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Mac McAleer (London UK)
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The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel
by Israel Finkelstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating reworking of the history of Israel, 25 Nov 2014
This book takes the results of several centuries of textual investigation of the Bible and matches it with up-to-date results of archaeology. This has produced a fascinating reworking of the history of Israel. The authors present a series of summaries of various stories from the Bible. For each story they then discuss how the Biblical texts have been analysed and interpreted as ancient literature rather than Holy Scripture and then introduce the archaeology to give what they consider to be a probable real history. The paraphrases of the biblical stories are interesting on their own and the discussion of the archaeology is accessible and not at all dusty. Everything is easy to read.

The authors concentrate on Deuteronomy and the books known collectively as the Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 and 2) and Kings (1 and 2). Their conclusion is that if was the northern kingdom (confusingly also called Israel) that was the power in the land, but after its destruction by the Assyrians and the forced relocation of its people, it was the smaller, poorer southern kingdom of Judah, centred on Jerusalem, that took over the leadership of the people. In Jerusalem the various writings were compiled, redacted and spun together into the collection that would become the Bible. The temples and hill-top altars of Judah were gradually closed and the temple in Jerusalem became the only recognised centre of worship in the new centralised, literate state. Coincidently, it was at this time that the "Book of the Law" was "discovered" in the temple at Jerusalem. This is thought to have been the book of Deuteronomy. The books of the Former Prophets are often called the Deuteronomistic Histories because of their textual similarities to Deuteronomy. Here history was not written by the victors but re-written by the survivors.

THE BOOK's chapters are in an historical sequence, divided into three parts. Part 1 concerns the early history: the patriarchs, Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. Part 2 concerns the rise and fall of the northern kingdom of Israel up to its annihilation in 720 BC. Part 3 concerns the southern kingdom of Judah's making of the biblical history. Other information is put into the seven appendices. There is a detailed 17 page Bibliography arranged by chapter and then by subject and a 13 page Index. There are also 29 black and white line drawings scattered throughout the text; these are mainly maps and town plans. There are also some dynastic tables of the two Israelite kingdoms and their neighbours. This book became a bestseller in its subject area and is reviewed in detail on Wikipedia. It was made into a four-part television series. This can be seen on YouTube. An overview of this series is on a DVD, but reviews suggest that it has been sanitised to appeal to a wider audience.

Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce (Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce (Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
by J. Campbell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.35

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The works of James Joyce explained, 4 Nov 2014
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Joseph Campbell was famous for his writings on mythology and here he applies that knowledge to the novels of James Joyce, which are famously mythic and at times famously difficult. I found this book very readable and useful as a companion and commentary on the James Joyce novels. This book would only be of interest to those who have some knowledge of James Joyce or are preparing to read him. Those new to Joseph Campbell would be better served by reading other works by him such as The Hero with A Thousand Faces.

I first came across the name Joseph Campbell when reading Into The Woods, a book about how stories work. He was mentioned as an influence on George Lucas when he was creating Star Wars. Christopher Volger had already distilled Joseph Campbell's work for the screenwriting industry. Later I discovered that Joseph Campbell was also an early enthusiast for James Joyce and that his writings about Joyce's work had been collected in this book.

The majority of this book is a discussion of the three novels of James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. The space given to Ulysses is twice that given to The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Finnegan's Wake, This is in proportion to the size of these works (though not to their complexity, which would give most space to Finnegan's Wake, then Ulysses, then The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man). One of the characteristics of Ulysses, as pointed out by Campbell, is that it is too long. This was a deliberate choice by Joyce who regarded the extension of the text as an important feature; it was all about the journey rather than the destination. The amount and length of the direct quotations from Ulysses is surprising. The quotations are not just sentences but also whole paragraphs and at times several pages are quoted.

Reading Joyce always requires some help and this book provides a helpful commentary. I do not know how correct Campbell's interpretations of Joyce are; that is something to be debated and decided by the scholars of Joyce.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2014 8:46 AM GMT

Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities
Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities
by Kevin Jackson
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun with paratexts, 28 Oct 2014
I liked this book. It is clever, amusing and informative and organised in bite-sized chapters. It is a book is about paratexts. This is the technical term for all the texts that surround the main text of a book, a sort of literary metatext. The author has expanded his book to include other characteristics of books and writings and renamed this collection "Invisible Forms". Thus, true paratexts are things like Titles, Dedications, Introductions, Footnotes, Bibliographies and Indexes, all of which have their own chapters

The author's extensions include a chapter on Isaac D'Israeli and Heteronyms and Pseudonyms. Isaac D'Israeli wrote a book on literary curiosities in 1791. This is very close to this book's subtitle "A Guide to Literary Curiosities". Isaac D'Israeli also fathered a prime minister. There is a chapter on Heteronyms, the fictitious names of fictitious authors and a chapter on Pseudonyms, the fictitious names of real authors.

