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corblimey has got too many books

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  • 15. You Are Here (Potter). Well, one thing's for sure, I ain't gettin' no intelligenter with all this book readin'. I got a little lost during Potter's history of the universe, especially when the magnitude of what he's describing is so unimaginably immense or so infinitesimally small as to bend my brain a little. I did though like the way he moved from small to large and large to small, and past to present, etc, and described things at each level, but again, once you start talking about Super Clusters and Quarks, I start thinking about dinner. Still interesting, and I can't blame it for my lack of smarts.

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  • 16. What Not to Do (Wallace). The last Danny Wallace book I read was The Yes Man about 8 years ago, and I didn't enjoy it, but this is better. It's a collection of short articles (possibly written for the Guardian or Independent, but it's not explained) that are under the umbrella of 'awkward situations for men.' I could relate to some of them, although quite a few are so inherently British, I just couldn't - it's like the Twitter account Very British Problems (also a book) writ large.

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  • 17. History Decoded: The Ten Greatest Mysteries of History Revealed (Meltzer). I read this one a few months ago, and for reasons that will become all too clear, failed to catalogue it. It is rubbish. There.

    Oh ok. Based on the History Channel show of the same name, this is a collection of how the show "investigated" 10 conspiracies (the usual 10, aswell, nothing surprising or intriguing in here). In most cases, it's just "and then we found out it wasn't true, so we went home", and I skipped through it at a fair old speed. Still rubbish.

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  • 18. Live Wire (Coben). Another Myron Bolitar novel, and possibly the last. Coben's last 2 novels have been about Mickey Bolitar, his nephew whom we meet in this book. I don't think I'll bother with the younger Bolitar novels, as this one wasn't all that great. A lot of padding, a lot of unnecessary retrofitting, and a non-surprise surprise ending.

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  • 19. About a Boy (Hornby). After a couple of false starts with other books, I settled on the Hornby I never read. Like the movie, it flits between the 2 main protagonists chapter by chapter, and like the movie, I vastly prefer the Will bits more than the Marcus bits. The adventures of a 12 year old are not high on my list of priorities (they've not been since I was 12 myself), so it was that interesting to read about. I'll give an 'ok' anyway for the non-Marcus bits.

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  • 20. Total Access (Eisen). I've been a keen follower of the NFL for about a decade and have been watching the NFL Network for the last 3 years, so I thought this would be interesting. It's not. I was expecting a story of how the network came about, or background stories from how the programs are put together, or stuff like that. Instead it's Rich Eisen's tale of how he gets on soooo well with well-paid sportsmen. It covers the off season which isn't that interesting to me anyway, and talks mostly about things that happened on-screen. Off-screen tales are few and far between and tend towards the Alan Partridge idea of story telling - I end up expecting Eisen to say "needless to say, I had the last laugh" after every paragraph.

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  • 21. The Universe vs Alex Woods (Extence). This book is highly reviewed on Amazon, but I just didn't like it. It read like a less funny, less astute version of Adrian Mole; there are lengthy pieces about things that are not important to the plot, including a side trip to CERN for no other reason that I can find than the author wanted to talk about the LHC for a few pages; there are several pages of direct quotes from other books as the main character reads those books. It just didn't work for me, and the overall plot is obvious from the moment the 2 main characters meet.

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  • 22. One Day in September (Reeve). Easily book of the year so far. It tells the story of the 1972 Olympics in which Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli hostages. But it goes further; it explains in short order how we got to this point; what happened next and where things stood in 2005 when it was originally written. Superb book from start to finish, despite the sometimes harrowing subject matter.

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  • 23. The Know It All (Jacobs). Great little book. Esquire journalist AJ Jacobs decided to read all 32 volumes of the 2001 Encyclopedia Britannica. Along the way, he divulges snippets of this own life, his family past and future, and various adventures involving Who Wants to be a Millionaire and his local Mensa society. Actually very funny in several places, it's also very interesting coming off as a sort of mini-Encyclopedia itself, but never overly so. Pity they no longer do print versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica, I quite fancied filling my bookshelves with a set - that could have been next year's project :)

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  • 24. If Walls Could Talk (Worsley). In the same vein as last year's Bill Bryson book At Home, this is a book that delves into the origin of various rooms in the house, and spins off into discussions about sex, eating, manners, utilities, all sorts of interesting things. It's quite dry in places, and borders on "weren't the Tudors daft" now and then, but I enjoy this sort of book immensely, so I soldiered on.

    I also don't understand the need for every chapter to end with the briefest of paragraphs about life in the 21st century, and it gets a little preachy in the final chapter.

