Shop now Shop now Shop now Up to 70% off Fashion Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Amazon Fire TV Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now Shop now
Profile for M. D. Holley > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by M. D. Holley
Top Reviewer Ranking: 921
Helpful Votes: 1413

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17
pixel
A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful in parts, tainted by mawkish ending, 30 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Man Called Ove (Paperback)
I loved the character Ove. He is a very original creation. The book is full of humour and a delight to read. In places I found it hilarious.

I enjoyed the chapters describing 'now' more than I enjoyed the flashbacks, and I think that is because the contemporary scenes were more ordinary and less melodramatic. For me, the flashbacks were overdone. There was no need no introduce such incredibly unlikely tragedies in the past scenes. Any ordinary life contains enough knocks and blows to warrant the type of behaviour Ove displays.

The other disappointment in the book for me was the mawkish ending, which I found way too much, with happy families all round as an unbelievable contrast to the earlier pages. I really think that 'less' would have been 'more'.


Debussy (Master Musicians Series)
Debussy (Master Musicians Series)
by Eric Frederick Jensen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 14 Jan. 2016
I really enjoyed the biography half of this book (the first half). I found it captivating, enthralling and easy to read.

I also enjoyed some parts of the second half (like the fascinating discussion between Debussy and Guiraud at the beginning of chapter 10). But overall the second half, which discusses the music, failed to inspire me. This was disappointing because I usually enjoy the second halves of books in this series. Somehow I felt that the write up made the pieces less attractive than just listening to the music. And the description of La Mer just irritated me (though to be fair this could be my fault - I prefer Debussy's smaller pieces and I struggle with the lack of structure in the larger scale pieces) .

The book also leaves things in mid air, with no conclusion. There is no assessment of Debussy's legacy or place in music history, for example. The (not very stimulating) discussion on Debussy as a critic just stops, and that's it.

Overall I didn't feel this was up to the standard of the Master Musicians Series of old.


The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter
The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter
by Joseph Henrich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Without cultural knowledge humans would become extinct, 10 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very thought provoking and readable book. It makes some interesting observations which I haven't encountered before.

The main discovery for me was that the human body has developed genetically in such a way that it cannot survive without culturally transmitted knowledge. For example our mouths and digestive systems are not equipped to digest food without the help of fire. This has already been the case since a million years or more. But as Henrich points out, none of us know how how to make fire. This made me feel that humanity is actually rather vulnerable.

There are some profound comments on tradition, divination and religion here too. Henrich has a different view of religion compared to someone like Richard Dawkins - he sees it as an inevitable part of culture.

The book complements some others I have read recently. For example Yuval Noah Harari's book 'Sapiens' talks about the human ability to believe in imaginary things, and Henrich now provides an explanation as to why this may be so. E O Wilson's books about eusocial behaviour in ant, bee, termite and human colonies finds its reflection here in the cooerpative culture of humans.

I have just two small criticisms. After reading this book, I wonder whether the advent of the internet (a huge collective brain) may be one of the most important events in history - perhaps as big as the discovery of fire. Will it change humans genetically over time? I think Henrich could have commented more on this. The other negative is the writing style. It is relatively easy to read and free of jargon, but Henrich's written manner is really clumsy. He seems obsessively to target every infinitive and insists on splitting it, even where this makes the sentence really awkward. I have never come across anything quite like it, and it is somewhat ironic in a book which has much to say about violating social norms.

Overall a book which I thorughly recommend - it has changed my mindset. It deserves the widest possible circulation.


Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
by Philip Tetlock
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No crystal ball needed, 28 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very accessible and well written book.

If 'the art of prediction' summons up for you an image of an exotically dressed fortune teller holding a crystal ball, then you may find this interesting. For the author shows that the accuracy of prediction can be improved dramatically by following some well thought out rules and processes. No magic, just hard work and following the process carefully.

Part of it is about breaking down the problem into small pieces. About taking the outside view (explained in the book). About challenging every viewpoint with a counter argument. And about assigning percentage probabilities to each outcome. One needs to be aware all the while of the errors and delusions our own minds make.

Tetlock seems to build on the work of people like Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) in studying the way the human mind works and achieving an awareness of its predisposition to make certain errors. In fact I found Tetlock's science, as set out in this book, more reliable than Kahneman's.

For many of us in business, politics or otherwise, the ability to make useful predictions about the future is very important, so the guidance offered by this book is very welcome indeed.


Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home
Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home
by Malachy Tallack
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year!, 5 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is simply wonderful! I recently read Bill Bryson's latest book about the UK, but as a travel book this is far superior in every way.

Malachy Tallack is an excellent and inspiring writer. The book was very easy to read and hard to put down. Every place was presented in a fascinating way, with a beautifully balanced and succinct history of the area and the local people thrown in. Tallack doesn't do the touristy things, but always seems to find a way into the heart of each place through other means.