I particularly liked the chapter on Marginalia. At first I thought that someone had defaced the book until I realised that the underlines and handwritten notes in the margins were all printed. The chapter "Bibliographies & Selected Bibliography" discusses bibliographies and includes a very short Bibliography of Bibliographies (four books) as well as a bibliography of this book (about forty books). Notable in this list are Isaac D'Israeli "Curiosities of Literature" (3 vols), Gérard Genette Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, which gives the academic treatment of the subject and Anthony Grafton The Footnote: A Curious History.

Some paratexts originated in manuscripts and were carried over or adapted to the new-fangled printing technology. Other paratexts are only found in printed works. This book does not mention e-books, which would have been barely thought of when this book was published. The move towards electronic publishing must mean dramatic changes in paratexts. Already the changes have been rapid. At the end of his homage to Isaac D'Israeli the author says the D'Israeli deserves another "crack" at the "literary afterlife, in the shape of a new edition of his Curiosities". No new edition has been printed since then but the works of Isaac D'Israeli can now be downloaded to your Kindle.

Once you have read this book you will always be consciously aware of all the paratexts that previously you had only subconsciously noticed.

Saddam City
Saddam City
by Mahmoud Saeed
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A simple story of the banality of evil, 20 Oct 2014
This review is from: Saddam City (Paperback)
This is a fictionalised prison diary that is also a prison nightmare. It is the story of one man's arrest in Saddam Hussein's Iraq and this man's experience of the prison system. At first he is blindfolded and handcuffed with his hands behind his back. Like this he is imprisoned and interrogated. When blindfolded you never known whey they will hit you or from what direction and who has done it. He hears the screams of others as they are beaten or tortured. Other prisoners disappear or are sent to execution. There is never a trial or a lawyer. He did not expect one. He is moved from prison to prison, city to city, to a cage, to a cell, to a dungeon. It is only towards the end of the book that he finds out why he is in prison.

This 130 page novella is a straightforward account of the main character's experience. There are many other characters, but they are all minor ones because of the continual movement of prisoners and his continual movement of prisons. Only the main character remains constant in the book, along with his memories of family and friends. The writing style is uncomplicated. There is no indignation. This simple style seems to make the nightmare easier to read. This is the evil banality of 1984 and Darkness at Noon and the bureaucratic indifference of The Trial, though not in the same league as these books.

THE AUTHOR, Mahmoud Saeed, is an Iraqi who experienced repeated detentions from 1963 to 1980.

The Euro Trap: On Bursting Bubbles, Budgets, and Beliefs
The Euro Trap: On Bursting Bubbles, Budgets, and Beliefs
by Hans-Werner Sinn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hubris and Nemesis, 15 Oct 2014
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This is a useful history of the euro crisis. However, the amount of facts and figures may put off some readers.

Be prepared for Target balances, capital flows, interest rate spreads and plenty of acronyms, including ELA credit (Emergency Liquidity Assistance), GIPSIC (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus), OMT (Outright Monetary Transactions), SMP (Securities Markets Programme), TEU (Treaty of the European Union - the Maastricht Treaty) and TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

There is a brief description of the introduction of the euro and its successful first few years. At the end of the book there is a chapter suggesting solutions to the current currency crisis. The majority of the book is a history of the crisis and the political, central bank and market reactions to it. This book is positioned between a technical economic treatment and a more popular, journalistic approach, but it is closer to a technical treatment as would be expected given the author's credentials. It deals with the story seriously and with authority and supports the text with numerous numbers, graphs and tables, but it is always readable.

THE UK is only mentioned in passing in this book as it is concerned with the euro and the euro-countries. Winston Churchill's proposal for a United States of Europe is mentioned, but so is David Cameron's proposal for an EU referendum, with which the author agrees. UK banks lent heavily directly to the troubled euro countries. They also lent indirectly through French banks. Some of the major beneficiaries of the EU bailouts are the banks of the north, including UK banks.

