Suggestions For A Good Read

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I'm 54 pages into The Adventures Of Sir Thomas Browne by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. Browne was a Norwich based physician, natural-philosopher, lexicographer, neologist, sceptic and Pre-Fort Fortean who lived from 1605 - 1682. Great fun.

I haven’t myself sat on Sir Thomas Browne’s brain, but it’s possible to do so. Well, more or less. If you go to Hay Hill in Norwich there is, between Topshop and Next, a more than bench-sized sculpture by Anne and Patrick Poirier of this capacious organ. It’s opposite a more orthodox statue of this great 17th-century scientist, antiquarian and prose writer, which was put up in 1905 to mark the tercentenary of Browne’s birth. Both memorials are near the site of the house in which Browne spent most of his life. This was demolished in 1842 and is now occupied by a Pret a Manger. It’s also possible to view a cast of Browne’s skull in his parish church. Hugh Aldersey-Williams has measured it (apparently it’s 14.7 cm wide) as part of his effort to get inside the head of Sir Thomas Browne.

Browne was born in London in 1605, and studied medicine at Oxford, Padua and Leiden. In 1637 he moved to Norwich, where he practised as a physician until his death in 1682. “By snatches of time, as medical vacations and the fruitless importunities of uroscopy permit”, he wrote some of the best prose in English (uroscopy is the practice of diagnosing patients from their urine). A typical Browne sentence unfurls with a majesty enriched by digression and encrusted with neologism, and often springs quizzical surprises on his readers along the way.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2...he-21st-century-hugh-aldersey-williams-review
 

Frideswide

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Thomas Browne is excellent. Especially Fortean is his Pseudodoxia Epidemica which is a bit like an early MythBusters :)

My favourite though is Hydriotaphia which I studied as an early example of an archaeological report. It has one of my favourite passages which I used to have by heart. It's about having one's bones made into pipe stems and one's skulls made into drinking vessels for the delight and sport of our enemies!

I used a quotation from him as my asnwer to the thread about Fortean Motivations:

"What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture. "
 
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I'm 54 pages into The Adventures Of Sir Thomas Browne by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. Browne was a Norwich based physician, natural-philosopher, lexicographer, neologist, sceptic and Pre-Fort Fortean who lived from 1605 - 1682. Great fun...
Really enjoyable book, from a very engaging author, on an even more engaging character. I read it around the same time as Ruth Scurr's, John Aubrey: My Own Life - they make great companions.

(The latter is a 'kind of' autobiography, cobbled together from fragments of Aubrey's writings - and if that makes it sound a bit shonky, it's really not. I'd recommend it.)
 

uair01

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Right now I'm reading Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain
https://davidgerard.co.uk/blockchain/


It was an impulse acquisition (I have many other unread books) but I'm already half-way through it (I use text-to-speech).
It describes a wild collection of Bitcoin scams, frauds and hacks. Also: who is Satoshi? And some basic economics.
Highly amusing if you like reading about scoundrels, crimes and conspiracies :)
 

gordonrutter

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Some people don’t understand this. I’m in the camp of if I read every waking minute for the rest of my life I wouldn’t finish what I already have but I’m with Umberto Eco. I have no idea of how many books I have (I do of course know that the correct answer to this is - not enough!) as many are stored in boxes and so on, I look forward to the day when I can unpack them all.
 

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as many are stored in boxes and so on, I look forward to the day when I can unpack them all.
It isn't going to happen. Believe me, hear the word of a fellow traveler.

I, like you, have boxes of books that I have lugged from place to place. And I do know that any book I am wanting to read is in there somewhere.

But the odds of me ever going into the loft and opening all the boxes to find the book of choice is between zero and a very small number.

Stand before the mirror and say 'I, gordenrutter, am a bookoholic. And I wouldn't have it any other way'.

INT21
 

gordonrutter

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It isn't going to happen. Believe me, hear the word of a fellow traveler.

I, like you, have boxes of books that I have lugged from place to place. And I do know that any book I am wanting to read is in there somewhere.

But the odds of me ever going into the loft and opening all the boxes to find the book of choice is between zero and a very small number.

