Reading - August 2017

Soccernomics by Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski (2014)
An oddly interesting (even to a non fan) statistical analysis of various facets of what the authors insist on calling "soccer" (although, to be fair, this is the US edition), following the similar approach taken in baseball and described in Michael Lewis's Moneyball (which I now intend to read, despite having even less interest in or knowledge of baseball than I do of football). Also has the longest subtitle of any book I have read: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, And Why The US, Japan, Australia - And Even Iraq - Are Destined To Become The Kings Of The World's Most Popular Sport. (spoiler: England lose because they're a relatively small country.)
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 28 No 12)
Bedlam by Christopher Brookmyre (2013)
For some reason I had it at the back of my head that I hadn't fully followed the plot of this, despite being, on third (or fourth) reading, pretty straightforward. Enjoyable stuff as always.
The Time Traveller's Guide To Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer (2012)
This second instalment in Mortimer's Time Traveller's series is as well-researched as the first and equally capable of setting the scene. Yet I found myself struggling to finish it. I think history's not really my thing. Nevertheless, I'm pleased I read it, since it is interesting to see how things have changed.
The Rough Guide To The Titanic by Greg Ward (2012)
The subject of the Titanic came up in conversation with B and so I felt like re-reading this.
White Picket Fences by Tara Taylor Quinn (2000)
A sweet (aren't they all?) romance, albeit with a few too many trailers to the next installment in the series, and a few too many soap-opera-like entanglements. But the main characters are engaging and the story satisfying.
Make Room For Daddy by Andrea Edwards (1990)
Comfort reading. Love conquers all. Awww.
Uncommon People: The Rise And Fall Of The Rock Stars by David Hepworth (2017)
David Hepworth is a superb writer of opinion pieces. His stock-in-trade is the long essay, whether it's for a quality daily, a publishing weekly or his own blog. Here he tackles a book length discussion of the state of the rock star by breaking it into individual pieces about various examples of the type (Lennon, Bowie, Dylan, Elton, etc), each illustrating a facet of the condition. The central contention - that the age of rock stars is over - feels like a sop to the need for publicity rather than a genuine point to be made. Meanwhile the structure of a chapter per year, required to allow Hepworth to write his trademark essays, is sometimes forced. So despite each chapter being a good example of his distinctive style and ideas, as a book it feels somewhat disjointed; a collection of articles rather than a cohesive whole.
Follow Me Home by Leona Karr (1998)
Stand-In Mum by Marie Ferrarella (1999)
Heiress Apparent by Kayla Daniel (1993)
Seduced In Seattle by Kristin Gabriel (2002)
There was a shelf of books to read on holiday, which was nice, but most were very unappealing, so I ended up bingeing on lightweight category romances (including Heiress Apparent, which I actually brought with me). They're easy to read and mostly nice enough, but they're short and in many cases written by people who don't write professionally (or, at least, not much), since some obvious mistakes are made, obvious even to me. In particular, viewpoint switching in the middle of sections - and sometimes mid-paragraph - is something I find extremely grating. Still, the book equivalent of all the doughnuts I ate over the week away - nice at the time but leaving a slight pall of regret.
Bad Boy by Olivia Goldsmith (2001)
A bit cliched with respect to how girls prefer bad boys, and the reverse Pygmalion thing is a bit obvious, but well written. Clearly intended to be a film although it didn't seem to become one.


Shock And Awe: Glam Rock And Its Legacy

Simon Reynolds

This substantial book - almost 700 pages - was a very welcome surprise birthday present from my good friend and all-round Bowie nut Brian. It's nothing if not thorough in its coverage of the subject, covering the bands themselves and reaching out into all sorts of related areas to examine the wider impact glam rock had on the music that followed.

So, who was "glam"? The inside cover lists the artists covered. It's a short list - and of the twenty-six names, a quarter aren't glam at all, but formative influences, broadly concurrent acts or later ones. There's about half a dozen bands that could really be considered "glam" - and of these, David Bowie, whose name runs through the book as if it was a stick of rock, is arguably not glam anyway, and certainly not after about 1973.

There's plenty of material about the core glam bands - primarily the ChinniChap acts - and lots about the Bowie adoptees Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. But despite the length of the book, I'm left with the impression that, actually, there wasn't much of an impact at all. Glam rock was a short-lived phenomenon in a small environment. In much the same way that punk was primarily a well-publicised but very localised movement, glam created a lot of media fuss for all the usual reasons - outrage, novelty - but surprisingly little output or lasting effect.

It's an interesting, if somewhat rambling, read, and I enjoyed it, but am left with the feeling that there's a shorter, more relevant book struggling to get out.