A very good but quite depressing read. For me it spoke of lonliness as the most terrible aspects of being human, as a price of being any kind of indiv...moreA very good but quite depressing read. For me it spoke of lonliness as the most terrible aspects of being human, as a price of being any kind of individual. Of how despite the unique aspects of our characters that enable us to be someone no one else can be: and so do and see things in a way no one else can our own problems and difficulties stifle our potential. That ironically lonliness despite being a personal interior emotion of isolation depends so much on the actions of the people around us. Modern lonliness is made worse by the constant contact with so many people who do not understand us or even care too. This is a book about a man with a fantastic gift, who wastes so much of his life a slave to the weaknesses so many of us share with him. To the affections, and good opinion of others, to an inability to love others as they are, or accept the love of others as they are able to give it. To a fatalistic view of our lives and our relationships with those around us. A cautionary tale then, worth reading.(less)
Another eye opening history from a very readable writer. Hilaire Belloc was half English, half French, a one time MP and a prolific writer known as "t...moreAnother eye opening history from a very readable writer. Hilaire Belloc was half English, half French, a one time MP and a prolific writer known as "the man who wrote a library". Fortunately he did so in small volumes often broken down into self-contained chapters or essays, and wrote them very well, not only in content and structure but also with great wit and precision of language. (The size of his works belie the wealth of fact and insight they contain.)
'The Great Heresies' whilst not a book that by it's title would seem of interest or import to the average person, is by value of it's content enjoyable and informative. The five Heresies which Belloc considors are issues upon which the history of the World hinged, and so in explaining them he explains in part something of the world today, and how and why it is as it is when it could have been extremely different. His considoration of Islam (back in the late 1920's early 1930's) seems almost prescient or prophetic when read today. Though of course it was due to his historical knowlege and clear thinking, and a rejection of the confident attitude of racial and cultural superiority of his time. He clearly predicted that Islam would once again gain in strength and influence to be an important force in the world.
Adam Shaw's earlier review, though it could be said to be mostly true is misleading and less than helpfull. Yes Hilaire Belloc was Catholic, and very proud of the fact. He wrote as a Catholic, not hiding his bias and making no false claims to being impartial or without prior opinion, thus allowing all his readers to follow his thoughts with open eyes and a questioning mind. He was not afraid of holding a position and defending it, not afraid of debate, as his life well shows. If you are bigotted enough not to read him because of his Faith he himself would have been glad you have nothing to do with him. He was angry about many things as any rational man or woman who truely looks at the world around them will be, whatever time they live in. He was especially angry about the unadmitted and unacknowledged anti-Catholic bias in the officailly accepted Whig version of History. So much of his Historical work was (and still is) a reply to it from someone on the other side of the debate about what happened in the past to bring us to the present, and how and why.
Bare in mind whilst reading that he was a man of his time, before political correctness and the timidity of openly declared personal opinion which it has been one of it's fruits. Though free of many of the prejudices of his day, like anyone he was not free of them all, remember; nor are you. Also remember that Catholic enfranchisement was an issue not so far in the past as it is today and was one on which people had very strong views.
