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John Baird

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Cricket's Greatest Rivalry: A History of the Ashes in 10 Matches
Cricket's Greatest Rivalry: A History of the Ashes in 10 Matches
by Simon Hughes
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.79

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but feels like a rush job, 4 Aug 2014
I always enjoy watching Simon Hughes on TV, as I'm sure do most cricket fans, as I find him to be insightful and balanced, frequently pinpointing succinctly key aspects of a match, but never speaking down to the audience. I found his book 'A Lot of Hard Yakka' to be quite superb, and a deserving winner of the William Hill prize.

I am sorry to say that this book disappointed me a little. It tells a great story of course, but I think the book has been undermined by a number of things. It does feel like a rush job, dictated in some haste to follow the back to back Ashes series. Like 'Yakking All Over the World' there is far too much weak humour in there. Why? One doesn't want a book to be overly serious but jokes in a book like this only work if they are genuinely funny. In contrast to his very measured TV personae, Hughes the author sometimes seems to give too much free rein to his personal biases. I think he is capable of much better than this. I am inclined to blame his editors.


My Early Life
My Early Life
by Sir Winston S. Churchill
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, 21 July 2014
This review is from: My Early Life (Paperback)
This book is funny, moving, exciting and engrossing - the story of a boy's upbringing and early adult life in a world that has long since vanished. Written long before Churchill's finest hours, one can easily glimpse the great man he was to become. I would recommend it to anyone starting out in life. Churchill believed that 20-25 were among the most important year's of a person's life. This beautifully written book shows how Churchill took his chances, and rode his luck, during his own young life. Above all, it is very entertaining. And surely no-one will ever write English like Churchill.


Colonial policing and the imperial endgame 1945-80: 'At the end of the line': At the End of the Line' (Studies in Imperialism): At the End of the Line' ... End of the Line' (Studies in Imperialism)
Colonial policing and the imperial endgame 1945-80: 'At the end of the line': At the End of the Line' (Studies in Imperialism): At the End of the Line' ... End of the Line' (Studies in Imperialism)
by Georgina Sinclair
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 51.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced study of colonial policing models, 20 July 2014
This is essentially an academic work of meticulous research, but one that is written in an accessible style and is easy to read and enjoy. It studies the development of British colonial policing models at the end of empire, and places this in context. It shows how central government (in the form of the Colonial Office) sought to move policing towards a British 'policing by consent' model, and it explains why this was seldom achieved. This was largely due to the role that the colonial police needed to play, in a dramatically changing political environment, which required the paramilitary, 'policing by coercion' model, for which the prototype was the Royal Irish Constabulary. It is cautious and balanced in its judgments. I am not aware of any other books of its type.


The hunt for Kimathi
The hunt for Kimathi
by Ian Henderson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare and authentic personal account of the Mau Mau conflict, 15 July 2014
This review is from: The hunt for Kimathi (Hardcover)
This book would be worth a look for anyone interested in Mau Mau, or in the history of British colonial policing. It is co-authored by Ian Henderson, who was clearly a very resourceful and brave police officer, and a journalist, Philip Goodhart.

It is an understatement to say that it is a pretty one-sided account, but it reads well anyway, and tells the story of the Kenya Police's successful operations (led by Henderson) against the Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi. Having said that, it is probably no more one-sided than later books which take a very different view of Mau Mau, such as 'Britain's Gulag'. It is not my purpose here to take one side or the other as regards that conflict. I will only say that the book is an interesting account.

Published in 1958, it is very much a book of its time, although some of the lessons of the various operations are still relevant to those working in the same field today.


William Shakespeare's Star Wars
William Shakespeare's Star Wars
by Ian Doescher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Original, inventive and great fun, 6 July 2014
This is a very clever and actually rather brilliant book that achieves a remarkable feat, in doing justice to both Shakespeare and the Star Wars story. The author resists the temptation to take the mickey and has created authentic Shakespearian voices for characters that are already so familiar to us. He makes inventive use of a chorus and weaves into the dialogue extracts of renowned Shakespearian plays, such as Henry V and Hamlet, and probably many more besides. Marvelous fun.


