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Hidden Stories of the First World War
Hidden Stories of the First World War
by Jackie Storer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, entertaining, educational and European masterpiece, 7 July 2014
How can the enormity of the First World War be presented in a way that stands out through the relevance to individuals and families 100 years after? How can the complexity and consequences be vividly brought home through archetypal yet historically accurate storytelling?

Oxford University IT Services with their Great War archive showed the way in starting a historical ‘crowd-sourcing’ initiative when it asked the British public to bring family letters, photographs and memorabilia from the war to be digitised in 2006. The success of the idea - which became the Great War Archive encouraged Europeana (Europe’s digital library, archive and museum.) 1914-1918 to roll out the scheme in Germany in 2011, with subsequent family roadshow events across Europe.

The Hidden Stories of the First World War is an outcome of the above archives. Former BBC political journalist Jackie Storer provides a compelling, chronological collection of stories that responds to those challenges with interest. As Peter Englund notes in the forward war is not over because the battlefields fall silent. The subjects, Hitler aside with a postcard from Munich are not the usual suspects. At its core this book covers the moving personal accounts and experiences of ordinary people with more than a touch of the extraordinary in their lives and achievement. The 32 stories accompanied by stunning high quality illustrations and photographs exemplify how living history can be documented at its best. These stories are told through historical artefacts, contextualised through historical accounts and brought to life through first hand memories, mysteries and observations of their descendants. And these are stories that have the gift to surprise, shock, sadden and make us sigh even 100 years later. That many of the descendants went as Storer puts it ‘the extra mile’ to answer her many questions explains why the stories are so fresh. – They matter.

Elegantly and stylishly written, it is easy going yet provocative and retains the ability to bring the subjects alive without sacrificing the facts or succumbing to hyperbole. The carefully chosen and crafted, stories wending their way through the war years demonstrate the degree to which the truth stronger and stranger than fiction can be ultimately horrifying, at times surprising and heart-warming. This brings the historical experience home.
The stories, here’s a selection: from what it is to be an Alsatian from France fighting for the enemy, a pacifist French socialist fighting on the front line, soulmates in Trentino, a transatlantic tryst, the strange demise of Lord Kitchener, the man who missed his own funeral and the rise and fall of a monocled Austrian prodigy, all unfold like a film script. They leave as many questions as answers.

The interpretation, deconstruction and reconstruction of the First World War is going to occupy many minds over the next four years. We might like to believe and some might suggest that this allows for a more reasoned assessment. But in reality the passions, power and politics that made the Great War possible have not ebbed away. And that’s a good reason to read the book and for the majority it will prompt is to (re)visit our own family. What a remarkable and fitting epitaph each story is to the individual lives revisited and families that shared their stories. This book invites us to consider what it is to be European. The Hidden Stories of the First World War is a refreshing, resonant and lively reminder of living history. It’s a book that will appeal to all generations and all nationalities.

Elite!: The Secret to Exceptional Leadership and Performance
Elite!: The Secret to Exceptional Leadership and Performance
by Floyd Woodrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality Style Elite Performance with an Edge, 13 Nov 2012
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Ably pulled together by Simon Acland, this debut book by a former member of the SAS, Floyd Woodrow, who won a DCM in Iraq, builds on the experience of an individual who has not only walked but, as Roger Lewis writes (in the foreword to the book), `fought the talk'. As Sheffield-born Bernard Hogan-Howe (the Metropolitan Police Commissioner) confirms, this is a mirror image of Floyd - insightful, imaginative, and inspirational. We can all achieve excellence in our chosen field, Floyd proposes in the final chapter.

This book illustrates, without bombarding us with a bonanza of buzzwords, how he has performed this in more than one field. The message is elegant, perceptive as well as pragmatic about elite leadership and performance - `you can too'.

But you have to be prepared to pay the price, have your North Star and put in the hard yards to balance optimism with realism. Let me acknowledge my bias. I first met Floyd he was fresh out of the SAS and a wide-ranging conversation, the first of many dialogues, ensued. When I bought the book at the end of the amazing launch event it was a highlight to discover my name in the acknowledgements. It has been a reciprocal relationship. What I learned from Floyd's counsel in the context of my ground-zero start point cis a Chrysalis Project in its own right.

