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Strategy and Tactics: How the Left Can Organise to Transform Society
Strategy and Tactics: How the Left Can Organise to Transform Society
by John Rees
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, highly accessible reading for anyone attempting to achieve socialism, 17 Dec 2010
Essential, highly-accessible reading for anyone attempting to avoid the many minefields, dead-ends, pitfalls and traps inevitably encountered in the quest to realise a world run on the basis of human need, not private profit; socialism.

In only 65 pages, featuring 13 "bite-sized" chapters, John Rees provides a concise, inspiring, practical and wide ranging answer to the question; what strategy and tactics are needed in order to rid the world of public sector cuts backs, war, racism, unemployment and all the other ills inevitably generated by capitalism.

Along the way he utilizes numerous concrete examples of past revolutions and recent mass movements as well as key quoting and paraphrasing key sections from the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Cliff and other 'giants' of revolutionary social change in order to make his case.

The shortness and size of the pamphlet means that unlike similar works, such as Tony Cliffs; Marxism at the millennium, its easy to find and refer back to the section you want in order to help answer any pressing questions you might have- e.g. why can socialism not be achieved through the Labour party? what is sectarianism and why should it be avoided? How can the minority of revolutionary socialists possibly force the government to repeal its package of austerity measures?

My only gripe with this pocket-sized pamphlet is that whilst it does contain a 'further reading' list at the back, it lacks any comprehensive reference system directing readers precisely to the original location of its numerous quotes.


The Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain That Killed My Father
The Eiger Obsession: Facing the Mountain That Killed My Father
by John Harlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a biographical investigation into the life of the famous American mountaineer and the impacts that his chosen life path had, 6 Jun 2009
The Eiger Obsession is a biographical investigation into the life of the famous American mountaineer; John `The Blonde God' Harlin II and the impacts that his chosen life-path of mountaineering (which ultimately led to his death on the North face of the Eiger in March 1966) had on him, his friends and his family. Written by his son, John Harlin III who himself is an accomplished mountaineer and writer, this award winning book is no ordinary biography.

Split into two halves, the first documents the life, times and exploits of John Harlin, who amongst other things was a US Air Force pilot, loving husband and father who was adored by his wife and children. This sections of the book is given gravitas and genuine insights through observations taken from numerous interviews with John Harlin's friends, family, climbing partners and colleagues as well John Harlin's III unique perspective as his son. But what really brings this section of the biography to life is the vivid recounts of some of John Harlin II's significant climbs.

The second half is much more personal, even over-personal at times, and explores the profound legacy that John Harlin had on his family. This is primarily achieved through an autobiography of the author: John Harlin III. While the first half of the book is filled with the focused, strident idealism, and the great, almost mythological exploits of The Blonde God, the second half is filled with his son's deep, introspective thoughts regarding mountaineering, and life and also documents his achievements, which always seem to be overshadowed by the exploits of his father. Whilst autobiographical in nature, its less focused and the introspection isn't always of the carefull kind advised by John Harlin II.

The Eiger Obsession is thus most certainly a book of contrasts, but what shines throughout is the sheer quality of the writing and the love that John Harlin III has for the mountains and his Father.


Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (A Story of Race and Inheritance)
Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (A Story of Race and Inheritance)
by Barack Obama
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars could just well be the most influential political book of the 21st century, 7 Feb 2009
Dreams from my Father is Barrack Obama's thoughtful, engaging and seemingly very honest account of his journey to adulthood, marked by his graduation from Harvard Law School, setting up of a Civil Rights practice in Chicago and marriage to Michelle.

