1. The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
I was surprised to see recent Amazon reviewers giving this book the thumbs down. I found it an excellent gripping period thriller which stretches the intellect of the reader far more than popular fiction. I am still not certain where we finished up analysing Hamlet (an unusual sub-plot) but one certainly learns a lot about Freudian psycho-analysis and Jungian deviation from this sex obsessed view of life. I particularly liked the author's notes at the end of the book telling us which parts are factual, which fiction. The author seemed to have a lot more sympathy with Freud's views than this reviewer, but this does not spoil enjoyment of the story. The setting in New York a hundred years ago is well related. As a murder mystery, one has to say the plot twists so much you will never guess the end from when you start with the first murder. I really enjoyed it and may even re-read it to see if I can understand Hamlet any better. It confirms my distrust of Freudian psychiatry. But, even with scepticism about psychiatry, one realised the neurologists were not the ones qualified to cure "nervous complaints".
2. Recoil by Andy McNab
The only McNab I had read before this was his first biographical book which I enjoyed as the story of a very brave if not an attractive man. Stone, Mcnab's hero has his unattractive side too but beneath the tough soldier's exterior it seems there is a soft heart too. I think what you get with McNab is very much a reflection of the author himself. You sense he has used all these weapons.he is an expert in the field not in mere theory. he is not though an expert in personal relationships, except for soldier to soldier.
It is a gripping read set in the darkest heart of Africa. It is one long battle to survive against the odds and not many do. There is much blood and more use of the f word than I like to read but I guess that is the language of the ex-S.A.S. and their ilk. A happy if unrealistic ending. The romantic comes out in the author in the end.
3. The Bible (NIV)
What I wrote this time last year is still true.
It is over 30 years since i started to use M'Cheyne's daily Bible reading schedule which aims to cover the whole bible in a year. Since then I have changed to two OT chapters, one NT and a Psalm daily. This gets on through the whole Bible in a year and through Psalms twice. I confess it is only in recent years that I have really been disciplined enough to do this every day. Previously there were times missed then passages to catch up with.
4. False Impression by Jeffrey Archer
Archer at his best. Great descriptions of English aristocratic living, Japanese customs and the great drama of New York on 9/11. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of murder, detection, romance and financial chicanery to say nothing of the art interest. Once started it is very hard to put down. Why do the media pan Archer? I think it is envy. He writes and makes millions while the hacks merely criticise unfairly
5. The Highland Clearances Trail by Rob Gibson
The Highland Clearances are one of the great blots on British history. I have often wonder why there is such a Scottish antipathy to the Conservative party. Reading of the Clearances shows why any group associated with the Establishment would not be esteemed in Scotland, especially in the Highlands and Islands which suffered from a hundred years when unfeeling landowners evicted their tenants for sheep or deer. I read this account while on holiday in the Hebrides. Driving down the Golden Road on Harris, seeing where the crofters complained they had been given land with not even enough soil to bury their dead, one shudders at the inhumanity of it all. The Highlands have for me a sad, empty beauty. Read this and see why. It is a great guide for travelling the sites of man's inhumanity to man.
6. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
I thoroughly enjoyed The Kite Runner and the author's second novel does not disappoint. He is a fine writer whose plots are not predictable. Once again we have a novel set over the recent history of Afghanistan from the last days of monarchy through to the overthrow of the Taliban. This time the story is mainly through the eyes of two women.
I recall an old Jewish prayer thanking God for not being born a Gentile, slave or a woman. Reading this, one will be thankful not to have been born an Afghan, Muslim or woman and certainly not all three. One is not spared the horror of life in Kabul as it is destroyed by the Mujahdeeen's civil war then gripped by the fanaticism of the Taliban. For women in general, life was better under the Russians. Nothing though ever prevented the mistreatment of the women in the story by hypocritical or brutal husbands and fathers. This is in many ways a horror story. There is some happiness at the end but along the way is unspeakable cruelty, especially to women, which makes for very unpleasant reading at times. But this is a skilled author. There are good caring men portrayed too and I think his portrayal if Islam and its effects is fair and non-judgmental. One of the good men portrayed is a Muslim cleric. Read it and you will be moved by the plight of women under Islam and of the country of Afghanistan with such violent recent history.