Can this contemporary gladiator and former amateur boxer entertain, educate, and deliver a knockout performance in print as well as he does in person? The answer is an unequivocal `yes'. The book blends storytelling with wisdom, incisive prompts, and clarion calls to action to take you out of your comfort zone or what I call the comfortably numb zone. It's reality-style self-improvement with an elite edge and no self-promotion or abuse of the SAS cachet attached.

It's Yorkshire, plain-speaking, and integrity grounded in incredible international experiences, escapades, and adventures you might watch films about. If you want to understand how to remain focussed under pressure, this is the man. That comes across through the book and in person where he can switch from being instinctive to intellectual as well as intimate, all in the same sentence. What was also evident and is central to this book is learning and tips on how to cope with pressure. To paraphrase Clausewitz, `The calm leader is at peace with fear, danger, and confusion. The calm leader can sort through this array of conditions and apply his mental talent in any situation.' This is what Floyd exudes in real life, and how he has achieved this is covered in the book.

Andy Flower, England Cricket Coach who, has also been under pressure in his life, commends the book and has no hesitation in describing Floyd as a game-changer. But let me add too, through his tactical questioning and empathy, Floyd is a life-changer, and so is the book if approached with full-on commitment. Most important is the value the sophisticated simplicity and disarming humour of his story-telling and reflection brings. This is an action book, not an academic book, from an action man. If you want to change, then complete your wheel of life. It's common sense, as Floyd advises us, but you must at times stick to your guns, be true to yourself, and step into the pressure zone.

This book, like the man himself, is a one-off. It's one to be read and reread. Floyd typifies the ethos of the SAS as an `original' who lives up to the motto `who dares wins' as well as the personal mantra `who cares wins'. This is complemented by the dash of ruthlessness needed by all winners. He does not in person or in print waste time on pretending to be something he is not.

When I first met Floyd, I enquired what he wanted to do in his post-military career. He told me he was content to push his knowledge base in a different area and see how good he could be. He wanted to apply all his learning and development strategies from different high-pressure environments to get the best of the military and non-military worlds', he emphasized. This book is a tribute to that self-determination. The last question I asked at our first meeting was about the benefits of knowing yourself. `I like to become more self-aware and push the boundaries of my talent,' he replied. `You are able to understand you. What makes you tick. You understand when you are in difficulty. So you know that in difficult situations you can go and trust yourself.' For me it is very important', he underlined. `The more you understand about yourself, the more you can be centred and minimise external distraction because they are external, you analyse them, you take them in for what they are', he emphasized. `It's about maximising luck,' he added. `The training that you don't have means that you need more luck and eventually you won't get that luck. And I create my own luck ... And how I look at it,' his parting shot, was said with a ringing finality,' is that nobody gets in my head but me.'

That is until now. Buy, enjoy, and savour the book.

Making My Own Luck
Making My Own Luck
by Harvey Spencer Thorneycroft
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, entertaining and educational, 15 Nov 2011
This review is from: Making My Own Luck (Paperback)
Engaging, entertaining and educational this is a special sporting autobiography. If you liked Dallaglio's Rugby tales , one of the most popular rugby books on the market then you will love these `New Rugby Confessions' - the insightful, humorous and mesmerizing memoirs of the impressive, observant, and perceptive Northampton Saints, and England A player that is Harvey Thorneycroft. For any rugby fan of any era it's a delight.[...] explains why.

All credit to Matt Dawson for persuading Harvey to record the finer details of his sporting, business and personal life. This book has the potential to win the 2012 British Sports Book of the Year Best Autobiography. It really does. It hasn't been published to widespread media attention- except in Northampton. There launched appropriately at the Rodber suite, Franklin Gardens with former teammates Nick Beal and Paul Grayson as aides in recounting his story time flew. The audience a cross section of fans savored the experience. No need for drinks to fuel the humour this was a classy launch. Perhaps there is truth in ICI's wisdom that if a business succeeds in Northamptonshire, the cynical heart bed of England then it will succeed anywhere. It went down brilliantly. Don't forget Malcolm Gladwell's early works didn't receive immediate acclaim.

