can remember what she put in it.

… been cursing Sky+. I had recorded the European Grand Prix and settled down on Sunday evening to watch it (whilst flicking back and forth to the Open golf). What a race! 5 laps to go and Alonso is harassing Massa to try and take the lead when up pops a message on-screen. “End of Recorded Programme”. WTF?! OK, there were some delays because of the rain but I thought Sky+ could handle programmes that ran over their alloted time. Feckers.

… been loving the BBC and Peter Alliss. Like Murray Walker, he will be sadly missed when he decides to hang up the microphone. One choice phrase from Sunday, describing the impact of the championship on local businesses and of their return to normality: “The local newspaper shop will cancel the order for 9000 papers and go back to the usual order of 10 copies of the Dundee Courier and a copy of Men Only for the vicar.”

… sent away two race applications, both a little late so I might not get a place. One 5K in Hamilton in a couple of weeks time, the other a 10K in Cumbernauld in September.

… enjoyed the professionally quashed double-take I received whilst getting fitted for my kilt for my friends wedding. When I asked when the kilt would be ready to pick up, the salesman said he would just phone “Ehh.. Mr. Humphrey I guess… or is it Mr. Beattie, it doesn’t say”. To which I replied “Well yes, either of them would do”. He twitched slightly before glossing over it. Well done Mr. Salesman.

… spent most of the last two days alone. Well not alone but as good as, for “she who must be obeyed” has had her nose stuck in some book or other. Apparently joking about “just reading the last chapter” is verbotin.

… been writing up some posts for my other blog but struggling to finish them for some reason, just can’t quite pull the threads together properly.

… “enjoyed” a hill session on Sunday morning. Apparently some of our jogScotland coaches have sadistic tendencies! I thought they were all nice and fluffy but no, give them a whistle and soon you are sprinting up hills, repeatedly, until all the oxygen on the planet disappears and your legs go all wobbly. Jim, the coach who took us, said that we’d look back on it and realise we’d enjoyed it, everyone laughed. Dammit though, he’s right.

Feeling bookish

My new job is taking a lot of my time, and as it’s kick started my dormant professionalism, it’s also sapping my book reading time as well. Coupled with that I do seem to be on a non-fiction bent of late, I’m part way through “Make it Stick” and have just ordered some books with titles that include the words “simplicity”, “Nurnberg funnel” and “minimalism”. I blame Malcolm Gladwell.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a teetering stack of unread books at home but they are mostly novels and I’m just not in the mood to start them.

So, whilst Louise is just discovering Dan Brown and is disappearing off to bed at 9pm so she can fit in a couple of hours of reading, I’m stuck staring at my stack (I said STACK!) and wondering what to read next. In short (but let’s face it, when have us bloggers ever bothered with ‘short’), has anyone got any book recommendations?

And yes, I know that recommending books and music for people is always tricky, but the archives can help you there. Mind you I’m currently try to suss out what the next “blink” or “tipping point” book is, and from my limited research there doesn’t seem to be another “must read” book doing the blog rounds at the moment, but feel free to prove me wrong.

DOH. What an idiot.

I’m forgetting that THE book of the moment is Shaggy Blog Stories! My copy arrived yesterday, so that’s first in the list, but after that…

Books wot I red

After much deliberation and swithering I ended up taking 5 books with me last week. Well, technically that’s not true. After much deliberation and swithering I ended up packing 3 books and then bought another two at the airport (I know, I know!). So, here are some brief thoughts on the ones I read.

1. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
Always late to the party, this is a book which most people who would want to read it probably already have. So, suffice to say that I found this hugely interesting although not as immediately personal as Blink. Gladwell delivers a lot of fairly complex information in an excellently languid and accessible style, and whilst he is largely standing on the shoulders of other people, his skill as a communicator is what makes his books so readable. If you haven’t read it, read it. It’s utterly fascinating.

2. The Liar by Stephen Fry
Bought on a whim at the airport, and I’ll admit that I was expecting a lot from this book. Whilst it didn’t disappoint (I really should have taken a dictionary with me as well) it wasn’t as smart or funny as I expected. However that’s not to say that it isn’t witty, irreverent, and wonderfully constructed. A wry look at the world of Eton, Harrow and other such ‘institutions’ it has every buggering thing you expect.

3. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
This book now holds a singular place in my book reading history. For the first time ever, whilst waiting to fly home from Malaga airport, I spotted a man that was also reading this book. Ok, not that big a deal.
And I’ll also be honest and say that I’ve not finished this yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it is already rating highly on the MMLOGOLAAL scale (“Makes Me Laugh Or Giggle Out Loud And Annoys Louise” it’s a very precise rating system).

Other books taken but not read – a Jeffery Deaver (can’t remember which one), some trashy novel by one of those sexy blog ladies (you know the one), and the manual for my new camera. Ohh and I did start reading Girl With a One Track Mind but, frankly, when you are on holiday with your sister-in-law, there are some things which, well, let’s just say they are best left to the imagination. Although I’m intrigued to see that Louise has it on her bedside cabinet…

And whilst we are on the topic of books, congrats to the lovely Clare Sudbery for completing her second book. I’ll be purchasing a signed copy as soon as is possible, mainly because I really enjoyed her last one!

Cold and lonely in the deep dark night

Aye the nights are fair drawing in, and that’s before the clocks change.

Last night, jogging alongside the water at Strathclyde Park, the sun was low over the trees and by the time we’d finished had disappeared completely. The path isn’t lit and so it looks like I’ll be needing to invest in something a little more visible for the coming months. Thankfully a new running store has opened a few blocks from my office, and JogScotland members get a 10% discount! Add some funds given for my birthday and I get to buy a new running top.

But the question is, long sleeved or ‘gilet’ (no sleeves). I have two long sleeved tops at the moment, and I do get quite hot when I run. So I’m thinking just a gilet for the time being, and when it starts getting REALLY cold, I’ll break out the running tigh… er.. leggings (and no, there will NOT be photos), and get a heavier sleeved top. Ohh and gloves. This is the one advantage of starting a new hobby, new toys!

God, I hope I’m not becoming a bore with all this, although I fear it’s only going to get worse once my Nike+ widget arrives (cheers Keith!!). I promise I’ll try not to become a ‘running’ bore (boar?).

Another nice present arrived today, the first of the Glass Books I mentioned in the sidebar a while back, chapter one of ten which gives me a nice pace to get me through the winter. Mind you, I’m still deciding what to take away with me to Spain at the end of the month. We’re only there for 6 nights so I reckon 4 books should do it.. any suggestions?

One Book Meme

I’ve been tagged with two memes recently, one I’ve done before so I’m not doing it again (life is just TOO short Matt!), and the one you are about to read.

Or not, I’m not forcing you, but let’s be honest, do you have anything better to do?? Ummm, well, obviously you do but it can’t be that important or you wouldn’t be wasting your time here, would you. Ergo, you are going to read this.

Except for you belligerent, uppity, types. You’ll just leap straight to the comments to say that you didn’t read it, won’t you. Well, that still means you are doing something when you have better things to do so the joke is on you. Somehow. In my head.

Um, where was I? Ohh yes, the meme thingy.

This one is a bit of a misnomer, although I’m not exactly sure what it’s called as her wot tagged me didn’t include it in her post, the lazy bint, so I’m calling it the ‘one book’ meme, which belies the fact that it will list several.

I’ll apologise now for my atrocious memory as, whilst I’ve read quite a few books (>10 but <10,000), I tend to forget about them once I’m finished. This makes completing a meme about books that you’ve read decidely tricky. Anyway, enough waffling from me.
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Once upon a book

Wandering into our bedroom the other night, I spotted a book on Louise’s bedside cabinet.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“Ehh… from the bookshelf” she replied, somewhat quizzically (she doesn’t buy many books).

“OUR bookshelf?” I responded, equally quizzically as I didn’t recall buying it, and don’t think I would’ve bought a book by that author.

“Yes, the one in the office”

“Really?” I said, trying not to sound quite so disbelieving.

“Ohh for God’s sake, c’mere” she said, dragging me roughly by the arm into the office. She then proceeded to pull some books away from the front of one of the shelves to reveal a book sized gap behind them. “It was right there!”.

I peered at the shelves, at the gap where a book had obviously once been located, and scratched my head.

“Really?” I offered once more, as Louise left the room, shaking her head.

“Well I didn’t buy it…” I offered, a little too vocally, to her back.

“Neither did I!” came the dulcet tones as she descended the stairs.

Which begs the question, why would someone buy a book, break into our house and hide it in one of our bookshelves? And, more to the point, why would they buy a James Herbert?!