Stand before the mirror and say 'I, gordenrutter, am a bookoholic. And I wouldn't have it any other way'.

INT21
I know I’m an unrepentant bookaholic, always have been and always will be. The plan is to move house and end up with more space in which to buy more, sorry I mean, display the books I already have.
 
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The Year's Best Science Fiction: 35th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois. Gardner died last May so this will be the last annual collection edited by him. As well as 38 short stories, novelettes and novellas there is a summation of the year's (2017) Science Fiction news. A wide ranging anthology which was a joy to read. Stand out stories being Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Martian Job by Jane Fenn, Nexus by Michael Flynn and Whending My Way Back Home by Bill Johnson. 679 pp + XXXVI. St. Martin's Griffin, New York. Published July 2018. (There hasn't been a UK edition of this series for the last few years, I ordered it through Amazon.)
 
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Just finished Adam Nevill's The Ritual, adapted into a film by Netflix last year. Four British friends in their 30s go hiking along the Norwegian/Swedish border, decide to take a short cut through some local woods and become trapped seemingly by the woods themselves, find evidence of odd cult practices and are then hunted down by something nasty. Needless to say it's substantially better than the film, which is mostly fine, that said, the book is mostly fine itself. The prose is flat and backstory dumps function in place of characterisation, the second half is a lot weaker than the first and could have been a lot shorter, although the book's antagonists are a lot more interesting than the drones the in film.

On the plus side, there's a sense of dread that begins with the opening pages that the book, more or less sustains for a woe novel which is no mean feat and there are lots of nicely creepy little moments. The book features Black Metal fans and I don't know if Nevill's a fan but he has got the subculture nailed.
 
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Just finished Adam Nevill's The Ritual, adapted into a film by Netflix last year. Four British friends in their 30s go hiking along the Norwegian/Swedish border, decide to take a short cut through some local woods and become trapped seemingly by the woods themselves, find evidence of odd cult practices and are then hunted down by something nasty. Needless to say it's substantially better than the film, which is mostly fine, that said, the book is mostly fine itself. The prose is flat and backstory dumps function in place of characterisation, the second half is a lot weaker than the first and could have been a lot shorter, although the book's antagonists are a lot more interesting than the drones the in film.

On the plus side, there's a sense of dread that begins with the opening pages that the book, more or less sustains for a woe novel which is no mean feat and there are lots of nicely creepy little moments. The book features Black Metal fans and I don't know if Nevill's a fan but he has got the subculture nailed.
It got a cinema release before Netflix bought it.
 
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A limited one I presume? Did you like it?
Yeah, I liked it. No, it got a full release, Netflix didn't make/commission the film. They buy a lot of films after they have finished the normal cinema release.

My review back in October 2017.

The Ritual: Four friends go go hill walking in remote Northern Sweden to remember a murdered friend. Taking a shortcut through a forest they come across a gutted deer hanging in a tree. Runes are carved into other trees. Taking shelter in a hut all four have strange nightmares. Lost they stumble through the woods literally experiencing Panic. The cinematography and forest setting helps to develop this sense of primeval fear and threat.

A mixture of tropes bringing to mind The Witch, Blair Witch, Deliverance and Kill List coalesce to form a unique Horror Film which is somewhat left down by uneven pacing. It could also have benefited with some additional Anthropological exposition which may have present in the novel by Adam Nevill (who co-wrote the screenplay). 7.5/10.
 

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Off the back of some excellent IWM interviews with major participants in the British expedition to retake the Falklands, I've started reading a few books on the war. I've read the first, am two-thirds of the way through the second and have just received the third in the post (it was published late last year):

9780393017618-uk.jpg 20190309_131852.jpg 81o76LLGhiL._AC_SL1500_.jpg

To take them in order, Hastings is a bit unpopular in military-history reading circles for turning out underwhelming and occassionally tendentious books, but this was not always so. Hastings was there with the task force and went ashore with the troops and it shows; the writing has an immediacy born from proximity and familiarity with the men whose thoughts and actions he is relating. As a former (failed) paratrooper, the surprising freedom of movement granted him was not squandered: he has a knack for being in the vicinity of the action, cultivating the right contacts and asking the right questions. The writing is crisply 'balanced': context vs action, strategy vs tactics, group vs individual, fact vs interpretation: you get each mixed in the correct quantity. The dual authorship that so often fails here delivers brilliantly and the structure of the book is superb in the way it mirrors history: the global/domestic/political narrative dominates at first, with quick glances at the military scene; as the task force sets sail the story is equally balanced with alternating chapters that describe the simultaneous escalation on both fronts; once the Belgrano is sunk, the landings at San Carlos are successful and Goose Green has banished fear of stagnation, the weight falls decisively on the South Atlantic Front. It's a great read and the best overview of the events of 1982.

