Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Book 26 - Tuesdays With Morrie

Book - Tuesdays With Morrie
Author - Mitch Albom
Year - 1997
Genre - Non-Fiction
Pages - 192
Bought for me by my Dad.

There are plenty of books out there that I would say you simply have to read.  Some of my favourite books, such as A Game of Thrones or Harry Potter or even classics such as Of Mice and Men are all books that I would, and do, really push.  Even then though, I am aware that they are not necessarily books that you genuinely have to read.  They are brilliant reads, and you will really enjoy them, but I couldn't honestly say that you actually need to read them for your life to be better.

However, Tuesdays With Morrie is a book that you have to read.

Morris Schwartz is an American professor, who learns that he has Lou Gehrig's disease - a motor neurone disease that manifests in a way similar to that of Stephen Hawking.  When he learns that he has only months to live, he agrees to do an interview on Ted Koppel's show Nightline and a former student of his, Mitch Albom, sees it and comes to visit.  They then proceed to meet each Tuesday and talk about life, death, society, and a whole range of things.  Morrie has a way of presenting things that really speaks to Albom, and throughout the course of the book, Albom is able to communicate these to the reader.

Throughout, we are gifted with some wonderful pieces of advice from a man who has accepted that he will die soon, and is using the time he has left to try and work out some important things about life.  However, nothing comes across as being overly sentimental or dark.  Morrie has some simple statements which are simple, yet strikingly wise.  Coupled with Albom's own personal journey as he presents it, the overall effect is quite moving.

My Dad bought me a copy of this book when I was considering leaving a job that I no longer enjoyed, and I found it massively useful.  Since then, I have dipped into it from time to time, but I decided it was time to read it again, and I found it as charming and perfect as the first time I read it.

I regularly encourage anyone reading this to read the book that I have just read, and I will continue to do so, but if you only choose to listen to my advice once ever, then you should definitely make it this time.

10/10

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Book 25 - The Stone Cold Truth

Book - The Stone Cold Truth
Author - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
Year - 2003
Genre - Wrestling Autobiography
Pages - 328

Well, there has been a bit of a gap between my last book and this one.  I had one of those periods where it has just been tough to get in to a book.  I had planned to read the second in The Hunger Games trilogy, but fifty pages in, and I was not particularly enjoying it.  Having loved the first one so much, I didn't want to continue when my opinion of the follow up would be clouded by my lack of enthusiasm for reading, so I thought I would grab something that was pretty easy to read, and a wrestling autobiography seemed to scream out as a great example of that.

'Stone Cold' Steve Austin took wrestling by storm in the late nineties.  He grew from a mid card guy to one of the most recognisable wrestlers in the world, and one of the most popular to boot.  He was involved in a major feud with Vince McMahon, the owner of the WWE - a feud which is generally regarded as one that changed the face of wrestling forever.

In this autobiography, Austin covers all of this and much more, and it is fairly interesting.  But unfortunately he never really says anything particularly impactful.  We know that much like his wrestling persona, Austin likes to drink beer and hunt, and is a bit of a redneck, and he reminds us of this throughout the book, but when it comes to discussing anything particularly interesting - such as his real life argument with Bischoff, or with McMahon when he walked out - he is far too careful with his words.  Maybe this is a problem with his book being published in 2003, close to the start of when these reveal all autobiographies started to come out, and with it being a WWE one to boot.  It is trying too hard to be nice, unlike several others that came out later.

It is nice to see that it isn't all that though.  As a high profile wrestler who died in the ring for the WWE - specifically during a stunt - Owen Hart gets a lot of heartfelt good press in wrestling autobiographies, with everyone singing his praises.  As far as I can tell from these, he was genuinely one of the nicest guys in wrestling, so this is warranted.  However, he is responsible for the injury that eventually finished Austin's career, and it came about through him working sloppily and irresponsibly.  Austin doesn't disguise that, and though he is respectful and regretful about Hart's death, it is refreshing to see that he doesn't hold back in how he felt at the time.

All in all, this is worth a read, and is certainly better than many other wrestling autobiographies (Goldust, I am looking at you), although certainly not a classic.

7/10

If you happen to belong to what is probably a select band of people who both read my blog, and are wrestling fans, then check out my wrestling books page.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Book 24 - Mostly Harmless

Book - Mostly Harmless
Author - Douglas Adams
Year - 1992
Genre - Sci Fi/Humour
Pages - 230
Series - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I have a huge number of book series on the go at the moment.  With Hunger Games and I Am Number Four and Discworld - not to mention series where I have read everything available, but am waiting for more to be released such as The Demon Trilogy or of course A Song of Ice and Fire - it was reaching a stage where I needed to get something finished off, and as I was almost there, I thought that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seemed a great place to start.

