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.  

The Body

Now I don’t want to sound bitter at all, but this was the book I had planned to write. Fortunately I got wind of it before planning got out of hand, but still…

Fair play though, Bill Bryson is a master at this sort of thing, and for someone not primarily medical it is a huge achievement. He has essentially taught himself a large proportion of medicine! This is a superbly written and researched book and I love all of the anecdotes and tidbits. Indeed his previous books had been an influence on my own writing in this respect. 

Despite the fact that it has diverted my future writing projects, I don’t mind. I’m glad he wrote it. I’m not bitter. Probably it is something everyone should read. I would even say it should be on the curriculum at schools. 

The Deep

This was written by one of the scientific advisers on the TV series Blue Planet. Alex Rogers is an esteemed marine biologist and, although he’s not the best writer out there, this is an engaging and interesting book. If I’m honest, some of the descriptive passages of the underwater reefs in extreme detail did get a little bit tedious, but when he starts talking about the environmental aspects, he really hits home. This is an important book and towards the end, he gets into the real nitty gritty. 

The impact we are having on the oceans is shocking, something only surpassed with our complicit lack of action. The conclusion is sensible and important and gives the reader a list of things they can do to help change things. Ultimately only time will tell if this is enough. 

Kings of the Yukon

This is a beautifully descriptive account of one man’s journey from source to mouth of the Yukon river. Aside from being an inspiring adventure travel book, it is also gives a good account of the salmon industry, giving wider perspective on the environmental issues as well. 

Would recommend. 

Expedition

This documents expeditions to places people have never ventured before and I got this while attending a live talk from the man himself. Loved it! The kid in me sometimes wishes I’d gone down the same path as him. The TV shows that the book is based on really inspired me and I would love to get some expeditions under my belt. Life’s too short!

The book itself is well written, impressive considering it was done on the hoof while on location and in between various trips. 

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

I really enjoyed this one. Not too long and pitched just right for a light but informative read. It has certainly given me a better overview of our genetic makeup and also tempted me, despite the shortcomings mentioned, to get my own genome tested!

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

I often wonder why dinosaurs are the realm of children. To think that they walked across the same ground on which we do today is, to my mind, quite incredible. Learning about them and how they evolved and also about the vast spans of time through which they lived gives a degree of perspective. Great book. 

The Secret Barrister

Fantastic book which takes one through all of the basic workings of our legal system. The underlying message is one of under-funding and misguided leadership which shows no sign, unfortunately of abating. This sort of book is interesting and entertaining but more than that, people need to be reading this sort of thing to keep themselves properly informed. I fear many are not doing this!

How Democracies Die

This is a well written and concise look into the development of US politics over the past century. It has implications for other nations as well, including the UK. It’s quite terrifying. It shows just how things are changing right under our noses. Such gradual change is only ever visible it seems in retrospect. If the people with the power to change things were as informed as those writing this book, perhaps things might turn out better!