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Alan Pavelin (Chislehurst, UK)
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The Givenness Of Things
The Givenness Of Things
by Marilynne Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stimulating book by one of the greatest modern writers, 20 Jan. 2016
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Marilynne Robinson is not just a brilliant novelist (Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, Lila) but an extremely knowledgeable essayist on a variety of subjects, something of a polymath in fact. All but one of this collection of 17 essays have a single-word title (Humanism, Reformation, Grace, etc.), though it is not always obvious from each title what the essay is actually about. The author is well-known as an active member of a Congregationalist Church, and five of the last six essays in this collection (Metaphysics, Theology, Experience, Son of Adam Son of Man, Limitation) are specifically on religious topics, though religion frequently makes an appearance in other essays also. Her theology might be described as Liberal Calvinism, and there are many mentions of the French reformer whom she so obviously admires. A major theme of the essays is a denunciation, not of science (of which her understanding is impressive), but of scientism, the view that the empirical methods of science are the key to all knowledge and understanding. She is particularly scathing, in the first essay, of the extremes of neuroscience, which claim that all mental processes can be reduced to, and explained by, physical movements in the brain. Other essays are about the state of modern America, of which she doesn't particularly approve; she is a liberal Democrat, and an admirer of Barack Obama. Her views on Donald Trump would be interesting to hear.
A stimulating and extremely well-written book, which deserves a very wide readership.


Overcoming Anxiety: Reassuring Ways to Break Free from Stress and Worry and Lead a Calmer Life
Overcoming Anxiety: Reassuring Ways to Break Free from Stress and Worry and Lead a Calmer Life
by Gill Hasson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive summary of the anxiety syndrome., 31 Dec. 2015
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An easily readable book which sets out more or less all their is to know about anxiety and how to overcome it. The first three chapters are about understanding anxiety (from which we all suffer from time to time, though some people in excess), the remaining six chapters about how to deal with it. The emphasis is on changing the way we think and speak, emphasising a positive approach when we normally think negatively. Every chapter has a useful summary at the end headed "in a nutshell". There is a comprehensive index. The author has 20 years' experience in personal development.


Rowland Broomhead 1751-1820. Apostle of the North
Rowland Broomhead 1751-1820. Apostle of the North
by Peter Francis Lupton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended study of a much-loved priest., 19 Oct. 2015
Rowland Broomhead is, at the time of writing, so little-known generally that he doesn't even merit a Wikipedia entry. Yet this Catholic priest became such a major figure in the church life of Manchester that thousands turned out for his funeral in 1820.
Peter Lupton's carefully researched book will, it is hoped, make Broomhead much better known. Born in Sheffield in 1751, he moved to Manchester as an assistant priest in 1778 and quickly became involved in missionary work not just in the city but in the wider area. Over the next 40 years he not only continued this work but also devoted himself to the social problems of the poor.
Lupton quotes extensively from many sources, even poetry written by one Michael Gaffey who was obviously a great admirer. The book has interesting sections on the political background of the time, including the aftermath of the French Revolution and the increasing immigration of Irish Catholics into the area, all of which provided fresh challenges. A particularly surprising aspect, which clearly emerges from this book, is the extent of cooperation between the Catholic and Protestant churches at the time.
The book has many illustrations, and charts of "Papist returns" for various towns in the area; we learn such intriguing facts as that almost half the Catholics in Sutton in 1767 listed "button maker" as their occupation.
A highly recommended book, both for the detailed study of Broomhead and for the wider social history of the Manchester area.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2015 10:22 AM GMT


Social Psychology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Social Psychology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Richard J. Crisp
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and fascinating study of social psychology., 7 Oct. 2015
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The latest in the excellent "Very Short Introduction" series, which now number over 400, is a study, aimed primarily at students of the subject, of how our beliefs, attitudes, behaviour, and values are shaped by society and the people around us. We may think at first that our values are largely uninfluenced in this way, but if we are honest we have to admit this is not the case, and this book gives numerous examples of experiments which dramatically demonstrate this. A well-known example, described in chapter 4, shows how ordinary Germans felt able to commit appalling atrocities in WWII. A more topical subject is "terror management theory" (also in chapter 4) which proposes a 5-floor "stairway to terrorism", which should be studied by politicians and others if they are not already familiar with it. It concludes that the root cause of terrorism is inequality, deprivation, and the psychological processes engaged by the mind to deal with the resultant dissonance.
You will also learn from this book why, for example, we don't like seeing photographs of ourselves, and why, if we hold a pen between our teeth as opposed to between our lips, we are more likely to like cartoons (yes, really!).
In short, a concise yet comprehensive overview of the subject by a distinguished psychology professor