GERMANY: German banks are heavily exposed to the debts of the euro-crisis countries and Germany has to pay for much of the bailout packages, yet Germany's voting rights on the European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council do not reflect this. The Germans did not want to replace their Deutschmark with the euro and their Bundesbank with the ECB. To placate them the Maastricht Treaty has a clause preventing bailouts. This has been ignored, although the German Constitutional Court has ruled that one type of ECB bailout was illegal. The German government and the Bundesbank both wanted to exclude the southern countries from the euro because of their high levels of public debt. The Maastricht Treaty excluded countries with a debt above 60% of GDP from the euro. In the end, this requirement was fudged.

THE CRISIS: The expectations for the euro at its introduction were high, with increased cross-border trade and capital flow within the new currency area. Interest rate spreads between countries disappeared, the moral hazard increased and financial bubbles appeared in the peripheral countries. There was a lack of financial discipline and opportunities were missed by countries that could have used the lower interest rates to reduce their deficits. When the Great Recession hit it was too late to do anything about their structural problems. Chapter 8 is titled "Stumbling Along". To quote its first sentence: "The euro has turned into a trap for the European states that adopted it. The southern states are trapped because the inflationary credit bubble brought about by the euro deprived them of their competitiveness, and the northern states are trapped in a liability spiral".

RETHINKING THE EUROSYSTEM: The last chapter is "Rethinking the Eurosystem". The first sentence of this chapter is "There is no alternative to Europe." However, the author does think that there are alternatives to the current currency union. He gives a short history of the establishment of the US dollar and the relationship of US federal debt and the debts of the individual state and cities, especially that the cities and the states can be declared bankrupt. There is no guarantee that the federal government will ever bail them out. He talks about debt re-structuring for the southern European countries, mentioning the Club of Paris. Finally, he talks about a more flexible currency union. The countries in crisis would leave the euro and join the ERM II. The ERM was the precursor to the euro. The ERM II is its successor. All new countries joining the euro have to spend 2 years within the ERM II, keeping their currencies within 15% of the euro.

THE AUTHOR, a German, was initially enthusiastic about the euro-project. This book's title shows that his enthusiasm has soured, but he still thinks that the euro should and can be saved, but not in its current form. He is a distinguished economist and President of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research.

THE BOOK has 9 chapters spread over 360 pages plus 3 indexes: Name, Subject and Author and Editor. There is no Notes section because these are provided as footnotes. I would have preferred a Notes section as sometimes the footnotes take up too much space on the page. There are 61 figures (mostly graphs) and 7 tables, which are embedded in parallel to the text or on separate pages. This averages out to about one figure or table every 5 pages. The most common source for the figures is Eurostat (See Comments for other sources). As the graphs are in black and white, line graphs with multiple series require lines of different styles. This can become confusing when lines converge or when there are many data series. On a couple of occasions the line graph contains an outlier two or three times the height of the other values. Then the outlier line is drawn dissecting the text above it. I hated this. The publisher's fear of white space should have been ignored and these graphs placed on separate pages.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2014 7:34 AM BST

Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City
Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City
by Jim Krane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Up the Creek, 25 Sep 2014
Dubai conjures up many images. For some it is the epitome of tacky bling, for others it is the land of Christians, pork, alcohol and prostitution; it is the new holiday destination, replacing Miami and the Costa del Sol; it is the city-state entrepôt par excellence; it is the place of the man-made palm islands; it is the place of impossibly high towers in the desert built by of thousands of imported, exploited workers; it is the place of a spectacular financial and property crash. Dubai is all these things and more but the most important thing is that everyone has heard of Dubai, and that was the original plan.

This fascinating book takes all the images of Dubai and puts them into context. It is written by a journalist who has lived in the region and knows Dubai well. As a journalist he keeps the sentences short, readable and authoritative and he relies heavily on interviews for his sources. The author keeps you interested and makes you want to turn the page.

Dubai is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates, née Trucial States. You have probably heard of Abu Dhabi, Dubai's much bigger neighbour and with great wealth from oil. You may have heard of Sharjah, but have you heard of Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah or Umm al-Quwain? These were once better-known than Dubai. Dubai was originally a small village on a creek on the lower Arabian Gulf coast. Some oil was found but not too much. Modern Dubai is a product of one man, his vision and his risk-taking. The reason you have heard of Dubai is because of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and his son Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This is the story of the Maktoums and Dubai.

As soon as he took over Sheikh Rashid introduced electricity, piped water and built an airport even though there was one already in next-door Sharjah. Most importantly, he raised money from his local merchants and Kuwait to dredge Dubai Creek, which was silting up. This ensured the future of the re-export trade. Sharjah did not dredge its own harbour, which silted up; its airport is now a backwater in relation to that of Dubai. Sheikh Rashid's innovations continued, and the rest is history.

