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Bill Mumford

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Joseph Anton
Joseph Anton
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.75

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An important book that makes for dull reading, 18 Nov 2012
This review is from: Joseph Anton (Hardcover)
I am an admirer of Salman Rushdie's work; having read all of his fiction he is of course an excellent writer and Midnight's Children is a masterpiece. As such, I had been waiting with eager anticipation for the publication of Joesph Anton, a detailed account of his life during the appalling fatwa, and along with many thousands, pre-ordered my copy. However, I have given up reading it (an act that I normally regard as unforgiveable) because, I am afraid to say, I found it dull.

Despite the importance of the events being described and my admiration for Mr Rushdie himself, the narrative rambles on with a cast of thousands and the same points are repeated over and over again. I really didn't like the way people appear to be divided into either 'for me" or "against me" camps and the latter always being dismissed as either unintelligent, bigotted or with low motives. For a book all about free speach it is ironic that everyone with a different point of view seems to be castigated! I found this quite irritating.

I can't imagine how awful living such a restricted life for years must be and perhaps this is reflected in the style of writing- so I may be being unfair. Nonetheless I did give up and decided to move on to something else.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2012 4:41 PM GMT


Spell It Out: The singular story of English spelling
Spell It Out: The singular story of English spelling
Price: 5.98

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good strategy for learning and teaching, 29 Sep 2012
Spell it Out- for me it starts well, then gets a bit long-winded but finishes with with some top advice which made the whole read worthwhile. The book is not as entertaining as Prof David Crystal's excellent The Story of English in 100 Words and I am sure a reader who has a knowledge of phonetics would find it easier going (I haven't). That said, I really admired the way David Crystal discusses the influence of the Internet and globalisation- not at all defensive but he suggests we do need to rise to the challenge. Considering young people he says:

"These 'natives' of the Internet have to learn to cope with an online orthographic diversity that is much greater than anything older people ever experienced on the printed page. Faced with a bewildering array of orthographic choices, they have to develop confidence to make the right decisions for the written tasks they need to complete".

The book finishes with two excellent appendices which offer some good advice to teachers of English; learning to spell is helped by putting words in context, by frequency of occurrence and within 'word-families'. Finally the author suggests giving each child a thesaurus and a dictionary- great idea.


A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos
by Dava Sobel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.96

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a muddle, 10 Sep 2011
I am really interested in Copernicus and I loved Longitude so I was very much looking forward to reading this book. Sadly I found it disappointing; the book just didn't hang together and as a result I found myself alternating between being lost in spurious historical asides or bored by the shallow characterisation of the main protagonists. The embedded play just didn't work for me. Big shame.


Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World
Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World
by Barbara Ehrenreich
Edition: Paperback

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Debunking Bunkum, 20 Feb 2010
Barbara Ehrenreich in her latest book Smile Or Die sets out to expose the excessive claims of "positive thinking" in America; a cure for cancer, a sure pass into heaven, a way of getting rich quick and a root cause of the recent financial sector melt down. The excesses of evangelical tele-preachers, business gurus, lifestyle coaches etc are easy targets for the authour's unrelenting scepticism but in my view the book is not balanced. There is no mention of the legitimacy of cognitive psychology and its value as a way of treating depression rather than resorting to tranquilisers. Positive thinking may not cure cancer but it can and does help prevent a depressed, but otherwise healthy, young person from committing suicide.

I don't mind a bit of debunking and exposing those who try to exploit us but I found this book neither humerous nor informative and so was disappointed.

Bill Mumford


Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
by Richard H Thaler
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sum of the parts?, 21 April 2009
The glowing newspaper reviews "nudged" me to buy this book and on the whole I found it a stimulating read with an interesting perspective. However on completion I was left wondering if the sum of the parts really added up anything substantial? Many of the anecdotes used by the authors were just clever or inspired ideas which, in hindsight and a big slice of post rationalisation, were used to illustrate the differing aspects of the "Nudge" theory. They were not ideas arrived at by someone working through a certain methodology- indeed I was not clear if there is such a thing as "Nudge" methodology. Clever marketeers seem to be quite intuitive already about the power to influence behaviour and decision making through nudges. So what is new?

I felt this most strongly when the postscript in my particular edition commented briefly on the current global crisis- the authors Thaler and Sunstein would be more convincing if they could suggest how their ideas, if adopted, will deliver change in the future. The concept of Libertarian Paternalism is one to be cherished and encouraged and this book is a good apologist; it is a shame, in my view, it didn't help us distinguish between good and bad "choice architects" or in otherwords helpful information and spin.


Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
by Dennis O'Driscoll
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grounded, 27 Jan 2009
If I had to use one word to sum up what I learned about Seamus Heaney from reading the excellent Stepping Stones it would be: grounded. Heaney is a serious man writing serious work and in this collection of questions and responses with Dennis O'Driscoll it is apparent he doesn't take himself too seriously. It is full of insights into the man and his work- how does he keep performing at the top of his game? Heaney says it is simply a matter of "Getting started, keeping going, getting started again".


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