All 17 entries tagged Books
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April 30, 2009
Not really, that would take forever. Instead, here’s just five reasons to read Roberto Bolano’s book, 2666.
- It’s like The Wire. Endlessly complex, multiple sides to every story, characters that are rarely good or bad but usually a bit of both. It’s also in five parts, one of which is about the death of journalism.
- It’s not like The Wire. It’s tougher. If you thought the crime rate in Baltimore was bad, wait until you read Part Four of this book. It also makes less sense than The Wire, but if you’re prepared to read a 900-page book, that’s probably not going to bother you much.
- It’s unfinished. Roberto Bolano died before he completed the book, so any fault you might find in the book isn’t really his fault.
- You’ll struggle to find a critical review.
- In fifty years time, people might well ask you if you’ve read this book yet. You might as well get it out of the way while you’re young.
February 09, 2009
I don’t get the Amazon Kindle.
Someone basically saw the iPod and thought “Yeah, we’ll do that but with books”.
And that was probably as much thought as went into it.
The device – and it’s newly announced successor the Kindle2 – is jaw-droppingly expensive. $359, or £240. For something that replicates, albeit badly, the idea of a book.
Don’t forget that unless you’re going to commit to a life of nothing-but-Dickens, you’ll still have to pay another £5 for every book you want to read on it. And that’s before we get to the device’s USP, newspapers and blogs. They also cost money to read (up to £7 a month), even though they’re available online completely free.
Some of the technology is very clever – the so-called ‘e-ink’ is impressive and it does look more like reading a book than your typical computer screen. And yes, you can store billions of words all on one little chip.
But then some of it is awful. It’s got a wholly unnecessary keyboard. It has an operating system that takes up more than 600Mb (for a book!). And it tries really hard to make you hate it by banning RSS feeds.
The Kindle completely kills the idea of what a book is all about. Books can be shared, given pride of place on a bookshelf, passed down to future generations, and loved.
The iPod made music portable. The Kindle is just making books look like even better value.
September 25, 2007
I’ve noticed that charity shops’ bookshelves are disproportionately littered with former winners and nominees of the Booker Prize.
Is this because people are conned into buying them and then realise they’re a bit too ‘wordy’ and convoluted?
Or maybe dead people like Booker Prize winners. They die, the possessions go to Oxfam.
I’d wonder if there’s an unusual amount of CDs being sold second-hand which were nominated for the Mercury Prize. How many Nitin Sawnhey albums have you got that you don’t want?
July 19, 2007
J.K. Rowling is apparently “staggered” that the New York Times and another U.S. newspaper have written reviews of the (leaked) new Harry Potter book.
Get over yourself, J.K.. It’s just a book.
I’m personally “staggered” that you’ve earned so much money for doing so little. Especially when thousands of authors have written books of higher quality and earned bugger all.
Harry Potter: The McDonalds of the Publishing World.
June 12, 2007
This book is coming out in a couple of weeks. It should be quite good. I wrote some of it.
May 16, 2007
Obsessive is the only way to describe Truman Capote’s study of what drives a murderer to kill. In Cold Blood, follows the story of Dick Hickock, Perry Smith, and the family of four that they murdered one night in Kansas.
It’s an incredible read. The pages read like a more convincing, more psychologically accurate version of a Patricia Cornwell novel. And there’s a reason for this feeling of realism. The events Capote describes were real.
Capote apparently decided to chase the story after reading a 300-word piece in the New York Times that started:
A wealthy wheat farmer, his wife and their two young children were found shot to death today in their home. They had been killed by shotgun blasts at close range after being bound and gagged … There were no signs of a struggle, and nothing had been stolen. The telephone lines had been cut.
There was little more for Alvin Dewey, the detective sent to Holcomb, Kansas, or Capote to go on. The killers were only found because one had foolishly bragged to a fellow inmate that he intended to rob and kill the Clutter family.
Once the killers are identified, the book becomes a dissection of the relationship between the two killers, but also the relationship they had with their parents. Their plan is to escape to Mexico and search for gold. The first bit of the plan works well, the second less so. Their short cash reserves are quickly spent on prostitutes and only a dangerous return to the United States can resolve their financial difficulties.
