31/12/2011

Books 2011


December
Five Minute Bread by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Bread by by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno (2007)
All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye by Christopher Brookmyre (2005)
It's A P.C. World by Edward Stourton (2008)
A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)
Danny, The Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl (1974)
Make Room For Daddy by Andrea Edwards (1990)

November
The Big Four (audio book) by Agatha Christie (1927)
Past Mortem (audio book) by Ben Elton (2004)
Bread (River Cottage Handbook No. 3) by Daniel Stevens (2008)
The New Family Bread Book by Ursula Ferrigno (2007)
The Bread Book by Sarah Lewis (2003)

October
31 Dream Street (audio book) by Lisa Jewell (2007)
Frankie Says Relapse! by Siobhan Curham (2004)
The Scene Stealers by Siobhan Curham (2004)
The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth (1971)
Watching The English by Kate Fox (2004)

September
Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis (1989)
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield (2010)

June
The Body In The Library by Agatha Christie (1942)

May
One Hit Wonderland by Tony Hawks ()
The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1927)
His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle (1917)
Yes We Have No by Nik Cohn (1999)
The Return Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1894)
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)
The Haçienda by Peter Hook (2009)

April
On Royalty by Jeremy Paxman (2009)
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
The To-Do List by Mike Gayle (2007)
Killing Bono by Neil McCormick (2010) (previously published as I Was Bono's Doppelgänger, 2004)
How Not To Grow Up by Richard Herring (2010)
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. Rowling (2000)
The Surgeon's Proposal by Lillian Darcy (2003)
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999)

March
One Red Paperclip: How An Ordinary Man Achieved His Dreams With The Help Of A Simple Office Supply by Kyle MacDonald ()
The Outback Doctor by Lucy Clarke ()
Runaway Cowboy by Judy Christenberry ()
From The First Kiss by Jessica Bird (2006)
E Squared by Matt Beaumont (2009)
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (1998)
The Borrowed Ring by Gina Wilkins (2005)
Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)
Murder On The Links by Agatha Christie (1928)
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You by Harry Harrison (1978)
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison (1972)

February
The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison (1970)
Letters From London 1990 - 1995 by Julian Barnes (1995)
The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison (1961)
Acting Up by Melissa Nathan (2008)
Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes (1982)
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (1952)
Foundation And Empire by Isaac Asimov (1952)
Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)

January
Panic Nation by Stanley Feldman & Vincent Marks ()
Rock On: How I Tried To Stop Caring About Music And Learned To Love Corporate Rock by Dan Kennedy (2008)
Past Mortem by Ben Elton (2004)
The Road To Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum (writing as Michael Shepherd) (1975)
Don't You Know Who I Am? by Piers Morgan (2007)
How I Escaped My  Certain Fate: The Life And Deaths Of A Stand-Up Comedian by Stuart Lee (2010)
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000)
Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre (2007)

16/12/2011

This Is Fats

Fats Domino
1956



I'm not quite sure why this is included in the list of must-listen albums from the fifties.  To me, it sounds like fairly pedestrian, easy-going boogie-woogie.  "Blueberry Hill" is a classic tune, of course, and "Blue Monday" is nicely muscular.  But the rest is medium-paced R&B (in the fifties sense of rhythm and blues) without, to me, much to distinguish one track from another.

I guess it had more impact at the time.  Fats Domino had loads of hit singles and the breakthrough of a black man, playing very identifably black music, was an important one.  The fact that the music sounds so familiar is perhaps a measure of its influence.

If I'm in the mood for something very specifically like this, then this is probably as good as it gets.  But I can't see it being a mood I'm in often.

11/12/2011

In Celebration Of Dead Trees

I saw a post at the Big Green Bookshop (via my friend Paul), which I thought was a nice idea.  Take a photo of one of your bookshelves and write a short paragraph about the book, what it means to you and how it came to be there.

I have lots of books but most of them are now in the loft because we don't have the space to have them all out on bookshelves.  Every few months I take a box out of the loft and swap the books I have out on a shelf for some that I haven't looked at for a few years.  Although I'd rather have all my books out, this system works quite well because it's a bit like having new stuff and I like re-reading books anyway.

Here's what my shelf contains at the moment.  (In fact, it holds another row of books behind those in the photograph, but I'll only mention the ones you can see.)