THE PAPERBACK is 320 pages long plus Notes (mostly references to sources quoted) and an Index. Unfortunately there is no Bibliography, although some books are repeatedly referenced in the Notes (see Comments). There is a section of 8 pages of black and white photographs. The font is readable but it is a little small, presumably to fit the entire book into the paperback format. There are also two very useful maps, one of the UAE and the surrounding countries and one of Dubai. The book's 18 chapters are grouped into 4 parts: Dubai Stirs, Dubai Emerges, Blowback: The Downside and Dubai's Challenge. Thus all aspects of Dubai are covered from the history of the early days through the recent accelerated growth, the dark underbelly of this growth and the future challenges that Dubai faces.

THE FUTURE: Dubai is a city-state outlier of globalisation, joining the small club that includes Singapore and Hong Kong. The author draws an historical comparison between modern Dubai and the former Venetian Republic. What are Dubai's limts to growth? If it stops accelerating into the future will it be unable to sustain itself and collapse? There should be another book about Dubai in 10 or 15 years so that we can find out.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2014 7:47 AM BST

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding In Plain Sight
Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding In Plain Sight
by M. E. Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lone Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, 16 Sep 2014
I hesitated in buying this book. Part of me was attracted to the subject and part of me was repulsed. This is the memoir of a socialised sociopath, not of a criminally violent psychopath. The terms sociopath and psychopath are interchangeable but psychopath has darker connotations. The author lives embedded amongst us and, although she can seem a little odd, she is just another member of society. You may know a sociopath yourself. One may be your boss. Or one may be you.

As I read the book my fascination continued but so did my occasional repulsion. I was unable to read the last two chapters on sociopaths and love (Love Me Not) and sociopaths and having children (Raising Cain), but on the whole this is a serious, intelligent and readable book. The author recounts her life and attitudes and comments on these with information from academic studies on sociopaths. However, I was not sure how much of this book I believed. Could the whole thing be a hoax written by an academic who studies sociopaths? At the beginning it states that the author's name is a pseudonym and some of the personal details have been changed. Sociopaths lie and have no empathy; is the author playing with the reader?

On the surface this is a not particularly interesting story of a woman who grew up a tom-boy on the US West Coat in a slightly dysfunctional Mormon family who goes on to become a law professor. The real story is what is going on underneath the surface.

THE AUTHOR is the founder of a blog called SociopathWorld . com. At the start of the book is a 2-page "Psychological Evaluation Excerpt". This purports to be an evaluation of the author by a psychologist. The author is described as having a lack of empathy, to be ruthless and calculating in relationships, egocentric and sensation-seeking. She does not have phobias or depressions and is content. She is successful in life and could be described as a "socialised" psychopath.

Woodhouse And Woodhouse Eaves: An Illustrated History Of The Two Parishes
Woodhouse And Woodhouse Eaves: An Illustrated History Of The Two Parishes

4.0 out of 5 stars An old church and a new church, 10 Sep 2014
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This well-illustrated pamphlet from 1966 is concerned with the two adjacent Leicestershire villages of Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves. It is focused on the two Anglican churches, one in each village, and the history of their parish affairs. It was written by the then vicar, Robert Rankin. Note that this is not a general history of the two villages.

Woodhouse is the much older village. There was a chapel there in 1338, of which there are no obvious remains. The present church, St. Mary-in-the-Elms, has features from the 16th century. The church in Woodhouse Eaves, St. Paul's, was built in 1837, showing how much younger this village is.

This pamphlet has 18 pages, equally divided between the two villages. Nine of these pages are illustrations, all black & white photos photographs except for one reproduction. These illustrations are: St. Mary-in-the-Elms from the outside and the inside; the stairway at Beaumanor; a reproduction of a picture of St. Mary-in-the-Elms from about 1840 (the windmill on the hill in Woodhouse Eaves can be seen in the distance but there are no houses); St. Paul's from the outside and in the Winter snows; St. Paul's inside; St. Paul's Lych-gate; the Woodhouse Eaves war memorial.

For the history of the two villages, refer to the publications of the Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves Local History Group, which are published by Leicestershire County Council.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2014 8:54 AM BST

Loughborough Past and Present
Loughborough Past and Present
by Don Wix
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Civic Pride, 4 Sep 2014
Ladybird Books were written, printed and published by Wills & Hepworth of Loughborough. This little book of 45 pages was this company's celebration of its home town. It has all the high production values associated with a Ladybird book, with its careful prose, hardback cover and colourful illustrations. Its size allows it to be held in one hand. Ladybird books are thought of as children's books. This book should not be considered as a children's book but as a book that can be read by both children and adults.

