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Monday, June 29, 2015

I am still busy reading the Wainright book but at the weekend, vaguely inspired by AW I decided to walk to London!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All About Coffee by William H. Ukers

Every dog has its day and all that but All About Coffee is long past its best before date. Had I realised that it was written in the 1920s I would never have bothered reading it.

Only gradually did I realise that then words of William H. Ukers were penned nearly 100 years ago: consequently nearly everything he had to say about the consumption of coffee was totally out of date, and the history of the drink is of course incomplete by several decades. The (American) author went all round the world seeing how people drank coffee at the time, when the world was a much less homogeneous place. He wrote off the UK in about two sentences, saying we were a nation of tea drinkers and probably always would be. That certainly is not the case any more - far more people drink coffee than tea these days it would seem to me.

I fail to see why this book was re-published more or less in full in 2012. I cannot possess who but a historian with a specialised interest could ever be interested in this book. I award it 2 out of 10.

All About Coffee concludes those cases I can read in the Food/Drink section for now. My journey around the perimeter of the library takes me next to biography - and soon I will be in sight of the door when I started! Biography is a hard section to choose from  because to immerse yourself in someone's life you really have to be interested in the person. I struggled to find a book on the first case and in the end picked a book about Alfred Wainright.

I don't know much about Wainright other than he wrote a famous book about walking which has spawned the Coast to Coast phenomenon in the UK. Given that I am embarked upon the Pennine Way at the moment, and completed the North Downs Way last year, it seems quite timely to dip into the life of another walker, even if I know little about Wainright.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Garden Design by David Stevens

Garden Design by David Stevens is a fairly simple book. It explains that every garden is different, but then goes on to describe different types of garden and has a few case studies thereof.

I read this book in virtually one sitting on a train back from Cumbria and can't say I learned a great deal from it other than to start with a plan and sketch what you would like the garden to look like. Then buy and position the stuff you need like plants and accessories and come up with a planting schedule. In truth it's not rocket science but it's more than I have managed to do in ten years of having a garden! I am afraid I have often bought random plants and placed them in random places (a rookie mistake apparently), and rarely been satisfied with the result.

I must admit I had virtually given up on the garden in the last couple of years because in part I never knew what I wanted to do with it, and just ended up frustrated and uninspired. Like many of the non-fiction works I have read though this book has got me thinking, it's been a catalyst to a change in my life, if not a massive direct work of inspiration. I only award it 5 out of 10 but we've been in our garden this weekend actually doing stuff and we're finally working on a plan for the garden more than ten years after moving in! The whole family are involved, and all as a result of reading an average book on a shelf in the library that I normally wouldn't give a glance. Slowly but surely this project is changing my life, and that in turn changes the lives of those around me.

In fact this last week I have been walking the Pennine Way and that all came about because two years ago I read a book from Dorking Library about Long Distance Paths (long before the current project began) and the first chapter was about the Pennine Way. That casual lend got me thinking about walking in Yorkshire and the result has been three trips up there with friends and gradually evolved into a project involving several people. Reading library books really does changes your life: go to the non-fiction shelves and nothing will ever be the same again!

Right onto Book 40, and I have moved on to Food and Drink. The book I chose was all about coffee. In fact that's the title of the book, by William H. Ukers.

I drink lots of coffee although I have struggled with too much caffeine at various times in my life and try to stick to decaffeinated drinks. However like a moth to a flame I keep coming back to caffeine, and I love the drink of coffee even if I sometimes curse it hours later for interrupting my sleep cycle. I really hope that this book doesn't get me drinking lots of caffeinated drinks because I know they're not good for me, but let's read it and see!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nails, Noggins and Newels: An Alternative History of Every House by Bill Laws

Nails, Noggins and Newels was a tour round everyday objects in the house and their history - since of course nothing in the home fell from the sky - every object we use someone had to invent first.

The book starts with the front door and then systematically works it way round the house going through all the objects we take for granted such as stairs, tiles, letter boxes, carpets, telephones and cookers. It only seems to cover everyday objects and I don't remember reading about purely leisure items such as bookcases, pianos, televisions and games consoles!

It's all vaguely interesting and covers much of the same material as Bill Bryson's At Home, which is a lot more waffly and goes off on all sorts of entertaining detours as Bryson is prone to. Nails, Noggins and Newels is more prosaic, shorter and a bit more serious. It gets 5 out of 10: it's OK but not exactly a page turner!

Next up is the final Home/Garden/Pets book from bookcase 39. This case was full of books about decorating and gardening, both activities that I avoid at the moment: the first because it bores me, the second because I feel like I am going nowhere. Of the two possible subjects therefore it seemed gardening was the better option. But, rather than get a book about practical gardening, I have decided to put the spade away (not that I have touched it for months) and start at the very beginning and look at the design of the garden that I acquired a decade ago, and that hasn't changed much since under my stewardship.

Could reading Garden Design possibly change my own humble garden? Let's find out....

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hedgehog in Your Garden by Doreen King

Book 38, Hedgehog in Your Garden by Doreen King, is a fairly comprehensive book for encouraging hedgehogs to come in your garden and eventually adopt them as a sort of wild pet.

In fact it goes a lot further than most people would ever dream I suspect, to the point of looking after hedgehogs, bringing them into the house and even keeping them in cages as a full time pet like a rabbit.

I think there's little chance of me ever doing any of those things, but there's a few things that I could begin to do to encourage them to use our garden, if they don't already. All in all Hedgehog in Your Garden scored 5 out of 10, there's nothing really wrong with up but for 99% of people all they need to read is the couple of pages that encourage them to come in the first place.