1. Making The World Work Better by Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm & Jeffrey O'Brien (2011)
I'm a little annoyed to have this hagiography of IBM be my first book on this shelf.  It was the only one here that I didn't select myself; all IBMers got one as part of the company's centennial celebration, whether or not they wanted it.  It's also the only book here I haven't read.  I tried, but it's not very interesting.  Could I return it and just have the money please?

2. The Dilbert Future by Scott Adams (1997)
I bought this from a charity shop a few weeks ago, although I'd read it before.  It's mostly light and amusing, but right at the end, Scott Adams takes a break from his usual sarcasm and offers a genuine suggestion for bettering yourself, called "Affirmations".  From what I can tell, it's a kind of new-age, NLP type thinking.  I generally hold such beliefs in contempt, but I do have to admit to trying affirmations once, a long time ago, and they kind of worked.  I couldn't remember what Adams had said about them, so I got the book to remind myself.

3. River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread by Daniel Stevens (2008)
I started making bread a few years ago when I bought a breadmaker, and although it was OK, the results never really impressed me much.  So about six months ago, for some reason, I decided to make it completely by hand.  And as far as I'm concerned, if you want to do something properly then you need a book about it.  I borrowed several from the library and most of them were just compendiums of one page recipes, with a little fluff at the beginning about how to knead the dough.  This is different: it goes into deep detail about each step of making the bread.  I love this kind of detail.  I've enjoyed making the bread too and now I make about two loaves a week.  I'll be buying a copy of this if no-one gets it for me for Christmas (hint hint).

4. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary (1982)
In my third year of secondary school (what is now year 8, I think), we were told we had to have a dictionary.  This is what I got.  The custom binding is by me, age 13.  It's now being used by my eldest son, occasionally, which is why it's out.

5. The Penguin Dictionary Of Quotations edited by J.M. Cohen (1975)
On the other hand, I'm not quite sure why this is out on the shelf, since I never use it.  Actually, I think it originally belonged to my parents.  It's fascinating to dip into it though.  And I've always been intruiged by the way it's indexed and catalogued.  That must have taken a lot of work.  And now you can do it so easily on a computer.  This is a bit of a relic, really.

6. The Princess Diaries: Take Two by Meg Cabot (2001)
7. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000)
I bought these from the library for 10p each because K (who was 6 at the time) was enjoying the films.  I quickly realised that they weren't suitable for her just yet.  On the other hand, my wife enjoyed them very much and worked her way through the whole series.  Just to be sure.  Anyway, they're being saved for when K is a bit older.

8. New Toddler Taming by Dr. Christopher Green (2001)
Babies don't come with manuals, but of course that makes the aftermarket particularly, uh, fertile.  I think we started with Babygruppenführer Gina Ford, on the advice of my sister, but we didn't really get on with it (and don't get me started about how rubbish it is if you have more than one kid).  So we looked around and found Christopher Green.  He's done three books: this one, Babies and Beyond Toddlerdom.  They're all filled with eminently sensible, down-to-earth advice rather than unachievable timetables and we still use them (except the one about babies, obviously).

9. You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Doggett (2010)
I bought this book on the recommendation of David Hepworth (via The Word magazine, to which I subscribe).  It's a history of The Beatles, after The Beatles, specifically focussing (I think) on their business affairs.  I've just started reading it, so I can't offer much opinion on it.

10. Clive James On Television by Clive James (1991)
This reminds me of a girl I knew when I was 18.  She was several years older than me; she may have had designs on my person but I was utterly clueless with girls at that age.  She lent me Visions Before Midnight, the first of the three books collected in this omnibus edition.  They contain the TV review columns he wrote for The Observer during the seventies.  I can just about remember some of the later programmes he discusses.  This doesn't stop the reviews being learned, relevant and very, very entertaining.  What he's got to say about the Olympic coverage and (in particular) commentary of 1972 is still true today.  Highly recommended.  (Ruth, I still have your book, btw ...)

11. ABBA: The Name Of The Game by Andrew Oldham, Tony Calder & Colin Irwin
I've loved ABBA since I was six.  My Dad was doing some work at EMI and brought me the first Greatest Hits collection and Arrival.  So this book, which starts with the premise that Benny and Bjorn were two of the finest songwriters - ever! - is obviously right up my street.  It's a very entertaining read too, but for all the humour and obsession with Agnetha's bottom, it has serious points to make about their achievements and history.  Of course, if you're one of those people still in denial about ABBA's place in music history, this may pass you by.  We'll see who's proved right in thirty years time, mark my words.