It gives an overview of the history of the borough. Thus there were only 40 householders mentioned for Lucteburne in the Doomsday Book but at the same time there were two mills. Later, in 1221, Henry III established a weekly market and an annual fair which still exist. I particularly liked the small map of the town's medieval streets on the inside front cover with Le Wodegate (1407), High Street (1402), le Kirke Gate (1398) and le Baxter Gate (1386). The book describes the plague, the civil war, the agricultural and industrial revolutions. The hosiery, electrical engineering and chemical industries were established in the town. There was the coming of the railways, the establishment of the technical college that became the university, the bell foundry and carillon, and of course there was Ladybird Books Ltd.

This is never going to be more than an introduction to the history of Loughborough, but it is a surprisingly good place to start. Ladybird Books became part of the Pearson Group in 1972. It was merged into Pearson's Penguin Books subsidiary in 1998 and the Ladybird offices and printing works in Loughborough were closed.

Josephus (Nelson's Super Value)
Josephus (Nelson's Super Value)
by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but with an early 18th century gloss, 20 Aug 2014
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This is part of the Nelson's Super Value Series and super value is what it is. It is also good quality and one of the few places were all of Josephus' writings can be accessed in a book, although they can be found on-line (see Comments).

JOSEPHUS was an aristocratic Jew from a priestly family. He was born Joseph ben Mattathias in 37 AD. He had misgivings about the Jewish revolt when it began in AD 66, but he eventually joined it, becoming a commander in Galilee. He was taken prisoner by the Roman army, at that time led by Vespasian. Josephus then changed sides. Jerusalem was taken and destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews were finally defeated by the Romans in AD 73. In the meantime, the emperor Nero had killed himself and after the "year of the four emperors" Vespasian became emperor. Josephus changed his name to Flavius Josephus (Flavius was Vespasian's family name) and spent the rest of his life in Rome, writing.

Josephus is of interest to students of the New Testament and to students of Roman and Jewish history. His Jewish War is also an early documented example of a revolution, which should be studied alongside the later French and Russian revolutions. Readers of Josephus may also be interested in the works of Philo of Alexandria.

THE BOOK is well bound and has a readable typeface. The pages are thin, but not too thin. This is the complete works, with 1,149 pages, so it is bulky, but not so bulky that it cannot be held whilst reading. The text is a reproduction of the standard William Whiston translation of 1737 (see Comments). My only criticism of this complete works is that the Introduction is only one page long. It is left to the reader to use Josephus' own autobiography to get some background information. A more objective discussion about the life and works of Josephus in a longer introduction would be better. Concerning the Jewish War, Josephus is not an unbiased reporter. He can be relied upon for many of the details and the background information, but he was a rich aristocrat who was reluctant to join in the uprising and was more a part of the Hellenised culture of the eastern Mediterranean than the of the ordinary life of the majority of poor Jews. He also changed sides during the war and history is written by the victors.

THE CONTENTS: Josephus' best known work was the "Jewish War". This was the Jewish revolt against the Romans from 66 to 73 AD and is an easily obtainable book. His other great work was "The Antiquities of the Jews" and this is much more difficult to obtain. It is a re-writing of the Old Testament as the history of the Jews to which Josephus added more recent history (to him) of the first centuries BC and AD; it was written to explain the Jews to the Romans and Greeks. Together these two books make up the majority of this complete works. This complete works also includes the 48 page "Against Apion", a defence of the Jews against an anti-Jewish Alexandrian teacher, and Josephus' 29 page autobiography. There is an Appendix which includes a correspondence between the Antiquities and the Old Testament, a 39 page Index and 8 pages of maps. The Appendix includes 7 Dissertations by William Whiston, covering 113 pages: 1 Josephus and Jesus Christ, John the Baptist and James the Just; 2 Abraham and Isaac; 3 Tacitus and the history of the Jews and the Jewish War; 4 Josephus used an authentic Old Testament from Herod's Temple as the source of the Antiquities; 5 Chronology of Josephus; 6 On Hades; 7 Vindication of Josephus' history of the family of Herod. William Whiston was an academic and clergyman and these dissertations are framed by the world-view of an 18th century Christian.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 20, 2014 9:31 AM BST

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