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Nicola "feevishpickle" (Bristol, UK)

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The Parkour & Freerunning Handbook
The Parkour & Freerunning Handbook
by Dan Edwardes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.74

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Practical guide for newbies, 7 May 2010
I wanted to read a book on parkour and, well, this seems to be the only one in existence, so... I made a discerning choice and picked it up. The tautologically-titled Parkour and Freerunning Handbook is mainly a practical guide to the jumps and manouvres associated with parkour. I'm not sure the illustrations are overly-helpful, but the descriptions of the moves are clear and precise. There's also a very short history* of parkour and some choice pretentious discussions about the philosophical implications of parkour.

(*I had hoped for more of a history of parkour, actually, although maybe that's too much to ask, since, as a sport -- excuse me, non-sport guerilla activity -- it's so brand new. The documentary, 'Jump London', which you can watch on youtube, is probably more informative if you're interested in parkour's history.)

I do wish Dan Edwardes had elicited some input from a physiotherapist in compiling this book. Although he's quick to point out the danger areas of parkour, the author seems to have only a loose grasp of physiology. On one page, he asserts that regular running is a great form of exercise, which... wow, FALSE. Any physiotherapist is gonna tell you that running is hard on the body, and that's before you factor in jumping and diving over concrete surfaces.

A decent book for newbies looking to begin practising parkour, but it probably has limited appeal for everyone else.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2011 4:44 PM GMT

Love for Sale: A World History of Prostitution
Love for Sale: A World History of Prostitution
by Nils Johan Ringdal
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rife with frustrations, 21 Oct. 2009
It wasn't until I was a few chapters into this book that I realized what a gargantuan undertaking its title suggests. A *global history* of prostitution? From ancient times through to modern? Cataloguing every country on the globe? And all in the space of 400 pages? Wow, Nils Ringdal must be quite a writer!

In fact, Ringdal is not remotely up to the challenge. Love For Sale is a history of prostitution, for sure, but doesn't come close to being comprehensive. It would have been a much better effort had Ringdal narrowed his focus and given a history of prostitution in one country or during one time period. What we have instead is an overambitious mess.

There are interesting bits and pieces to be found in Love For Sale - although, often, just as I was becoming interested in a chapter, it would end. Just as often, however, I zoned out because Ringdal wandered off the subject of prostitution into boring irrelevance. Context is important, but Ringdal often brings in needless details that just weigh the book down.

It's clear that Ringdal wrote chapters according to what he had material on. This leads to some overly-specific chapters (such as the one about Korean 'comfort women' during WW2) that contrast confusingly with the more panoramic chapters. It also leads to a particularly absurd chapter about the, uh, 'phenomenon' of female academics going to Asia, befriending prostitutes and writing a book about it. The historical relevance of this is not clear. A critique by an academic about what other academics are doing is not really what I wanted from a history book.

I get a strong sense that Ringdal's intent was to write a sexyfun book about prostitution. Unfortunately, prostitution often overlaps with polygamy, sex slavery, abuse and even what one might consider 'conventional' marriage. Delving deep into history, Ringdal has the unenviable challenge of trying to use documents that were overwhelming written by men to try and deduce whether women were actually getting what they wanted. Maybe, Ringdal posits, women in ancient times preferred to be sold into a temple as a prostitute, rather than marry men they didn't love. Maybe. But who knows? Ringdal shows a lack of sensitivity to the fact that prostitution isn't prostitution when it's not your choice; then, it's rape.

I can't recommend this book. I don't think it's really worth slogging through the aspects of the book that are frustrating and sad in order to get to the parts that are interesting and well-researched.

by Dave Cullen
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, but worth it, 21 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Columbine (Paperback)
After almost ten years covering the case, Cullen's book about Columbine shows the work of a dedicated and thoughtful journalist. It's meticulous in detail, challenging or corroborating even the smallest facets of the massacre.

The result is a chilling and often horrific read. Notably, the latter half of the book alternates between a reconstruction of Eric Harris and Dylan Kleebold's thoughts and activities during the preceding year, and the struggles of the survivors and grieving community to move on in the years after the massacre. For a reader, it creates a sensation like taking a shaky step forward, then being kicked backwards. Is it an effective structure? Maybe, but it makes a disturbing account feel even more harrowing.

As a book about psychopathy, depression and so-called killing 'dyads', it's fascinating. As a book that cuts through the rumours and myths surrounding Columbine, it's an undeniably important document. But is it a book I ever want to read again? No.

Coast of Dreams: A History of Contemporary California
Coast of Dreams: A History of Contemporary California
by Kevin Starr
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and well-researched, but off-putting in its length, 21 Oct. 2009
Kevin Starr offers an engaging, fast-paced look at California in the latter part of the twentieth century, covering all the major social and political issues, as well as delving into the state's geography and culture.

It's a solid and well-researched book. Though Starr is a historian, Coast of Dreams is more journalistic in style. Starr weaves individual's stories (mainly gleaned from contemporary newspaper stories) into the wider narrative, giving crises and politick personal resonance.

However, the sheer scope of the book means that, no matter how breezy Starr's writing style, at 600+ pages, Coast is still a hell of a slog through to the end. Meditative, this is not. Starr chooses a subject, dives deep into it for ten pages, then jumps out and moves onto another subject. Though he strives for coherency when moving from subject to subject, Coast nonetheless feels like being bombarded with information. By the end, this machine-gun approach becomes wearing.

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