A Quick Recommendation

I haven’t quite finished it yet but I’m still going to recommend that you read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. If you, like me, suffer from depression and anxiety you’ll recognise a lot of stuff. Even if you don’t I promise you you’ll still find it very very funny. It’s a win whatever. So do it. Do it now.

A Quiet Night In (A Quick Catch-Up)

Juliet’s out tonight so I’ve taken the opportunity to have a quiet night in. I’ve fed and changed Max and put him to bed where, true to his usual form, he’s gone to sleep quite happily, I’ve eaten, phoned a friend whose birthday it is tomorrow, watched a silly film (Four Lions, if you must know) and generally had a pretty nice time.

Max is growing fast. I’ve heard parents say that babies change rapidly but this is the first time I’ve experienced that for myself, and they’re right. You turn your back (or go to work) for a moment and they’ve learnt to do something new. Something such as rolling over, which is of no interest whatsoever to anyone else but is utterly thrilling for the doting parents.

I’ve been reading Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre in my spare moments and I have to say that it’s simultaneously horrifying and unsurprising to an old cynic like me. If you have any interest at all in how the medicines you take get tested, marketed and prescribed, it’s well worth a read. It helps that it’s also very easy going, considering the subject matter.

There’s probably more that I could be adding here, some of it possibly even interesting, but tiredness has now overwhelmed me and it’s time for bed. Good night, world.

God Collar

I’ve just read God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke. It’s about his struggle with the concept of God, in particular the God of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I’ve always liked Mr. Brigstocke and have enjoyed his appearances on the Now Show, Argumental and QI, to name a few. I think he’s funny, clever and, as much as any of us are, pretty sensible.

The book, unsurprisingly perhaps, utilises quite a few personal anecdotes, as well as quite long passages about his wife and children and his friend James, to whom the book is dedicated. The passages about how much he loves his kids and how wonderful he thinks they are really made me want to have some of my own. This is a man who really appreciates what’s important in life and is lucky to have found it.

There’s also a very interesting section about his early years, and how miserable he was. I can certainly relate to this, having struggled with depression and anxiety since I was very young.

All the above makes the book sound more like an autobiography, which it most certainly is not. The author merely uses some details from his life to illustrate points about what sort of God he would like there to be and what sort of God it seems many people actually believe in. I’ve wrestled with much the same difficulties and, again, felt a strong empathy towards Marcus Brigstocke.

All in all, a very funny, intelligent book and well worth reading, whether you believe in a God of some sort or not, or whether you’re undecided. Honest, charming and very hard to put down.

The Last Unicorn

I’ve just finished reading The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, as recommended by Juliet. I confess that I was a little sceptical about how good a book about a unicorn was likely to be. I was wrong – it’s absolutely delightful. The style reminds me a little of Japanese folk tales: beautiful, somewhat sparse and often a little odd but always charming, entertaining and an absolute joy to read.

The story itself sounds like fairly standard fare (a unicorn sets out to discover what became of all the other unicorns and picks up companions and adventures along the way) but there’s much more to it than that. There’s real beauty here, both in the prose and in the ideas and characters.

I haven’t yet seen the animated film of the book but I’m going to try to do so. In the meantime, I recommend this very highly indeed.

Unseen Academicals

This morning I finished Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, having started it only a couple of days previously. It says something about how enjoyable this book was that I read it so quickly; it was just too good to put down.

This book is the usual blend of characters from Ankh-Morpork: the wizards of Unseen University, Lord Vetinari etc. – even a quick cameo from Death, my favourite. It also introduces some new ones, in particular Mister Nutt, a person of surprising ability given his lowly position as a candle dribbler at the University. This story revolves around football (that’s soccer to you Americans) and, while I have no interest at all in the game, that didn’t matter as what the book’s really about is people and a chance for Mr. Pratchett to philosophise once again.

If you like the other Discworld books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you haven’t tried any yet I think this would be a poor place to start as the assumption is that the reader is reasonably familiar with the location and major characters already.

Screen Burn

I’ve just finished reading Screen Burn by Charlie Brooker, which was a Christmas present from my lovely girlfriend. It’s a collection of Mr. Brooker’s TV columns in the Guardian from 2000 to 2004. If you’ve not encountered him before, he’s a deeply misanthropic but very funny writer with a penchant for trashy TV and a fine taste in comedians (he likes Jerry Sadowitz, in other words).

In many ways the book is a trip down memory lane, packed as it is with rants about series and one-off programmes that I, at least, had completely forgotten about. If you enjoy reviews where the critic concerned positively foams at the mouth but in a very witty way then, apart from also checking out Mark Kermode’s film reviews, you should definitely read this.

Sherlock Holmes

I’m currently reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, which I got as an ebook from Amazon, and I have to say that although I’m only halfway through I can already highly recommend it. I expected it to be fairly tough going for some reason, probably because of the era in which it was written, but it’s actually a really easy read and thoroughly compelling.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle manages to bring the characters of Holmes and his sidekick Watson out beautifully, even though he tends to avoid long descriptive passages. Perhaps that’s because we’re fed little titbits of information in each story, or perhaps it’s simply that the characters are so well-known that we already have a good idea of who they are before we even pick up the book.

I confess that a part of me was dreading reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, simply because I’d seen the screen adaptations and somehow doubted that the book would live up to them. Odd, because I almost always prefer the book to the film when it comes to stories. However, I’m delighted to be able to say that the book is, as it should be, much better than any movie or TV version. Read it for yourself and you’ll see.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying the book and would very happily recommend it to anybody.