Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Books read in July 2008 (9)

1. A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

A fascinating social history of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca Cola. How these drinks were part of history and influenced it from the ancient world through to globalisation is well told and most informative. There is a section on how these drinks would have tasted originally.

2. The World According to Nick Ferrari - Nick Ferrari

Having enjoyed him on the radio I enjoyed his book too and learned more about him. There are similarities to Richard Littlejohn who is, I think, a more gifted writer. But they both speak for the right of centre common man against the Guardianista and PC brigade.Those reviewers who think this man deficient in humour would appear to have had the humour bypass operation chartacterisic of The Left. By and large he made me laugh though sometimes we part company. He is for example anti monarchy. Sometimes he surprises you, especially his article calling on the church to preach hell fire.

3. Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: Vol 2 (Christian Origins and the Question of God)
by N.T. Wright

This is a great book which puts Jesus firmly in the context of his contemporary Judaism. it is a book one will want to refer to when studying gospel passages. However it is a book written for contemporary academic theological debate. While the author is a great critic of Enlightenment rationalistic thinking I do wonder if he really sits in the supernaturalists chair. It seems the humanity of Jesus is so emphasised as to neglect aspects of his deity. The passages where he three times states he must go up to Jerusalem to die are not really exegeted nor is the question of his self consciousness as Son of God. This gives an unbalanced answer as to why Jesus died. The non-academic reader can skip some of the answers to the differing views of theologians who often do not share the author's evident submission to the Scriptures. There is much exegetical meat to chew on, many insights to learn. Wright has to be the foremost New testament biblical theologian of today. Read and benefit.

4. An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: (or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge) by John O'Farrell

Having an aversion to The Guardian I was not familiar with the excellent wit of the author until I read this book. I shall now seek out his other books. It is the funniest history I have read since 1066 and All that. it is excellent. I laughed out loud, read excerpts to friends and cried at parts of his WW2 chapter. Of course the title is ironic. He is a leftie but a very funny one. I guess from his name his background is Roman Catholic but if so he does well in a very Protestant story. It is informative and witty. I only wished he had gone on past 1945. Stimulating first class read. One spelling error spotted. Should be Meccano.

5. The English: A Portrait of a People by Jeremy Paxman

Paxo writes well and is a joy to read. This book is far ranging on who we English are, our strange national characteristics which relate to our history. "Like a pair of newly-weds in a sabotaged car, every people sets off into the future clattering behind it the tin-cans of its history." Here are many tin cans and some glimpses too of the possible road ahead. I would recommend this book to visitors to our country. The only slight draw back is that reading it ten years after it was written I sense it is slightly dated. It predates 9-11, the rise of Islamic militancy and a new huge wave of immigration, to say nothing of the effects of devolution and the rise of Scottish nationalism. All these are now having an effect on what it means to be English today. Some of his chapters are masterfull and memorable. Our animosity to the French and the sentimentality over Diana are examples.

6. The Glory of God's Will by Elisabeth Elliot

A short booklet on knowing and obeying God's will from a woman whose faith has been tried in the furnace of affliction. She waited five years to marry her first husband only to have him martyred in Equador after only two years of marriage. I have only one slight caveat. I find it hard to agree with the Gladys Aylward story that God had answered her prayer for a husband by calling someone to be her husband but he had refused the call.

7. What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to Your Peskiest Questions about Language by Charles Harrington Elster

If you are a lover of words, a logophile, you will love this book. It may be a bit too American for some UK readers but it is great fun with lots of information on words and their usaage plus some interesting quizzes too. For me it is worth its price just to find out that "the dog's bollocks" was the printers' phrase for :- .
A great book too for trivia quiz setters. He could though have done better in naming the ladies Churchill's wit insulted.

8. Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

This book is to autobiography as Dylan's voice is to sweet melody. I found it a huge disappointment for it is singularly lacking in facts about his career. About the only thing I learned was the origins of his pseudonym. There is nothing about how he achieved fame, his wife or children. One does learn a little about his family background. But for the most part it is a boring ramble. I like the man's music. The cobbler should stick to his last.

9. Coast from the Air by Neil Oliver

I am surprised that other Amazon reviewers are not enthusiastic about this great book. It gives superb shots round our beautiful coast. I made me want to visit more of these places, travelling by helicopter if possible. Our coast from the air is a delight. My only quibble is I want to see more of the Hebrides.

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