Category Archives: books

Sundays and Self-Improvement

I’m currently reading yet another self-improvement book. I can’t recommend it as I’m currently wondering whether to carry on reading it, and one of the few things that I have learned from it is that extremely successful people say “no” more often than people who are merely ordinarily successful.

So I’m close to saying “no”, I won’t waste more of my life on this book. It’s strident in tone, doesn’t really explain the concept of being extreme and isn’t giving much in the way of insight.

Fortunately, being a Kindle book, it was cheap, it hasn’t killed a tree and nobody else will have to suffer as I can’t pass it on.

It’s even worse than the last one. I decided I would benefit from a book on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. So far, I haven’t. I kept falling asleep when I read it. This probably isn’t the fault of the book as I have a habit of buying psychology books despite knowing that they have a soporific effect on me. I’m going to persist with this one as I think it has something for me.

I can finish most books, including the one about eating frogs. It isn’t really about eating frogs, but it does offer an extended, and overdone, metaphor. It was irritating but useful.

For some reason the writers of self-improvement books really have it in for frogs, as do Victorian scientists.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a radio programme on self-improvement and research suggested that by the end of a self-improvement book you feel worse about yourself for failing to be the person the book implies you should be.

The strident book mentioned in the opening paragraph is a bit like that, and tells you that you should write all your failures in a journal as this helps you get over them. I’m currently failing to make the change from self-employment to employment, and did wonder, momentarily, whether to write it all down. I’m not sure, but if I do you will be the first to know.

The picture shows a cream tea that came off second best when it went head to head with me on Wednesday. It wasn’t the greatest cream tea, but it does have a link to self-improvement and failure in that one of my long-standing self-improvement targets is to lose weight.

That cackling sound you hear is 2,000 calories laughing ironically.

And that concludes my thoughts for Sunday morning.

A Tale of Two Burgers (2)

On Wednesday, we took a tour of Derbyshire and, needing toilets, we stopped at the Brierlow Bar bookshop. The car park was more crowded than usual, so we deduced that the plan of converting from bookshop to cafe was working.

You can’t begrudge someone maximising their earnings, but it’s depressing to think of all this being done at the expense of the book stock.

The cake was good (we had a very nice, moist blueberry and lemon sponge), the tea was excellent but, and I am trying to suppress a smile here, standards are slipping.

Despite several members of staff bustling about, they were so slow serving that we had to eat very slowly to avoid finishing the cake before the tea arrived. As we ate and drank tea the staff then decided to talk of their urgent need for the toilet (it seems too many customers were using it). This isn’t going to spoil my appetite, but it may be upsetting for the less hardy type of customer.

The real killer moment came when a staff member with a paint pot walked behind the counter and added water to the paint from the kitchen sink. I know they like you to have one sink for hand washing and one for washing up, and, if possible, a third for vegetable preparation, but I’m not sure about paint dilution. It doesn’t contain pathogens so environmental health may not have an issue with it. On the other hand it doesn’t look very professional.

Use the outside tap, use the tap in the toilets or ask one of the kitchen staff to pass you a jug of water. Do not, if you value your reputation, walk behind the counter with a paint pot.

Even worse, in my eyes, was the fact that the tea strainer they gave us had not been washed properly. A couple of left-over tea leaves won’t kill you, but it does make you wonder what other hygiene corners are being cut.

At least I can report that the book stock seems not to have been pruned since our last visit and though some sections are still struggling the crime novels, cookery books and aviation sections seem to be improving.

I’ll leave it there, as I’m starting to remember the book stock we lost.

It looks like Part 3 will contain news of my second burger of the week.

 

Book Review – Maya and the Book of Everything

Maya and the Book of Everything

Paperback: 310 pages

Publisher: Hinterlands Press; 1 edition (25 Nov. 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0997845309

ISBN-13: 978-0997845303

You’ve probably seen the blog Notes From the Hinterland by Laurie Graves – this is her book.

I’m probably not the best person to review a fantasy book for young adults as my experience started with the Narnia books, experienced a gap, then started again with Harry Potter. Even then, it finished after the first few Potter books because they got too big to hold.

On that subject, did you know that there are 257,045 words in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Here are some word counts for famous novels. Bigger isn’t always better.