What makes the book so incredible is the accounts that Capote manages to grasp from the key players in the story. Hickock and Smith seem to reveal every detail to him while they await execution, and even the hurt family members tell him quite personal details. All this becomes more surprising when you find that Capote infuriated the people of Holcomb, who detested the forensic examination of their already bruised community.
In Cold Blood is a brilliant book. Dripping with Capote’s obsessive streak, it becomes as much a book about the author as it does about the murder itself, but is no worse off for it.
December 02, 2006
November 21, 2006
I’ve never read such a hilarious non-fiction book. Piers Morgan’s ramble through his years as editor of the News of the World and the Mirror are full of gossip, intrigue, and not very many cliffhangers. Virtually every morsel he throws at you is followed up by the juicy details.
His dealings with Cherie Blair, George Michael, Jeremy Clarkson, Paul Burrell, Princess Diana, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell are all fantastically funny. Did you know he introduced Paul McCartney to Heather Mills?
His diary wasn’t written at the time, so there’s an extent to which you wonder if he’s remembering the good bits and leaving out some of the bad, but some of his notes are pretty comprehensive and he relays some great quotes from the rich and famous.
You’ve got to have a fairly unique sense of humour not to laugh at loud at some of the pages, and to be honest some of the more serious stuff gets a little emotional too.
I’d definitely recommend it to anyone with any interest in the world of celebrities, as it’s a fantastic guide to how self-promotion really works.
And if you are feeling generous you can donate to the Chris Doidge Education Fund by buying the book from HERE. It’s only £3.99!
Following the recent publication of O.J. Simpson’s If I Did It, I thought I’d look into my crystal ball and predict the bestseller list for next Christmas…
10. If I Could Fly by Keith and Orville
9. If We’d Killed Them – A Compendium of Death by Ian Brady, Fred West and Harold Shipman
8. If Harry Was Mine by James Hewitt
7. If I Was Clever by Jade Goody
6. If I Did It Harder by O.J. Simpson
5. If We Had Diana Killed by Prince Philip
4. If I Was Gay by Borat Sagdiyev
3. If The Military Carried Out 9/11 by Donald Rumsfeld
2. If I Was Gay by Louis Walsh
1. If I’d Sold Peerages by Lord Blair of Sedgefield
October 15, 2006
I’ve always fancied the idea of writing a book, just so long as I can take the credit without doing any of the work. So here’s my first – and probably last – novel, which I’ve condensed into a couple of hundred words to save you and me the bother of writing/reading it. Do let me know if I’ve inadvertantly stolen it from someone else.
Man, aged about 30, living in London, 1997. Everything’s fine and rosy, but some things jar slightly. Traffic lights don’t look quite the same. People have mobile phone implants. You know, the usual. Reader suspects that this is some parallel version of 1997 (mammoth hints are dropped when Charles and Diana celebrate their anniversary together). Man gets himself into something he shouldn’t be in (walking in on some lame-ass drug deal or football bung). Reader is very sympathetic (following several chapters which have portrayed him as a thoroughly decent bloke who they’d quite like as a husband/son/father). Something-he-shouldn’t-be-in gets played out for 50-60 pages before he is summarily executed at the hands of some thoroughly unpleasant people. End of Act One.
Man, aged about 30, living in Scarborough, 2032. Man has been playing an online-based ‘virtual life’ for the past three years and his death in the ‘game’ means he is booted out and returned to the real, offline world. Things have – you guessed it – changed significantly for the worse in those three years, with family members dying, North Korea finally having blown up the Eastern Hemisphere and climate change having progressed so quickly that it’s now on the downward-side of the curve, quickly approaching 57 degrees below zero. Majority of act chronicles his attempts to deal with this new world he inhabits. Act closes with him stealing someone else’s identity in order to be able to start again as a new player in his online game.
Man, aged about 27, living in London, 1994. Said man finds that virtual world is unfortunately realistic and while he was happy in Act 1, his new life turns out to be thoroughly shite. Spends 20-30 pages pondering the fact that what life deals you is pretty much down to luck and realises that he has to choose between dying again (and going back to real world full of ‘real’ problems) or making the most of what his virtual self has. I’ve not quite decided which he should do yet.
