31/12/2017

Reading - December 2017

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
I'd forgotten I'd read this until I was a couple of chapters in. Its title is a bit misleading: outliers aren't outliers, not if you examine them in their proper context. The book's subtitle, "The Story Of Success", gives a better sense of the ideas here. The discussions about stand-out individuals like Bill Gates make the same point that I have made for a long time (albeit Gladwell makes it in a more structured, better argued way): people like this are not freakishly gifted in some magical way, they are normally gifted (which is to say, they are almost always exceptional anway) and incredibly lucky - because of when, where and to whom they born. Or to put it another way: you don't hear about the equally gifted individuals who aren't as lucky. Or to put it another way: history is written by the winners.
Guitar Effects Pedals by Dave Hunter (2013)
Despite being subtitled "The Practical Handbook", this fairly weighty book is a history book, user guide and technical manual, and maybe a few other things besides. The one thing it isn't is a handbook, being too big and heavy. That said, it's all very interesting. This time round, I like the final section of interviews with various makers, although a discussion with someone from BOSS/Roland would seem like an obvious addition, so it's a shame that hasn't been done.
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 04)
Life To The Limit by Jenson Button (2017)
There aren't many autobiographies I'd buy in hardback as soon as they came out, but I've always liked Jenson Button for some reason. His book about his championship year (er, My Championship Year) is a good read and this is too. It's uncomplicated, unpretentious and uncontentious, much like the man himself. That might sound a bit boring, but if you're interested in the subject, it's a well-paced walk through the man's life and racing. There's a couple of interesting points scored; Button found Hamilton a bit off-ish, and although he doesn't quite say so, clearly feels Flavio Briatore is a nasty piece of work (he's right, of course). But in the main, it's about the racing. As always with these kind of books, it's difficult to get a sense of how much sheer effort was and is required to reach these kind of dizzy heights, but in fairness that would make a very dull read.
How To Build A Car by Adrian Newey (2017)
Newey's record as a designer speaks for itself, but it's interesting to have the insight into some of the events from the man himself. For example, at the time, I was very puzzled by his move from McLaren to Red Bull, but his explanation makes sense - basically, Ron Dennis was showing the overly-controlling tendencies that have subsequently shot himself and his team in the feet repeatedly over the last few years. So clearly Newey was right. He also doesn't have much time for the FIA, Max Mosely or Jean Todt. Interestingly, he is fairly quiet about Ecclestone, and he doesn't mention Briatore once, despite making it quite clear he believes Benetton were cheating outright in 1994. However, most of the book is about the cars he's designed, with about the right amount of technical detail for a layman to understand. I would have liked more pictures of the cars, but otherwise it's a good book for the F1 enthusiast.
Private Eye (No. 1459 / 15 - 22 Dec 2017)
I subscribed to Private Eye a long time ago - possibly 20 years ago - but little has changed, either in the layout and feel of the magazine, or, unsurprisingly, in the nature of the content. Parts are funny but my overall feeling on reading it is a sense of helplessness about the scale and persistence of greed, incompetence and stupidity in public and private sector alike. It's that feeling that led me to stop reading it in the first place. I know that only the bad things are worth reporting, and I suppose it's good to know, but blimey, it's a bit depressing!
The Crow Road by Iain Banks (1992)
This has been on my list of favourite books for ages now, and yet - assuming my records are correct - I haven't read it for a decade or more. Despite this, it's still really familiar, many of the phrases have stuck with me and the story is superb. It does jump around rather for the first half of the book, switching viewpoints and decades, but it settles down towards the end and becomes more linear, which is more satisfactory to read. Is it still a favourite? I'm not sure actually, but it is still excellent.

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