Monday, 17 September 2018

"Our Kind of Traitor" by John Le Carré

Publisher:Toronto : Viking Canada, 2010.
ISBN: 9780670064786
General fiction L PBK
Characteristics: 305 pages ;,24 cm

A very interesting book, that gives a different twist to the spy novel. In this story a Russian mafioso who wishes to defect, and move his family to England. It explores the intrigue involved when the various spy agencies, and some well-meaning bystanders/helpless pawns are brought into the game.

The story follows a vacationing English couple in Antigua, who meet a Russian businessmen Dima  who initially seems only to want to play tennis. When the couple return to England after being entertained by Dima, meeting his family, etc. they are subjected to interrogation by the British Secret Service, who need their help.

For those readers who are familiar with Le Carré's works featuring George Smiley, this novel is comparable to how his other stories approach the whole spy business and the games the various agencies play for and against each other, which makes it seem very realistic.

I was somewhat disappointed in the very ending, as I would have liked to have read what happened to some of the other characters, but overall it was a very well written and enjoyable book to read.

Monday, 10 September 2018

"Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold" by Stephen Fry

Publisher:[London] : Michael Joseph, 2017.
ISBN: 9780718188740
Characteristics: ix, 416 pages :,colour illustrations, maps

This book is an excellent retelling of the Greek myths, that mainly focuses on the ones that you typically don't hear too often. In his introduction Mr. Fry says:

"Mythos begins at the beginning, but does no end at the end. Had I included heroes like Oedipus, Perseus, Theseus, Jason and Herakles and the details of the Trojan War this book would have been too heavy for a Titan to pick up."

With numerous footnotes this book gives a fantastic overview of Greek mythology, and points out the numerous links to our current myths, and legends. In addition Mr. Fry's famous sense of humour comes shining through in his prose, and this makes this book a delight to read.

I sincerely hope that he will consider expanding this book into a second volume that includes some, if not all of the above mentioned tales that he purposely omitted. This is a book well worth reading, that would make a great addition to any collection that focuses on history, anthropology, and numerous other social sciences.

Monday, 3 September 2018

"The Darwin Awards" by Wendy Northcutt

Publisher:Roseland, N.J. : Listen & Live Audio, [2001]
Copyright Date:℗2001
ISBN: 9781885408723

It has been a many years since I first read this book, but decided to reread it recently and once again was astounded by how idiotic humans can be. I believe this is likely because most people typically tend to give the other person the benefit of the doubt when they do things that seem odd, or dangerous. But when a person deliberately goes out to defy the laws that govern this world it tends to make me curious how humans as a supposedly evolved animal can be so stupid.

For those of who who don't know a Darwin Award is given to people who manage through their acts to remove themselves from the gene pool. Or, if this is too vague: they die, or make themselves unable to reproduce because they have done something extremely stupid.

Ms. Northcutt delves into things such as Misadventures with Animals, Family Interactions, Stupid Criminals, Fire & Explosions, Fatal Falls, Uninformed Men, Macho Men, Unsafe Sex, Watery Demises, Penis Envy, End of the Line.

You can likely make some guesses at some of the things that happened to allow these people to win their award, but I'm pretty certain you won't guess them all. Some are definitely quite spectacular.

Monday, 27 August 2018

"Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" by Yuval Noah Harari

Publisher:[Toronto, Ontario] : Signal, [2015]
Copyright Date:©2015
ISBN: 9780771038686
Characteristics: 440 pages :,illustrations

This is the second book from this author that I have reviewed recently. The first one was three weeks ago, and was called "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind". This book continues the narration with a look at what the future of humankind could possibly be like.

The author goes into a lot of detail by examining politics, technology, economics, sociology, anthropology, and a few other ologies that I'm not very familiar with. He gives a very in-depth examination of these various topics, and makes the case that the human species is due for a relatively drastic cultural and sociological evolution sometime in the next century or so that will make it almost unrecognizable when compared to what we currently have today.

I found this to be an extremely interesting and thought-provoking book, that was extremely difficult to put down when I got into it. I'm not sure whether I really want to see some of the changes that are being predicted happen, but then again it could be interesting to witness.