The book is split into three parts: Part one, titled `origins' documents his value-laden upbringing by his mother and Indonesian step-father `Lolo' during a childhood spent mostly in Indonesia and then moves on to explore his more rebellious highschool and college year's spent in Hawaii, LA and New York respectively where he raised himself `to be a black man in America' (p76). Part two is completely dedicated to his years spent working as a community organizer in Chicago which clearly had a huge influence on his resulting legal and political careers. It is here in the `windy city' that he finally finds `a place where I could put down stakes and test my commitments' (p115). In the final part, Obama examines his Kenyan family heritage through an extended summer break with his relatives there. In this section he particularly places the idealistic, stubborn and hugely influential lives of his Father and Grandfather under the microscope, as well as his African roots more generally and seeks to learn lessons from them.

Throughout these parts and also the introduction and epilogue, Barrack Obama proves himself to be an engaging and literary storyteller, often utilising a visceral first person perspective and dialogue tempered by deep intellectual musings inspired by these experiences on numerous, elemental topics, including; community (`communities had to be created, fought for, tended like gardens'-p134), family (`I realized...his strong image had given me some bulwark on which to grow up, an image to live up to, or disappoint'- p129), power (`In America, it had generally remained hidden from view until you dug beneath the surface of things...But here [in Indonesia] power was undisguised'- p45), freedom, justice, education and love. If the `Audacity of Hope' (2006) lays out his policies which `...embrace our teeming, colliding, irksome diversity, while still insisting on a set of values that bind us together' (pX) `Dreams from my Father' explains how he came to form them.

Despite the consistently high quality of the writing, this book is not in this reviewers opinion a `page-turner', due to the deep-seated and gritty nature of some the subject matter (such as black-on-black crime and the huge limitations on the education system available to inner city black youths) which despite my knowledge of them, I found I couldn't stomach for more than a few hours at a time. Nor is it completely perfect. I was left wondering why he included a detailed and rather romantic depiction of a date that he went on with a lady in Chicago and yet failed to mention his state basketball championship victory at Punahou Academy, Hawaii and his family history does seem overly detailed in part three.

However despite these qualms, `Dream from my Father' is an incredibly rewarding, humane and inspiring read and a great accomplishment, which could just well be the most influential political book of the 21st century.


Riding the Magic Carpet: A Surfer's Odyssey in Search of the Perfect Wave: A Surfer's Odyssey to Find the Perfect Wave
Riding the Magic Carpet: A Surfer's Odyssey in Search of the Perfect Wave: A Surfer's Odyssey to Find the Perfect Wave
by Tom Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anybody even remotely interested in surf travel!, 17 Jan 2009
Many travellers can say they've seen the Taj Mahal, been on Safari in Kenya or done some of the Inca Trail. Few of them however can truthfully say that whilst on they're travels, they've done something difficult, something only achievable through years of training and planning. Something like climbing Everest, or traversing Antartica or
successfully navigating a set wave from Supertubes-to-Impossibles during a solid swell in J-Bay, one of the worlds premier surf breaks. This is one of the many delights experienced by the seasoned surf traveller and one of the many reasons why you should read this book.

Riding the Magic Carpet is a largely chronological account by 20 year old Porthcawl local Tom Anderson of his 10+ year odyssey to follow in the footsteps of his childhood idol- Tom Curren- and ride a solid swell at J-Bay. And it is an odyssey, albeit one where Odysseus's enchanted islands are replaced with Anderson's exotic A-grade surf breaks (Mundaka, Padang Padang, Thurso East...) and the mythical monsters and temptresses are rather the more-mundane concerns of money, health, alchohol and the weather. There are also many other amusing and thoughtful moments included in this book. For example; Anderson's attempt to express the experience and skills involved in riding a set wave at Thurso East, J-Bay and other world class breaks are brilliant. There's a hilarious encoounter with a mad Narrabeen local and bunch of Israeli surfers led by a robo-cop esque figure who temporarily `localise' a popular Sri-Lankan break. And there's also his own musings on localism, the impacts of surf tourism, having a girlfriend who surfs and many other timeless surfing issues (though no mention of air-travels contribution to global warming).

