Four years ago, Freakonomics became something of a hit for Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, when they discovered some quirky facts about life that no...moreFour years ago, Freakonomics became something of a hit for Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, when they discovered some quirky facts about life that noone had noticed before, and wrote about them. As an example of how their mind works, they discovered that legalising abortions contributed to a reduction in the crime rate.
This book works in a similar vein. They come up with strange little facts and explain them to you in a quirky and humorous way. The book is funny, accesible and enjoyable. You'll enjoy reading information about things as diverse as monkey prostitution (yes monkey prostitution), how governments are trying to catch terrorists, altruism, and how global warming isn't necessarily a bad thing in this book.
This having been said, it's probably a book that's read in small doses. I read the book cover to cover and found the author enjoying his own cleverness a little too much in places. This was particularly bad if I'd been reading a while. Don't get me wrong, you'll enjoy the book what ever way you read it, I just want you to be aware of its' downside!(less)
This book is a dual effort. An economics lecturer has joined forces with a New York Times lecturer to write a book that tries to answer questions like...moreThis book is a dual effort. An economics lecturer has joined forces with a New York Times lecturer to write a book that tries to answer questions like "Why do drug dealers live with their Mum?" and "Is more jail time the only reason why crime rates fall?"
It is an interesting book, but I'm not sure that it's a book that you read in one sitting. I say this because there's no real flow to the book. The authors might address drug dealers in one chapter, and African-American names in the next. The result is that you don't necessarily build up any momentum as you move from one chapter to the next.
Don't get me wrong, this is an interesting book, and you will find the mental gymnastics that the authors have produced stimulating (because it is cleverly written). However, I don't think it's written in a the most fluid way possible, and that's why I've not given it 5*.(less)
I don't know if anyone remembers it now, but during the 1990s there was a television show that focused on the Baltimore homicide department called Hom...moreI don't know if anyone remembers it now, but during the 1990s there was a television show that focused on the Baltimore homicide department called Homicide: Life on the Streets. If you don't remember it don't worry, it won a lot of awards during its 7 season life, but by all accounts, it was watched by 7 people and a dog.
Though the show was a work of fiction, it was based on this book. David Simon was a reporter (I'm not sure if he still is, he's gone on to produce television shows like The Wire) and got to tag along with the Baltimore homicide department for a year (1987 or 1988). This book describes the characters in that department and some of the crimes they investigated.
I don't watch much television (even if I tend to use the news networks as auditory wallpaper when I'm pottering about the house), but the first 4 or 5 series of the show were my favorite pieces of series television of all time. Don't ask me why, NYPD Blue and Law and Order are structurally similar I know, but I just "got" this show. With this in mind, I bought the book that the show was (at least notionally) based on, though in my defense I probably wouldn't have bought it had I not seen it on the shelf of my local Barnes and Noble.
As I was reading this book, I discovered I was a fairly major geek (or dork or whatever you call someone who gets excited about this sort of thing). I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was geeky enough to turn into someone who dresses up as a Klingon and go to Star Trek conventions, but I am geeky enough to be able to recognize the major characters and story-lines that they pinched from the book (and adapted so that they'd work on the small screen). The plot lines they used weren't just the big ones (though the rape and death of a little girl that was a fairly major story arc in both). I found myself thinking "Oh I recognize this" to some of the minor plot lines too.
Don't get me wrong. the book isn't just of interest to this who liked the show though. If you're interested in a variety of police related (and people based) books and television shows, you'll like this book. Be warned though, the language is "fruity."(less)
Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, wrote this book. It's about his period as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister (mostly), thoug...moreTony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, wrote this book. It's about his period as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister (mostly), though he does mentions the parts of his earlier life, as it fits into the story he wanted to tell.
To be honest, I found this book smug and slightly infuriating. I've now read both George Bush's and Tony Blair's book (I was interested in the run up to war) and this book was (without a shadow of a doubt) the more irritating of the two.
In the book Blair describes himself as a moralist with a vision "for good" who changed the Labour for moral reasons, and started wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo for much the same reason.
I found his thinking about Kosovo perhaps the most illuminating part of the book. His (and Bill Clinton's) use of the armed forces in Kosovo enabled him to liberate Kosovans and bring down a tyrant (in Milosovic). Part of me wonders whether this changed his thinking towards the potential effectiveness of military action that lead him to Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know for sure, but I honestly think it does, and that's a shame because it clearly went horribly wrong the second time round for him.
Anyway, why do I spend so much time talking about war and Blair? Well, let's face it, that's why I suspect that people will read the book. It's also because Blair spends a lot of the book writing about it. Consequently it's work mentioning.
But what's the rest of the book like? Well, as I said, it's smug. Blair talks a lot about "moral force" and "moral vision." With Bush you know you're going to get a moral "tilt" to his writing because he's never claimed to be anything else. Blair, on the other hand was presented as "less that way." Had he been as explicit about his "moral vision" before the got elected, I don't think he'd have been as successful as a leader.
Reading this book forced me to compare what I had seen him present then and what he presents now, and it grated. If you don't know Blair as well or can put up with how he presents himself, you'll probably learn something from this book. If you do know Blair or find "ostentatious morality" irritating you might find this book irritating (or want to throw the book across the room).(less)
Alan Clark was a fairy right-wing Conservative who was clever, and could have achieved a great deal in politics had he not liked life in general, and...moreAlan Clark was a fairy right-wing Conservative who was clever, and could have achieved a great deal in politics had he not liked life in general, and the ladies in particular, so much. The result was that while he did manage to become a junior minister,he didn't rise as high up the party as he could have done (which probably didn't bother him if I'm honest).
This collection of his diary entries shows us what happened in the Conservative Party (and his private life) during the 1980s when the Conservatives were in office. It's a good fun read, and probably set the standard for "political diaries" that have come since.(less)
I don't know how many people know about Fletcher Cristian and the mutiny on the Bounty, but I'm inclined to argue that it's famous enough in England t...moreI don't know how many people know about Fletcher Cristian and the mutiny on the Bounty, but I'm inclined to argue that it's famous enough in England to make Blyth the fifth or sixth most famous naval captain in English history (behind Scott, Cook, Wellington, Shackleton and Nelson).
In this book, McDermid introduces a new central character, Jane Gresham. Gresham is a Wordsworth scholar who believes that Fletcher Christian made it back to the UK after the mutiny and told his friend William Wordsworth about Blyth 'liking men.' In response to this, she believes that Wordsworth wrote a poem about Blyth that she wants to be the first to find.
When a body she believes to be Christian's turns up in the Lake District, she sets off to investigate the body and prove her theory correct.
It's a daft story, but it rattles along at a fair old whack and if you like your thrillers slightly different, you'll probably admit that storyline is as odd as you've read in a while.(less)