British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
by Julian Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strongly recommended for any politics student, despite some minor errors., 18 Jun. 2015
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This book is directed at young people in particular, as is evident from the style in which it is written. Provided you don't mind that, it is a very comprehensive (404 pages) study of the history and current situation (pre-2015 election) of British politics, venturing also into EU and U.S. politics. The author, interestingly, became a Tory MP at the 2015 election.
Personally I am a political anorak rather than a dummy, so any student embarking on this study might like to note a few small errors I picked up:
Page 60, Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, not 2006.
Page 75, the election referred to was in 1929, not 1928, and Labour didn't get a majority, it was a coalition government.
Page 88, the Lib-Lab pact wasn't a coalition, and was formed in 1977, not 1974.
Page 92, the London mayor is elected using the supplementary vote method, not the alternative vote (there is a detailed description of various types of electoral system in the book).
Page 120, the Liberal Democrats use the alternative vote, not the single transferable vote, to elect their leader (though, to be fair, the former is a variant of the latter).
Page 279, the SNP government in Scotland is a majority, not a minority, government.
Page 283, Joel Barnett, inventor of the famous (or infamous) formula, was an MP and government minister, not a civil servant.
Despite these errors, inevitable in a detailed book such as this, it can be strongly recommended for any serious politics student.


Our Souls at Night
Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent final novel about two elderly people, 17 May 2015
This review is from: Our Souls at Night (Hardcover)
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I had not heard of Kent Haruf, who died last year, but he seems to have been a highly-regarded novelist in the USA.
His novels, like those of writers such as Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson, are set in the same location, in his case the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. An elderly widow goes to call on an elderly widower with whom she is slightly acquainted, and by the third page she asks if he would go round to sleep with her. What follows is a moving, sympathetic, and realistic portrayal of two lonely people, and of the effect on their friends and relatives, with a denouement which is realistic rather than novelistic. This short novel, less than 200 pages, is devoid of any kind of salacious content which might be expected based on how it begins, is beautifully written, and wholly sympathetic towards the two main characters. The back cover even states that the author is "equalled to Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway"; I wouldn't go that far, though like the former he dispenses with quotation marks when writing dialogue. An excellent swansong, easy to read, with a real feeling for ordinary human lives.


The Lure of Technocracy
The Lure of Technocracy
by Jürgen Habermas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.79

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A specialist book by a leading German intellectual, 2 April 2015
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I had only vaguely heard of the German intellectual Jurgen Habermas, and decided to acquaint myself better with his ideas, via this newly-published collection of essays (some of which are lectures given by him).
The book is in three parts, each with 3 or 4 chapters. The first part gives the book its title, and turns out to be an impassioned case for what in Britain is called "more Europe" or "European federalism". Part II is called "European Conditions. Continued Interventions", and argues a similar case to Part I. Part III is, for the most part, very different, and is entitled "German Jews, Germans and Jews". The first of its chapters is a paper Habermas delivered about Jewish intellectuals who returned to Germany after the war. The two remaining chapters are about Martin Buber and Heinrich Heine, two philosophers greatly admired by Habermas. The chapter on Heine returns to the subject of European integration, which the author considers Heine would have strongly supported.
The book is obviously of specialist interest, but is not difficult to read, except for a chapter in part I about legal aspects of the European project.


Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes it Good
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theology aimed at the general reader by a leading New Testament scholar., 26 Mar. 2015
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Tom Wright is a former Bishop of Durham (surprisingly, not referred to anywhere in this book), an admired New Testament scholar, and a popular writer on theological matters. As the title implies, his emphasis is on the Gospel as "good news", not as "good advice" or "rules for living". He stresses that God's Kingdom is to come on earth, not just in heaven which he appears almost to relegate as of secondary importance (at least, that is the emphasis of the book). He also takes pains to stress that the coming of Jesus is firmly linked to previous Jewish history. The book is aimed at the general reader rather than the academic, and perhaps for this reason it tends to take some time to make particular points. Nevertheless it is well worth reading for those interested, though some may disagree with his emphasis, if not with some of his conclusions.


Oral-B Vitality Plus White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral-B Vitality Plus White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £19.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good basic brush, but a bit rough, 11 Mar. 2015
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I am using this brush as a supplement to my existing one. The head supplied (there is a second one) feels quite rough, so one needs to be careful that enamel is not removed. I have started using this in the mornings, and my other, with a less rough head, in the evenings. This one lacks a light to show it needs recharging, but it fits my existing charger so the one supplied I can use as a spare. A good basic brush, for which different heads can be purchased.


iPhone Portable Genius
iPhone Portable Genius
by Paul McFedries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive, but rather bulky to carry around., 7 Feb. 2015
This review is from: iPhone Portable Genius (Paperback)
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I have an iPad, but not (yet) an iPhone, and I acquired this book to see if I thought I could cope with an iPhone. At more than 300 pages it looks pretty complicated, but no doubt in practice one would not use all of the things described. As there is an overlap between the iPad and the iPhone, The book contained several useful suggestions for me, for example the use of dictation instead of typing. Because the book is quite bulky and heavy, it is not terribly convenient to carry around, when one is most likely to want to use one's phone. Apart from that objection, the book seems very comprehensive and certainly useful for the typical iPhone user.


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