After a truly brilliant start, I had a bit of a wobble with Hitchhiker's, and the third book Life, The Universe and Everything I found to be a massive disappointment.  However, I did thoroughly enjoy this final book of the series.  It is a lot darker than most of the others, with some pretty desolate sections, and not as laugh out loud funny as any of the others, but the story holds together far better than the previous couple of books have - particularly the third one - and it retained the magic that the first two books had in abundance.

Since Adams' death in 2001, there have been several books that have been released furthering the Hitchhiker's series - a book of his unfinished work, and a Eion Colfer novel picking up where Adams left off - and I imagine that I will get around to reading them in time, but for now, I am quite happy with where this trilogy in five books has ended.

8/10

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Book 23 - Seussical

Book - Seussical
Authors - Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Year - 2000
Genre - Musical
Pages - 121

Crazy for You is in the bag now, and my theatre group, DAODS, is now moving straight on to its next musical.  And we have picked a very fun show.  As you may or may not guess from the name, Seussical is a musical based on the works of the American children's author, Dr Seuss.  All of the favourites are there - The Cat in the Hat, Horton and the Whos, The Grinch - and the plot is an elaborate weaving of around seventeen of his books.

The whole thing is quite mesmerising.  Written in verse, the story is odd and strange, and geared towards children, but with a fun script that would keep adults thoroughly entertained.  I realise that it sounds a little like I am simply shilling for my group now, but reading through the book for the show gives you a real buzz, and the scope for which it can work on stage is immense.

Coupled with the soundtrack - an essential second string when reading over any musical - Ahrens and Flaherty have recreated the worlds of Dr Seuss wonderfully.  You get the feeling that if the books were sung, then this would have been exactly what Seuss had in mind.  I am sure that I will start plugging the show nearer the time, but for now, it is worth saying that I am massively looking forward to getting this production under way.

9/10

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Book 22 - What You See Is What You Get

Book - What You See Is What You Get
Author - Alan Sugar
Year - 2010
Genre - Autobiography
Pages - 643
Bought for me by Ellie Beaumont and baby Evie

The Apprentice is in full swing now for the 2012 series, and a nice birthday surprise from Ellie, was a copy of Alan Sugar's autobiography.  It is a beast, at well over six hundred pages, and has spent the past week taking up nearly half of the room in my bag, but I have made my way through it now and so my back can take a rest.

Firstly, it is worth me mentioning that it is almost definitely ghostwritten.  I am not necessarily saying that Alan Sugar would be unable to write his own memoirs, but I am pretty sure he wouldn't have the time.  And he would probably be unable to.  Whilst I do have a soft spot for people who have genuinely written their own autobiographies without a ghostwriter, I wouldn't say that it is a necessary thing to make the book interesting, and indeed, sometimes helps.  So no prejudice before I start.

So that out of the way, what of the book?  Well, it is full of anecdotes as we follow our way through Sugar's life, from a boy with the occasional grand idea, trying to make a few extra pence with a scheme, to the start of a wheeling and dealing group, on to national markets, and floating on the stock exchange, then his time at Tottenham Hotspur and the TV exposure he now receives.  And it is all really interesting.  I know him mainly from The Apprentice and a little about the scandal when he became a peer - also covered in the book - but learning all about the growth of Amstrad and how he made his fortune, I found fascinating.  He is an electronics geek, and the amount of technical information in there may be offputting to many - he apologises frequently for having to explain some technical info that is vital to a story - but maybe due to the speed I read at, I never personally found that a problem.  Instead I was pretty much hooked the whole way through.

It is definitely worth mentioning that if you want to read this purely for his insight into The Apprentice then you will be disappointed.  He doesn't even get to that part until a hundred pages or so from the end, and that hundred pages has to also include all of the peerage stuff.  What he does say is interesting enough, but he can't mention more than five or six candidates by name, and it is much more focused on the newness of making a TV show.  Don't think of this as a factor to steer you away however, because anyone who is a fan of Alan Sugar on the television, will find a similar sense to him in his writing, even if that is not the thrust of the book.  Just a public service notice to those of you who would otherwise be disappointed.  Although I find that unlikely with a great (not so) little book as this.

8/10

A post with reference to The Apprentice would not be complete with out a link to this, one of the best videos on YouTube.