Category: Non fiction reviews

A review of How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works is a little bit of a sprawling mishmash. The title is open enough, and Byrne takes advantage of that to meander along whatever paths take his fancy, from generalised notion of artistry to physics and the music of the cosmos, to his own personal experiences as a performer, songwriter and musician.  Though the book is all over the place, it’s always erudite and enjoyable, and always pivoting on the notion of creative expression, whether it’s Byrne’s particular brand of expression or whether it’s more philosophical reflections about the universe, other artists, and music in its many forms.

A review of Fritz Kahn by Uta and Thilo von Debschitz

Fritz Kahn was a popular science writer who was most prolific in the ‘20s and ‘30s.  His masterwork was Das Leben des Menschen, a five volume study of human biology which appeared between 1922 and 1931.  As with all his works – and Kahn continued to write about many different fields of science right up until the early 1960s – these volumes were heavily illustrated. 

A review of Ninety 9 by Vanessa Berry

There’s a real beauty to this little book, from the attractive matt finish, small, square format that characterises all of the Giramondo shorts, to the Berry’s own hand-drawn illustrations, which give the book a slightly rogue, zine feel. The book is written in light, clear prose, using a confessional first person form, which begins with Berry at the age of eleven. This style invites the reader in immediately, inviting us to share both her family life – including her gifted sister’s music lessons and the tension between Berry and her mother, as well as her secret and later, not so secret yearnings.

A review of Hartmann Schedel. Chronicle of the World – 1493 edited and annotated by Stephan Fussel

Hartmann Schedel.  Chronicle of the World – 1493his is a beautifully produced facsimile of the German edition (it was apparently published in Latin at the time as well) of what has come to be known as the Nuremberg Chronicle. The book sets out to tell the history of the world through seven ages, though the seventh is best described as the age to come, when we can look forward to the coming of the Antichrist, Armageddon and the Last Judgement.  Seems crazy to most o us, but these were all very real prospects for Hartmann Schedel and his contemporaries. 

A review of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

To explain the art of thinking, Konnikova uses the metaphor of the mind as an attic in which memories are filed away. The metaphor works well. The reader will readily understand that attics contain important and less important memories and that some places in the attic are more accessible than others. There is also the problem of remembering where one has placed certain items — memory retrieval. But there is much more to learning how to think than how one deals with memories.

A review of DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vienna by Stephen Brook

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vienna To my way of thinking, the best way to make use of a week in Vienna is to spend one day in the city and another in the country (or outside of the Ring), and to so alternate. You’re thereby assured of a fund of memorable experiences, punctuated by the presence of coffee and cakes, cyclamens and Calvary figures, wine and wonderful scenery.

A review of Homespun Humor by David R Yale

A book on humor in this digital age is always welcome and the healing power of humor, play, and mental work shines in this book. The puns are clever, silly and desperate. They obviously are the efforts of a playful intelligent quirky minds. The collection of definitions and one-liners will be trove for those who are often engaged in social media. The narratives, however, are the book’s tour de force. In these stories, there is a slow buildup to the punch-line which repays the reader’s attention by giving hearty laugh or a cringing groan.

A revew of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs.

But it was always an embattled book, representing at various times, “too much Catholicism,” “too much Protestantism,” too much tradition, too much irreverence toward tradition, too limited in its reach or too inclusive as to be almost wimpy and unclear, an example of the poetic beauty of the English language, or too old-fashioned, incomprehensible, and quaint in its language. It was a thing that symbolized something to be rebelled against or something to be upheld.

A review of The Book of Job: A Biography

Larrimore goes on to show how mistranslations, lack of knowledge of Hebrew, lost or wrongly-placed passages, the translator’s choice of words, emotional state, ethical temperaent, misconceptions about the idea of “patience,” the interpreter’s acquaintance (or lack thereof) with grief and suffering, and a saccharine idea of Job have affected the book’s history.

A review of Inspiring IVF Stories: 24 Men And Women With Strength, Commitment And A Dream edited by Carolyn Martinez

The stories are honest and open, going into a great deal of detail about exactly what the couples had been through – both in terms of their own experience, and in terms of each other. The stories are well-balanced and broad, exploring a wide range of stories from younger couples to older ones, a single parent, parents who struggle with the finances, parents who found IVF reasonably straightforward, and those who continue to struggle with unsatisfying outcomes.