31/08/2015

Reading - August 2015

The Week (1 August 2015 / Issue 1033)
The Running Man by Stephen King [writing as Richard Bachman] (1982)
I hadn't read this for a while and although I remember the basic plot, I was surprised by how detailed some of the background is. Utterly compelling, utterly believable - even if it is set (now) only ten years in the future.
The Political Animal by Jeremy Paxman (2002)
Accurately identifies and articulates the oddities of the career politician. My theory that anyone who has succeeded in any sphere is not entirely normal (the level of single-mindedness required is beyond 90% of the population, I reckon) applies equally here, although one might argue with the definition of "success" in the case of most politicians. In any case, the book sets out the bizarre life of the British politician and you're left with a disconcerting sense that the job is increasingly only appealing to the kind of person you wouldn't trust to look after your cat, let alone your country. Extra marks for including the unintentionally hilarious review from William Hague: "It left me disappointed."
Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett (1993)
One of my favourite Discworld novels, mainly because it has a bit of a romantic element to it and I am a sucker for a happy romantic ending. Also I am constantly marvelling at Pratchett's lightness of touch as a narrator; he doesn't spell things out but implies them, so you feel clever for spotting them.
The Week (8 August 2015 / Issue 1034)
Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson (1995)
This is on my list of favourite books (non-fiction category) for a reason: it's such an enjoyable journey. Even though it's now twenty years old and some elements of the country he toured have changed, it's still very accurate about English people and their nature and fascinating about many places.
Rock Stars Stole My Life! by Mark Ellen (2014)
An easy holiday (re)read. What struck me this time is how acerbic he is about the takeover of EMAP (publisher of Q, Select etc) by corporate management consultancy bollocks. I don't blame him for getting out, but the ending of Word magazine does sound a bit sad.
The Week (15 August 2015 / Issue 1035)
The Week (22 August 2015 / Issue 1036)
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (2012)
A fantastic central concept (if slightly obvious - parallel universes are not a new idea, of course) with loads of great ideas, that simply takes too long to get going. The whole book feels like it is scene-setting - something you'd expect of the first few chapters of the book, not all fifty-two - and it ends on a kind-of cliff-hanger, presumably for the next novel (which is conveniently advertised on the inside back cover).
The Week (29 August 2015 / Issue 1037)
I Think You'll Find It's A Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre (2014)
Bite-size chunks of Goldacre magic, which can mostly be found on badscience.net but are still nice to have in book form. The book is split into multiple sections covering various topics, but a recurring theme is the inability of journalists to understand, check or communicate basic science - a failing that, as Goldacre points out, has serious, even fatal consequences; for example, the whole MMR farce, which was almost entirely media driven. (One such takedown provoked an unintentionally hilarious "rebuttal" from a science journalist, rightly summarised by Goldacre as "explaining why health journalists can't be expected to check facts." So much for trusting any other reporting then ...). What makes Goldacre so much fun, apart from the obvious joy of watching idiots get exposed, is that his writing is funny and flavoursome.

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