Reading - May 2014

Guitarist Guide To Amps by Michael Leonard (ed) (2014)
Somewhat lightweight and poorly edited special edition. Over-priced. Some interesting info but I should probably get a proper book about guitar amps.
The Week (3 May 2014 / Issue 969)
Guitarist (June 2014 / Issue 381)
The Stars Like Dust by Isaac Asimov (1951)
An early Asimov novel, yet instantly identifiable by the interesting plot, slightly clunky characterisation and lots and lots of talking. The final resolution - the finding of an inspiring, ancient document that turns out to be the US constitution - strikes me as unconvincing though, so it is interesting to read that Asimov thought so too, and only included it to satisfy an editor.
The Week (10 May 2014 / Issue 970)
The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2010)
Fascinating and depressing account of what led to the global recession in 2008, from the point of view of the few people who saw it coming. If you are dumb enough to believe that the free market should be allowed to be completely free, you need to read this.
The Week (17 May 2014 / Issue 971)
Mack The Life by Lee Mack (2012)
I'm not normally bothered about biographies, so, excellent title aside, I'm not sure why I picked this up. However, it proves to be an easy, amusing read and an interesting insight into the reality of one comedian's life - which is clearly (albeit obviously, when you think about it) harder work than it would seem.
The Week (24 May 2014 / Issue 972)
Guitarist (July 2014 / Issue 382)
Follow The Money by Steve Boggan (2012)
Amusing and charming high-concept travel book in which the author follows a ten dollar note around the US for a month. It was based on his original Guardian article (following a £10 note in London). Boggan obviously has the knack of getting to know people - or at least, he writes it that way!


Drive On

A Social History Of The Motor Car
L.J.K. Setright

Loose ragbag of prejudices and post hoc reasoning masquerades as academic rigor.

Everyone must have at least one friend like L.J.K. Setright. Possessed of a disconcerting number of outré opinions, steadfast in their rejection of alternatives (or indeed logic), they are resolutely convinced of their own correctness. I was talking with one recently, and he was insisting that recent studies show that if you stop training for a mere two weeks, then all your fitness is lost. So presumably if Mo Farrah misses a fortnight, I'll be able to run 5K faster than him. Of course.

As frustrating as these people are in person, it turns out they are more so in book form, where you are deprived of the option of attempting to argue with them. I suppose you can put the book down but it's not the same. Setright (he always refers to himself, pompously, in the third person, using just his surname) had a number of signature opinions which in his head were, I'm sure, entirely rational, and this book provides him with another opportunity to air them again, like a greatest hits album.

What are they? The Honda Prelude, or possibly the NSX, is the greatest car ever made. Front wheel drive is an abomination forced on us by sheep-like manufacturers copying VW. Rolls Royces are wildly overrated and have been since about 1920.  Most car manufacturers apart from Bristol and Honda are ruining cars. Diesels are evil. And so on.

Setright clearly knows his stuff and is passionate about the subject, which ensures the book is often interesting. For some reason, however, he seems to harbour a deep sense of injustice and resentment on behalf of the motor car itself, directed at, variously, the avaricious manufacturers intent on making money (how dare they), the vulgar and stupid public who asked for and paid money for all the wrong things, and the weak designers who resorted to giving the public what they asked for and should have known better.

If only all of them had asked Setright who, you could be forgiven for thinking, had been there all of the time advising of the correct route, instead of ranting from the sidelines of a magazine column with the full benefit of hindsight. After a while this becomes wearing, when reading for the fifth time how, say, Ford shunned the right thing ("right" according to Setright, judging them thirty years after the fact) in favour of the popular, money-making thing.

Setright has his fans still (he died a while ago now) but it's an acquired taste. I probably won't bother again.