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corblimey has got too many books

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  • 45. How Football Explains America (Paolantonio). A short history of the NFL which jumps around a lot and has far too much 'f**k yeah America' for such a slim volume. The first portion of the book dealing with pre-war college football and how it evolved was a lot more interesting to me, but still fell short of what I was looking for

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  • 46. Emperor (Baxter). The first of 4 "Time's Tapestry" books, this one begins with the Roman invasion and conquest of ancient Britain and continues up to the middle of the first millennium. An exciting, passionate, dynamic epoch. So quite how Baxter wrote such a boring book, I have no idea. I see on Amazon he's better known for his SF work, so maybe there's something there, but I certainly won't be trying any of it, nor will I bother with the other 3 books of this series.

    Incidentally, the only book I've abandoned this year was also historical fiction, Harlequin by Cornwell. So maybe it's just the genre doesn't suit me.

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  • 47. The Black Box (Connelly). A nicely constructed Bosch mystery. No major twists or turns as there would have been in the good old days of Bosch, and a tad too many jazz references, but well plotted and well paced. Best Bosch book for quite some time.

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  • 48. The Works (Ascher). My second Jane Ascher book and not quite as good as The Way to Go. Nothing really wrong with it, but it concentrates on New York City (for fairly obvious reasons) a city I'm not at all familiar with and got a little lost in the geography. Also it is sadly about 8 years out of date now, so most of the stats and figures are long outdated. Neither of these things are the book's fault though, and about 75% of it is vastly more interesting than most of the other stuff I've read this year, but it did reduce the experience somewhat.

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  • 49. Orange is the New Black (Kerman). Well that's done it. I can officially announce a genre of book I just can't take to - memoirs. It's my own fault, when I hear "prison" I think Shawshank Redemption, not this. It just isn't that interesting. A woman in her mid-thirties is sentenced to 15 months in prison for crimes she carried out in her youth. How she got to prison was pretty interesting, but then (as I suspect prison life actually is in real life) it just gets dull. Work release, prison programs, meal times and a general undercurrent of racial tension, but it really just moves from anecdote to anecdote.

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  • 50. Stuff Matters (Miodownik). I enjoyed this look at the materials that make up our world, and how they came to be. Although it wobbles uneasily at times between personal anecdotes and complicated scientific principles, it is the least obtuse scientific book I've read in a while.

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  • 51. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Shaffer, Barrows). Not a great book, although I fully accept I'm not the target audience. I was expecting layers, or at the very least some interesting aspects of the German Occupation but it's a fairly trite tale of a woman who goes to Guernsey and falls in love, the end. I wish I'd read the review comparing it to Vicar of Dibley before I bought it.

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  • 52. The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan). Well researched and pretty well balanced investigation into the industrial food machine in America. Nothing I didn't really know already (although the explanation of what makes something "organic" was a little startling) but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Enjoyed might be the wrong word. The last part of the book where the author forages (ie hunts and takes things from public land) is less interesting.

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  • 53. Kitchen Confidential (Bourdain). I mainly know Anthony Bourdain as that nice man with the grey hair who shows up on the Food Channel from time to time, when they're not showing Jamie Oliver. This book is a frenetic and boisterous account of his life as a chef up to 2000, which is nothing at all like I imagined. There's tales of drugs and debauchery, chain smoking and chain drinking and so many failed restaurants, it really does become the definition of 'warts n all'. The only problem I had with it was it brought back some very unhappy memories of working in a hotel kitchen in the 90s which years of psychiatric medication helped bury.

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  • Just back from a 2 week holiday and got loads done, if by loads I mean books read and cider drunk!

    54. Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. (Delaney). Not sure what to make of this one. I guess he's an internet sensation or something, but why his publishers thought his life story would be interesting, I don't know. He was an alcoholic, he spent time in jail, he peed his bed til he was 25. Some parts are ok, a wry sense of humour, and the 'best' of his twitter account is quoted throughout, but it's an odd book nevertheless.

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  • 55. The Happiness Project (Rubin). Part self-help, part white whine, all rubbish.