Ray of Hope: The Ray Kennedy Story
Ray of Hope: The Ray Kennedy Story
by Andrew J. Lees
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books, 26 Feb 2014
I first read this book 20 years ago and have re-read it several times since. It deserves to be better known, as it is a clear-eyed account of the life and times of one of the most enigmatic English players of the 1970s. The author is Ray Kennedy's doctor and a Liverpool fan. Writing in an easy, accessible style, he sees Kennedy's life not only through the lens of the football fan but from the perspective of an expert in Parkinson's Disease, which has sadly blighted Kennedy's life.

Books about football, and footballers, in the 1970s are ten a penny now, but this is as good as any that I have read. Kennedy played in two of the classic English sides of the decade - the Arsenal double-winners and the Liverpool European Cup winners - and was also involved with England during the Revie and Greenwood periods, playing with and against pretty much all the best players in the world. Kennedy is candid in his reflections and there are many interesting insights.

It is difficult to draw any positive thoughts from his decline and illness, but the author's ability to dissect this helps us better understand Kennedy as a man. And the account of his early years as the son of a coal-miner, and his rise through the professional ranks, is engaging and worthwhile.


Ossie: King of Stamford Bridge (Mainstream Sport)
Ossie: King of Stamford Bridge (Mainstream Sport)
by Peter Osgood
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.80

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit light, 26 Feb 2014
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A very brief account of Osgood's career. He is frank about his ups and downs, giving an interesting glimpse into the life of a footballer in the 1960s and 1970s, and there are a few good anecdotes. It is an honest account, and Osgood comes across as a genuine personality and a likeable man. But I was disappointed at how little there is on key parts of his career, notably the 1970 World Cup. His failure to make the most of his talent was to England's detriment.

Worth a read, whether or not you are a Chelsea fan, but for a more satisfying and complete view into the world of English professional football in this era, I have not read anything to beat Hunter Davies's 'The Glory Game'.


The Gulag Archipelago [Abridged] (Harvill Press Editions)
The Gulag Archipelago [Abridged] (Harvill Press Editions)
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.89

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great books, 15 Jan 2014
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This is not a dry and depressing chronicle of suffering in prison camps. Solzhenitsyn certainly conveys very well the appalling inhumanity of the Soviet penal system, but this book is so much more than that. Written around a loose semi-autobiographical structure, this is really a series of essays about different aspects of Solzhenitsyn's own experiences, the history of the Soviet prison camp system, and life in the Soviet Union. It may well be one of the great works of its kind.

The writing comprises vivid descriptions, passionately-held views, forceful arguments, irresistable logic, compassion, honesty, insight and humour. Yes, humour - Solzhenitsyn tells several funny stories, notably the story of the provincial party meeting where the assembly stood to drink a toast to Stalin, and no-one dared to be the first to stop clapping.

I found the book truly inspirational, and I only wish I had read it many years ago. The abridgers of this extraordinary book have done the world a great service.


How Children Succeed
How Children Succeed
by Paul Tough
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly optimistic, 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: How Children Succeed (Paperback)
A cogent, informative and optimistic book. Tough's thesis is straightforward, and not completely new, but he may be the first author to draw together so many strands in one work, along the way painting vivid portraits of educational reformers, inspirational teachers and some challenged kids. To a European, the book is very US-centric (and I do not mean that as a criticism), so some of the points of reference may be less useful than for an American reader. But I would recommend this book to any parent, and not just parents of toddlers. The reporting on what can be done for 'troubled teens' is startling.


Life And Fate
Life And Fate
by Vasily Grossman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 13 Dec 2013
This review is from: Life And Fate (Paperback)
The other 5 star reviews have done this justice. Don't be put off by the length of the book: the characters and their stories are utterly engrossing, and it is a page turner. Anyone who enjoyed Beevor's Stalingrad would enjoy this too.


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