Sunday 31 December 2017

Review: Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Lots of people have dreams about where they want to live, their perfect career but very rarely do these get realised or combined. Chris and Anne Yarrow are one of the few that have been able to do this when they purchased Wilderness Wood in Sussex. This 63-acre plot of woodland was to become a home, a source of income and a way of life.

This unassuming wood was to become their home after they managed to secure planning permission to build there, and the scrappy chestnut coppice that was there evolved to become an award-winning example of how to manage a small woodland. They built a barn which became a multiuse facility for schools and craft days, a tea room was constructed for that needed necessary refreshment after walking their dogs an in time became an integral part of the village.

There are some amusing anecdotes in the book, but Yarrow has written a practical and pragmatic guide to running a woodland in modern day Britain, on the trees to grow for the best income, where to use outside resource and where you need to add value to the end product to maximise income. There are chapters on the best way to grow Christmas trees, the 1987 storm, managing a woodland for income and wildlife and seeking the best way to get a work-life balance. If you have ever contemplated the possibilities that owning a woodland could offer this is a book full of advice on what to do, and more importantly what not to do.

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Saturday 30 December 2017

2017 Book Stats

Finished my last book of 2017 a day or so ago and I am not going to finish anymore before the New Year, so time to do  a little analysis on last years reading

I read a total of 192 books at an average of 16 books a month. The total number of pages was 55873. 130 of the authors were male and 62 were female or in percentage terms, 32% of my reading was female authors. Aiming to push that to nearer 40% next year.

Nine books got five stars and I gave ten books 4.5 stars. Seventy-one got 4 Stars, forty-three 3.5 stars, forty-one 3 stars, eight 2.5 stars and nine were awarded 2 stars. No one-star books this year, so either I am becoming more selective or the quality of books is improving.

The breakdown in genres was as below:

The most read publishers are below. Good to see three independent publishers in joint fourth position, with others shortly behind

I have expanded on the spreadsheet for 2018, so looking to pull more data from the reading list as time goes on.

Friday 29 December 2017

Review: Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time

Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time by Rob Temple
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The British are unique, there seems to be no other country whose people would actively seek to form an orderly queue unless it had too, nor do the citizens of many other countries apologise when it is not their fault having bumped into someone. We are obsessed with the weather, even though it rarely has the drama that happens in other countries. Whilst displays of emotion are not forbidden, most struggle to go beyond a swift handshake. Apart from the odd un British like person who suffers from road rage, most are likely to say thank you when hooted at, at the traffic lights and the other thing that will set you apart from others is that you will sigh a lot.

You'll know you're British when you say 'Honestly it's fine' to warn of your imminent breakdown, even though the thought of complaining or making a fuss is abhorrent to you, and this book is packed full of these little gems made me laugh out loud (embarrassing I know) and cringe a lot when you read some and think, do I really do that? There is no cure for this burden of nationhood. But tea and sarcasm help. Really enjoyable light-hearted book. 3.5 stars

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Thursday 28 December 2017

Review: How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer

How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer by Adrian Newey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adrian Newey has been living and breathing cars since he first started sketching them at the age of 12. The roots of this love were seeing his father pottering around in the garage on some project or other. Drawing them was one thing, what he really wanted to do was build them, so a welding course followed one summer holiday. He tried racing karts, having saved to buy one, but even though he enjoyed it, it was not his thing. He worked hard to get into Southampton to do a degree in mechanical engineering, however, the maths was a struggle. Leaving with a 1st, he wrote to Brabham and a lot of the other teams but nothing seemed to be offered until a chance call from Fittipaldi and his interview consisted of a nervous wait while Harvey Postlethwaite took his Ducati for a test ride. He was in the door.

The first car that he was involved with, Newey ended up redesigning the aerodynamics to meet the latest change in regulations. The team folded after the money ran out and he was offered a position at March working on the 83G as well as working on the car for the Daytona 24 hour race. Success in that meant he was seconded to Truesports to help with another Indycar. Then the opportunity beckoned for a place in a Formula 1 team, and he joined Leyton House where he had the chance to design a car from scratch. Other teams noticed his success and soon he was working for Williams on their FW14 to FW18 cars before being poached again by McLaren. Leaving there under a little bit of a cloud, he ended up with the newest team in the paddock, Red Bull. The owner wanted to make a serious investment in the sport to promote the brand and the drink and so began a new era and four world championships.