If i have not been clear above, i clearly state now that I thoroughly recommend this book.(less)
I read this to give me a different perspective from Peter Watson's 'A History of Ideas' which is an epic scholarly work of modern atheistic scepticism...moreI read this to give me a different perspective from Peter Watson's 'A History of Ideas' which is an epic scholarly work of modern atheistic scepticism. Chesterton, writing in another age, with a different mindset, and a completely different style offers a piece of scepticism against modern scepticism. It is wonderfully written in Chesterton's usual witty style, but also as a man writing at a time when general literacy was much higher and broader than it is now, quite densly rich. When you adjust to his style and rhythm it is extremely enjoyable to read his writing of his thoughts. As a convert to Christianity and a well grounded family man with a great sense of humour and courage to see things differently Chesterton's book served it's purpose, and is a book i shall re-read again. Watson's work though impressive, informative (and for one who likes to learn) enjoyable, but as a book presenting an overview of the whole history of human thought and ideas it seems a bit cold. No mention (so far and i'm at the 19th C) of Love and the Family and Friendship as essential aspects of Human self understanding and the achievement of happiness (the latter as an arena of Ideas are barely dealt with). Chesterton establishes a perspective from what is important to the everyman throughout history.(less)
Politically Incorrect but Factually Correct as far as i can determine,one source being discussions with an Iraqi Christian i know. It's laid out well...morePolitically Incorrect but Factually Correct as far as i can determine,one source being discussions with an Iraqi Christian i know. It's laid out well and easy to digest, although you may feel a little nervous reading on public transport (: which is something to think about, why should you be?). Robert Spencer does not believe most Muslims have the immediate mindset that he discusses here, but his point is that it is Inherent in the teachings of Islam. (Wikipedia: While admitting that he believes many Muslims are peaceful and decent people, he believes Muslim reformists will have a very difficult time because "the radicals actually do have a stronger theoretical, theological, and legal basis within Islam for what they believe than the moderates do.") This is by no means a definitive guide, you should read other books written by authors with other opinions. However you may not find so many that wear their heart on their sleeve so clearly. Most will be written under the guise of, or attempting, impartiality, few books are even mostly so. Unstated opinions and prejudices will therefore slip under your radar. This book in having a declared agenda enables you to engage with it's opinions and arguments head on with open eyes. As such I thoroughly recommend this book.(less)
Terry Pratchett has always been quite a good storyteller, but the difference beween his more recent Discworld Novels, like this one, and the earlier o...moreTerry Pratchett has always been quite a good storyteller, but the difference beween his more recent Discworld Novels, like this one, and the earlier ones, is how much he has improved as a writer. The Watch story-strand in his Discworld series have been the ones in which he has progressed the most from fantasy stories with clever jokes in them to something more. (The next strand being the Witches) He wraps so many layers into the story and in his usual way makes countless nods to other classic works of fiction. It's defys classification: a time travel story, a psycho-chase thriller, it's a story of revolution on the streets, it's a story of political intrigue in the palace, it's a story of a man dealing with impending fatherhood, it's a story about quantum mechanics and how and whether what we decide and do in life matters. It's a comedy of characters almost too real in their quirks, tics and attitudes. Pratchett has refined his voice for Sam Vimes to perfection, he is a wonderful character, a tough, rough man full of common sense and common virtue with an incorruptible character. A man who has fought, kicked and bitten his way to the top from the very bottom and who always keeps it real. His internal monologues on anything always have wider overlapping meaning as a comment on the real world out here. From intellectual and political stupidity, to celebrity and fame, class bigotry and personal integrity. It's a book with some great laughs, real heart, excitment and pace. It's a Keeper.(less)