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  • Just noticed that If Walls Could Talk was my 100th book since starting this experiment. That's about 10 years of books based on my previous frequency.

    25. Orders from Berlin (Tolkien). A bit meh, this one. It's originally split between London and Berlin as the plot unfolds and the Berlin centered stuff is good, but after a few chapters it's all about the plucky London copper and his lady sidekick with moxie. There is not one single surprise in the whole book, and the way things are resolved is unsatisfactory. I'm glad this wasn't my 100th milestone book.

    At least he's not as long-winded as his goblin-obsessed namesake!

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  • 26. The Way To Go (Ascher). I went a bit mad on Ascher last month; one of her books appeared on the Jason Kottke site, and so I bought 3 of them as I liked the look of it. This is the first one I've read, and it's exactly what I hoped for. The book is split into 4 sections, covering rail, road, sea and air (and space) transport. It talks about how things work, but also delves into the systems that keep things moving, along with a decent splash of how we got to where we are.

    And all enhanced by these excellent diagrams and charts. Wonderful.

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  • 27. Nickel and Dimed (Ehrenreich). Some good old fashioned investigative journalism as Ehrenreich delves into the "bottom 20%" who work hand to mouth cleaning houses, folding clothing, waitressing, whatever it takes. A sort of 'Undercover Boss', although pre-empting that tv show by some 8 years, Enrenreich throws herself full tilt into the lifestyle, staying in grotty motels, working long hours and 1, even 2 jobs and generally having a rotten time of it. Very good, although the final chapter gets a little politicky for my liking.

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  • 28. The Rosie Project (Simsion). A bit of a departure for me, it's generally the sort of book I'd not bother with, but I liked it well enough, although I found the ending a bit too Hollywood, like the author is desperately hoping they'll come a-calling with I dunno Daniel Radcliffe and Tuppence Middleton signed on to star. It's all tied up a bit too nicely, but the journey to get there is very enjoyable with some of the main protagonist's whimsy reminding me of Adrian Mole at his best.

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  • 29. World War Z (Brooks). I'm not a big fan of the zombie genre as a whole, I've only bothered with the first season of The Walking Dead and didn't enjoy the 2 Living Dead movies I've ever seen. I did watch World War Z on an airplane going to America last year, and it was ok, but this book of the movie plays out completely differently. The big difference is it's framed as a series of interviews with people who 'were there' at key events during the war. This sometimes gets a bit 'well you know yourself what happened next' for my liking, but the author does generally explain these sorts of things eventually. I enjoyed it, although I found the last few chapters where he talks about what the interviewees have done since the war 'ended' to be a bit silly particularly as there's a cast of about 40 and you've no idea who they are by the end.

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  • 30. Gods of Guilt (Connelly). The fifth of Connelly's Mickey Haller books, the Lincoln Lawyer (although he spends very little time in the Lincoln, so that particular 'hook' seems to be no longer imperative) unravels a case involving a dead prostitute, a different dead prostitute and a live ex-prostitute. The tale is good enough, and well told, but the main problem I have is that Haller is sort of unlikable, even for a lawyer. Connelly's other main creation, Harry Bosch is also flawed, but more likable than Haller most of the time and you're sure he's doing the wrong things for the right reasons; Haller seems to me just in it to win it. Not great.

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  • 31. Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim (Sedaris). I stopped reading this one for a while, so it feels like I've been reading it for about 2 months, which I have. Usual Sedaris, really. Some funny, some strange, some uncomfortable, some whimsical. I have nothing bad to say about it, but I need to take a break from Mr.Sedaris for a while. A year should do it.

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  • 32. The World Without Us (Weisman). Fascinating book dealing in what would become of the world if humans simply fashioned. Weisman takes examples from the current world (like the Cyprus buffer zone) and the past (the extinction of the Mayan culture) and posits what would happen to our cities, our seas, our land, animals and plants, all the crap we've put into the earth and all the stuff we've taken out. Absolutely compelling.

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  • 33. The Machine Stops (Forster). If it was written this century, it would be a heavy handed allegorical tale about how we are all cocooning ourselves with social blah blah media blah. Since it was written some 105 years ago, I'm willing to let it pass, the idea behind it is quite startling for its time. However, it's still not a very good story if I'm honest.

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  • 34. Holes (Sachar). I was halfway through this before I saw that Amazon has categorised it as a children's book. It's a short read, and while the dialogue throughout is painfully simplex, the descriptive powers of the author are what drives the story forward. I enjoyed it anyway, and while the ending is all a bit neat and tied up, it does satisfy.