I’m not sure where Maya stands in the matter of word count, but in terms of quality it’s up there with the books I’m using as comparisons.

The action starts early and carries on at a brisk pace with plenty of twists. There are well-developed characters, a murder, a stabbing, some soppy stuff, a bit of morality and a cliff-hanger ending.

It’s ahead of most of the Harry Potter novels in being shorter, which makes for a tighter and more enjoyable read. It’s ahead of the Narnia books because the odd spot of morality that appears isn’t rammed down your throat: even as a ten-year-old I objected to having religion rammed down my throat by C. S. Lewis.

So there you have it – Maya is a better read than Harry Potter.

That will look good as a quote on the cover of Volume 2.

Where it falls short (and this is just my opinion) is that the Potter and Narnia books have a more developed environment. You could, of course say that it is uncluttered, but I would like to see a bit more detail and development.

And that’s about it. I’m now looking forwards to reading the sequel.

 

 

 

Words, words, words

I need 250 words and I’m struggling so find them. Well, that’s not strictly accurate, I have access to a head full of words but they need putting down in the right order, and it needs doing quickly because I have other jobs to do.

Biblioperigrination is always a good word but it has limited use – partly because there are only so many stories you can tell about books wandering round a house, and partly because it’s one I made up, so few other people understand or use it. I could cite previous uses, but that would involve me…

… for evidence of previous use see this link on biblioperigrination. It suddenly occurred to me that I could use the Reader function to search for it. It was a lonely post, sitting there on its own, but at least it saved me searching through months of posts.

This leads on to tsundoku. It’s not such a lonely search as there are a number of people who have blogged on the subject before.

I’ve just consigned 43 words to oblivion. I didn’t like the way they fitted, and as they were all common words (as in plentiful, rather than in sitting round watching horse racing from Kempton Park whilst drinking supermarket lager straight from the can). Other race courses and cheap alcohols are available.

Having said that, alternative venues and drinks may not convey the same picture. Watching racing from Goodwood whilst drinking brown ale from the bottle conveys a more summery and 1950s picture – I almost expect the Larkins to pop up somewhere.

Before I go on, and I admit I can go on a bit, my knowledge of the racing venues of the UK is not based on years of building up interesting material for my life story, just on years of dealing in collectables. Race courses issue passes to their members and these passes are collected. You need to know the courses, their size and if they are still open.

My knowledge of cheap alcohol, on the other hand, is based on a more hands-on approach, and a wide-ranging testing programme that has left me with several gaps in my memories of the 1980s. My current attitude to drinking, which is one of the few things about my lifestyle to draw approval from my doctor, is actually the result of accidental aversion therapy.

A similar approach to curry, kebabs, chips and fried chicken has yet to show any result. Well, not entirely true. It has yet to show any positive result. Again, alternatives are available – burgers, baltis and bacon cobs being the more northern form and tripe and trotters taking us back to the 1950s again.

My extensive knowledge of junk food has just frightened me.

However, by the magic of blogging I have now produced over 450 words, and telling you this has just added another twenty to the total. I can now bring this post to a close, apologise for the lack of photographs (food is never around long enough for  a photograph) and get off to do the washing.

I’m tempted to bring it home wet, as Storm Brian is providing some pretty brisk drying weather.

 

 

 

Book Review – Now All Roads Lead to France

Now All Roads Lead to France – Matthew Hollis

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (5 Jan. 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 057124599

ISBN-13: 978-0571245994

Now all roads lead to France
And heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead
Returning lightly dance:

Roads – Edward Thomas

 

It’s a book about the final years of Edward Thomas, covering the rise of Georgian Poetry, modernism, war poetry, Dymock and Robert Frost.

It also covers the question of his punctuation. I don’t know about you but in some of Thomas’s verse, like the quote at the top of the page, the punctuation seems at variance with the natural rhythymn of speech. This is intentional, though my personal feeling is that it doesn’t improve the piece.

The “Georgian” refers to George V and was meant to show the modernity of the new poetry as it emerged from the time of Victoria. It may have done at the time, but it always makes me think of George III. The fact that the modernists took over after the war also tends to make the Georgians look old-fashioned, despite their intentions.

You’ll need to read the book to get the full details – Matthew Hollis is much better at explaining than I am.