12. The Kingdom By The Sea by Paul Theroux (1983)
During 1999 and 2000, I spent about 11 months working in Edinburgh.  This was long enough to make friends in the city, but I still ended up alone a lot.  I spent much of that time in bookshops, of which there were many.  I quickly ran out of titles I definitely wanted to read and started taking chances on books that sounded vaguely familiar.  This was one of them.  It's a classic travel book, but I have never managed to finish it.  I can admire its qualities while still finding it a bit of grind.  I'm not sure why.

13. Watching The English by Kate Fox (2004)
This is one of my favourite books.  Unfortunately, repeated reads, while very enjoyable, have resulted in me completely forgetting how I discovered it.  It's like listening to your favourite song again and again; eventually, any memories it had for you are drowned in micro-memories of the other times you listened to it and eventually it reduces any meaning it once had to almost zero.  Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this entertaining study of English manners and habits - in fact, I have recommended it, many times.

14. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery (2008)
Bought as part of my grand project to listen to more music.

15. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1865 & 1871)
This book accompanied C & me on our holiday to Florida way back in 2000.  I remember reading it while sitting by the pool at the Holiday Inn on Key Largo.  The juxtaposition of location and story was a little jarring and lent a certain sense of surrealism to the holiday.  It's out on shelf now because the kids are enjoying the Disney film, and K likes the ballet that was on telly a while back.  She doesn't seem to like the book though.

16. Friends Like These by Danny Wallace (2008)
I like Danny Wallace - or, at least, I like the persona in his books, where he has a kind of wide-eyed naivety and innocence.  It may be close to his real personality, of course, or not - who can tell?  But the books are jolly good fun.  He's another author I discovered while I was working in Edinburgh.

17. Good Wood: Joints by Albert Jackson & David Day (1995)
18. Good Wood: Basic Woodworking by Albert Jackson & David Day (2001)
One of my long term ambitions is to make an electric guitar.  As I said before, my instinctive approach is to buy a book about it.  In this case, I already have books about making guitars, but I need basic woodworking skills before I can do that.  So even though I'm several years away from being able to start my project, I'm starting to collect the books.  I might even do a course.  These books were excellent value secondhand.

19. Complete Prints 1962 - 2010 by Bridget Riley (2010)
I first saw Bridget Riley's wonderful patterns at an exhibition at The Barbican in the early nineties and I was immediately smitten.  Since then I've wanted to have some in the house, but I'm hampered by two things: firstly, finding large prints of her work is quite hard; and secondly, C won't have it, because she's not that keen and thinks it wouldn't really work on our walls.  So it's lovely of her to have bought this for my birthday.  The book contains copies of her prints, so it's not the big famous pictures, but it's very interesting nonetheless.

20. Words and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (2008)
This is another birthday present from C - and, unfortunately, another book that has been somewhat superseded by the internet.  It's much more convenient to refer to than a computer though, but it is rather heavy!


The people who wrote that original post are absolutely correct.  You couldn't write a post like this about your Kindle.

05/12/2011

Johnny Burnette & The Rock 'n' Roll Trio

Johnny Burnette & The Rock 'n' Roll Trio
1956

Contrary to my preconceived notions before I started on this project, music in the fifties was pretty sophisticated.  The arranging and recording skill behind acts such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, or the sheer theoretical knowledge required to properly understand (let alone play) post-bop jazz like Miles Davis's The Birth Of The Cool or Charles Mingus's Ah Um must have been pretty daunting to anyone wanting to join in.  So the rawness of early rock 'n' roll like Johnny Burnette must have sounded as jarring and alien at the time as the punk rock of twenty years later.

Listening to it now, it sounds primitive.  The instrumentation is basic, just a couple of guitars, a double bass and a couple of drums.  The singing, in particular, is untrained, raucous and direct.  But it has an energy and urgency that is missing from the cool, restrained and (above all) professional music coming from the established artists of the time.

Maybe the iconic figure of rock 'n' roll is Elvis Presley (who also released his debut in 1956) but this album is clearly one of the formative roots of rockabilly (they even have a song called "Rock Billy Boogie").  I found it of more than just historical interest; it's very immediate and some of the guitar sounds are really grungy.  Good stuff.