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  • 56. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (Dedman, Clark Newell). I had no idea what to expect of this book, but it was pretty compelling. It's sort of divided into 2 parts, the first about WA Clarke, the copper baron and one-time richest man in America and his rise to riches, the second about his daughter and her quite sad descent into what could charitably be called eccentricity. I preferred the first part, but the second is pretty good and stands on its own. Overall, a very good book, highly recommended.

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  • 57. Never Coming Back (Weaver). My first David Raker novel, and not too bad, although it's one of those novels where everybody is very talkative, and explains great swathes of the plot as it goes along. A pet irk of mine. It does suffer a little from being the fourth in a series, so I really should have started with the first one, perhaps (I also find it annoying when the fourth book in a series explains things long term reader already know, so I can't have it both ways :)). I'll give him another go.

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  • 58. Mornings in Jenin (Abulhawa). A novel set amid the turmoil of the Israel/Palestine conflict, across 3 generations. It reads like non-fiction, up until a crucial moment near the end of the book, and I daresay the situations and events are repeated across the decades across families in the region, so it has a basis in fact. It's very well written, but I was hoping to get some sort of idea of how this whole situation works from the Israel side, as I can't quite grasp how it's being allowed to continue. This book is not the answer.

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  • 59. The Turnaround (Pelecanos). It's an okay short story wrapped up in a fairly blah longer story. Far too many descriptions of everyday things going on, that have no bearing on the story - I think the author was going for 'these are just normal people', but I don't want that in a novel, I want excitement and tension and action and an actual bloody story.

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  • 60. Notes from a Small Island (Bryson). One of Bryson's earliest books, back when he used to do travelogues. He hikes, drives and trains from one end of the UK to the other. He starts off talking about his first time in the UK back in the 70s, which I hoped would be a theme throughout, but apparently he only went to Dover and then went to London forever, so this was dropped pretty quickly.

    What I'd like is for Bill to do a followup, now some 20 years since he wrote it. However, failing that, it has given me an idea to follow in his footsteps somewhat for a forthcoming UK trip, so we'll see how that turns out.

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  • 61. Flash Boys (Lewis). Because of its subject matter, another book that is both infuriating and intriguing to me, in equal measure. The descriptions of what the trading companies still get up to in the States really surprised me. I thought since the crash, they'd be flying straight, but apparently not. They're not doing illegal, but it strikes me as at least unethical. Anyway, Lewis' tale is pretty good, mostly landing on the setup of the IEX market, which aims to be fair to everybody. Technical details of how the markets work are well described, although there is a fair amount of repetition between chapters.

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  • 62. David and Goliath (Gladwell). Possibly the first Gladwell book I've actually enjoyed as this time, he's managed to vary the case studies making his initial point. From the Troubles to Civil Rights in the US, Gladwell takes examples of "David"s fighting against "Goliaths" and winning when they should lose. It's not without its weak points and the examples vary wildly in quality and purpose, but it's a good read nonetheless. Bring a large dose of salt.

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  • 63. Final Witness (Tolkein). The death knell is sounding for me reading fiction books. Described as 'a gripping courtroom drama', with 'political intrigue', it was really pretty bad. The courtroom stuff is just 2-hander dialog, and the political intrigue seems to come from the fact that one of the main characters is in politics, but the plot, such as it is, has nothing to do with that. Rubbish.

    After reading this, I was put off several of the other fiction books on my Kindle. I've started the Steve Jobs book now, so after that, just might give up entirely on fiction.

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  • 64. Tropic of Capricorn (Reeve). A few years back, I made a list of countries I wanted to visit. This list turned out to be fairly racist as it didn't include any countries below the equator (with the possible exception of Aus/NZ). I just don't have any interest in going to Africa, South America, South Asia, etc etc. Anyway, this book which follows the Tropic of Capricorn across Africa, then Australia and finally South America didn't change my mind.

