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. 

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. 

Mudlarking

Much like some of the finds that the author writes of, this book is a rare gem (I don’t think she actually ever finds a ‘gem’ as such but you know what I mean). An interesting topic brilliantly transformed into a varied and digestible history of London and the Thames itself. The title may sound boring but the book is genuinely interesting!

Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

I thought this would be quite a good one. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan. the concept was great – what the elements of the periodic table do and how they affect us day to day, practically and culturally. 

I was expecting loads of useful anecdotes and concise and interesting histories of the elements involved. Not so. It reads rather like an a-level English lit essay, (albeit an accomplished one) complete with tediously detailed accounts of various chemistry experiments mixed in with assorted quotes from various historical literary works – in fact almost drowned in them. He references all sorts of obscure authors and artists (to me at least) and uses a lot of subjective waffling that is of really no great interest. 

It may be to some people’s taste, but I’m afraid this chap is not for me. He is probably the sort of guy that you would try and avoid sitting next to at a dinner party. Needless to say I won’t be reading his newer book on tides!

The History of the Twentieth Century

This door stopper took me a while but was a real pleasure to read. I have not read a Martin Gilbert one before and was impressed with the way he writes. Very easy to read. More to the point, the content was really useful. Although I have covered much of the content before, it gave great context to stuff I have heard or read about in isolation before. It was a bit like fitting the puzzle blocks into the correctly shaped holes in some cases. 

What struck me most was how full of conflict the twentieth century was (the two world wars aside) and how similar the issues we face now are to a hundred years ago. We really do learn nothing do we. As interesting as it was depressing.