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on 13 March 2013
A delicious serious of rambles round books and bookshops. In another of his works Mr Dalrymple/Daniels tells us that his wife is constantly irritated by her husband's inability to pass a bookshop without buying something - but I guess it is as much the character of the bookshop owner which draws Mr Dalrymple in.
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on 22 February 2015
Having recently read Charles Fernyhough's "Pieces of Light: the New Science of Memory", I expected something similar, judging only from the title of Theodore Dalrymple's ''The Pleasure of Thinking: a Journey Through the Sideways Leaps of Ideas''. Instead of being a book about how people think laterally, as I thought it might be, it turned out to be something rather different, but ultimately equally interesting.

If I believed I was a bibliophile before now, Theodore Dalrymple has taken that line much further than I had ever considered. He has a wide range of interests and enjoys hunting through second hand bookstores for unusual books on subjects which themselves frequently seemed unusual to me. He also seems adept at hunting down and picking up books that have been annotated or dedicated or otherwise marked by previous owners and he seems to enjoy exploring the history of such books as much as he does the books themselves.

What follows is a journey through Dalrymple's bibliomania. His interests are wide ranging, although perhaps tending more towards crime and medicine slightly more than other subjects. But his eye roves and you can never be entirely sure what direction his writing is going to take you in next. There is a part of him that seems to enjoy following the next idea that comes to mind for the sheer pleasure of seeing where it will take him, which certainly explains his choice of title. As someone whose mind works on similarly flighty lines, this meant that I also rather enjoyed the flitting nature of the book.

The tone is slightly lecturing, which frequently meant that Dalrymple sounded a little more like a tour guide than a writer. The tone made the book feel as if it would have been more at home as an audio tour, like you can get at many tourist attractions these days, to accompany a walkthrough of his bookshelves more than it did as something to read; perhaps ironically for a book about books. Although Dalrymple describes things well and his enthusiasm for his subject comes through very clearly, I felt a little disconnected for not being able to see what he was looking at as he wrote.

There were a couple of aspects of the book which I found detracted from the content slightly. I'm not sure how old Dalrymple is, but he seems keenly aware of his own mortality and makes reference to it on a number of occasions. This may be a natural preoccupation given his medical training and his occupation as a witness in murder trials, but it was mentioned frequently enough to be a distraction; seemingly to both reader and to writer.

My other issue was that in many ways, the book as a whole felt as if it had been written in instalments. The author biography states that Dalrymple has contributed to a number of newspapers and the segments often feel as if they may have originally been intended as a regular column. Whilst many do seem to follow on from each other, some of the changes of direction remind me a little of Chuck Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs", which was a series of articles published in book form. Indeed, much like that book, I found the highly educated nature of the writer in subjects I know very little about, to be slightly daunting at times. This presentation assisted with the sense of disconnect I felt going through the book as a whole.

I'm unsure as to how I feel about the book. The novel reader in me bemoans the lack of an obvious through line, but the quirkier side of my nature enjoyed the way it meandered through Dalrymple's collection. It may not give a reader any insight into the sideways leaps of ideas as I originally hoped it might, but it certainly makes you want to keep following the book through many of them. This is a book that may turn out to only be of niche interest, as many of the books in Dalrymple's collection also are, but it should certainly appeal to those with an abiding interest in books. For those who would be tempted to seek out something like this, it will be of great appeal, although it may sit better as a book to be dipped into occasionally, rather than read in several longer sittings the way I did.

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on 1 January 2015
I'm surprised there are so many lukewarm reviews here - I found this to be an immense pleasure: always beautifully written, extremely interesting, often very witty, and at times rather moving. I must add that this volume has also brought to my attention other books and authors whom I've since enjoyed, and I should like to particularly thank Mr Dalrymple for that.

It is true that the book's title could perhaps fit the topic of the essays a bit better, but I think most people who have spent an hour happily wandering around a second-hand bookshop (or just anyone who appreciates really good essay writing) would enjoy this collection very much.
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on 11 August 2013
I'm a fan of Dalrymple, and the title "The Pleasure of Thinking: A Journey through the Sideways Leaps of Ideas" sounded good.

But the book isn't about that at all. It's about Dalrymple's hobby of book-collecting. I read books, of course, and accumulate them. But I don't find Dalrymple's hobby interesting, and I was very disappointed that none of the essays in this book were conformant with the title.
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on 3 May 2013
I am a great fan of Theodore Dalrymple but found this a rather boring collection of observations around his hobby of buying old books.
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on 19 February 2013
The front cover of this book claims to be a "journey through the sideways leaps of ideas" which is half true. Dalrymple's thoughts are sideways and often irrelevant and I had invariably found myself wondering why on earth he talks about a lot of the things he does. There is little structure and little clear purpose for the book. It seems to generally revolve around books but even so there is little on the blurb or inside that expresses that. Dalrymple, on multiple occasions manages to insult large groups of the population with snootiness and arrogance.

Somehow it manages to be charming and witty. I don't want to like it but there are some heart warming stories and touching points and it is hard to stop reading. I just wish Dalrymple was more delicate with those outside of the very tight group of book lovers and sideways thinkers.
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on 7 March 2013
not his best.for that,see "life at the bottom"i disagree with much of his politics,but he is worth reading because of what he has witnessed,though his conclusions ,almost exclusively about human weakness and stupidity,are seldom mitigated by any understanding of their causes,which he sees exclusively as is a lot easier to be a moral being on a doctor's salary than for many of the pathetically weak, stupid,and i agree culpable ,specimens he holds up for our examination.i agree it is all character,but where does that come from?
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