The next book, the 39th, is the penultimate book from Home/Garden/Pets section and it's about the home. It sounds a similar book to Bill Bryson's rather rambling work At Home which I read a couple of years ago.

There's so many different objects and tools around the house that there's almost an infinite stock of things to write about on this subject matter. Let's see how it compares to At Home.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Vet on Call: My First Year as an Out-of-Hours Vet by Marc Abraham

Book 36, Vet on Call: My First Year as an Out-of-Hours Vet, was a lighthearted book about Marc Abraham's first year of working nights and evenings as a vet in Brighton.

It's not a serious book at all, I am sure there are much weightier tombs than this about life as a veterinarian. In fact it's written more in the tone of s semi-autobiographical comedy romance set in a vet's surgery. It even has a cast of characters because the same people, even the animal and humans who use the vets, crop up throughout the book. There are probably only about a dozen serious animal casualties described in the 300+ pages.

How much of this book is true and how much is fictionalised is a moot point. If you've read A Million Little Pieces, a controversial "autobiography", packed with quire a few long tales, you might get a feel for what this book is like. It's vastly inferior to A Million Little Pieces however and I award Vet on Call 5 out of 10. I'd have preferred something a little more "serious" but there's no pleasing me because I describe "serious" books like Regent's Park and A History of St Martin's Dorking as boring as dull. I admit I am hard to please!

Next up for Book 37 is the third book in the Homes/Gardens/Pets section which is about hedgehogs, a sort of wild pet I suppose that the book is encouraging you to attract to your garden.

It's an old book from the dark and distant days of the 1990s when nobody had home computers, the library had date due back stamps (though they still do at the Performing Arts Library!) but hedgehogs and gardens haven't changed much, so I would imagine most of it will still be relevant in our ultra modern world. My garden is rather wild at the moment because I spend too long indoors and rarely set foot in it, there's probably not much more I could do to encourage hedgehogs but there's only one way to find out!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Regent's Park: From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present by Paul Rabbitts

Book 35, Regent's Park: From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present, was a fairly dull book. It was like going back to the Local History section of the library, except that instead of reading about the area around Dorking I was reading about a park in London.

The problem is that I don't know Regent's Park very well (there are not many parts of London that I can say that I do). I have walked though it from the tube station to the zoo several times, but my focus has either been getting to the zoo or getting home from it. The book assumes a knowledge of Regent's Park that I don't have. It doesn't even have a modern map of Regent's Park, which is much bigger than I thought. I found it on Google Maps on my phone and had a look, that's the best I could do in the name of research.

Having said all that even if I knew every tree in Regent's Park on first name terms I don't think I would have found this book very interesting. I basically shouldn't be reading it, it's on a bookcase that I have to get through to complete my mission of reading a book from every case in Dorking library. I award Regent's Park 3 out of 10. I can't imagine who could possibly be interested in it to this level of detail.

I will however visit Regent's Park and look round it properly. Even though the book wasn't great it has sparked my interest in it a little, sufficient to actual head there and see it as a destination in it's own right rather than somewhere to walk thorough. Who knows what may materialise from this journey?!

A few books have not got great marks but have changed my life in small ways. I have the rudiments on coin collection thanks to Coin Collecting for Dummies and I am listening to music again thanks to The Ninth (Mozart's Complete Pianco Concertos as I read this). The books weren't great but they inspired me. That is the legacy of this project, to expand my life and interests by giving me ideas on what I want to do with my time. It's also the great thing about non-fiction - fiction is enjoyable but ultimately pointless. Non-fiction, being about the real world, can enrich me and my life in way that made up stories never will.

For book 36 I move on to a bookcase that is dominated by books about dogs, I am terrified of dogs so I see no point at all about reading a book about them. However a book about being a vet is the one that stood out.

I enjoyed All Creatures Great and Small as a TV series when I was young, but have never read any of the books. I have read books by doctors and surgeons they have been interesting because they are problem-solving sort of professions, not dissimilar  my own when I am often hunting down bugs in computer software. I couldn't be a vet because of my fear of dogs, but I like animals, and I can think of a lot of worse things to do. Let's find out!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Big Bangs: Five Musical Revolutions by Howard Goodall

Book 34, Big Bangs: Five Musical Revolutions, was a good book, much better than the last few I have read. Howard Goodall is a writer who can convey to an intelligent non-technical reader the point he is trying to make, another Bill Bryson to my mind the ultimate non-fiction writer.

I don't play an instrument and I can't read music, although I do have a very rudimentary knowledge of music notation. I do like listening to "classical" music though, and I have a good background in the history of music. This book suited me more or less perfectly. You don't need to know technical stuff like what a key is (although after reading Big Bangs I think I am closer to getting it than ever) but if you don't it doesn't detract from the book at all.

Nearly every one of his revolutions I could understand and identify with and in the main they were all well written. Music score, Opera, Equal Temperament and Recording were all very good and interesting chapters. The book was written in 2000 so came before the likes of the Ipod, which surely is another revolution to add to the list. I award Big Bangs 8 out of 10, and it completes the Music section.

For book 35 I move on to Pets, Homes and Gardens. The first book is about the ultimate garden, a park, Regent's Park in particular.

I have walked through Regent's Park on my way to London Zoo but I have never thought there was much to the place. The fact that a whole book has been written on the subject intrigues me. What can there possibly be to say? We'll find out...