People are well aware of the drivers who wrestle these cars at 200 mph around some of the fastest circuits in the calendar. There are a few team heads that people can name, but most of the designers, engineers and aerodynamicists are completely unknown. But there is one who is almost a household name, Adrian Newey. To put it frankly he is an engineering genius. He has worked with almost all the big teams, using his wide experience in creating a car that just goes very very fast. These cars have, in the right hands, give some of the best drivers in the world race wins and world championships. I have been an F1 fan since the age of 8. I grew up in Woking, and McLaren has always been my number one team, though their performance in the past few years has not done them any favours. There is plenty of fascinating detail in this book, as Newey writes about some of his personal life as well as lots of information about the cars that he designed and how he solved the particular problems that the constant changes in regulation through up. Definitely a books for the die hard F1 fan.

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Review: Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope

Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope by Julia Immonen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Men and women have stood on top of the highest mountain on the planet, crossed deserts, flown continents and even stood on the moon, but those who have been foolhardy enough to row across oceans are few and far between. To cross an ocean in a vessel that is only a forty or so feet long is at the mercy of the worst weather that an ocean can throw at it is a high-risk challenge.

Julia Immonen was joined by four other women for their attempt to row three thousand miles across the Atlantic from the Canaries to Barbados. Even in perfect conditions, this would be a gruelling trip, a monumental effort to power their way across an ocean by hand. But Julia saw it as more than that, she was looking for a way of raising the profile of the thirty million people that are suffering under the modern day slave trade. It was to be a trip with moments of danger, minor and major setbacks and challenges caused by the strong personalities on the boat. To add to it, they were in a race against a number of other teams.

Whilst it was quite an achievement rowing across the Atlantic and it was a row that would set records I found the prose was quite dry and often uninspiring. What was more interesting was her work with those that were victims of modern slavery and the telling of their stories and the small but significant successes that they people have had after their release. Not bad, but not entirely what I thought it was going to be.

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Wednesday 27 December 2017

Favourite Book Covers of 2017

These are some of my favourite covers from all the books that I have read over 2017. They are in no particular order, but if they have one thing in common they are all striking and have that certain something that would make me want to pick them up and read them.







Saturday 23 December 2017

2018 Reading Intentions

I have managed to read 21 books so far for my The World From My Armchair Challenge. Not as many as I hoped, but steadily working through it. I have at least another 21 books here that I will definitely be reading in 2018 towards this. One of the pleasures of the challenge is finding the books to match against a country.

Travel books are first on the agenda in January too as on the 10th the shortlists for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards are announced. They always manage to pick the absolute cream of a very good crop of books. I will be reading and reviewing all of the books for Nudge and can probably get some into my challenge. 

I seem to end up reading a lot of prize shortlist and longlists now. The Wainwright is a particular favourite and I have three left to go from the 48 that have been longlisted. Will also be reading those that appear on the  Royal Society, Wellcome and Ballie Gifford and this year as I want to back into reading more science fiction, then I will try to fit in the shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke award too.

I am intending on making inroads  into my backlog of review copies. 

I am very grateful to those publishers who are kind enough to send all sorts of books that they think would interest me. I am getting to them. The books that I really want to read in 2018 are here (Now Updated)

In 2017 I had intended to read the remaining Discworld books that I hadn't read so far, but  I didn't read a single Terry Pratchett apart from Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. So this year I will be completing the Discworld ones that I haven't read, starting with The Last Hero, and then going onto these:

The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky
Unseen Academicals
I Shall Wear Midnight
Raising Steam
The Shepherd's Crown

I did read ten Science Fiction in 2017. Not as many that I had hoped for, but I am now on the Gollancz reviewers list so fully expect to be reading more next year. I have promised for ages to read some  steampunk! This year. I promise.

