Category Archives: Books

Pointless Cleaning – Why Working in Clutter is Necessary and Impossible

It was physicist Michio Kaku that said it is “pointless to have a nice clean desk, because it means you’re not doing anything.” Naturally, there is a difference between a desk cluttered with paper, notes and ideas and a space dominated by empty wrappers, Waterstones paper bags and the remnants of what could have been good ideas for articles long ago. Extreme decluttering or an acceptance of the status quo. There is no happy medium for the burnt-out mind. The brain that has been working overtime, figuring out the next idea while three are already being stoked in the fire. It is fun, but when the temples begin to throb and the face goes a bit numb, it is time to take a step back.

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Edward Chisholm – A Waiter in Paris Review

Death of the social life, ruinous financial warfare and a genuine drive to be something are all topics contained in writer Edward Chisholm, who recounts his experiences as a runner, waiter and restaurant hand in A Waiter in Paris. It is the dying, noble profession that so many have tried to document and bring to life through various pieces of media, failing to do so because a blemish is missing or a character is out of place. To take it from the source is the best-case scenario, a scattering of scenes that add detail to a scattershot life in a Parisian restaurant. The ins and outs of the filthy business put in the limelight with an effective gaze on what it really means to be a waiter. What a nightmare.

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David Byrne – Bicycle Diaries Review

All creatives, especially songwriters, believe they have sussed the world out. Either that or they have resigned themselves to never understanding it. That binary shock, the on or off of being right or wrong about the world around them, makes for some startling reads and some interesting observations. David Byrne manages that with Bicycle Diaries, a collection of his thoughts as he tours the world from the seat of a bicycle. Byrne, like photographer Bill Cunnigham, takes to the streets and observes not just literal change, but the sweeping impact they make on an ever-developing culture that he has often infused with his work.

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Ewan Gleadow’s 20 Books to Read in Your 20s

Twitter makes the rounds once again with a good idea rightfully mocked by people posting gags and wind-ups almost immediately.

20 books for your 20s. Controversially, as a 22-year-old and part of the target audience for these many varied and often dullard social media posts, there are only so many books that can truly be helpful. The collected works of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of the Wimpy Kid series, while hilarious, is not helpful.

But books are helpful to those that wish to seek help from them. Knowledge is porridge. Only to those that wish to read are they helpful, and only those that want to read a certain topic or writer will benefit.

There is no universal setlist of 20 books to choose from, deliberate over or study. Important books, yes, but books are personable experiences, so it would be futile to pick out 20 books and recommend them to everyone.

What that opens, though, is the possibility to reminisce and explain the 20 books that shaped the early years of decade number three (or four, as my birthday rests on the dying days of 1999). Unfortunately, that does mean putting up with personal encounters, first-person writing and gushing recommendations of books that will not affect you as they did me.

10 books of fiction, and another 10 of non-fiction, for good measure and balance.

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The Godfather by Mario Puzo Review

“Never write in the first person,” is what three years of education threatened prospective students with. It is a message passed on through the current role, marking year four of this long and winding journey. For websites, this one and others, it is the lesson thrust at students, budding journalists and part-timers who wish to dabble their thoughts on this book or that film. Be personable without the person present. It is hard to do so when writing about The Godfather, the Mario Puzo novel that crashed through Hollywood and reshaped the narrative for ensemble features. But it is not the film that had such a profound and moving effect, one so great that the very barrier of first and third person is blurred, but the Puzo text itself.

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Later by Stephen King Review

“As I said at the beginning, this is a horror story.” – Jamie Conklin.

You’ve been playing this game a very long time, Stephen King, you needn’t remind us of what you write. Later is a horror story. It’s also a horror to read. “Books are a portable magic,” King once wrote. That they are. To remind us of that, he filters that and many of his life lessons in On Writing into Later, either intentionally or subconsciously. Either way, the outcome is poor. But how much can King really impose on his tales? His real-world experiences bleed into Later, for he writes of a young man early on in his life. King attempts to reflect and adapt that throughout Later, but his definition of youth is far from admirable.

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The Joke’s Over: Memories of Hunter S. Thompson by Ralph Steadman Review

“Don’t write, Ralph, you’ll bring shame to your family” – Hunter S. Thompson.

That he did. A sad shame indeed. Above my desk is a beautiful print of one of Ralph Steadman’s finest pieces. Thompson is pierced through the throat by the carriage lever of a typewriter. The keys of the typewriter spell out “Aaaarrgh,” which I find quite moving. I am not an art expert, but I know enough about the men behind the image to know that “Aaaarrgh,” was perhaps an understatement for the torture they put themselves through. Drinks, drugs and hard knocks settled these men for thirty-five years of knowing each other. Steadman’s book, The Joke’s Over: Memories of Hunter S. Thompson feels like a memoir, biography of the eponymous writer, cathartic release for Steadman and an attempt at re-working the wit and words of the great 20th-century writer.

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Jaws By Peter Benchley Review

What seems like years before has come back to haunt me. My final day at sixth form, and I was gifted Jaws, the novel from Peter Benchley, as a leavers gift. In the front, a transcription was left for me. 

“”Ewan, this is the only book in the world that’s worse than the film. Try not to read it. I have 128 copies”. – M.D.” 

How right he was.  

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Dracula By Bram Stoker Review

A catalyst for gothic horror and the many spin-offs of such a tenacious genre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a founding father of decrepit castles, cobweb-infused coffins and kindles the fears of hearing a bump in the night. Told through diary entries, memorandums, letters and news clippings, Dracula details a chronological order which hopes to bring frights and terrors to the forefront of its story, which details the titular Count and his meddlesome passage to England. There, he is met with clear opposition, and this cast of heroic protagonists stop at nothing to send him back to where he came from. The grave, not Transylvania.

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The Black Company by Glen Cook Review

Fiction, like most things, goes through fades, you have the outliers which are a roaring success, both critically and financially, then years of copycatting will follow trying to capitalise on the original, to varying degrees of success. No book genre is this more prevalent in than the fantasy genre. And it can and does last decades. 

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