This is multi-layered literature with something to say about people and the world, and in a format that is unintimidating and accessible. I first read...moreThis is multi-layered literature with something to say about people and the world, and in a format that is unintimidating and accessible. I first read this when i was much younger, and though i understood little of what Alan Moore was trying to say with this graphic novel i enjoyed the story and characters. It being presented in a very visual medium helped me to finish it where i probably would have given up were it a novel as it is quite complicated. (Especially the presence and use of the comic within a comic: Tales Of The Black Freighter) Prior to reading it again in anticipation for the Movie, i watched some of the interviews with Alan Moore online, and read the Wikipedia article on it. This enabled me to appreciate Watchmen a whole lot Moore, and is something i would recomend to any returning reader. Moore uses each 'Superhero' character to represent both the different occuring types within the genre itself and also a different type of morality: from Rorschach's Black and White absolutist view, to The Comedian's nihilistic relativism. It will be very interesting to see what has been done in the movie considoring the strory's final revelation and recent events of history concerning shocking terrorism motivating a complete change of policy and attitude in many countries and people. P.S. Here's the wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen P.P.S If you're an interested Londoner it shall be playing at the IMAX in Waterloo when it comes out, well worth seeing. Here's the first trailer: http://video.google.co.uk/videosearch... P.P.P.S &The official site: watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com(less)
One of the most usefull books i've ever read, and something i'd recommend to anyone. Practical Self-Protection, looking at not just what you can do wh...moreOne of the most usefull books i've ever read, and something i'd recommend to anyone. Practical Self-Protection, looking at not just what you can do when subject to a violent confrontation or attack but more importantly how to avoid them. Mr Thompson's baseline of reasoning is that there Are Violent people out there, and that in today's society it is unlikely that you won't encounter at least one in your life. He explains how these people usually work, their rituals leading up to an attack, and the type of person and/or behaviour that attracts them as a probable easy target. How to avoid such situations by developing some simple precautionary habits. He talks about what people undergo in these situations in terms of fear and adrenaline, what, why, and how to deal with it all. He runs through some basic moves most usefully the fence as a way to take some control of an escalating situation even if it does become physical as well as the use of any part of your body or item you are carrying in your defence. Nothing fancy, simply a thorough run through of what you can use to get the hell away if you havn't managed to avoid or diffuse a dangerous situation. He also offers encouragement and advice for anyone training in any style of defence or martial art, focussing on the mental difficulties of not giving up, including visualisation as a proven technique. Then covers dealing with the aftermath of fear based adrenaline exposure, the law self-defence, first aid, and finishing with advice about drinking as alcohol is involved in most violent incidents. Throughout the book he has case studies and excerpts from interviews with violent offenders of varying degrees. This IS The Book you should buy if you are at all concerned with self-protection whether for yourself, friends or family.(less)
Another great Pratchett, another great Watch novel. Plunging Commander Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch into the policing complexities of the...moreAnother great Pratchett, another great Watch novel. Plunging Commander Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch into the policing complexities of the 21st Century. Old grudges on new soil among rival immigrants, racial tension, religious fundamentalism...and the work life balance of a new father. Along with all the usual multicultural comments and jokes about modern life in a metropolis, oh and Nobby's got an exotic dancer as a girlfriend. This is Terry Pratchett making his most obvoius comments on the real world with a Discworld Novel. Sam Vimes is the perfect character for Terry Pratchett to vent his anger about the stupidities and injustices in the modern world. Once again he has a plot of murder and conspiracy that threatens to overwhelm the city. He has many comic asides such as Vimes' new and infuriating gift from his wife: the dis-organiser which fits in well with the other running comic plot device of his having promsed to be home at 6 each evenig to read 'Where's My Cow?' to his son Young Sam. Sam Vimes interior life is further complicated by being piggybacked upon by a semi-demonic entity of vengence which makes for a cracking finale.(less)
This is a good book, well worth reading. Explains what fear is in a physical and psychological sense, why it manifests as, and when, it does, and how...moreThis is a good book, well worth reading. Explains what fear is in a physical and psychological sense, why it manifests as, and when, it does, and how to cope with it. Deals with the reasons why we live with our fears, the difficulties in overcoming them and of course encouragement and tips on how to do so.