No Picnic covers many of the same events, but it's quite a different kind of book: a personal narrative, not a history, a military account, not (specifically) a historical one. Thompson, then a brigadier, commanded 3 Commando Brigade and was--until the arrival of 5 Brigade and a divisional commander in the form of Maj-Gen Jeremy Moore--the senior land forces officer in the theatre (although for a good while the Royal Navy was running the show and the inter-service command structure was regrettably unwieldy). The book starts of slightly badly with a long enuneration of the forces he was to command and their recent activities and training experiences before the balloon went up. I think it would have been far preferable to have met them in turn as they appeared on the scene, but perhaps he felt his duty was to pay tribute to each unit under his command, omitting none. What we do quickly learn is that for all the lamentable shortages and deficits the force suffered owing to political neglect they were as formidable in terms of training, toughness and espirits de corps as any commander could hope for, and this is not merely a product of Thompson's obvious pride. The Royal Marine Commandos and the Parachute Regiment men were both elites in their fields and--mistakes and tragedies notwithstanding--possessed of an utter determination to close with and kill the enemy at close quarters in order that the British islanders be liberated and their job be done. The reader is reminded frequently that nothing remotely on this scale had been attempted since Suez and a search for precdents usually ended in Normandy 1944. Thompson is a soldier and does not indulge in much political debate. He, like his men, seemed to get little further than the observation that quite apart from any legal niceties, you can't just walk into a place governed by a different country and expect them to sigh and walk away. He specifically explains how the appetite to participate (every man and his dog was clearing his desk and asking for a berth going south) came as the men viewed it as a chance to achieve the culmination of many years of arduous training--like a fencer who has never had a duel beyond the regulated confines of the salon.

The third book I have yet to start, but I did dip into the generous preview at Amazon and was impressed. I love to read soldiers' memoirs, but the truth is that they're a very mixed bag in terms of quality. Many men who served and fought feel and relive their experiences vividly but lack the skill to communicate it verbally let alone in written form. Although now a Lieut-Gen, Cedric Delves was in 1982 the commander of D-Squadron 22 SAS and very much at the tip of the spear for Operation Corporate. Such a large assembly of British special forces (SAS, SBS , Mountain & Arctic Warfare Cadre) probably wasn't to be seen again until the Gulf War and, Delves's writing, from what I've seen, is thoughtful, well-expressed and very poignant in places--I'm looking forward to reading more.
 
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titch

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Off the back of some excellent IWM interviews with major participants in the British expedition to retake the Falklands, I've started reading a few books on the war. I've read the first, am two-thirds of the way through the second and have just received the third in the post (it was published late last year):

View attachment 15463 View attachment 15464 View attachment 15465

To take them in order, Hastings is a bit unpopular in military-history reading circles for turning out underwhelming and occassionally tendentious books, but this was not always so. Hastings was there with the task force and went ashore with the troops and it shows; the writing has an immediacy born from proximity and familiarity with the men whose thoughts and actions he is relating. As a former (failed) paratrooper, the surprising freedom of movement granted him was not squandered: he has a knack for being in the vicinity of the action, cultivating the right contacts and asking the right questions. The writing is crisply 'balanced': context vs action, strategy vs tactics, group vs individual, fact vs interpretation: you get each mixed in the correct quantity. The dual authorship that so often fails here delivers brilliantly and the structure of the book is superb in the way it mirrors history: the global/domestic/political narrative dominates at first, with quick glances at the military scene; as the task force sets sail the story is equally balanced with alternating chapters that describe the simultaneous escalation on both fronts; once the Belgrano is sunk, the landings at San Carlos are successful and Goose Green has banished fear of stagnation, the weight falls decisively on the South Atlantic Front. It's a great read and the best overview of the events of 1982.

