31/12/2019

Reading - December 2019

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (1992)
The twelfth Discworld novel and the first in my "start from the beginning" initiative that I hadn't read before (at least, as far as I remember). I'm not sure why not - Granny Weatherwax is my favourite Discworld character, and this is great, with some nice riffs on fairy stories and how they work. Good stuff.
Why Running Matters by Ian Mortimer (2019)
Imagine Alain de Botton wrote a running diary; well, this is what you'd get. Each of Mortimer's run through the year, primarily 5k parkruns, gets a chapter and a musing on what he felt this particular event had taught him - not just, or even much, about running, but about life. It's a really good read, ideal for bedtime, with short chapters and an engaging style. It has reminded me - again - that I need to restart running soon.
The Guitar Magazine (Jan 2020 / Issue 376)
"Gear of the Decade" issue, with some obvious choices (TC Ditto, Kemper) and some less so (Novo Serus & Fender Vintera Jazzmaster - why two very similar offsets? Whither Relish or similar?)
Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik (2013)
A highly readable pop-science intro to materials science with a pleasingly punning title and the somewhat longer subtitle of "The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World". Miodownik selects ten materials the pervade our modern world and describes how they came to be, illustrating how completely synthetic nearly everything we are surrounded by is: in the words of Peter Gabriel's sublime "Mercy Street" (inspired by the poetry of Anne Sexton): "all of the buildings, all of the cars, were once just a dream in somebody's head".
Crossroads by Mark Radcliffe (2019)
This is an odd book. The concept is simple: each of the 25 chapters is a short essay about a crossroads or important moment in pop/rock music's history, written in Radcliffe's unique voice and containing multiple diversions and asides. It reads very much as he talks on the radio, which is no bad thing, since it means that entertainment and amusement is never far away. On the radio, though, it's the music that provides most of the entertainment and the "talking in between the records" (as he has previously described his job) is a nice leavening. Here, the talking is all you get and it's a bit much after a while. It doesn't help that the chapters are in no obvious order, which means the book has no obvious beginning or end and just becomes a collection of pieces. Not unpleasant by any means but hardly essential reading.
The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain by Ian Mortimer (2017)
This is an easy book to admire but a hard one to love. The concept is brilliant, as shown on the two previous books (to medieval and Elizabethan England respectively) but, as before, I struggled with it. There's so much detail here and even if it is presented in an easily digestible form, it's still a lot to take in. Mortimer's keen to emphasise that, despite what seem to be substantial differences, people are still the same regardless of what era they lived in, which is correct of course. It's the differences that strike home though.

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