Lords of the Desert

This has been on my shelf for a long time, not because I didn’t want to read it but because I was quite looking forward to it and wanted to read it at the right time. I was disappointed. While it gave me some of the desired background knowledge of the region, it became far too bogged down in unnecessary detail in my opinion. It also did not join up well with the political situation today or even the last few decades. While undoubtedly this would have been a huge undertaking, I think spanning a period continuous with today, it would have been more accessible. Other than that, the writing was quite essay like and while not completely stuffy, it was just a bit dull. Probably avoid unless you have a real interest in the minutiae of the period between ’45 and ’60 ish. 

Box 88

Bought on a whim and was accordingly wary that it would be a bit of a trashy thriller with little substance. In this case, I really lucked out. I absolutely loved this book. Written thoughtfully and with sophistication, it adds an unexpected coming of age element to the story with a hint of classic and plausible espionage that has been diluted in so many modern equivalents. This is just a really well written book and I will be looking into reading the next installment which is apparently out soon. 

Human Kind

This book is all about how we as humans are inherently kind rather than the more popular believe that we are not. Call me a cynic but I found this book a bit naive. Although it would be lovely to think that even Hitler and the like were just fluffy bunnies underneath it all, the author cherry picks science to fit his theory rather than the other way round. While an interesting exploration of many of the pyschological experiments that have taken place on this subject, the biased analysis of it all falls far short of credible and for me just got me quite frustrated. 

Rivers of London

I picked this as a simple read after a heavy non-fiction. I’d had it recommended to me and so thought I’d give it a whirl. It is essentially a police procedural in a fantasy version of London. For me, it didn’t quite come off. It was fairly mundane and the fantasy aspects just didn’t gel together. It felt as if it had been edited to within an inch of its life, no doubt to make it into a fast reading page turner and I do wonder if a more fleshed out version exists somewhere.

Either way, a middle of the road story at best, a bit like an average episode of the Doctor Who reboots stretched into an entire book. There’s a lot of other books in the series as I understand but I don’t think I’ll be giving them a read. 

Shock Doctrine

This read like an essay for the most part so no easy reading. However, it was incredibly interesting in parts and quite depressing to be honest. Certainly written from a very left wing perspective and bias but the content is pretty undeniable and scary. 

Interestingly the events of the last decade seem to have followed on from where they left off when she wrote this and we are living through a ‘shock’ at the moment. Much more wary now of the vultures circling in the wake of covid. 

The Mountain Shadow

This is a hefty book that is the followup to Shantaram which I enjoyed. I think on the whole, I liked this better. It’s a long book but at no point did I get bored. It is heavily philosophical to the point where some people I think might find it a bit pretentious but I am not one of those people. The characters are well rounded and believable, if not a bit exaggerated. It’s a bit of a fantasy world in a way but gives a feel of such a different way of life to my own that it peaks the imagination. 

Some lovely writing…”Moonlight wrote tree poems on the road”. 

This is recommended. 

The Map that Changed the World

This is a book about rocks. There’s no two ways about it. As such, it can be a bit dull in places. The author, well-renowned as he is, does get a bit carried away with the rocks every now and again which if I’m honest was a slight struggle. However, I realise that without the rocks, there isn’t a book here. Surrounding these passages is an interesting biographical journey set in the early 1800s which I always find interesting. I would say there is a slow patch in the middle of the book but it finishes strongly. Not for everyone, but not the worst book in the world. 

Improbable Destinies

This was really good. I was a bit concerned that it would be just another book about evolution about which I know a reasonable amount. However, it actually explores in reasonable detail the questions as to whether evolution is convergent (the phenomenon in which creatures will evolve simialr solutions or exactly the same solutions to selection pressures independently). Lots of detail about various studies and research projects which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the author knows how to write in an accessible and light hearted manner so it’s not too dry. 

I liked it.