As there have been complaints from my other half, Sarah, about the amount of books piling up around the house, so I am going to make an attempt to reduce my library books, and make inroads into the books I have bought from charity shops too. But it is quite often like this:

Anticipated Book for 2018 - Updated

Even though I haven't finished all the great books that were released in 2017, I have been scouring the recently released catalogues and now have quite a list of books that are being released in 2018 that look like they will be really really good and that I really want to read. 

Has anyone heard of these? Or do you have a list of your own for 2108 books? 

4th Estate
Lament for the Ash by Lisa Samson

Wild and Free by Dominic Couzens
Tiny Britain: A Collection of the Nation’s Overlooked Little Treasures by Dixe Wills
Londonist Mapped

A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven by Joe Shute
The Long Spring: Tracking the Arrival of Spring Through Europe by Laurence Rose
Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System by Natalie Starkey
The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands by Donald S. Murray
Orchid Summer: In Search of the Wildest Flowers of the British Isles by Jon Dunn
All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison
Outnumbered: Exploring the Algorithms that Control Our Lives by David Sumpter
A Black Fox Running by Brian Carter

Bodleian Library
A Library Miscellany by Claire Cock-Starkey

Bodley Head
A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean by Roland Philipps
Speech Odyssey: The Story of Vocal Communication – from Neanderthals to Artificial Intelligence by Trevor Cox
Buried Light: The Hidden Connections that Illuminate the World by Lewis Dartnell

The Valley At The Centre Of The World by Malachy Tallack

Duckworth Overlook
Pennyfarthing: The Great British Cycling Revolution by William Manners
Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention Of Spaceflight by Joe Pappalardo

Walk Through History: Discover Victorian London by Christopher Winn
Built for Speed: Bikes, Beers and Balls of Steel by John McGuinness

Elliot & Thompson
The Almighty Dollar: Follow the Incredible Journey of a Single Dollar to See How the Global Economy Really Works by Dharshini David

Faber & Faber
The Messenger by Shiv Malik
Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington
Mrs Moreau’s Warbler How Birds Got Their Names by Stephen Moss
The Immeasurable World Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins
Insane Mode: Inside Tesla and Elon Musk’s Mission to Save the World by Hamish McKenzie

Head of Zeus
Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy
The Secret Surfer by Iain Gately
Painted Cities: Illustrated Street Art Around the World by Lorna Brown
The Seven Ages of Britain by Hywel Williams

Ikon Books
The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers between Music and Technology: A Memoir by Thomas Dolby
Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to Her Books by Annie Spence
Astroquizzical by Dr. Jillian Scudder
Places I Stopped on the Way Home: A Memoir of Chaos and Grace by Meg Fee
Hello, Shadowlands: Inside South-east Asia’s Organised Crime Wave by Patrick Winn
The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E. Hoffman

Jonathan Cape
Ground Work: Writings on People and Places by Tim Dee
Our Place: Can We Save British Nature Before it is Too Late? by Mark Cocker

Little Toller
Eagle Country by Seán Lysaght
Sharks by Martha Sprackland
Landfill by Tim Dee
Hold Your Ground

Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World by Leonard Mlodinow
Paths to the Past: Encounters with England's Hidden Landscapes by Francis Pryor

The Know It Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball by Noam Cohen
Weird Maths: At the Edge of Infinity and Beyond by David Darling & Agnijo Banerjee
It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs
The Prodigal Tongue: The Love–Hate Relationship Between British and American English by Lynne Murphy
Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, the Curious History of Invisible Light by Bob Berman
Nine Lives: The True Story of an MI6 Operative on the Frontlines by Aimen Dean, Paul Cruickshank & Tim Lister

The Old Man and The Sand Eel by Will Millard
Don't Give Guns to Robots: The Next Big Disruptions and What They Mean for You by Adam Savage and Drew Curtis
Liquid: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik
Agency by William Gibson
Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Wilding: The Return Of Nature To An English Farm by Isabella Tree
The Genius Within: Smart Pills, Brain Hacks And Adventures In Intelligence by David Adam
The Crossway by Guy Stagg

Sounds Appealing: The Passionate Story of English Pronunciation by David Crystal
Rainforest: Dispatches from Earth’s Most Vital Frontlines by Tony Juniper
Water Ways: A Thousand Miles Along Britain’s Canals by Jasper Winn
War Gardens by Lalage Snow
Random House
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