No Picnic covers many of the same events, but it's quite a different kind of book: a personal narrative, not a history, a military account, not (specifically) a historical one. Thompson, then a brigadier, commanded 3 Commando Brigade and was--until the arrival of 5 Brigade and a divisional commander in the form of Maj-Gen Jeremy Moore--the senior land forces officer in the theatre (although for a good while the Royal Navy was running the show and the inter-service command structure was regrettably unwieldy). The book starts of slightly badly with a long enuneration of the forces he was to command and their recent activities and training experiences before the balloon went up. I think it would have been far preferable to have met them in turn as they appeared on the scene, but perhaps he felt his duty was to pay tribute to each unit under his command, omitting none. What we do quickly learn is that for all the lamentable shortages and deficits the force suffered owing to political neglect they were as formidable in terms of training, toughness and espirits de corps as any commander could hope for, and this is not merely a product of Thompson's obvious pride. The Royal Marine Commandos and the Parachute Regiment men were both elites in their fields and--mistakes and tragedies notwithstanding--possessed of an utter determination to close with and kill the enemy at close quarters in order that the British islanders be liberated and their job be done. The reader is reminded frequently that nothing remotely on this scale had been attempted since Suez and a search for precdents usually ended in Normandy 1944. Thompson is a soldier and does not indulge in much political debate. He, like his men, seemed to get little further than the observation that quite apart from any legal niceties, you can't just walk into a place governed by a different country and expect them to sigh and walk away. He specifically explains how the appetite to participate (every man and his dog was clearing his desk and asking for a berth going south) came as the men viewed it as a chance to achieve the culmination of many years of arduous training--like a fencer who has never had a duel beyond the regulated confines of the salon.

The third book I have yet to start, but I did dip into the generous preview at Amazon and was impressed. I love to read soldiers' memoirs, but the truth is that they're a very mixed bag in terms of quality. Many men who served and fought feel and relive their experiences vividly but lack the skill to communicate it verbally let alone in written form. Although now a Lieut-Gen, Cedric Delves was in 1982 the commander of D-Squadron 22 SAS and very much at the tip of the spear for Operation Corporate. Such a large assembly of British special forces (SAS, SBS , Mountain & Arctic Warfare Cadre) probably wasn't to be seen again until the Gulf War and, Delves's writing, from what I've seen, is thoughtful, well-expressed and very poignant in places--I'm looking forward to reading more.
Yith, have you read "the sharp end" (the fighting man in world war two) by John Ellis? It is deals with the conscription, training and experience of battle from the viewpoint of the western allies, and is an eye opening and very interesting read.
 

Yithian

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Yith, have you read "the sharp end" (the fighting man in world war two) by John Ellis? It is deals with the conscription, training and experience of battle from the viewpoint of the western allies, and is an eye opening and very interesting read.
No, but I've read his book on Cassino ('The Hollow Victory') and he's very keen on the experience of the men themselves.

On the long list, thanks.
 
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No, but I've read his book on Cassino ('The Hollow Victory') and he's very keen on the experience of the men themselves.

On the long list, thanks.
The memoir Bunch Of Fives by Frank Kitson is an interesting read as is his Military Biography of Cromwell.
 

Yithian

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The memoir Bunch Of Fives by Frank Kitson is an interesting read as is his Military Biography of Cromwell.
The name's familiar as he's sometimes cited as a source for his work on internal security and counter--insurgency (which I read primarily with reference to Hong Kong, Malaya and the Canal Zone).

I don't recall the details, but isn't he a somewhat controversial figure because of his time in N. Ireland/Ulster?

Edit: he's still alive at 92.
 
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The name's familiar as he's sometimes cited as a source for his work on internal security and counter--insurgency (which I read primarily with reference to Hong Kong, Malaya and the Canal Zone).

I don't recall the details, but isn't he a somewhat controversial figure because of his time in N. Ireland/Ulster.

Edit: he's still alive at 92.
More than controversial! But his books are certainly worth reading.
 
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