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Minkle MacTinkle (A rock at the edge of the known world)

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Stark Raving Rulers: 20 Minor Despots of the Twenty First Century
Stark Raving Rulers: 20 Minor Despots of the Twenty First Century
by Sean Moncrieff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tyrantasaurus of a book, 14 May 2007
As liberal democracy sweeps the globe it still leaves a few areas in the darkness of despotism and personality cults. This book is about those darker corners of the globe that exist outside our democratic grid. Funny and tragic, this is a must read for anyone interested in eccentric dictators and global politics. It is especially relevant as we begin to reflect on the imcompatable nature of democracy on Iraq. The political systems of the West have taken a long time to germinate, and they are still far from perfect; this book helps to illustrate the fine balance between a need for regime change and a need to let other nations develop organically.

The format of the book is concise and direct, you can read it in one go, or just dip into a chapter whenever the need takes you. Some of the information is now out of date but I strongly recommend getting a copy of this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 27, 2013 10:08 AM GMT


The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance (non-fiction)
The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance (non-fiction)
by Philip Marsden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a lyrical treat, 6 May 2007
I read this on the strength of Marsden's other book: "The Crossing Place", he seems to have a knack for writing books about countries I'm slightly obsessed with. I hate to get bogged down in cliches but this is another modern classic. Within any travel book there needs to be a sound motivation for the journey, without this central motivation it often seems like somebody is just writing a book for money, or doing something to please a publisher. All my cynicism was left behind as I followed Marsden and his numerous guides through both the difficult topography and turbulent history of Ethiopia. I recommend this book to casual readers in search of some escape or serious students of history and theology. The strong point of the book is that he undertakes the journey on foot so we get highly lyrical descriptions, written from someone who has had alot of time to compose their thoughts and take in surroundings.

There has been little written about Ethiopia and it is still tarred with images from news footage of famines. Marsden offers us a new reflection on a truly unique place, unique in culture, customs and in it's general isolation from the West and the rest. If you intend on learning more about this quirky corner of Africa I recommend reading both "The Emperor" and "The Pale Abyssinian".


The Crossing Place: Journey Among the Armenians
The Crossing Place: Journey Among the Armenians
by Philip Marsden
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic, 1 May 2007
From any perspective Armenia is one of the most interesting places on earth. The first Christian state, sight of Eden or resting place of Noah's Ark. The problem is, few people actually know this. Luckily Phillip Marsden took the trouble to enlighten us by learning Armenian in Jerusalem and visiting members of the Armenian Diaspora (often by complete chance). I have rarely read a travel book that tackles so many important subjects without being crushed by it's own weight. The author succeeds in being engaging without losing the complexity and academic weight of the subject. Marsden develops a real affinity for all things Armenian but always remains objective and critical. The book's greatest asset, and the main reason why I chose to recommend it, is the fact that it is like a biography of a place and it's people all rolled into one.


A Journey Around My Room (Hesperus Classics)
A Journey Around My Room (Hesperus Classics)
by Xavier De Maistre
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Small journey, big idea, 1 May 2007
I was introduced to this book through reading de Botton's Art of travel, de Botton has also written the forewood so it links well. This is such a random book I was astonished to find it in a normal bookshop, but I did, and the rest is history. The reason why this book is so good is due to the importance of the central idea, this idea is self evident from the title.

To stretch out a narrative journey from his bed to the window and the view outside is quite an achievement, especially as this journey is entertaining and interesting in equal measure. This proves the most important aspect of travel literature, it doesn't matter where you go, it's what you do, how you do it and what you learn from it. If you apply the spirit of adventure to a trip to the supermarket it can be more important than a round the world trip. My only problem with the book were elements of context, it was written quite some time ago so I found some of the references unfamiliar. If you enjoy this book try to get hold of some of the other Hesperus Classics they specialize in publishing overlooked gems.


The Wire : Complete HBO Season 1 [DVD] [2002] [2005]
The Wire : Complete HBO Season 1 [DVD] [2002] [2005]
Dvd ~ Dominic West
Price: £7.95

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...still wired, 26 April 2007
There isn't enough space to write about how good "The Wire" is, but I'll do my best. This show is unlike anything else I have ever experienced in any medium. People often look down upon tv for being too passive; less of a spectacle than a movie and less rewarding than a book. "The Wire" proves all these assumptions wrong by expolring character, plot and themes on an exhaustive scale never before seen on tv. On a basic level it focuses on one single case, but the success of the show is down to how all the characters affect this case, be they street level dealers or major players. This is mirrored on the law enforcement side as we see all the action from raids on the streets up to the quiet conversations in the chambers of the courthouse.

The facts that have led to a luke warm reception and criticism are the very things that make "The Wire" a truly unique show. There is little action in the first two or three episodes and the number of characters is almost endless. If you expect a conventional heroes and villains plot with cliffhangers at the end of each episode then this won't be for you. If you appreciate moral ambiguity, unresolved storylines and dialogue that sometimes needs subtitles for a native English speaker, then you might enjoy "The Wire". As I mentioned, there is a focus on more than a few characters which gives you the feeling of reading a long novel. The realistic approach to sets and dialogue give an almost voyeuristic feel, it's as if you are standing at the end of an inner city street when the action is going on and you are compelled to watch.

On a purely personal level I have never really been a fan of Cop Shows and I always avoid the Crime section in bookshops. I think the biggest reward for me has been my enhanced understanding of the politics of crime and crimefighting. It's left me feeling pretty negative about law and order and slightly confused about the people who I previously thought of as being baddies. One last word of advice: try to watch the whole thing in an intensive period of time, it makes it easier to follow the plot(s) and get involved in the characters.


The Travels of Ibn Battutah
The Travels of Ibn Battutah
by Ibn Battutah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic travel, 9 Mar. 2007
In contrast to the numerous modern travel books which seem to focus on the 'personality' of the writer or trivial observations, this is an epic in every sense of the word. The scale of the journey is immense in distance and time, IB stayed to work as a Qadi (judge)in several places along the way, this means that you really get a deep sense of the politics and the people in each destination. This depth is unlike some of the more superficial accounts of present books which rely on novelty and humour. Although travels is not without humour itself.

I like travelling and read travel books frequently, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed the descriptions of distant lands and strange customs, however, the biggest surprise for me was the journey into the Islamic culture and lifestyle. I think it's the first account I have read from an Islamic perspective, and a Medieval one at that. With this in mind I think this is a perfect book to open the mind about other cultures and other ways of seeing the world. To get the most from this journey it is important to read 'Travels with a Tangerine' and 'Hall of a Thousand Columns' By Mackintosh-Smith.

I hope this reworked classic inspires other translators and archivists to unearth other works from centuries gone. On a final note I am deeply envious of anyone who understands Arabic as they can read the original.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2011 6:49 PM GMT


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