From the Number 52 Old Dunston bus and his upbringing there where he spent the first thirteen years of his life Harvey reveals himself to be a virtuoso, through the foundations of a top class sporting career at as the title suggests `Making my Own Luck.' Written from the heart he unveils the trials, tribulations, and achievements of this Sporting Life and his transition, travels and travails from England Colts through to his Northampton debut at 18, University a year out at Nottingham, the challenges of rugby in Roumania during the Ceausescu era. (fascinating) This is capped by a tour de force description of the weird and wonderful world of early professionalism through to making with the support of Tim Rodber a benchmark transition into the business world. There are hilarious stories but this is no one dimensional celebration of after dinner stories. There are poignant observations associated with the death of his mother and sister as he canters through his career and above all connects and makes lifelong connections. As a networker incidentally he's only surpassed in my experience by Supermodel Marie Helvin. Certainly he's top notch in the rugby world.

One chapter stands out as a measure of the man. It's the at times bizarre and at others heartwarming Discovery Tour of West Africa, the last amateur tour during the professional era a turning point for Thorneycroft. Max Brito playing for Ivory Coast broke his neck in a match during the 1995 Rugby World Cup - the season the game turned professional. Harvey was out in South Africa at the time whilst playing for Durban Harlequins, when he saw this tragic accident happen. Watching the final he came across Alistair McLennan an `African hand `of a surveyor wearing the club colours of Northampton It wasn't until he returned to Northampton met McLennan in his offices and realized from a map on the wall how close Ghana was to the Ivory coast that he did something about it. Having become a professional rugby player he had given up his day job of chartered survey or they decided to convince both the England A and England teams to travel out to the Ivory Coast and Ghana to raise money for Brito .

Six months were spent as an apprentice organising the tour from scratch. Ultimately this resulted in 65,000 people watching a game of rugby before a big African football match. It was the biggest sporting event Ghana had seen for years. How a 'reassuringly nave ` Harvey went about taking the concept first discussed on the back of a bus to a Premiership match with Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson is a phenomenal insight into the motivation, enthusiasm, values, integrity and talents of an individual who isn't a natural maverick. I still have visions of him at Abidjan airport negotiating customs and the threat of a Yellow fevers injection on arrival! Once in a while though he has the ability to throw caution to the winds and do what he believes is the right thing. He's not one to seek the limelight nor a leader - more a facilitator but to me this epitomises the beyond sports spirit. Just think what he'd achieve if he was asked to support sport relief.

Off the back of this adventure, Harvey and Tim Rodber, decided to launch an events business like no other. The birth of Harvey Thorneycroft packs more business wisdom and authentic insight into entrepreneurial activities than lessons from the great and good. If you really, really want to know how to set up an entrepreneurial services business from scratch then this is down to earth and practical. There's no retrospective coherence or rewriting of the story. He tells it how it was. There was nothing sophisticated in those days he writes just `sheer bloody mindedness.' It was a case of suck it and see. The company had no brand - or logo; the brand was the ability to deliver. He also neatly illustrates how important it is to get a good mentor and took on board Lynne Wilson's advice always to work with someone better than yourself.- Though I'd interpret that as always work with someone who complements your skills as he seems to be doing with business associate Poker guru and Caspar Berry. What he also demonstrates is the importance of finding a gap in the market. What strikes me most is the partnership with Lions. England and ex Army player Tim Rodber who is recorded as saying one Friday evening at Petersham that Thorneycroft had the potential to play for England but didn't concentrate on his objectives. Rodber believed Thorneycroft had the potential to do well in business but didn't want to see him 'squander the opportunity.`

All credit to the pair of them. They have both been enormously successful. Picture the slightly incongruous scene as the duo turn up to an early pitch with some of the brightest design consultants. Thorneycroft was expecting to be eaten alive. Rodber was dressed in a pinstripe suit, the epitome of sartorial elegance, Thorneycroft in an off-the peg Marks and Spencer suit. They discover their potential clients were interested in their ideas not their suits At one point they were pontificating about the theme to the event. Thorneycroft noted how surreal it all seemed. Then Rodber broke the dithering with the simplest of solutions. 'It's your tenth anniversary celebration why don't you base the theme around decades?' There was a silence and then the general consensus this was a great idea. They passed the test and transferred learning from sport. They grew the business in to a fully-integrated marketing agency that was turning over in excess of 5m by 2003 when they sold the business to Williams Lea.

Written by the man himself for his children when they are older it reminds me of a quote from Michael Crighton, Jurassic Park director, and ex Medical Doctor who once wrote how the assimilation of important experiences almost obliges you to write about them. `Writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you, how you come to possess it and ultimately release it.' Credit to Harvey and credit to the community and institute of Northampton Saints this book will not disappoint. It's is a cut above the average sporting autobiography. Some people have all the luck as the one hit wonder, sang by Robert Palmer written by a Clinical Psychologist of all people goes. But as Thorneycroft illustrates people with optimistic, zestful, and energetic approaches to life, are curious and open to new experiences, and are characterized by high positive emotionality. Positive emotions produce patterns of thought that are notably unusual, flexible, creative, integrative, open to information, and efficient. T They help you as Thorneycroft reveals make your own luck.