7. Travel with William Grimshaw by Perry Fred
Grimshaw is one of the great larger than life characters of English church history. It appears that he was not the only vicar to have the errant whipped into church attendance. This guide gives a good biography and as with others in this series, a helpful guide to visiting the area where Grimshaw lived and preached. I found it to be a fascinating account of a very human man who lived to see the gospel proclaimed. He had a remarkable ministry transforming a parish church with few attenders into one where thousands would come to hear him preach. The book also has fascinating historic insights into such things as a parish posse pursuing the father who has abandoned the mother of his illegitimate child so that she would not be a burden on the parish and of public church penance for fornicators.
8. Travel with Martyn Lloyd Jones: In the Footsteps of the Distinguished Welsh Evangelist,Pastor and Theologian by Philip Eveson
Listening to The Doctor, as he was known by all, was an essential part of my theological education and establishment in the Christian life when I was a student in sixties London. This book brings it all back together with much I had either forgotten or not read in Iain Murray's two volume biography. I had forgotten what a sensation his leaving medicine caused and never read before of the declined C.B.E...This is a good small biography of the man as well as a guide to sites associated with his life. However I think the maps are more diagrammatic than clear guides, and contra to the text, Ealing is in west not north London. As with other books in the series, the lack of an index is a drawback, so I cannot find easily the other mistake I spotted, on mass for en mass. This is not the kind of book to be critical of it's subject but I would from personal experience dissent from the expressed opinion that members of the congregation were encouraged to spend all of Sunday at Westminster Chapel. Church members may have been but as a student, no-one ever invited me to take part in any aspect of church life though I attended the best part of three years. For me the Doctor got top marks for preaching but his chapel none out of ten for welcoming this student.
9.Firewall by Andy McNab
My only previous read of a McNabb novel was one with the same central character but later in his career and set in the heat of the Congo. This one is in Finland and Estonia and will get no prizes from the Estonian Tourist Board. Their country is grimly portrayed as dirty and corrupt. The story is of a British ex-S.A.S man, officially disgraced so prepared to freelance overseas, no questions asked. Kidnap, murder and demolition are all in his repertoire but underneath, a heart of gold. He needs money to privately treat the traumatised child of a former colleague murdered by the Provos. Full of action, twists, turns and great technical detail on arms and surveillance. The language was cleaner that the other volume I read. Not great but good for an escape from one's normal world.
10. Boris: The Rise of Boris Johnson by Andrew Gimson
Boris Johnson is an enigma. One watches him on have I Got News For You and wonders is this man for real? Is it all a big act? Andrew Gimson writes well and gives us the answers. He knows this funny eccentric man very well. He shows us a brilliant scholar and journalist, a man who wants to be liked and is admired by many. It also shows an extremely ambitious politician whose one really dominating principle seems to be the promotion of Boris. He has not treated the women in his life with respect nor has he kept promises to others. Could he ever be entrusted with the leadership of his party? I think not. An entertaining informative book about an amazing man.
11. Littlejohn's Britain by Richard Littlejohn
I read it and laughed out loud but I am still sad to the point of crying about the Britain that New Labour has created so well described by Littlejohn. He is a gifted journalist and humorist giving one an entertaining read. I thought at first this was a compilation of newspaper columns but it is not, though he draws from a lot of his earlier work. I think it is a devastating exposee of where the Guardianistas have taken us. I do not agree with all he writes. I do not know why he approves of the abolition of the rights of hereditary peers, nor am I in agreement with some of his writing on homosexuality, but by and large he hits lots of nails on the head and the book is worth its price just for the chapter on Gordon Brown, the man who stole our pensions, alone.
The Amazon reviews, all 55 of them as I write, seem divided between the lefties who hate it and the fans who go over the top. This man is merely a very good hack not a philosopher. If he was gifted in politics no doubt he would be doing it not writing about how others are doing it wrong. I am pleased he does not exclude Cameron from this category. I missed the bit about the London Eye other reviewers mention but loved his exposees of the Wicked Witch and Two jags. Keep going Richard.
Labels: Afghanistan, biography, books, church, irritations, politics, Scotland