On a less positive note, whilst Anderson shows no hesitation in using other sources to place his experiences and achievements into context, the book is primarily a first-person account and suffers somewhat from Anderson's opinions not being as well reasoned and grounded as say the opinions voiced by Barrack Obama in his excellent Dreams from my Father. Then again he's still in his twenties. Also disappointingly, Anderson doesn't go into very much detail about finally successfully riding Mundaka, which is inexplicable given how important he states it was in his grand plan. Another minor drawback is the presence of a few mistakes. For instance, Tom Curren's legendary first ride at J-Bay in May 1992 was actually his second and J-Bay was not first found and ridden when `a couple of Durban travellers took a wrong turn on the way to Cape St. Francis' (page 177) but rather by Capetonians Robin Solomon, Andy Spengler and Mike Taylor in early 1964.

However whilst this reviewer would have loved a bit more detail and structured thought here and there, Riding The Magic Carpet was definetly a page turner and deserves its place as one of the best pieces of surf literature produced in the last 10 years.


The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science
The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science
by Jonathan Haidt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, useful enlightenment, 28 Oct 2008
This book is well researched, drawing on ancient wisdom and the findings of modern science and the thoughts of great thinkers from all around the world. It is written in an easy to understand, engaging style and is well structured.

The subject matter of what makes all humans happy is simply fascinating and it is really inspiring and useful to learn that one can improve ones level of happiness without having to spend money.

A fantastic read which could improve your time here on earth!


Eddie Would Go
Eddie Would Go
by Stuart Holmes Coleman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate, contextualised and a page turner, 20 July 2008
This review is from: Eddie Would Go (Paperback)
By interviewing Eddies family members, friends, wife and the many others who met and were affected by the man, Stuart Holmes Coleman paints a compassionate, inspiring and yet also mutli-dimensional and authentic picture of one of Hawaii's most loved and famous sons. Heavily contributing to this is Colemans commitment to place Eddies acts into the context of the history of Hawaii, apartheid, vietnam and his surfing peers.

This is quite simply a superb biography of an intriguing human being.


The Flying Scotsman: The Graeme Obree Story
The Flying Scotsman: The Graeme Obree Story
by Graeme Obree
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An autobiography very much worth reading, 29 May 2008
'When it came to physical violence...Being kicked about the head was so different from being kicked about the body...there was also a much, much more hurtful thing called social exclusion' (page 2)

This is a very personal,truthful and holistic story about a man who was a social outcast as a child, a husband and father, a sufferer from severe bouts of depression, an eccentric, a person who has attempted suicide several times and an innovator and DIY man who famously built a revolutionary bike upon which he twice broke the world mile record and won two world pursuit championships.

Told in his own straightforward prose, Graeme Obree isnt one for self flattery but rather facts and honesty- which make the additions of the L'Equipe extracts at the back very much welcome in their providing a 'jaw-dropping' and poetical outsiders perspective on his phenomenal record breaking:

'Eddy Merckx, climbing off his bike, said: 'Never again'. Obree got on the track twice within 24 hours and the second one was the good one' (page240)

However such are the twists and turns of his life that Grame's personal account didnt stop this reader from being very much uplifted by his accounts of smashing records,winning championships and recreational tours with friends...

'I spent a few happy days at Paco's farm and while I was there I learned what 'siesta' really meant to the local farmers. Each would take a turn of being host to a wine and hash afternoon, before returning to their agricultural toil' (Page 63)

...or being downcast and shocked at his attempts at suicide, crazy acts and the loss of his brother:

'I took advantage of the free drinks on the flight to make life seem more manageable...I rewrote a poem which I had been working on earlier ...[and] passed it to some of the team in a hope that somehow they would understand me...A short while after that I told the entire team, including officials, that I was going to kill every one of them [!!!!!]' (page 225-6)

Painting a much broader and deeper picture of Graeme O'bree than the film of the same name does, Flying Scotsman is very much an autobiography worth reading whether your a cyclist or not (I'm a surfer)- It's no wonder that for some journalist's like Matt Seaton that its in their top 10 best cycling book's of all time (see [...] And it left me genuinely wishing nothing but a bright future for this astonishing man and his family.


