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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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book 84: Spirals in Time by Helen Scales

Book 84 was the third book about the Natural World. It's subtitle was The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells. Frankly I found it quite dull. The author obviously has a great knowledge and enthusiasm about the subject, which sadly I don't share. Some of the books I have read so far have seen me at least gain a temporary interest on the subject matter, even permanently alter the course of my life on occasions. This one it has to be said didn't really inspire me as I dutifully trudged by way through its 280 pages. It scored 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Natural World

Book 82 and 83 saw me turn to the Natural World, a subject dear to my heart. I read Do We Need Pandas?: The Uncomfortable Truth About Biodiversity by Ken Thompson, which argues that trying to rescue individual species is futile and instead we should concentrate on habitat which would minimise the species lost and be most cost-efficient. The rhetorical question of the title is really an extreme example to hammer home the point. The fact is though that fund-raising is probably more effective for large mammals like the panda, the general public are far less interested I suspect in saving insects and plants than they are more recognisable species like the panda. Our zoos are predominately full of large mammals and reptiles.

I followed that up with Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller which looks at the animals which the planet has sadly already lost. Most of them were lost in the early years of the 20th century, and nearly all the featured animals had some sort of photograph. The vast majority of animals in the book were birds, reflecting the author's interests I suspect rather than the most common types of species which have been made extinct. Ironically, given the first book, every species featured was a large photogenic animals, not small frogs, inspects or other "boring" animals to be seen.

So much as I agree with the point about habitat, the general public are not scientists and they want to save the most iconic species.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book 81 - The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-eye View of the World

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan explores a rather tenuous suggestion that some plants use humans to propagate their own genes. This theory is never really explored and is nothing but a bit of light-hearted fun in truth. Consequently the book starts off as being a bit pointless. Pollan then goes through the history of 4 plants: apple, cannabis, tulip and potato. This is a pretty arbitrary set but I suppose it covers the four basic types of plant: fruit, flower, vegetable and drug. He then goes into a lot of florid detail of them all, especially the apple which he waxes lyrical on for ages. A better book for me would have been less plants and more detail. It's interesting to know where our domesticated crops (and animals) come from, and there aren't that many of them that you couldn't cover the lot in one book (minus the waffle). As it it, it's rather a half-baked effort and scores 4 out of 10. It also sees the end of the Health/Well Being section, and the next area to explore is the Natural World (which this particular book could have easily been placed in as it happens).