To summarise, as the war came, Thomas was a well-known (and over-worked) literary critic and a difficult husband. He moved to Dymock to be amongst the poets who had congregated there and under the influence of Frost (who had come to England to advance his poetry career) started writing poetry. After much soul-searching, he joined the army, bacame an instructor and, instead of staying in the UK instructing, applied for a commision and went to France . I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say it didn’t end well.

Hollis covers a lot of ground in this book, and does so in depth. Despite this it’s almost always interesting and moves along at a decent pace.

The exception to this is several of the passages dealing with the theory of poetry. However, they aren’t long and don’t hold things up too much. That’s what happens when you have a book about poets written by a poet – the style is good, the information is well handled and you get all the passion you could ask for. But you do get a bit too much discussion of poetry.

It’s an excellent book, with an interesting in-depth view of Thomas’s poetry career and family life set within the literary life of the UK in the lead up to the Great War.  You can read it as history or biography or literary criticism.

If you get a chance do read it. I mean, how often do you hear me being this enthusiastic about a book?

Of course, if you aren’t interested in the Great War or poetry, it might not be the book for you.

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Photo of books – it fills a space. 

 

Book Review – Lives of the Improbable Saints

Lives of the Improbable Saints – Richard Coles

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Darton, Longman & Todd; UK ed. edition (17 Oct. 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0232529558

ISBN-13: 978-0232529555

I’ve always quite liked Richard Coles, and I find the lives of the early saints very interesting, so this should be exactly the book I’m looking for.

It’s not bad (and the Amazon price, as with most of my purchases, was considerably less than the postage so it was good value). However, there’s a lot of white space on the page and some of the illustrations are very large.

Given the choice I’d browse the net. I’ve always found this site to be sound on saints, though short on humour.

Richard Coles is a bit short on humour too, but when you’re a vicar and your target market is Christians I suppose you have to keep yourself under control. I could probably write a funnier book but the Church would might burn it and excommunicate me. Or, even worse, burn me and excommunicate the book.

It’s been one of my stand-by books for NHS waiting rooms, and despite (or possibly because of) the gentle nature of the humour, was enough to pass the time and keep my mind off things.

Could be a lot worse, and it has the advantage that you can put it in your pocket, which isn’t the case with a website.

It’s good to change gear now and again, as life can’t be all Blandings and Wooster. Sometimes gentle humour and a simple story is all you need.

There’s a second volume, and one day I’ll probably read it, but I’m not going to rush out and buy it right now as I have other things to read.

Call it qualified approval – I wouldn’t turn down a Wodehouse to read Volume 2 of this.

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Book Review – The Wildlife Garden

The Wildlife Garden – John Lewis-Stempel

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: How To Books (6 Mar. 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0716023490

ISBN-13: 978-0716023494

Price £8.99 or £5,99 (Kindle)

I have read a number of books by John Lewis-Stempel and enjoyed them.  Several reviews can be found here. (That’s the book review page I started but didn’t continue. Two of his books are there.)

This is a comprehensive book and covers everything that you could possibly want in a clear and concise manner – garden design, ponds, lists of plants and notes on wildlife. If someone gave it to me I’d be happy to have it. If all you had to work from was this book you could produce an excellent wildlife garden, though a few more diagrams of feeders and shelters might be a help.

My problem is that I don’t feel the price represents value for money. £8.99 is a lot of money for a small book. After all, the information is available on the net and there are diagrams to go with it. You can also generally pick up illustrated books on the subject from charity shops for under £2.

I might be showing my age here, or my ignorance of the book trade, but £8.99 for a thin paperback, or £5.99 for an electronic version, just doesn’t seem like value for money. I know the worth of a book isn’t measured in its size, but I also know that the buying public (which includes me) is thought to buy on that basis. That’s why you sometimes find yourself reading a book with plenty of white space and a larger than usual font – they are trying to bulk it up.

Though my first impression was of thin book, my second was of a thin book that seems to have a Monarch butterfly on the cover – a rare migrant to the UK. I’d have preferred a proper British butterfly. I’m not impressed by that.

So what do you say? I like the author and the book is packed with information. I just think it’s over-priced compared to other sources of the same information.

Buy it by all means, but buy it as cheaply as possible.