Harvey Thorneycroft now runs a business based on the belief that people who feel good about themselves perform better. They focus on optimising performance, relationship management and wellbeing. They represent and source motivational and guest speakers whose knowledge, insights and experience inspire people to achieve more. That's what he does through the book. And whilst he might have world champions to call upon (he knows them all) and top drawer speakers there's a unique quality to his talents and as much if not more to learn from his story of success.

This is a book written from the heart - reflecting the power and passion of sport and the communities and luck it creates to transform lives from someone in his early days who lived his autobiography at the expense of rugby. - I'm eagerly anticipating a Launch with Rodber as well as, in years to come a sequel. As broadcaster John Inverdale writes if you don't know Harvey by the end of reading this you'll wish you did. That's why irrespective of the outcome and volume of sales it's a winner already, a book to be proud of an a person it is a privilege to learn about.

Bounce: How Champions are Made
Bounce: How Champions are Made
by Matthew Syed
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, stimulating and stylish, 25 May 2010
Inspiring, stimulating and stylishly written. Syed has returned me to the fold of the Times. 'Miss Bookish' is right. Bob Wilson ex Arsenal goalkeeper and founder of the Willow Foundation to whom Mathew wrote a fitting dedication will be thrilled. Think Malcolm Gladwell meets the real world with a sporting spin and political perspective.

Though this is about the making of a champion this is more than the next Sportsbook of the year or homage to Gladwell. So much more because Syed has been there (Rift Valley), seen it (Magdeburg) and done it.(Sydney) I recall meeting Gladwell before he was famous shortly after he had rehashed and refined some Xerox ethnographic research on Air Traffic Controllers for a newspaper article. I remember mentioning en passant that many journalists let their proclivity to tell a story lead to a tenuous connection to context, a looser link to the facts and extrapolation of research findings beyond belief. Don't think he was to impressed.

Syed on the other hand has that humility and humanity of a champion which (also comes across in person) gives his book an edge. It's impressive too that Syed has picked up on the work of cognitive detective Gary Klein. David Snowden at Cognitive edge with whom I have had several conversations,sometimes debates over topics such as ethnography and six sigma has worked closely with him and rates him highly indeed.

I judge a book not by it's cover, subtle though it is but by the stories it tells, questions it poses and as Ridley Scott might say whether it entertains. Having just read the chapter on drugs and the surreal story with Krieger's happy ending Syed has bowled a written hat trick. The most thought provoking chapters for me were the chapters on the placebo effect and drugs in sport. The chapter on the placebo effect is a classic and could end up making this book the 21st century equivalent of Consultancy Witchdoctors for shamanic Sports and what Gareth Roderique-Davis calls cargo cult Psychologists. I wonder what NLP practitioners 'providing comfort through chicanery' as Snowden puts it will make of it?

There are perspectives I might disagree with. For a start I side with his parents who disputed the thesis of his first chapter. In my view he modestly underestimates the value of his own talents and motivation. Personally too I preferr the construct of nature via nurture and networks as a method of exploring success.- Additionally it might be true too that the path to excellence is paved with practice but many elite sports people have a 'questioning disposition'. The world champions I have profiled have a strongly entrepreneurial outlook. (and most of them dislike rules anyway) That's what makes them different from their peers. As Schumpeter might have said 'they create at the risk of their own self-destruction' Just like Bob Wilson also a natural entrepreneur did as a goalkeeper in fact!

There are areas where arguments and chapters could be extended. For example with the rise of cognitive enhancing drugs there is a real danger of 'minddoping'. Additionally a neuro-endicronological perspective might shed light on the role of prayer, meditation and superstition. Brugger's work looking at pattern recognition, superstition and high levels of dopamine might have been usefully incorporated.

I digress. This is more than a book for a 15 year old, though they would enjoy it. It's a book his mum should rightly be proud of. I have no problem recommending this to experts on the subject as well as those interested in sporting success.

I look forward to the sequel. This is a writer worth watching, reading and a book worth buying.