He also has insightful obervations about humanity's connection with nature and about the human condition itself. He weaves his own personal story through the book in a subtle and clever way.

I can't recommend this enough.


SPQR: A history of Ancient Rome
SPQR: A history of Ancient Rome
by Professor Mary Beard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsuitable for those who don't already know the history of the Republic, 5 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The title of this book is misleading. It is NOT a history of ancient Rome for it assumes you already know that intimately. It would be fairer to call it 'Mary Beard's commentary on the history of ancient Rome'. If you come to this without prior knowledge of the entire history you may find it tough going, for it casually refers to wars and battles and people without giving any explanation of what they are. When it covered the parts I did not already know (for example the first and second Punic Wars), I found it very difficult, but it was much easier for me when it got to the parts of the history I was already familiar with (for example Julius Ceasar). This represents a major flaw. Perhaps Mary Beard is so close to her subject that she can no longer put herself in the shoes of her readers.

On the other hand the author's commentary is always insightful, especially where she points up similarities to events in the contemporary world. She is also good at highlighting the influence of Ancient Rome on our modern values and habits. And she is good at covering ordinary things, like how people lived, rather than just talking about the battles and leaders.

I did sometimes wonder whether Beard is a little blinkered by her closeness to Roman history. An author with a broader expertise might have been able to provide a more penetrating analysis and a greater feeling of context.

The writing style itself is rather dull and uninspiring. Mary Beard is a worthy and safe pair of hands. I have encountered academics who are much worse. But there is no especial flair or talent for writing here. The book took a great deal of effort (and a lot of time) to get through. It was worth it, but I am sure there are much better written histories of ancient Rome out there.

If you are not already familiar with the history of the Roman Republic, I suggest you look elsewhere for a good book on the subject. If you are already familiar, then I would recommend this for its insights and unusual approach.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2016 8:44 PM GMT


Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
by Carlo Rovelli
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sense of perspective, 8 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This little book is enough to remind you of the advantages of a physical book over an ebook. It is an object of beauty to hold in the hand.

Refreshingly for a science book, it is very brief indeed and sticks with the bigger picture rather than the detail. The prose is wonderful, with a real appreciation for the visionary aspects of physics. The explanations are very clear. The last lesson, about humans' place as part of the nature we observe, is quite thought provoking.

You will find every topic more thoroughly covered elsewhere, but even if you know a lot about relativity and quantum mechanics already, you may find this valuable for its sense of perspective, which only a high level overview can provide.

I worry about the direction theoretical physics has taken where the universe and its history are concerned. These are surely the most speculative areas in all science, and are perhaps impossible for our ape brains to understand fully. Physicists often seem to confuse their models with reality, and tend to elevate mathematics (which is merely an ape's tool, adapted specially for a feeble brain) into a kind of god. Rovelli briefly touches on this in his last lesson, about humankind's place in the cosmos, but he too seems to be caught up in pursuit of elegant mathematics as an end in itself, thinking this will somehow reveal reality.

Rovelli is not an original and critical thinker, but he does describe the current orthodoxies as well as anyone could.

Recommended!


The Guest Cat
The Guest Cat
by Takashi Hiraide
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and understated, 7 Nov. 2015
This review is from: The Guest Cat (Paperback)
Beautiful, understated little book which I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is very simple and poignant, the language is always wonderful.

recommended


The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
by Professor Tim Spector
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very assured, 7 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Tim Spector is very assured in this, his latest book. I very much preferred it to his previous effort (Identically Different).

My main interest in buying the book was in the microbiome rather than diet, but I was quickly won over and became fascinated by diet too. Spector goes methodically through every type of food, yet I found it continually fascinating and very easy to read.

The book provides a whole new way of thinking about your body, and about what you eat. This is one of those books that will change my outlook for ever, and I am very grateful to have read it. Of course, it has also changed what I am eating!

Thoroughly recommended!


The Celts
The Celts
by Alice Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The crumbling edge of quality, 7 Nov. 2015
This review is from: The Celts (Hardcover)
I am a huge fan of Alice Roberts. Her last book (the Incredible Unlikeliness of Being) was superb. I have also seen her speak for an hour without notes and she is astonishingly assured and impressive.

Sad to say, this book is not up to her normal standards. One even has to wonder how much of it is her own work. She does admit in the introduction that the team was working to a very tight deadline – and it shows. The book is endlessly repetitive, especially towards the end. The key points are repeated over and over (and over) again, as if the book has been thown together from different notes and nobody has bothered to read it through as a whole before sending it off to print. Was there no time for an editor?

While there is some interesting information here, and some isolated passages are beautifully written, overall this is not nearly good enough. It wouldn’t be good enough for a humdrum internal business memo, let alone a BBC book! The BBC might want to reflect on the importance of maintaining standards to preserve its brand. And perhaps Alice Roberts should take care how she allows her name to be used.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2015 9:29 AM GMT


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-17