31/07/2022

Reading - July 2022

Love is the Drug edited by John Aizlewood (1994)
Entertaining, albeit slightly repetitive, recounting by various music journos of the time (plus a few celebs) of their fandom for a particular artist. In some cases, all they're telling us is why so-and-so is their favourite, whereas in others it's a full-blown obsessiveness. Interesting, but doesn't pass the key test of any book about music: in no cases was I inspired to go and listen to the music. I've had this book for a long time - probably since it was published - and now I've read it again, I'm not sure why it survived the Great Book Cull of '17. Destined for the charity shop, I think!
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (1997)
A worldwide phenomenon, apparently, albeit one that has completely passed me by - I found this in the book exchange at work. According to Wikipedia, it's one of the best selling memoirs ever, and I can kind of see why: it's sweet, easy to read and has a nice message. It's also sentimental, simplistic and possibly a bit shallow - qualities that probably also don't harm its appeal to a wide audience (yes, I'm being snobbish). The book's subject - Morrie Schwartz - seems like he was a lovely man who encouraged people to live simply and enjoy what they have. I don't think I'm overly simplifying here. It's a good moral, one we should all remember, and if it takes a book to remind you of it, then fine.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall (2019)
Essentially an explanation about why the geopolitics of various regions fundamentally shape their history and policies, this is eerily correct about Russia's current actions, particularly given that it was originally published in 2015 (albeit updated in 2019). It adopts a curiously passive and neutral stance on countries' actions, explaining blandly that, for example, Putin had "no choice" but to annex Crimea, and initially this irritated me, because of course he had a choice. The only perspective in which he has no choice was that in which all other leaders are equally paranoid and opportunistic, and sadly, this is probably correct. It's also self-perpetuating, but inevitable. Ultimately, this is a book about why toxic nationalism is going to always be with us. Hard going and depressing.
Summer at the Lake by Erica James (2013)
A nice modern romance, with flashbacks to an older story embedded in it. The characters were engaging enough to keep me reading, but were a little one-dimensional, while the story was predictable in the best kind of way (i.e. it ends happily), albeit with a sudden injection of several dramatic elements all at once towards the end, which unbalanced it a little. Pleasant bedtime reading.
The Martian by Andy Weir (2011)
I'd never heard of this (or the film made from it) until I read about it, catching up on old xkcd comics. It's an odd book in some ways, a patchwork of different viewpoints, different styles and fairly relentless technical detail, but the central character has such a winning personality that he carries the plot and left me really wanting it to all work out (I did peek at the ending fairly on to make sure it was a happy one). It threatened to degenerate into a series of unfortunate events but I suppose that's fairly realistic, given how hostile Mars would actually be, and in any case it didn't stop me enjoying it. I'm now looking forward to watching the film!

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