Surf Nation: In Search of the Fast Lefts and Hollow Rights of Britain and Ireland
Surf Nation: In Search of the Fast Lefts and Hollow Rights of Britain and Ireland
by Alex Wade
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A broad, thoughtful and vivid picture of the UK and Ireland surf scene, 1 April 2008
As two fellow reviewers, D. Yarrow and James Bulpett, and Alex Wade himself have pointed out, this is not a book documenting an extensive Britain and Ireland surfari by an expert surfer who goes from punting air reverses off of perfect Norfolk wedges, to charging heavy Thurso East. Rather the author is a surfer of intermediate ability who has played to his strengths as a writer and journalist in writing a book which paints a broad, comprehensive, thoughtful and vivid picture of the UK and Ireland surf scene, by bringing the personal opinions, experiences and life stories of numerous British and Irish surfers (e.g. The Gill, Robyn Davies, Iain Battrick, Chris Noble, Duncan Scott, John Adams etc), as well as his own, in order to illustrate and explore the many interesting and diverse aspects of surfing in Britain and Ireland.

Sure the standard inspiring surf mag fodder of break descriptions, surf comps and epic sessions is included and more than done justice too, thanks to Wades ability as a journalist...

`Love Hodel was impressed. `Man, when it's on that wave is pretty damn perfect,' said the 34-year-old Hawaiian, his blue eyes lost in awe. `Maybe not as powerful as Hawaiian surf but good, really good.' Thanks to the O'Neill Highland open, Hodel was undergoing his first experience of the surf at Thurso East' (p309)

...and refreshingly the accounts of surfing in the UK and Ireland are not isolated to the voices of the minority of expert surfers;

`Before I knew it a hesitant turn of the board had become a committed paddle for glorious green-blue right-hander...I felt the surge of raw oceanic power, knew I had the wave and leapt to my feet. The drop seemed unfeasibly steep but I made it, bending my knees and bottom turning to race back up the face...And then I pulled off a move I'd never even attempted before...a floater...The sensation was one of delicious weightlessness'- Alex Wade recounting a memorable session at 6ft Watergate

However what particularly sets Surf Nation apart from other books on surfing is Wade's commitment to giving as broad a view of his subject matter as he can, by consistently moving off the well beaten surf-writing track in all of the books twenty-two chapters. For example he references quite a few non-surf films, such as 1973s Badlands to shed alternative light on particular surfing areas (In Badlands case, St Agnes and it surrounding coastline), explores how surfing has been used to improve the lives of socially disadvantaged children and also illustrates how particularly aggressive surf travellers/tourists in Ireland share much in common with the colonising actions of the Spanish Conquestadors and Britains infamous East India Trading Company;

`I hate to say it but the worst things is the ...overseas surfers. We Irish are a mellow crew and you won't find any localism from us...But what's starting to get to me is paddling out at Easkey, or another wave I've been surfing all my life, and being given the eye by some guy from Cornwall' -Sligo local Mark Walton (p255)

Indeed such is the breadth of the topics covered here that it is clear that Wades main challenge was to bring them together into a cohesive whole with a logical order. He attempts to solve this problem by basing each chapter in a particular surfing area (though why is mid and north Wales, or the BUSA surf nationals not included?), by having a number of key people and related storylines regularly popping up throughout (A lot of people he interviews have met Zed Layson, but will he surf Thurso East? Everyone loves the elusive Robyn Davies and The Gill, but will Wade ever track these two elusive characters down? ) and by having a somewhat forced summary forming part of the final chapter.