    It's a great read, but at no point throughout the 23,000 mile journey did I wish I was there. Reeve spends a lot of time with indigenous people in each place, and learns of their lives and hardships, so maybe if he had just spent more time in luxury hotels and looking at these people from an air-conditioned bus, I'd be tempted to follow in his footsteps :p

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  • 65. On The Map (Garfield). A great sweep through the history of maps exploration and map making. The chapters are short and engaging and flit about mightily. Some are a bit dodgy in theme, like treasure maps, brain maps and videogame maps. The other issue is the pictures, small, black and white and hard to decipher, they don't go well with the illustrative text, so end up as an advertisement for shops like Stanfords in London.

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  • 66. Steve Jobs (Isaacson). The one word that came occurring to me while reading this book was 'dickish'. Jobs seemed like exactly the sort of boss I'd hate to work for, and exactly the sort of boss I'd hate some day to be. From shouting at staff to crying to focussing on the stupid details (like what colour the machines that makes the inside components of a computer should be), even reading about him made me angry. On the other hand, the meat of the second half of the book is all about the innovations Apple (not necessarily Jobs) made with all the i* stuff, which I found compelling, so maybe I should've bought a book about Apple, not Jobs.

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  • 67. Dave Gorman vs The Rest of the World (Gorman). Bearded funnyman Dave goes around England (or about 6 cities anyway) playing games with people. The travelogue portion of the book, such as it is, is better than the games-playing portion, and there are some uncomfortable encounters that I'm surprised he left in the book to be honest. I can't recommend it.

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  • 68. Dad is Fat (Gaffigan). I've heard a few routines from Jim Gaffigan over the years and found him fairly amusing, so I figured the book would be more of the same. But it isn't. It's quite odd how unfunny it is, coming off as proto-Cosby from the 80s than anything else. Dad may indeed be fat, but he's not a comic writer.

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  • 69. What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Munroe). I'm a fan of xkcd.com - it generally contains the right mix of humour and science-nerd theory, so I was expecting more of the same with this first non-xkcd related book from Munroe. And I wasn't disappointed. As the title says, the questions are absurdly hypothetical and Munroe generally runs with it while staying with very loose parameters. Surprisingly (or maybe not) a lot of the answers result in destruction on a grand scale. Very enjoyable.

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  • 70. Troublesome Words (Bryson). A reference book of sorts that contains lists of words that are misused, misspelled or misappropriated. It's mildly interesting, although it does get a bit pedantic in places for my liking. My real problem with it is I don't know who it's for. Professional writers and editors will have one or more of the reference books repeatedly cited in this book, and the rest of us won't really give a cr*p whether none is singular or not. Particularly these days with the Facebook and the Twitter and whatever the kids are using today.

    Still prefer his travelogues, but I now know the difference between nauseated and nauseous.

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  • 71. Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon (Ghiglieri). Actually bought on location in Grand Canyon 2 years ago, and I'm glad I waited til now to read it. Page after page after page of people dying in or around or on top of or boating in or flying over the Grand Canyon. A lot of misadventure, some tragedy and some just plain what the hell? A long book, and I wouldn't read it before taking a trip out there, and I'd recommend everyone take a trip out there.

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  • 72. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Stone) Great little book, all about (surprise) the birth and continued rise of Amazon. It's fairly even handed and deals with Amazon's bullying tactics with smaller competitors in a relatively unbiased fashion. The stories from the early days are great, and really capture the energy of being an Internet startup in the 90s when nobody knew anything. Bezos is, like Jobs, a boss I'd hate to work for, but at least he doesn't appear to burst into tears when things go against him.

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  • 73. The Year of Living Biblically (Jacobs). I enjoyed the last AJ Jacobs book I read; it wasn't laugh out loud funny, but the subject matter made up for it. Not so much this time. There should have been some hilarious anecdotes in here as AJ attempts to follow the Bibble as literally as possible, but it's all a bit po-faced really, and the 'experts' he indulges are a bad choice for a humour book. If it is a humour book, maybe it's not!

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  • 74. The Undercover Economist (Harford). I enjoyed this one a lot. Harford takes some real world situations and applies an economist's eye to them. It's interesting how basically everything can be thought of in terms of supply and demand, and I liked that he chose some very disparate examples to play with.

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