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. 

Chernobyl

I have had this book on my shelf for well over a year I think and there never seemed a good time to pick it up and read it. It looks potentially a bit boring. It is, however, not so. Extremely readable and, though very detailed, it is written in such a way that is does not become a trial to plough through. I had specifically avoided watching the tv series, which I feel like everyone in the world has watched, until I read this. I suspect the tv series will be even better now I have a bit of background to it. 

Deep sea and Foreign Going

An interesting peek into a world about which I know little. Not sure it is truly as revealing as it might be and it certainly isn’t the best book I have ever read. It reads a bit like a newspaper article or magazine feature. Not bad but not amazing. And what a random mouthful of a title. 

Endeavour

This is a superb historical account covering one of my favourite subjects – exploration of an unknown world. It is a brilliantly written book although it does jump around a bit. Broader in scope than I thought it was going to be as it deals with a lot of social philosophy of the time rather than just a blow by blow account of one voyage. I preferred Erebus I think, but this is still great. 

My New Book!

With any luck, I’ll have a book out on Amazon in a week or so. That’s pretty exciting. As much as I would love it to be my novel however, that will perhaps have to wait. Instead, to get at least a foot on the ladder, I decided a while back to compile my medical columns published fortnightly in the local paper into a book. 

From an early stage I wanted to be realistic about what I wanted from this. Primarily, if any agents were swayed by my having published something then that would be tremendous. I had put a few feelers out to see if any agents wanted to get on board with this project but to no avail. Rather than wait forever, I decided to go the self publishing route. After a lot of research, it became a bit of a no brainer to go with Amazon. 

It is actually a pretty simple system. I have had to work pretty hard to get it all formatted and ready but once that is done, the process can be pretty much sorted in 10 minutes. I am at the stage where I have sent for a few proof copies to make sure the paperback version is not rubbish (fingers crossed) but once I’m happy, I just click the button. 

There have been a few choices to make along the way. What price I should sell it for is one of them. Amazon allow 60% of the royalties for the paperback which I guess isn’t bad in the circumstances and it is a print on demand system. In other words, people buy and order it online and it is printed once for each individual order. This avoids me having to print a bulk load of a hundred and then seeing me stand by as they are all pulped. Paramount in my mind when making this decision was the closing scene of Alan Partridge season two.

Lockdown has made the decision for me as to whether or not to buy any copies myself and flog them at book shops. My biggest outgoing therefore was a cover. I wondered whether this was something I could do myself and I gave it a go but in the end, to avoid hours of frustration and potentially getting the formatting all wrong anyway, I decided to hire a professional. This was also very easy via a great website called Reedsy and a chap called Anders helped me out with getting a nice professional design all worked up. He cost a fair bit but I didn’t really mind.  

If I make enough from the book, I might break even. To make any money on this was never the main goal and I realise that there will be a finite market for this one – essentially the readership of the paper. That market, although limited, is not insubstantial however. If I make a loss, quite frankly it will be nice just to see a book with my name on it. I could tick that off the bucket list at least and if I do make a bit of money, then all the better!

 

 

Piano Notes

This book was leant to me by my piano teacher. It’s written by a big time concert pianist and is interesting if not highly specialised. It goes into the intracicies and subtlties of classical piano music in such detail that it can only be truly appreciated by someone immersed fully in that world. But as someone interested in music of all types, the parts on the ways in which we appreciate music and interpret it were very good. Not for everyone this one. 

A Life on Our Planet

This is a really special book. It can be read in an afternoon and in my opinion, it should be read by literally everybody. It’s importance cannot be overstated. 

The book itself is premium hardback and it even has a little string page divider which I thought was worth a mention! The real quality however is in the content and, although it is nothing I wasn’t really already aware of, the writing is concise and hits all the right points clearly and convincingly without obfuscating the matter. 

The words are double spaced (maybe 1.5?!) which makes it really easy to read, it’s excellently illustrated and all of the above must have been by design. This is a book with a message to be made available to as broad a cohort of people as possible. I hope people read it. 

It should be compulsory reading at schools but also should be read every year by everyone. We need reminders every once in a while and this book is, as Attenborough himself eludes to, his ‘witness statement’. More than a non-fiction book, it is a document. A vital manual for us all.