My only real problem with this book is that if you have read Mr Thompson's 'Dead Or Alive: Your Choice' you will have read the essence of this book's content. Like many authors that write a book that is almost ground-breaking in it's angle contant and scope, Mr Thompson's many other books (aside from the biographical ones) are mainly a detailed fleshing out of topics already covered in this book, albeit in less detail. I consequently havn't read many of his others; but it would seem, The Fence and Sniper Option may be worth looking at still.(less)
Hilaire Belloc: a great writer with a mean witty style which is a joy to read. This book was an eye opener, a brain filler and immensely enjoyable to...moreHilaire Belloc: a great writer with a mean witty style which is a joy to read. This book was an eye opener, a brain filler and immensely enjoyable to read as History fascinates me. It presents written portraits of some of the most important historical characters of the time of the Protestant Reformation. This includes figures such as Blaise Pascal whom you would not have thought to be involved in the Reformation, however Belloc presents the view that this was a time when the culture and thinking of people many regions in Europe underwent monumental change. This is not just the dry facts but a fleshing out of the people as people in their time and situations, through the common sense and psychological insight of a gifted observer of people and life. Each Character is examined in their own brief self-contained essay which makes it ideal for reading when you don't have the time for a whole book. If you have any interest in History in General or this Period in Particular i recommend this book to you as well worth reading. Whether or not you agree with his perspective and reasoning in forming these portraits, his style and method of presenting the past is, i feel, a great addition to the Libraries of anyone who wishes to Understand. That his perspective is often contrary to the common view and understanding of his subjects aids the effort to find the Truth of History and not just a Preferred Majority View of it.(less)
As i read this book a feeling grew in me that simply expressed the fact that i had been waiting for this book for all my post childhood life. Despite...moreAs i read this book a feeling grew in me that simply expressed the fact that i had been waiting for this book for all my post childhood life. Despite being on a subject that technically sounds dry and boring it is in fact the opposite especially as told by Nick N Taleb whom i wish to meet under whatever circumstances chance would give me, as his great personality and individual view point shine through every sentence of this book. It is a debunking book, of 'scientific' and 'mathematical' theories that too many people have taken far to seriously and a great many more have either pretended to understand, or never bothered to face up to reality. Taleb appear to be a natural storyteller as despite his subject matter it is vaguely framed around a loose biography of his life as a sceptical empiricist who even helpfully signposts any technical sections that can be skipped by those who do not wish to read them and have already grasped his main point. His work and worldview has similarities with Malcolm Gladwell though he sticks (more or less) to his spheres of Economics..at his point i must stop as a young lady is distracting me...(less)
I don't usually read biographies or memoirs, however this one caught my eye. Not strictly either of the above it's a fully acknowleged ghost written a...moreI don't usually read biographies or memoirs, however this one caught my eye. Not strictly either of the above it's a fully acknowleged ghost written account of Stephen French's life in Liverpool 8, his relationship with criminals and the criminal underworld, his struggle to escape that world, and the happenings in the Black Community over this period. The reason why this book caught my eye was that i have previously read "Chopper" by Mark Brandon Read as well as enjoying the excellent movie starring Eric Bana. Stephen 'The Devil' French strikes me as having quite a similar story, though he appears to be a lot Saner than Chopper, with more focus and purpose. They are both Warrior men, Street Fighters with a Code of Honour, they both Preyed on the extremely rich Drug dealing Criminals whom they ruthlessly terrified and robbed. They both have quite a sense of humour though 'The Devil' is more serious. They both found The Perfect Crime. What drew me to this book was Mr French's clear intelligence and self-integrity (he has since successfully gone legit and does much work in the Liverpool community to battle the gun culture in gangs) He's an Olympic Fighting Champion and studied Psychology at University (and with typical street logic used the psychological tricks he had learnt to intimidate the lecturer into telling him which questions were on the exam). He is clearly by no means a perfect man or model citizen, but he is a man who fought against the difficulties of his own life including his inner demons. He has won through hard work, self-discipline, and unshakeable self-confidence. He is a man who i at least cannot help but respect and admire. I'd shit myself if i ever met the man but at the same time to meet a man of such personal intelligence, self-control and power would be an amazing experience.(less)
A space opera, about madness, pride and obsession. A world of the future wonderfully constructed in the writing and the characters, deliciously exotic...moreA space opera, about madness, pride and obsession. A world of the future wonderfully constructed in the writing and the characters, deliciously exotic places and atmosphere that forms around you in your imagination as you read. Yet with a tale that in it's themes and relationships seem almost to be an historical novel. A great work(less)