    What does it say about me that one of only about half a dozen fiction books I've enjoyed this year was written for children?! :p

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  • 35. Containment (Cantrell). Disappointing really; there's a good story idea in here, but it's hidden behind various futuristic flim-flam, technical tossery and the author just plain showing off how intelligent he is & how much research he did. It's targeted at young sci-fi fans, I think, and I'm neither, but it's just not very well written.

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  • 36. A Stolen Life (Dugard). This was a tough read for 2 conflicting reasons. Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped and kept in captivity for 18 years where she bore 2 children for her kidnapper, the first when she was just 14. The details of her kidnapping and imprisonment are pretty tough. But the story quickly becomes kind of mundane: lists of the various animals she had; what she did day-to-day; how she cared for 2 kids. Ok, the threat is always there, and I'm sure she was continually abused, so maybe this is a coping mechanism on her part. Also, I'm not sure I could read a book of page of page of sexual and physical abuse. Just not my kind of book no matter what, I guess.

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  • 37. The Power of Habit (Duhigg). Starts well enough, explaining how people go about changing their habits (although like all of these sorts of books, there are far too many examples), but the second half of the book was less compelling with an odd section about the King's Cross fire that seemed to have been written by someone else who thought he was writing a thriller. I'll give it a pass, but since I have no bad habits, it's completely useless :)

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  • 38. Enigma (Harris). Not the worst book I've read all year, but far from the best. It's based in Bletchely Park during the war and spends quite a bit of time explaining codebreaking and Enigma machines and whatnot, but none of that is relevant to the plot. This seems to be a theme for fiction books I've read lately, the author spinning off in a direction to show how much research he's done, plot be damned. Or maybe I'm just grumpy.

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  • The 3 W's - weather, work and World Cup - are getting in the way of my reading at the moment, so things have slowed right up.

    39. Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account (Nyiszli). Okay, so reading a book about the Holocaust is not going to be a comedy fest, but I was expecting some brief glimmers of humanity amongst the cruelty. It was not to be though, it's just an endless list of horrors visited upon countless droves of Jews and other ethnic groups chosen for the Final Solution.

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  • 40. Tales from Development Hell (Hughes). An enjoyable romp through a small taster of what I'm sure is a vast collection of unmade Hollywood movies. Most of the tales are quite similar, somebody has a great idea, somebody else likes it, but then he gets fired or moved on, and the new guy likes the idea but hates the execution, and wants his own guy to use it. Etc ad nauseam. The only part of it I didn't like was the rather lengthy script descriptions which are never that interesting for unmade movies. Also, there seemed to be a predilection for quoting internet 'reviewers' of unmade scripts as if they were experts.

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  • 41. The Railway Man (Lomax). I bought this years ago and never got around to reading it but reading last year's Unbroken and the release of the movie earlier this year put me in mind of it, so I finally got to it. If I'd read it before Unbroken, I might have been more impressed by it, but the fact is that Lomax's capture is mundane in comparison to Zamperini; his incarceration while brutal doesn't seem quite as bad or quite as long and his eventual release is a bit chaotic and ramshackle (as I suspect were most releases in the final days of the war). The last chapter deals with his meeting with one of his captors which a bit too much of a Hollywood ending for my liking, all neatly wrapped up.

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  • 42. Memnon (Oden). Ok, the story is fine, a bit average and in terms of historical fiction, nowhere near the likes of Stephen Pressfield or Bernard Cornwell. However, the book binding really got on my nerves with this one, enough to make me throw it straight into recycling the minute I'd finished. It's a small thick book and I found it difficult to keep open for long periods of time. Plus the cardboard was actually sharp (not enough to cut, obvs). Just not a comfortable experience, and the contents didn't make up for it.

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  • 43. The Calendar (Ewing-Duncan). Pretty good history of how we get to where we are with time, months, etc. The early parts of the book are a bit sparse in detail for obvious reasons, but I'm not sure why the author chose to fill it out needlessly with a brief history of the comings and goings in world history. This filler is highlighted by the fact that it isn't necessary as the book progresses and more information is available. It did hold a few surprises for me, mostly in the way religion was involved (as it was in so many aspects of society) and how late the current Gregorian calendar was adopted across most of the world.

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  • 44. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Kamkwamba). Solid if unsurprising tale of how the author William built a working windmill which generated power for his family home in Malawi. The lengthy description of the 2001 Famine was very well presented, but the lengthy descriptions of how batteries and generators work weren't (at least not to my non-mechanical mind). It's harmless enough though and well worth a read.

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