The Autobiography
The Autobiography
by Marie Helvin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.28

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most authentic and amusing autobiography of celebrity times, 2 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Autobiography (Hardcover)
This has to be the most authentic autobiographies of our modern celebrity times. It is award winning material as a book or as a film. Born in Japan, raised in Hawaii, Marie Helvin has been there, seen it, and done it . Her career as a fashion icon spans four decades from the heady look of the seventies (and she was the seventies), acquiescent eighties, identity torn nineties, through to the independent noughties.

In these instant celebrity days it's refreshing and rare to have a realistic take on Fame at the top combined with an openness and discretion about conversations behind closed celebrity doors.

The book recounts the sum total of experiences and stories that made Marie Helvin who she was and who she has become.. And what a life it has been. This is not a reality TV style personal journey, nor second hand ` ghosted ` and massaged memoir. It's a surreal story, yet it is real. And reality for Marie, as Robin Williams once said `what a concept'. Her life is awesome.

Once married to David Bailey, Marie met many of the great names of the age including Salman Rushdie, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol,. Added to that she inspired David Bowie's Aladdin Sane and introduced the Princess of Wales to Dodi al Fayed.

`What we think is less than what we know; what we know is less than what we love, what we love so much less than what there is. And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are' reads the prologue.

It's a quote from RD Laing, the brilliant, 70's Scottish Pschoanalyst . The essence of his work was that anguish and confusion could herald an inner voyage resulting in the emergence of a more authentic way of being-in-the-world.

What and why was a model muse quoting Laing? I bought the book.

More about the book, or more accurately odyssey - how was it for me?

I n a word, like the person, extraordinary. There is an elegant structure. It starts with Bailey and the morning before her marriage ended. Brooding on Jerry Halls words `this time you've got to do something' about his affair with his with Catherine, she does and her life is never the same. How could she be the person so confident on the catwalk and in her head but so lacking in courage she could barely shout at her husband?

That's the question Marie poses. In responding to that question she recounts scenes from a life that defies belief. She does it in an evocative, generous way. That's the type of individual she is.

As Marie notes -it goes back to childhood - all things do. With tolerant parents, the real stars of the first chapter and a magical, idyllic Hawaiin upbringing along with her siblings Marie alway had her feet on the ground. How many of us were able to walk barefoot to school? It's not quite, Cider with Rosie, more Pakalola (natural grown weed) with Russell.

Back to her upbringing, Marie always did her own thing and never played by the rules. What is impressive is that she had read the complete works of Dickens by the time she was 16. Incredible.

Japanorama the second chapter shows the making of Marie as a model.. Talent spotted in a hotel coffee house Imai -San plants the seed with an offer for a three year modelling contract. At sixteen with a Sampsonite suitcase, no shampoo, the book How to be a Success, unsuitable clothes but proper shoes she turns up in Tokyo. Culturally at sea, lesser people would have drowned.

Marie implores the designer Yamamoto to take her to London. With the proviso that no one must know she is American, and she shaves her eyebrows .in 1971 she is off to London.

London is where the high life takes off. It's where the book gets into top gear. It's where Marie comes into her own. There we experience first hand the early 70's catwalk scene as Marie and the Japanese team became a sensation. For Marie life as a supermodel blossomed. She started to live in airports.

We are then treated to an insider account of Marie's life in the 70's. The stories are hilarious. It was as she says a period of many discoveries and initiations. We also learn about life with Bailey, and how it was engineered, by Grace Coddington, the then fashion editor of Vogue. My did he have outrageous nerve. But as well as nerve he had experience. And a wicked sense of humour.

But this is no idealised `perfuming the pig' autobiography and Helvin is ruthlessly honest in describing the death of her younger sister Suzon which marks a turning point in her life.

Here the book deals in the real life , the death of her sister was a jolt that woke her up and contributed to her `interminable ` divorce.

Thanks in part to Mark Shand, Marie's life takes on a new trajectory. He proposed, but she turned him down. She then go's out with Peter Gabriel (helps her stop smoking) and Eric Clapton. ( a surreal opera playing ride with John McInroe). We also hear how Marie turned down Warren (Attentive) Beatty, and succumbed to Jack Nicholson after many years, only to find it a let-down.

Has Marie Helvin conquered her own myths through the writing of this book?

Fame brings privilege but obligations, Marie writes. And how well she fulfils her obligations.

Marie has satwa and it shows.
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