Royal Octavo
Beyond Supersonic: Bloodhound and the Race for the Land Speed Record by Richard Noble

Square Peg
Bookworm by Lucy Mangan
Chasing the Ghost: The Wild Flower Map of the British Isles by Peter Marren

The Sea: A Celebration of Shorelines, Beaches and Oceans by Isobel Carlson
Eat Surf Live: The Cornwall Travel Book by Vera Bachernegg & Katharina Maria Zimmermann

The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence by Neil Ansell

The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel
AIQ: How People and Machines are Smarter Together by Nick Polson and James Scott

W.W. Norton
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth by Adam Frank
Limits of the Known by David Roberts

William Collins
Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Columba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe by Gordon Corera
From Wolf to Woof: A Genetic History of Man's Best Friend Professor Brian Syles
Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell
Whalebone by Nicholas Pyenson
The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee
Yeti: The Abominable History by Graham Hoyland
Exactly! A Brief History of Precision by Simon Winchester

Friday 22 December 2017

Review: Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's Winds from the Pennines to Provence

Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's Winds from the Pennines to Provence Where the Wild Winds Are: Walking Europe's Winds from the Pennines to Provence by Nick Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Living on the south coast we have got used to the wind now. It blows across the Atlantic, up the channel and can vary from a pleasant breeze to a howling gale. Whilst it is a constant feature of life in Dorset, there are a lot of winds around the world that are such a part of the landscape that they have gained a certain amount of notoriety and their own name. Most have heard of the Mistral, the wind that scours the French Provencal landscape as it sweeps down to the Mediterranean, but around Europe that have evocative names such as Sirocco, the Levanter and the Meltemi.

These extremely strong winds, in some cases reaching 200mph, that are caused by a unique combination of natural phenomena; the makeup of the landscape allows a build-up of atmospheric pressure in the high regions that at certain points break free and sweep across a landscape causing damage to property, trees affecting the local population and playing a fundamental part of the myths and legends that make up the culture.

We even have our own named wind that blows across the Pennines called the Helm and it is here that Nick Hunt begins his walks across the European landscapes seeking these winds. Local give him pointers as to where to walk and the atmospheric details to look for so he can experience it for himself. Next is the Bora; this is a wind that blows from Trieste across Slovenia and down the Croatian coast. He climbs the Alps in search of the Fohen, a wind that can blow north and south through the Alps. His final wind is the famous Mistral, walking towards the coast with the wind behind him along an ancient pilgrimage path.

I really liked this original and interesting book from Nick Hunt, like his first book Walking the Woods and the Water he has a refreshing way of writing about the places he is walking through and the people he encounters on his way. The writing is interesting and he has managed to successfully mix the historical with the metrological whilst still maintaining his self-depreciating humour. It is another really good book from Nick, but if there was one tiny flaw, I would have liked to have heard about the other winds shown on the map at the beginning. I am hoping that is for another book.

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Thursday 21 December 2017

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Review: Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor

Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor by Simon Fenwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Patrick Leigh Fermor has been described as one of our greatest travel writers. His walk across Europe in 1933 from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople as well as his books on Greece and the Caribbean have rightly become classics. Apart from the most fleeting of mentions, what was missing from his books though was his companion of almost 60 years, Joan.

Joan Eyres Monsell was a member of the lower aristocracy and second daughter to Viscount Monsell who in his time was an MP and First Lord of the Admiralty. Their family home was Dumbleton in Worcestershire. She grew up as most of her contemporaries did at the time, became a debutante and moved in privileged circles and mixed with the 1930s bohemian set. Even though her family were wealthy and well-connected, she differed from those around her because she earned her own living as a photographer. This was to take her America and Russia, earning her more column inches in the gossip columns.

She first came across Paddy, as he called himself, in 1944 during the Second World War when she was working as a cypher clerk in Cario, where he was lauded for his success in kidnapping General Kreipe. At this moment in time, she was still married to John Rayner, but the marriage by that point had hit the rocks. They were to fall deeply in love with each other. They travelled widely together and separately and spent a fair amount of time back in her family home of Dumbleton, but they were to put down deep roots and make their home together in a house that PLF designed in the village of Kardamyli, southern Greece. It was a place that drew others for parties, discussions, companionship and where Paddy and others were to write books that have now become classics.

