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corblimey has got too many books



  • 75. Illegal Procedure (Luchs). This one, not so much. It's a peek into the murky world of college football agency in the States, which is very much a case of 'everyone's doing something sort of illegal, so I should too'. Luchs then spends the last half of the book basically saying 'okay, so I did some stuff, but look at what these guys were doing!' which isn't that interesting or pleasant to read.


  • 76. Roy of the Rovers: The Official Autobiography (Race). Very odd, and very disappointing. I was a Roy of the Rovers reader during the 80s, and still have the very latest issue around here somewhere, so I thought this would be fun. It's not really. As far as I can tell, it's basically the prose version of some of the adventures from the comics over the years with I guess some added feelings from Roy (but not many). There's a few basic attempts at humour, but after reading the marvellous I Partridge, this sort of book has been ruined for me anyway, particularly when it's this poor.


  • 77. Into Thin Air (Krakauer). I like reading about things I will never do. Sometimes I think, hey maybe some day. However, when it comes to climbing a mountain, I can guarantee it will never happen, and this account of the 1996 Everest disaster sealed the deal. Outstanding all the way through (although it could have used a little trimming on the endless biogs of the persons involved) and despite some criticism of earlier revisions, seems to be honest and true. I'll read one of the other accounts at some point to get a full picture, from the comfort of my warm couch.


  • 78. Barrel Fever (Sedaris). I think this mostly counts as fiction, the first 3/4 of the book is entirely fictional and the stories range from the not good to the sort of ok with most of them coming down in the 'huh?' camp.

    It gets better in the final 60 odd pages with a few essays about his childhood and the sublime Santaland Diaries, especially for the season that's (about to be) in it, but since I've read these before, it's not enough to save the book as a whole.


  • 79 The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap Paperback (Taibbi). Interesting if flawed book. The concept is the well worn phrase, one rule for the rich, and another for the poor. It divides its time between telling stories of the poor, the disenfranchised and the minorities getting shafted by authorities with telling stories of how nobody in the world of high finance has ever been properly punished for its various misdeeds. I'm not sure the juxtapositioning works, no matter how many times the author tries to blend the 2 worlds. Having said that, if you take the 2 subject matters as books in their own right, it's pretty good - the stories of the Lehman Brothers and Fairfax Financial are particularly good.


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  • 80. Kids These Days (Perry). I was on page 60 before I realised this was fiction and I immediately started being more critical of its foibles. It's described as "hilarious" on the cover (why would they lie?!) and in several Amazon reviews, but I just got angst and confusion. I was puzzled by its tone as a piece of non-fiction, as a piece of fiction, it's just poor.

    3 months since I read a good fiction novel...


  • 81. Three Cups of Deceit (Krakauer). My favourite line from the movie Sleepers is
    If I ever make it onto your sh*t list, give me a call. Give me a chance to apologize.
    I'm not sure what the author of the book Three Cups of Tea did to Jon Krakauer to get on his sh*t list, but he obviously never gave him a chance to apologise. I'd never heard of the original book before I read this very short investigation, and now never will. My only issue with this book is its brevity - it's more like a lengthy article from a wordy magazine than something you should pay more for. And isn't that the real scandal here? (no)


  • 82. Heat (Buford). A journalist leaves his job to learn more about cooking at the knee of Mario Batali (who?) and latterly, butchery at the knee of Dario Cecchini in Tuscany (really, who?). Buford's passion for food is evident in lengthy passages about eggy pasta and pigs livers, but I was more interested in the in-between chapters about day-to-day life in the kitchen and butcher shop. It once again confirmed my view that chefs are for the most part, frigging insane.


  • 83. Walkable City (Speck). A user's manual of sorts for how to design the 'perfect' city, the most walkable city. A bit too America-centric and waay too much love for Portland, but very readable and most everything made sense - it helps to think of a city as an organism that is changing, developing, mutating all the time. Made me want to play SimCity.


  • 84. Boomerang (Lewis). The author takes a tour around the worst hit areas of the global financial crisis, including our own fair isle where the late Brian Lenihan takes centre stage in the catastro-f**k. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about Iceland, Greece and Vallejo in California (way too long Schwarzenegger diversion notwithstanding); Lewis generally has an engaging and not-so-technical voice in these books.