Monday, 20 August 2018

"The Adventure of English" hosted by Melvyn Bragg

Publisher:[Silver Spring, Md.] : Athena, [2009]
Edition:Widescreen edition.
Copyright Date:©2009
ISBN: 9781598282207
Characteristics: 4 videodiscs (405 min.) :,sound, black & white ;,4 3/4 in. +,1 booklet.

This is an absolutely fascinating look at the history of the English language and how it developed over the last 1500 years from its roots into the language as we hear and use it today. The host Melvyn Bragg asks and answered questions such as where did English start, how did it grow, what were it's influences, and what hampered its development.

A unique feature of this series is actually hearing scholars speaking Old English, and other versions of the language as it developed and changed over the centuries.

Mr. Bragg has written a book under a similar title "The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language" which while not listed as a companion to the video series sounds like it would make an excellent read, and if I can obtain a copy of it I will review it here as well.

Monday, 13 August 2018

"Food: Delicious Science" PBS video presented by Dr. Michael Morley & James Wong

Publisher:Arlington, VA : PBS, [2017]
Edition:Widescreen edition.
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (180 min.) :,sound, color ;,4 3/4 in.

This week I'm going to review a video I watched recently. Thus video is the scientific story behind what we eat, why we eat it, and what effects it has on us. It is hosted by Dr. Michael Morley, and botanist James Wong.

The two hosts take a look at three different aspects of food. It starts by examining the chemical basis for the food we eat, how this affects our brains, and creates cravings. The second segment takes a look at taste, and what makes our food taste delicious. Third and final chapter takes apart our favourite meals to examine chemically how food keeps our bodies fit and healthy.

I found this series of programs to be extremely interesting, and very informative. There are some things that either Dr. Morley or Mr. Wong ate that you'd never get me anywhere near (such as pickled sheeps brains, or ridiculously hot peppers), but then again some things are definitely acquired tastes - and I don't wish to acquire them. Mind you haggis is an acquired tastes as well, but that's another story.

I definitely recommend this 3 part series to anybody who is interested in food, cooking, and how the two areas can be looked at in a scientific manner.


Monday, 6 August 2018

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari

Publisher:[Toronto] : Signal, 2014.
Copyright Date:©2014
ISBN: 9780771038518 
Characteristics: 443 pages :,illustrations, maps

This is an excellent book that is well worth the praise that it has garnered to date. It covers areas as diverse as politics, history, religion, economics, and much more in a well researched and very understandable format.

The author's writing style is very refreshing with the odd bit of humour thrown in to keep the reader interested. Even though the style is easy to read, the topics covered are quite complex, but this will hopefully not dissuade anybody from reading it.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is looking for a good overview of human history, and what we've managed to accomplish in the 100,000 years or so. It would also I believe make a good addition to a senior level courses in anthropology or sociology as it analyses their disciplines from a layperson's standpoint.

Definitely a book I'll be adding to my collection!

Monday, 30 July 2018

"Nutrition Made Clear" by Roberta H. Anding

Publisher:Chantilly, Va. : Teaching Co., [2009]
Copyright Date:©2009
ISBN: 9781598036077
Characteristics: 6 videodiscs :,sound, color ;,4 3/4 in. +,3 books.

Once again I took on the task of reading a rather large book, and I got behind schedule for a review this week. The reason I'm behind is because I started watching a series by the Teaching Company called "Nutrition Made Simple", and I couldn't stop watching it because it was so well done.

This series of 6 DVDs and accompanying books is the best overview of the science of nutrition I have encountered in a long time. I wish I'd had access to this when I took some of my introductory science courses way back when I went through for my first degree, but unfortunately that was many years before this series was published.

The series is structured around thirty-six 30 minute lectures and is presented by Roberta H. Anding a professional dietician, as well as a professor at Rice University, and currently the dietician for the Houston Astros.

But getting back to the material at hand, the course covers all the aspects of nutrition, and gives the viewer an in depth understanding of the fundamental concepts of nutrition and the science behind it. It goes into a great amount of detail with regard to various health problems that can be attributed directly to nutrition issues, and gives great advice on what to do about them.

A highly recommended series that is well worth watching!

"Our Kind of Traitor" by John Le Carré

Publisher:Toronto : Viking Canada, 2010. ISBN: 9780670064786 General fiction L PBK Characteristics: 305 pages ;,24 cm A very intere...