It is a revealing biography of a bold and confident woman who never stood in the shadow of Leigh Fermor, but was his soul mate and closest confident until her death in 2003. Her income supported them both as he became better known as a writer and it was her inheritance that enabled them to build their dream home. Fenwick has managed to draw material from her archive to give us a sense of her character, her fears, the society that she was born into and her desire of wanting a family and to settle down with the man that she loved. Even though we know more than ever about Joan, she still manages to defy categorisation and still remains a little aura of mystique. Excellent biography of Joan Leigh Fermor, a woman no longer unknown. 4.5 stars

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Friday 15 December 2017

Review: Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor by Patrick Leigh Fermor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Patrick Leigh Fermor rightly lays a claim to be one of our greatest travel writers. He is most famous for his walk across Europe in 1933 from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. It was distilled down to three books; A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and then the final volume published after his death, The Broken Road and tell the story of a Europe now lost and the beginning rumbles of war and tension across the continent. Other travel books that he wrote were about the country that he fell head over heels in love with, Greece and of his travels around the Caribbean.

He was also a great writer of letters; this was a pre-internet day, and international phone calls were problematic, to say the least, so this was his way of keeping in touch with his wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Adam Sisman has spent hours pouring over the material from the National Library of Scotland and private collections of Patrick Leigh Fermor's letters to bring us this fine collection and insight into his character and passions.

Leigh Fermor writes to all manner of people in this collection, but there are several names that crop up regularly, Xan Fielding, Lawrence Durrell, John Betjeman and his wife Joan. There are letters to lovers, including Balasha Cantacuzène, a Romanian princess and a large number of apologetic letters to the publisher John Murray as another deadline for a book sailed by. He used them to inform people of the latest projects he was working on, to develop ideas, to sort out his social life and organise the steady stream of visitors to his Greek home.

This is the second collection of letters by Fermor, the other is In Tearing Haste written from the Duchess of Devonshire which I haven't read yet. But this collection of letters written from 1940 to 2010 by a master of prose is really quite special. They have a different style of writing to his books, probably as he never anticipated them being published, but they are entertaining, amusing and demonstrate just how gregarious and full of fun and life he was. I didn't realise that he used to frequently stay just outside Wimborne and these letters show just how he could mix with the great and the good as well as the local peasants and be accepted by all of them. Definitely one for the fan of Leigh Fermor, but also would appeal to those that want to learn about the character of a fascinating man.

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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Review: The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation

The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation by David Bramwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

People are drawn to the strange and the unknown, those stories that even after a second time of hearing make little sense. Some of these are deeply rooted in our oldest legends, but there are a number of mysteries and contemporary folklore that still managed to defy explanation in our modern, always connected, internet age.

In the Mysterium, we will encounter mysteries that have been around for years like the number stations, tragic deaths that no expert has been able to explain such as when a girl was found in the water tank of a hotel after CCTV showed some very peculiar behaviour when she was in the lift. There are entities that have slipped from the virtual domain to become the elements of our nightmares and words that appear embedded in the road. We will learn from those that hear a hum in the place that they live, and of dunes that sing, You may have heard of the darknet, a place where various nefarious activities take place but have you have ever heard of the Deep Web? Me neither.

Some of the stories that David Bramwell and Jo Keeling have collected are seriously creepy and they have managed a fascinating sum up of the current raft of mysteries and what can now be considered modern folklore. It is nicely written as they take care to explain the background to the story. I particularly like the way that they have given pointers to other things that you go and read or watch if a specific tale interests you. A great little collection of the truly bizarre.

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Epic #BookPost

Some of the books I won last week and a copy of Doughnut Economics that Cornerstone kindly sent me.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Review: Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900

Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900 Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900 by Simon Schama
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second volume of Simon Schama's history of the Jewish people begins in the ghettos of Venice where the Jews of the Iberian peninsula had ended up after being expelled. Those that had not escaped were forced to convert and even then were still persecuted. This search for safety and somewhere to live where they could carry on with their lives in peace had been a pressing concern; and as this book explains in some detail, the theme of moving, settling, suffering and moving again, would keep repeating for the next few hundred years.