Despite these three mechanisms, Surf Nation at points does feel like it consists of fragments of writing (albeit fragments of substantial, meaty, high quality) all crammed together into one volume. But due to its very ambitious and broad aim of `finding out about the characters who make up surfing on our shores and the great waves they surf'' (Wade on his blog- timesonline.co.uk/surfnation), this fragmentation was almost certainly inevitable and is actually appropriately reflective of Britain and Irelands fragmented surf communities and organizations.


The Perfect Day: 40 Years of "Surfer Magazine": 40 Years of "Surfer Magazine"
The Perfect Day: 40 Years of "Surfer Magazine": 40 Years of "Surfer Magazine"
by Sam George
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The level of writing and photography throughout is consistently stratospheric- go read it now!, 23 Mar 2008
I have often been persuaded into shelling out my hard earned cash on surf magazines by their covers; 'Cortes Bank!: 50' and Perfect', or intriguing feature sub-titles; 'Pro Land: Parallel lives, skate, surf and boarding. Whose the don?' yet, LIKE MANY READERS OF SURF MAGAZINES THE WORLD OVER (INCLUDING THE EDITOR OF THIS BOOK SAM GEORGE) I HAVE BEEN REGULARLY DISSAPOINTED BY THE QUALITY OF THE ARTICLE CONTENTS THEMSELVES, I mean sure there will be one or two decent articles in them providing some real insight and context to accompany and enhance the mind blowing pictures, but mostly they'll be predictable monologues along the lines of; "the surf was pumping at spot x, so we had an amazing session at spot x, pro y ripped as did local charger z who [you'll never guess] charged and had his local spot proper wired!". So instead I normally keep up with what's happening in the world of surf for free online- especially the brilliant surflineline.com and timesonline.co.uk/surfnation

However keeping me buying the occasional surf mag (beyond the obvious: a format which can be read anywhere, spectacular photos and the occasional attached free surf DVD) is the possibility of getting to read some great, mindblowing surf article on something intriguing such as the home of Doc Renneker; Ocean Beach, surf tripping from inland Manchester (where I use to live and do the same thing) or a Miki Dora story, the kind of article which you rarely find on the internet. So when I spotted The Perfect Day: 40 years of surfing magazine, a book featuring only excerpts from the finest articles and photographs printed in Surfer magazine over its 40+ year history, I (and I'm sure the publishers) knew that there was no way it could disappoint.

Set in chronological order, this book is dived into 4 sections; articles and photos from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, each with their own editors introduction by Sam George, which serves to contextualise and link an otherwise hugely diverse collection of article excerpts and photographs, whose variation in tone, style and subject matter is constantly entertaining and perfectly reflective of the hugely diverse range of
situation's that the life of a surfer offers and the equally different ways that surfers experience those situations and makes sense of them, from the volatile yet always thoughtful and amusing actions and prophesising of Miki Dora in the 60s, the laid-back-style-admist-the-storm of Gerry Lopez and the surf travel redefining pieces by Kevin Naughton and Craig Petersons in the 70s, the pro bloom and excess of the 80s and the rise and rise of Kelly Slater in 90s. Needless to say THE LEVEL OF WRITING AND PHOTOGRAPHY THROUGHOUT IS CONSISTENTLY STRATOSPHERIC, making this easily one of the best books on surfing yet published.- Now if only Wavelength, carve and all the British surf mag's could team up and produce something of a similar format!


Wave-finder Surf Guide: UK and Ireland
Wave-finder Surf Guide: UK and Ireland
by Larry Blair
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best UK and Ireland surf guide around by far, 7 Jan 2008
Written on the consultation of local surfers, its by far and away the best UK and Ireland surf guide currently in existance. Why?, well it...

-Features more surf spots than anyother guide, including spots like Llandudno which rarely see surf and some lesser (including what some might call secret)spots which rarely get surfed (though it donesn't have my local in it which Im not complaining about)
-Provides more detail than any other guide on the conditions needed for each spot to work well (swell direction, tides, winds)
-Is small enough to comfortably fit in a coat pocket when your on a surf trip to lesser known locales


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