The Book of Trespass

Thought this looked interesting on the shelf so I took a punt on it. Essentially this book is about land. More specifically, the author has stumbled upon the surprisingly interesting subject of who owns the land and who has access to it in the UK. The answer is not that many to both questions, at least as far as he is concerned. 

Having read his book, I am inclined to agree with him. I say he has stumbled across the topic but clearly this is a life long passion of his. He is clearly an outdoors type with clear sympathies with all manner of protest groups to the extent that you can almost smell the mustiness coming from the pages. I don’t mean that in a bad way. The book is exceptionally well researched and referenced. The legal research he must have had to look into would not have been for me. 

It is quite incredible how little land we as the public have access to. It becomes ever more heartbreaking when one considers what our landscape used to look like before we swarmed across it and that the last bastions of the wild are now the trophies of only a very exclusive few. It reminds me that we live in a very unequal society. The last page of the book made me almost tear up. 

It would be interesting to hear a balancing reply from the land owning perspective. In some ways this book was superbly and eloquently argued and yet I can’t help but think he lets himself down when he admits at least on 2 occasions to trespassing on properties in order to take class A drugs. This book needs to be taken seriously and that was perhaps a mis-step. Nevertheless, a powerful piece of writing and deserves to be listened to. Whether it will be or not is another matter. 

Breath

This was recommended to me, so I thought I should read it. It turned out to be very interesting. The author goes into all sorts of detail about breathing techniques, ancient and modern, all the while threading it together with his own experiment – for a week he breathes just through his mouth and another just through his nose. As might be expected, he feels rubbish after breathing just through the mouth but much better after the nose week. Sorry if I’ve ruined it for you there. 

The science seems well researched – although there is always that nagging feeling things have been cherry picked a bit – and there is some interesting stuff about the developed of our jaws etc but the take home message is fairly simplistic. Breathing is good for you and doing it through the nose is a bit better. An enjoyable read, accessible and interesting. 

The Haunting of Alma Fielding

I read the Suspicions of Mr Whicher some time ago and really enjoyed it so I thought I would give this one a go. I like my ghost stories too. This was not as good as the former I’m afraid but it did still have it’s moments. Quite an interesting exploration of the early last Century subculture of seances and poltergeists etc. Similar in a way to the podcast ‘the Battersea Poltergeist’ which I have subsequently listened to. It’s all good fun and there are some snippets of interesting history there but otherwise a bit shallow in substance. 

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. 

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 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. 

The Making of Mr Gray’s Anatomy

This has been on the shelf for a while but the moment felt right to read it. The book itself is lovingly presented. It feels premium and special. Unfortunately the actual written contents left me really struggling. For a start, the subject was based upon an enormous amount of conjecture and guess work, as the author herself freely admits. This made it feel immediately as if I was wasting my time a bit. 

Although the general feel of the time and the world in which the key players lived interests me, it was presented in such a dry manner that I got bored very quickly. So much unecessary detail – at one point, she spends about three pages just listing books published by the publishing company at the centre of it all. It reads like an essay overall. The author may be lovely and it remains entirely possible that she is an incredible entertainer, but on this evidence, I would certainly choose to sit as far away from her as possible if we were attending the same dinner party. 

Avoid unless you just want your bookcase to look nice.