Righteous Rubbish

Never one to pass up a free book, most of which come via my parents, I have an ever growing “to be read” pile that is currently tottering at an alarming level. So, lest it fall over and kill someone I’ve started to work through it.

Now, I should explain that I have two ‘sets’ of books that I’ve yet to read. There are the neatly “placed on bookshelf” classics — Don Quixote, Count of Monte Cristo etcetera etcetera — and the the other “piled wherever I can find space” books which are typically more modern and on bestseller lists. What can I say, I’m a book whore. I’ll read anything.

And so it was that I found myself reading an awfully pedestrian, badly written thriller called The Righteous Men by Sam Bourne. No link as I’d hate anyone to buy it. Labelled as… wait for it… yup, the “The Next Dan Brown” (their capitals not mine), it was, quite simply, rubbish. I’ve had more thrills waiting for a bus. I won’t bother you with any more detail than that, my only advice is DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!

However, the odd thing is that I still read the damn thing from start to finish, only skimming over the boring bits.

The Highest Tide

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

The best books are free (although it’s only £4 on Amazon at the moment, click the link above) and after finishing the Nick Hornby I was casting around for another read when my Mum handed me this. The debut novel for Jim Lynch and not a bad one.

Miles O’Malley is a young boy, small for his age, who spends his every waking hour either on, in or thinking about Skookumchuck Bay and the surrounding waters. Either that Angie, his one true love.

The book is a gentle tale of the events that surround Miles one summer, the events that will shape him as a person and set the course for his future. From his discovery of a washed up giant squid to the closing moments, drifting in a canoe, the story strolls along, charting it’s way carefully and methodically, through the various events of the summer.

A pleasant read, if a little heavy on detail on some occasions, it soon has you turning pages eager to see how things turn out. It may only ripple lightly across the literary pond but it’s enjoyable enough for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

A long way down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

I’ve always enjoyed reading Nick Hornby books. By and large they are easy to read and I guess are considered ‘light reading’ by many. Regardless, his characterisation is usually spot on and in this book — the story of four strangers who meet by chance on the roof of a building as they all plan to commit suicide on the same night — is nicely constructed to allow him to play with four entirely different characters at the same time.

As the story progresses (obviously they decide not to jump that night, or it’d be a helluva short book) the narrative switches between each character, slowly adding more layers to both story and personas. What’s really impressive is how well he manages to portray the key players, from the disgraced TV presenter to the god-fearing single mother, the failed american rock star to the spoiled brat teenager, he captures their thoughts and moods wonderfully.

And it’s funny, but then you except that from Hornby, his dry wit used to as a natural buffer to punctuate the storyline.

It’s not a difficult book to read, which is largely due to the laidback style that Hornby uses throughout most of his novels, but it’s a good one. Part satire, part social commentary, it never preaches nor condescends, and even offers a little affirmation on the joys of being alive.

If nothing else it’s worth reading for the brilliant Jess, the belligerent teenager and easily the ‘star’ of the book.


Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for several months now, however I hate hate hate myself for buying it when I did, when it was the ‘in’ thing to read (in some circles) and so I’ve been avoiding it.

The really annoying thing is, of course, that it’s an excellent and interesting read.

To summarise a book like this is a challenge. Firstly you are competing with the very essence of the book and trying to encapsulate a large and complex topic into… well a blink of an eye. Secondly, you risk ruining the book for others as there is a large amount of pleasure in reading this material. Not least because it is very well structured, taking you from point to point, offering insights and stories to accompany each new theory.

The basic premise is fairly straightforward, Gladwell is investigating that split second moment that you occasionally have when you KNOW you know something but you can’t yet explain WHY you know it. The opening example in the book discusses a greek statue which scientists had tested to ensure it was real (they confirmed that it was over 1,000 years old), lawyers had pored over paperwork to confirm it was authentic, yet the instant a greek statue expert clapped eyes on it they knew it was a fake. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

There are some insights into ‘mind-reading’ (face-reading), and a fascinating section dealing with autism and high-stress incidents.

I’ve not read “Tipping Point” but think I will now. So, vice versa, if you enjoyed that book, I’d imagine you’d enjoy Blink. It’s utterly fascinating to the point where my wife is thoroughly bored of me starting sentences with: “You know that book I’m reading…”. Always a sure sign that something has gripped my attention.