This Week in Books #1

Last year I set myself the challenge to read 30 books in the year. I spend 5 months per year working in a ski resort in Austria with little-no free time for reading, so that really becomes 30 books in the space of 7 months. I thought it was ambitious, but thankfully my trip to Vietnam gave me a plenty of times on buses to tear through a rucksack filled with books. However, I still failed. Ok, 29 books out of 30 isn’t failure, but I just wasn’t able to find the time around Christmas to finish that final book! It turned out to be Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life (perhaps I’ll review that here at some point).

So as 2020 came around I decided that I was going to aim this time, not for 30 books, but for at least 50. I had tried speed-reading exercises before but never put in enough practice to really improve my consistent reading speed. So after listening to a few guides and watching a few TedTalks on the issue I developed my own speed reading technique – which you can read about here – and started to aim to read a book in a day. So I decided to keep a track of the books I read here for two reasons,

  1. I love to recommend books!
  2. It is an excellent way to keep me reading and to help me better remember the books that I read!

So without further ado, here are the books I read this week!

Because Internet – Gretchen McCulloch

This is offically the very first book I read in a day! Apart from the Harry Potter books of my childhood, but we’ll not worry too much about those! Because Internet was a wild ride through the mind of a linguist in the 21st century. The advent of technology has given us the ability to analyse vast amounts of informal written language, which can give us monumental insights into the way in which language behaves, evolves, and changes. She examines whether emojis are considered a language (hint they aren’t) and why technology could prevent the evolution of language in ways that we aren’t aware of. – 8/10

Why We Get The Wrong Politicians – Isabel Hardman

Isabel Hardman answers a question here that we have all asked ourselves after watching the latest political scandal unfold on the nightly news, “how do we end up with these idiots?”. In a wonderful analysis of the system that selects our MPs we come to understand that every aspect of the system is pushing us towards the wrong politicians. Those selected are unprepared and often party die-hards with thousands in the bank and plenty of time on their hands. Those who succeed in rising to the top do so not through competence, but through loyalty. The system of government fails to offer any incentives for good governance and rewards those who toe the party line. Yet, there is hope. Hardman offers up some sensible and plausible reforms that could massive increase the effectiveness of parliament as a legislature. – 8.5/10

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s best work according to Stephen King is Something Wicked This Way Comes, the title of which is stolen from the MacBeth line “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”. Bradbury tells the story of Jim and Will, two best friends and brothers in all but name who live beside one another. When a mysterious carnival rolls into town in October, the boys find themselves irresistibly drawn to it. However, they soon begin to realise that the freaks who inhabit the carnival are a little more sinister than first thought. Racing against time to save themselves and their town, the boys and Will’s father try to unravel the mystery of the carnival before it ensnares them forever. It’s not quite Brave New World, but it is a lyrical and magical tale that transports you to the late summers of your youth. – 7/10

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