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  • 85. Insanely Simple (Segall). After reading the Jobs biography in October, I went out and got 2 more Apple-related books, hoping for less about Jobs and more about Apple. Unfortunately, this is just more Jobs. Segall uses Jobs' work ethics to springboard into management tips, none of which are particularly novel - the first chapter is basically 'keep team size small', no sh*t sherlock? And on it goes. Maybe the fact that I disagree fundamentally with Jobs' managerial style means I'll never get anything from this book. Not good.


  • 86. In Defense of Food (Pollan). Pretty interesting account of how we got where we are with nutritionism, 'whole foods', simulated foods, etc. The author rounds up his romp through food history by listing all the ways we can start eating better (basically dropping the entire Western diet). Not entirely feasible, but I have taken some tips from it.


  • 87. Quiet (Cain). I'm not altogether sure who this book is for. Introverts (of which I consider myself one) won't be surprised by any of its content, extroverts won't consider it a necessary read for their lifestyles. Having said that, it's well researched (almost overly so in some cases with a tad too many anecdotes) and well written. The chapter on introverted children was less interesting to me than those on introverted adults, but I can see the value of both.


  • 88. How to Lie with Statistics (Huff). A 60-year-old book that is still relevant today is not easy to find, and while this suffers from its proximity to the "war years" (insomuch as it refers to World War II as 'the war', assuming its readers would know) and the archaic numbers and products used as examples, the specifics are still pertinent today. No real surprises (it's statistics after all), but no harm in a refresher course for those of us interested in that side of things.

    I think 2015 might be the year I try to get a grasp on subjects I was once much more interested in, like maths and ... um applied maths. ;)


  • corblimey wrote: »
    77. Into Thin Air (Krakauer). I like reading about things I will never do. Sometimes I think, hey maybe some day. However, when it comes to climbing a mountain, I can guarantee it will never happen, and this account of the 1996 Everest disaster sealed the deal. Outstanding all the way through (although it could have used a little trimming on the endless biogs of the persons involved) and despite some criticism of earlier revisions, seems to be honest and true. I'll read one of the other accounts at some point to get a full picture, from the comfort of my warm couch.


    Yes quite a poignant and in some respects controversial account of the expedition the account of some of the richer fee paying climbers was an eye opener

  • 89. Under the Banner of Heaven (Krakauer). I'd never heard of Fundamentalist Mormonism until I read this book, but as ever, when it comes to religion, you know there's going to be some insanity in the minds of the devotees. It's quite a small story in its framing device, but Krakauer takes us on a history of Mormonism and its violent past, although he does tend to linger more on the first few years when the blood was flowing freely than the 20th century when things got a little more civilised. Fascinating book nonetheless.

    This has been a year for me 'discovering' Krakauer - I've read 3 of his books and enjoyed them all, even though they were all on very different subjects. I've added a few more of this to my new year Amazon basket.


  • 90. Double Dead (Wendig). Bought because it appeared on someone else's log and sounded interesting, but I didn't like it at all. A foul mouthed vampire wakes up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and teams up with a rag-tag band of blah blah to whatever. I didn't like any character in this book, in particular the protagonist, which made the reading a fairly joyless activity.

    I think that's going to do it for fiction for me.


  • 91. Catch Me If You Can (Abagnale, Redding). I didn't particularly for the movie when it came out, but reading this book now years later has put me in mind of re-watching it and giving it a fair shake. It's the story of how a teenaged Frank Abagnale travelled around the States posing as a pilot, cashing fake checks and living the high life. It's slightly unbelievable (maybe a little Hollywoodised) how he went about it (it would be impossible to do the same in this day and age) and how many times he came close to capture, but a compelling story from start to end.


  • 92. George Washington's Secret Six (Kilmeade). My ninety-second and final book for 2014 is a subject matter I've not delved into before this, the American Revolutionary War, concentrating solely on the spying side of things, and in particular the Culper Ring which divulged important strategic information to Washington throughout the conflict. Very interesting and a nice introduction to what could be a whole new branch of non-fiction for me.


