31/01/2020

Reading - January 2020

All The Best Lines by George Tiffin (2019)
A book dedicated to the unsung heroes of film, the scriptwriters. Fundamentally a (big) selection of choice quotes from famous films, interleaved with short essays about various aspects of the industry. Plenty of interest, and brilliant to dip into. This was a very welcome Secret Santa gift from someone at work - I could make a guess who but whoever it was chose very well. Thank you if you're reading!
How To Be An F1 Driver by Jenson Button (2019)
Reading this book is a bit like just listening to Jenson chat away about things. Although there's something of a structure to it, the style is very conversational - in fact, I suspect that it was actually "written" by Jenson talking away at someone and then having it transcribed. Normally I'd expect the subsequent editing to formalise the style somewhat, but here most of the colloquialisms are left in place, so there's plenty of sentences such as "He came out and I'm like, 'You're wearing that?'" (not an actual sentence from the book). I found this a bit wearing after a while. Still, an enjoyable and easy read, and I still have a lot of time for him.
Guitar Magazine (Feb 2020 / Issue 377)
The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson (1982)
I was reminded about this management classic when a colleague (hi James!) showed me The Phoenix Project, which is a novelised guide to DevOps. Similarly, this is a story of how a young man discovers the secrets of good management. Unlike the more recent book, this is nice and short - although, given the subject, it would be shooting itself in the foot if it wasn't. The lessons are easy to learn, and valuable I think, but probably harder to apply. In that sense, it's a bit simplistic. But it makes you think, and that's no bad thing.
How To by Randall Munroe (2019)
xkcd author's third proper book (fourth if you count xkcd: volume 0) is a collection of articles about how to do various activities - how to dig a hole, how to throw things - all taken to ridiculous extremes. Each article is a bit like an extended xkcd web-comic, where, rather than just the punchline, Randall explains his thought processes in getting there. The appeal of this, and of xkcd, is his endearing literal-mindedness: if we're asking how to move fast, how fast? Why not faster? and so on. Really good fun and deserves an audience much wider than his current reader base (although that will probably be enough to generate plenty of sales anyway).
A Fabulous Creation by David Hepworth (2019)
Now that music magazines are less of a viable commercial concern, David Hepworth seems to have hit on a niche in books: music nostalgia. This is the third book in which he claims, at unnecessary length, that things aren't what they used to be: first, it was music in general (downhill since 1971 apparently); next it was rock stars (today's stars not a patch on the real thing, you know); here it's the way we consume music (soulless compared to vinyl, of course). I don't buy the central argument, which is that real albums only exist on vinyl, and the subtitle ("How the LP saved our lives") is a ridiculous claim. Once again we have the essay per year structure, which doesn't really lend itself to an extended, reasoned argument - so what we get is basically another history of the seventies from a slightly different angle. Hepworth's writing seems to be getting more stilted over time too, with shorter and shorter sentences, which is a very identifiable style but doesn't flow well on the page. As a result of all of this, I found the book hard to get on with. By far the best part of the book is the appendix, in which he gives short reviews of a handful of records for each year covered in the main body; all masterpieces of concision and opinion.

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