Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble to The Saga of Erik the Viking

I had 55 minutes of the first Saturday of the month left as I typed this, and I just about remembered that it’s Six Degrees of Separation day. Head over to Books Are My Favourite And Best to find out more about this monthly challenge.

This month’s starting book is Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Continue reading

Exercises in Control

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Read 22/01/2020-26/01/2020

Rating 3 stars

This slim volume of short stories by poet and fiction writer Annabel Banks is one of my chosen books from my Influx Press subscription. It’s a challenging and entertaining read. There are moments of real discomfort mixed up with the laughs provoked by Banks’s ability to skewer human nature. Continue reading

Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men

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Read 14/12/2019-04/01/2020

Rating 4 stars

I found Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women a difficult read. It’s essential in its content and the topics Perez shines a light on, but I found its wide ranging subject and the approach Perez takes in evidencing and unpicking the topics she focuses on resulted in a somewhat dense, exhausting book. It relentlessly raises lots of issues across 300+ pages but leaves any possible solutions to the final dozen. It felt at times like one woman railing against injustice rather than a practical call to arms across society.

The book begins with a simple statement. Continue reading

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War

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Read 24/11/2019-12/12/2019

Rating 4 stars

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse legacies of the Cold War is a collection of academic essays on the material culture of the Cold War and a multidisciplinary approach to its history. It makes a case for the influence that the Cold War has had on the world, from the domestic lives of those living under its psychological shadow in Europe and the USA, to those living alongside nuclear power stations (also sites of manufacture of weapons grade nuclear material) and nuclear test sites. It takes in archaeology, history, art, architecture and cultural studies in its examination of material culture and what that material culture can tell us about something that has been hidden behind military classification for so long. Continue reading

Escape from Earth: A secret history of the space rocket

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Read 09/11/2019-24/11/2019

Rating 4 stars

Fraser MacDonald’s debut is a fascinating account of the birth of rocket science and space exploration. It’s a hidden history brought to light thanks to MacDonald’s interest in unlocking public records that governments have deemed secret.

This is a history of a group of people who came together in 1930s California, as Fascism was taking hold in Europe. Some were the children of immigrants, others were immigrants themselves, fleeing the persecution building across the Atlantic ocean. At the heart of the group is a scientist called Frank Malina. He was researching at the same time as Robert Oppenheimer, but he isn’t as well known as Oppenheimer, because he has been largely written out of the history of rocket science. Continue reading

Ring the Hill

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Read 01/11/2019-09/11/2019

Rating 5 stars

Ring the Hill is a walking book, a history book, a nature book, a folklore book and a book about contemporary Britain viewed through a lens that seems to have almost disappeared from most other media. Tom Cox celebrates the little observed quirks of human nature that thread through the story of the British Isles, and in particular the South West corner of England. The story of Britain is a sprawling one, influenced by the landscape as much as by the doings of its inhabitants. Cox weaves together the folklore of our physical landscape with the ways in which we humans across history have tried to best that landscape.

Continue reading

A Chancer

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Read 06/10/2019-16/10/2019

Rating 3 stars

First published in 1985, A Chancer is James Kelman’s second novel. It’s an examination of working class Glasgow life through the eyes of Tammas, a young man of twenty.

We meet Tammas at the end of an unproductive factory night shift, playing cards and winning money from a co-worker that the co-worker doesn’t have. The factory is short on orders and it looks like redundancies are imminent.

Continue reading