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Saturday, July 7, 2018

There are no Aliens!

Book 93, The Aliens Are Coming, is the first book in the Mind, Body and Spirit section. It doesn't belong there at all really, as it's in the UFO section. It's not about UFOs or even about aliens, because there aren't any that we know of. It's more about the search for life and how we might go about it. I have read numerous books that cover similar subject matters to this one, and it has no great insights. It covers the obvious subjects of the inevitability of intelligent life elsewhere, and the real blockers to multi-cellular organisms like ourselves taking hold. In the case of our planet it was the emergence of the eukaryotic cell that was the really unlikely event, but there's no real way of knowing how unique our situation is. It then discuses the problem of recognising life elsewhere as well as ever reaching it. It doesn't cover the subjects of genetic engineering or cyborgs to extend our lives, which will partly overcome the time and distance problem. Not does it cover colinisation of other planets or worlds. There are better books than this, I score it 5.0.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Wild Within

The final sports book, Book 92, The Wild Within by Simon Yates, is a first hand account of various climbing expeditions, plus a loose diary of his life in between. I suppose it gives a few years in the life of a professional mountaineer, but in truth some of it was fairly tame and about as interesting as reading someone else's holiday diary. The mountains climbed were all in remote parts of the planet, but a few of them didn't sound that hard or noteworthy. If not much happens the story is: "We went up, reached the summit, then came down". The last mountain, which took six days to climb, was the most interesting account, and that did sound very difficult, and raised a few questions about how much gear to take and whether to take a satellite phone (I would!). All in all though, a rather lightweight book, which scores 5 out of 10.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Forever Young

In my previous entry, I said how much I hated Football biographies, then ironically decided to read one! However, Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football's Lost Genius by Oliver Kay is a variation on a theme as it deals with a footballer who never made it, not because of lack of ability, but due to injury. Adrian Doherty, who was tipped to go to the very top, was on the verge of making his debut for Man Utd when he got injured, and hardly played again.

Everyone thinks of footballers as well-paid superstars, but for every 100 Youth players, probably only a handful actually achieve that status, yet those are the ones you generally read about. Forever Young breaks the mould because it deals with someone who was a) not a typical footballer, b) never played a first team game, c) died young.

It's not a bad book, I am not convinced that Man Utd treated Adrian so terribly as to justify this book, but it's about a more interesting person than most footballers are.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


I moved into the Sport section after science, another subject dear to my heart. Football biographies bore me, they are all the same, and the people are generally unexceptional apart from their ability to kick a ball. However I picked up Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus 'Notch' Persson and the Game that Changed Everything by Daniel Goldberg. I wasn't expecting anything great from this book but it was one of the best I have read on the Library Challenge. I am a software developer myself and used to write games as a teenager and wanted to be games developer until my early 20s. Sadly I never made it, and long ago abandoned doing so. However I could relate immensely to this book. Persson was just a geeky developer who struck gold, it could in another universe be me. Rating 9/10.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Books 88 and 89: Science

Books 88 and 89 saw me on home territory in the science section. This would normally be one of the first bookcases I'd head for in the library and contains dozens of books I have already read. The first science book I read was The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth. This is a subject dear to my heart and one of the most important things going on in science at the moment with massive long-term consequences for out species. The Planet Factory was a good book, I felt the author was dying to explain things with Maths, but the rules of the popular science format forbid it. Consequently it was a little hard to truly follow for the simple reason that the real language of the subject is excluded. Rating 7/10.

Book 89, the final science book was a big disappointment. Virolution by Frank Ryan was supposedly a book on a par with The Selfish Gene, according to the cover. It was difficult to read, repetitive and rambling and I think I didn't grasp the central point of the whole book. Rating 3/10.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Books 86 and 87

Book 87, Natural World, Polar Bears by Ian Stirling, was the last of the nature book. It was a big "coffee table" book with lots of pictures of polar bears. It was interesting to read about how well these animals are studied in their natural envoironment, and how their future is threatended by climate change and human encroachment. 6/10

Book 88, Superstition and Science, 1450-1750: Mystics, sceptics, truth-seekers and charlatans by Derek Wilson, was the first of the science books, which is probably my most natual area in the library, having read hundreds of popular science books in the past. This book sadly was very vague, I couldn't decide what it was about really, it was very vague and waffly. 4/10

The Reading Challenge continues but against a backdrop of sustained reading in other areas. I read a record 100 books in 2017, and also listened to 10 complete audio books. 3 audio books were from Surrey Libraries. I also read 23 Surrey Library e-books. I only read 10 physical books from Surrey Libraries, 12 physical books for my own, and 11 physical books that Amazon gave me to review. The library provideds an excellent digital service, I also read about 6 magazines a month completely free!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book 85: H is for Hawk

I remember Book 85 H is for Hawk coming out in about 2014 and winning the Costa Award. I probably picked it up in Waterstones and decided not to read it at some point. The library challenge has given me a second chance.

It's a bit of a strange mixture to be honest. Helen Macdonald's grief about her father's loss and her throwing herself into training a new hawk I can just about get. There was also quite a bit about an obscure long dead writer called T H White who had written about hawks in the past and which I just found an irritation. She read book by him and others when she was a kid but it doesn't really add much to this memoir IMHO.

I was quite interested in the parts about Mable the hawk and training her but there was just too much other stuff that cluttered the novel for me.

It's probably my failing, rather than the author's, this book was just a bit too abstract for my literal scientific mind.

Anyway it gets 5/10.