Pile of toss, eh? Glad I didn’t waste a year turning it into a 500-page tome of crap.
P.S. If I turn out to have a rubbish sense of whether this is any good or not, I’m claiming full copyright on it. Don’t even try it!
October 10, 2006
The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze – British Bloggers
Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: #14,245
Speeches, 1997-2006 – Gordon Brown
Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: #114,654
Sorry, Gordon, you might be the Prime Minister-in-waiting, but people would rather pay to read what I, a lowly, over-opinionated student has got to say than read a book of your heavily-promoted nursery rhymes.
July 22, 2006
Matthew Parris is an interesting guy. A failed MP (by his own admission), followed by an inadvertantly successful journalist, his career trajectory's been quite odd, and his autobiography only occasionally refers to it. Instead, it's a brilliant read because of the bits inbetween.
With the (few) biographies I've read, I've usually tried skipping the start because the 'childhood memories' bit have been like watching paint dry. But Parris's childhood was very different, and so is his writing style.
Much of the book can be described as 'nice' without being derogatory. Parris seems acutely aware of the naivety of some of his actions, especially his visits to Clapham Common which ended up with him being beaten within an inch of his life. Similarly, writing Margaret Thatcher's correspondence provided plenty of holes for Parris to dig himself into, which he seemed to have no trouble in doing.
Parris is perhaps most infamous for 'outing' Peter Mandelson on Newsnight, much to the surprise of Mandelson's friend Jeremy Paxman. A lot of the book feels voyeuristic, with insights into the political underworkings that you rarely see, but without the boring self–obsession that you get from conventional politicians.
Chance Witness is probably the best biography I've read so far, and well recommended for anyone considering being in public life or in the public eye. Read it and you might avoid some of the many pitholes Parris fell into along his way.
July 07, 2006
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is, like his previous novel number9dream a complicated affair. There's several different narratives which all pile into each other at various points, with varying levels of success. The story begins in a confusing world of pirates and natives (not the most accessible start ever imagined), before taking turns into Belgium, California, England, South America, futuristic Asia, and then back again.
The most successful of these is probably the diary of Robert Frobisher, an English composer who goes to Belgium to meet his musical idol, and also to scrounge for a while. The tale is mischievous, yet sinister, and although his love–life is easy to predict in advance, it's the most engaging of the six narratives described. The story of the Englishman who is accidentally imprisoned in a nursing home is brilliantly comical and has elements of Last of the Summer Wine in its farcical nature. The futuristic chapters are also well-written, and most similar in nature to number9dream.
Less successful is the supposed "crime thriller" set on the West Coast of America, a genre which would have been best left to Patricia Cornwell. The villains are obvious from the moment they're introduced and the set–pieces are far from unique.
The awards acclaim for this book almost certainly derives in large part from the author's ease with different narratives within one book, although at times the chain between each story seems tenuous. There are few common themes, although many issues are addressed individually in the book, such as democracy, capitalism, freedom of information and artificial intelligence.
Mitchell's writing style is also fluent despite the regular changes in context and culture. That said, the central chapter of the book is too tiresome to translate into English, and the first/last chapter would be best placed elsewhere in the book, as they provide little in the way of a book–end.
Cloud Atlas is certainly proficient, although at times is hard to read and not recommended for the unambitious. If your last read was by Dan Brown, don't be fooled by the attractive artwork: this book isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you want a book to challenge you, then this is as good a candidate as any.
May 19, 2006
May 13, 2006
So here's a quick story…
I've written a bit (3% to be precise) of a book which is coming out in just over a week. It's called The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze and is about (you'll never guess!) Labour sleaze since 1997.
Granted, this has caused me ideological issues, but the promise of money and fame (joke) has made me do it.
Anyway, the book is now available on Amazon , with a very nice 20% off. That makes it £6.39!
Waterstones have bought 1,500 copies of it to sell, and it really is perfect coffee table/toilet seat reading.
The Guardian have already called it: "an impressive litany of 100 or so scandals " and said it'd make a perfect birthday present for John Prescott.
And the Sunday Times said: "If Tony Blair is wondering why the local elections went so badly last week, this book will explain all."