  • And that's it for 2014. 92 books read, 63 (68%) of them non-fiction. Next year, I'm going to be doing something different, so while I'll keep up this log for books I read, it won't be nearly as busy as it's been these last 2 years. Just in case anyone is looking for new reading material, here's my personal top 10 for 2014:

    One Day in September|Simon Reeve
    The Troubles|Tim Pat Coogan
    Under the Banner of Heaven|Jon Krakauer
    Into Thin Air|Jon Krakauer
    Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune|Bill Dedman and Paul Clark
    The Way To Go |Kate Ascher
    Mornings in Jenin|Susan Abulhawa
    World War Z|Max Brooks
    What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions|Randall Munroe
    Radio Times Cover Story|

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  • And since I'm doing lists, here's 2013
    Unbroken|Laura Hillenbrand
    I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan |Alan Partridge
    I Can Make You Hate|Charlie Brooker
    One Day in the Life of Television|Sean Day-Lewis
    A Short History of Nearly Everything|Bill Bryson
    Nothing to Envy|Barbara Demick
    At Home|Bill Bryson
    Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein
    The Onion Book of Known Knowledge|The Onion
    The Little Prince|Antoine De Saint-Exupery

  • And I'm back! I'm still reading, but for the time being not at the heady pace of last year.

    1. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini). Tough, touching and compelling. The main story is a little trite for my liking, but its the telling of it and the circumstances in which it exists that really raise above a lot of what I read last year, best fiction book I've read in MONTHS!


  • 2. Secret Life of Bletchley Park (McKay). Mildly interesting account of BP during and briefly, outside of the war years. I've read enough accounts of code breaking at this point that I wanted something that told of the ordinary people doing the work, how they lived, etc. I got exactly that, but (spoiler!) the ordinary people who worked there lived very ordinary lives. The book comes alive a bit as it discusses code breaking, US relations, the final days of the war, etc, but there's better accounts of these things in books about these things. So not great.


  • 3. The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper Paperback (Ascher). My third, and final Ascher book deals with the history, building and ongoing running of skyscrapers. The section about building gets a little lost in the details, but the rest is as good as expected, and you always learn something new with Ascher books - they must be a pain in the bottom to compile.


  • 4. The Second Half (Keane, Doyle).
    Step 1. Ex-Manchester United and Ireland captain Roy Keane goes to the pub with Roddy Doyle and spouts nonsense for several hours.
    Step 2. Doyle goes home and writes it all in his book, grammatical errors and everything ("Myself and Dion went to a restaurant").
    Step 3. People buy it as a last minute Christmas present.

    Woeful, and this is coming from a fan of the man and the game.


  • 5. How Google Works (Schmidt, Rosenberg). I was hoping for a history of what went on behind the scenes at Google in the early days. What I got was a self-important management book that works on the principle of 'this is how Google does it, and look how great they are!' It all seems to hang on getting the right people for the job, which is, well I'm not in HR, but it sounds like pretty straightforward thinking to me.

    This year has not been good for non-fiction so far.


  • 6. The Onion Magazine. I'm a big fan of The Onion, Our Dumb Century is a tour de force, and I was hoping for something similar here. The Onion magazine is just like those insipid magazines they (used to?) bundle in the Sunday papers. However, this is just the covers, and basically one line of writing per page. More often than not, the writing is typical Onion-esque, counterpointing the utterly banal with the fantastical. It's a quick read, but not very funny or even whimsical, and really quite a waste of money.


  • 7. I'll Go Home Then, it's Warm and Has Chairs (Thorne). The man behind the excellent (and fictitious?) has another book out, following the success of The Internet is a Playground, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This one slightly less so. I don't know why, the trolling is still very funny in places, but there's a few more essay-type pieces in there which I didn't much care for. Not bad all in all, but I'm not sure I'll both getting the third book, diminishing returns and all.


  • 8. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Fowler). I was about 30 pages into this book and had no idea what I was reading, so I sought out some reviews, The first one I found ruined the surprise that comes about one-third of the way through, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It gets a bit preachy about animal rights along the way, and the main protagonist is not someone I'd befriend in the real world for reasons I can't quite grasp, but it was a good read. Or maybe my spirit has been broken by my non-fiction choices so far this year.


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  • 9. Survival in the Killing Fields (Ngor). Although it's basically an outstanding account of Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime, it's bookended by his life growing up and his life in America, which are a little disappointing. But for his account of 4 years spent in the jungles outside Phnomh Penh under tyrannical rule, it's the best book I've read in a while.