The story that Schama tells is as epic in scope as it is global. We travel with him all around Europe, into the cold of Russia, across the Atlantic to the New World of America and venture into the privileged upper-class world of the English aristocracy. He tells of those that lost children as they were conscripted into the army, those that found peace before the winds of change in Europe blew through once again, those that suffered for their faith and those that fought back. Even though this is a sweeping history of a people, he concentrates on individuals and specific events to explain the wider history the Jews.

This is a huge book, at around 800 odd pages long and Schama goes into huge amounts of detail as he tells his stories of the Jewish people. Some of it is fascinating, but there were times when I felt like I was wading through it as he expanded on the minutia as the events unfolded. It is one that I feel some sort of accomplishment having read it now.

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Thursday 7 December 2017

Monthly Muse – November

November was a busy month, with lots going on at home, and fighting the last of the woodchip off the walls of the lounge, but I still managed to squeeze in 14 books. Somehow. It is now all painted and looks really good. And here they are:

Following on a recommendation from Kim French and others on Twitter, I got two of Gillian Clarke’s poetry books from the library Five Fields and Zoology. I read very little poetry normally, preferring to wade through various non fiction tomes, but these were quite delightful. She has a mastery of the language that I envy and whilst I didn’t get all of them, the poems felt deeply rooted in her country and personal experiences. I am a huge fan of Robert Macfarlane’s writing and splashed out of a copy of The Lost Words that he has created with the artist Jackie Morris. It is a children’s book, but a finely crafted and richly drawn and imagined one as they seek to re-introduce children to the delights and wonder of the natural world. Peter Davidson’s book The Last of the Light: About Twilight looks at the artistic and literary response to the period of gloaming that happens every day. It is a finely produced book from Reaktion with high-quality reproductions of the art that he is discussing. I had reserved Ben Aaronovitch’s latest book from the library and was quite surprised when it came through really quickly. The Furthest Station find Peter Grant back in London trying to find out what has spooked the regular ghosts on the Metropolitan Line. Another cracker in the Rivers of London series and was just too short really!

It was #NonFictionNovember too, a social media tag run by Olive and Gemma. Most of my reading is non-fiction and in total,  read a further nine non- fiction books. I had the last two or three to read on the shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize, and I am still wading my way through the largest, Belonging. I struggled a little with The Islamic Enlightenment by Christopher de Bellaigue which was a history of the way that Islamic countries have ebbed and flowed between having a strong faith and social change, Whilst there were elements that were interesting, it didn’t come across as a book for the general no fiction reader. Much, much better though was Kapka Kassabova shortlisted book, Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe. In this she travels back to her home country to see what the border is like at the very edge of Europe. She has a wonderful considered prose and manages to tease the stories out of the people that live in this area.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo was a very good book about the people of the slums in Mumbai and how they are eking a living out finding scrap materials that they can get a few rupees for, it was a well-written book about what could be a harrowing subject. Bonita Norris’s memoir, The Girl Who Climbed Everest, is as much about her expeditions climbing some of the highest mountains in the world as it is about the lessons that she learnt and made her the person she is today. The Anticipatory Organization by Daniel Burrus was a reasonable business book with an interesting premise about teaching us how to look for trends in the wider world and making the most of them.

Managed to read four natural history books too, the first was a wonderful book about the Orca, called Of Orcas and Men. In this David Neiwert tells us some the history and what we understand about their habits, the shameful act of keeping these magnificent creatures and describes his encounters with them when kayaking. Sooyong Park has spent two decades of his life tracking and studying the elusive Siberian tiger. He has written a book about it too, Great Soul of Siberia, which is as much about his obsession as it is about this huge feline. Last were two books on woodlands, A Wood of One's Own is the tale of Ruth Pavey and the wood that she owns, quite a lovely book, and I have serious envy! Oak and Ash and Thorn is really lovely too, Peter Fiennes takes us round the country visiting some of our finest woodlands and ends it with a call to arms to save a rejuvenate our tree cover in the UK.

Didn’t have one book of the month this time but two, The Furthest Station and Border. Buy them and read them as soon as you can.