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4.3 out of 5 stars
Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life
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88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2001
At first I thought this book would be about Paxmans fishing exploits but it is an anthology of some classic writings on fishing, each chapter introduced with the usual Paxman style. The tales of Irish Pike legends, whaling, tales of fishing inn's and of the live frog baits used by an American Doctor, (just during July and delivered to his door in the morning in a box), counjour up the variety and esscence of why people, though primarily men, fish. It is not easily explained particularly to a non-angling wife. A great little book that will take a long time to read and re-read or fit in your fishing bag. It realy is worth two or three times the price and Paxman has done a great service to fishermen everywhere in the great amount of research that has gone in to the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2010
A really diverse and interesting look at angling's allure. The book contains a vast selection of short descriptive passages which cover all aspects from idyllic surroundings, the appreciation of fishing skills, and many stories which detail the fascinating exploits of anglers from across the ages. Recommended for anyone with a broader interest in fishing than simply standing at the water's adge.
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on 7 February 2013
Wow, what a great anthology!I'll begin by making the obvious comparison. The comparator, of course, being BB's Fisherman's Bedside Book which is an anthology of similar length and scope. Waterlog once described BB's book as 'The Best Fishing Book in the World'. I have to conclude that the author of that claim hadn't read 'Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life'.

This collection is quite simply MAGNIFICENT! Paxman has left no stone unturned in putting together a delightful collection of angling writing. He states in his introduction that a search for 'fish' and 'fishing' on the British Library database brings up 6803 books and then gives the impression of having read every one of them in putting this volume together. There are collected here, over 300 articles from over 250 books by over 200 authors, spanning the last 2000 years.

Paxman has cast his net further and wider than BB and has included contributions from many more authors. Of course there's an extra 40 years worth of literature to choose from and much of the selection from this period is from across the Atlantic with some great choices from authors such as Zane Grey, Gierach and Zern. Meanwhile the likes of Dick Walker and Chris Yates, amongst others, help keep the British 'end up'. There is also space to 'correct' some of BB's 'glaring omissions' - Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life has contributions for The Trent Otter and John Bickerdyke for example, two authors overlooked in The Fisherman's Bedside Book. Don't get me wrong, The Fisherman's Bedside Book IS an excellent read and it just goes to show what a superb job Jeremy Paxman has done in bettering it.

But, of course, it's not just about the authors chosen it's about the works selected. And the ones picked by Paxman are truly excellent. He has assembled his choices under 10 themes, with headings such as Rods' Reels and Bottles of Gin, Ones That Got Away and Fish That Bite Back. Each chapter is introduced by an essay from Paxman which shows he's also a dab hand when it comes to turning out a well chosen word or two.
There is much in this compilation which conveys a wry humour and there are even flashes of Paxman's famous sarcastic wit. This is very evident by the titles he gives to some of the articles - here's an example of three of them..."Pliny's Belief in the Extraordinary Power of a Two-Inch Sea-Gudgeon.", "G.E.M. Skues Meets Frederick Halford, High Priest of the Dry Fly, and is Less Than Impressed." & "Captain Mainwaring Praises Dynamite". All very droll!

Prose, verse, extracts from angling catalogues (Hardy's of course), Letters to The Field, newspaper articles; If the writing is particularly fine - or reveals some angling curiosity it gets included. (I particularly enjoy the sprinkling of 'Letters to the Editor' which appear throughout the book) The collection is singular and unique with very little here that I have read in other anthologies. It is a real treasury. Jeremy Paxman deserves a Knighthood for 'Services to Angling' for putting together this cornucopia.

This book would definitely be my one obligatory choice should I ever be stranded on that desert island! And if you want some ideas on what classic angling books to read this book seems the ideal starting point to give you some inspiration.

"Those dappled sunlit days introduced me to a world I would never otherwise have known. When the loudest sound was the babbling river, creatures went about their lives undisturbed. Grey and yellow wagtails bucked their way across the rocks. Water rats would drop into pools with a 'plop'. Otters would glide noiselessly in and out of the water. One time an eel slithered across the toes of my boots. Sandpipers called 'twee-wee-wee' as they flew over the water, and, where the river had cut high banks in the soft earth, sand-martins popped in and out of their honeycombed colonies. Then from nowhere, the air would be split by a flash of sapphire, as a kingfisher tore down the river, six feet or so above the water. As evening fell and as more and more flies hatched on the water surface, swifts flew tireless aerobatics." From The Introduction.

"From this brief digest, then, the following rules seem sensible: If you haul into the boat anything long and snake like, kill it at once or throw it back over the side.
Don't wear anything silvery while wading in barracuda territory - you might get mistaken for a fish.
Don't wade in bear feet on coral.
Don't hunt whales. But if you get swallowed by a whale, at all events keep calm and prepare yourself for a new career as a snowman (see page 410).
If your fishing in the Amazon, don't pee in the water."
From the Introduction to Fish That Bite Back, both by Jeremy Paxman
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2009
Great book to dip into, full of entertaining stories, literary references etc.Ideal gift for an angler, something they'll keep going back to.I have my copy in my lavatory library, amongst the works of Virgil and Jean Paul Sartre (they are only there to impress), and find a page or two entertains beautifully whilst I attend to my ablutions.
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on 13 February 2013
Bought this as a gift for my husband who is a keen fisherman. Thought he would enjoy this written by Jeremy Paxman as he likes to watch him when he's on TV. My husband always has several books on the go at one time so found he could slot parts of this in between other reads.
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on 8 April 2013
Husband pleased to receive this as a present. makes a change from repetative fishing magazines which cost a lot more money in the long run. will make use of it for bedtime reading.
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on 10 October 2013
A great little read read, all my old favourite fishing stories ever written all in one place. I would recommend this to any fisherman,
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on 22 September 2013
I bought this book for a friend of mine who is mad about fishing he found it very informative & very funny
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on 25 January 2014
For my husband and he is halfway thru it and likes it very much. He loves his fishi9ng books and DVD's.
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on 16 September 2014
Bought for my father in law who is a keen fisherman. He said he couldn't put it down.
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