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Reviews Written by
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK)
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Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction
Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction
by Chris D. Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.89

5.0 out of 5 stars New steps in the understanding of life, 23 Sept. 2017
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This book has given me a new understanding about how life works. I was especially interested to see how hybridisation can instantly create a new species. The examples given of new species arising in recent times are very interesting indeed.

The author surely has a point when he makes his plea to stop killing successful species in order to protect less successful ones. Also when he shows the folly of imagining the state of the world we grew up in to be the natural state, as if the time of our ow personal childhood has any special significance. I also liked the way he incudes humans as part of nature.

This book is very clear thinking. It is cutting edge and takes science a few steps forward - no mean feat!

Highly recommended.


The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
by Julia Lovell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for context, 5 Jun. 2017
A well written, and very readable work which sets the Opium wars in context.

I preferred the contextual pages more than those which describe the battles themselves, because these latter tend to read a little too much like adventure stories for my taste, with the author occasionally expressing barely disguised glee at the mistakes made by ‘the enemy’ (i.e. China).

But overall a very useful book which provides better understanding of one of the main issues of our times – the relationship between China and the West.


Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
by Shashi Tharoor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turn your world upside down, 5 Jun. 2017
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Oh dear. This is not a comfortable read at all. We are used to learning all about the atrocities of Stalin and Hitler, but nearly everything in this book was new to me (for example, how many of us know about the Bengal famine of 1943?).

It tends to turn many of our existing assumptions on their head. Here we read about a Britain that despises free trade, democracy, racial equality and liberty. About a Britain that specialises in stealing and oppression.

I was not aware that Britain had blocked Indian merchants from operating, or crushed their nascent railway industry.

If the shelves were full of books about this subject and there were hardly any written about Hitler and Stalin, our perceptions about nearly everything would become twisted and reversed. It is humbling.

The book is well written and intelligent. The reader does need to bear in mind that it originated as the script for a debate, and as such is a little one sided. But the author has such a high quality mind that you never feel the book is biased or bigoted.

Highly recommended to all those interested in England’s post Brexit role in the world.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2017 12:58 PM BST


Bee Quest
Bee Quest
by Dave Goulson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight to read, 5 Jun. 2017
This review is from: Bee Quest (Hardcover)
Another first class book from Dave Goulson – a delight to read!

This time we go travelling to various countries in search of bees. The journeys are always interesting and there is much to learn about bees along the way.

I found it fascinating to learn how bees adapt to changing environments. The bees that crossed the Andes are an example, as are the bees flourishing in my derelict industrial environments, such as on Canvey Island.

The author has an excellent way about him which is very humble and likeable. You kind of miss him when the book finishes.

Recommended


Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation
Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation
by Alan Burdick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, 5 Jun. 2017
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I really struggled with this. The subject matter is fascinating and there are some thoughtful things in here. However the quality of the writing is simply not up to scratch.

The book often feels as if it has been compiled from a series of essays which were intended for other uses, but have not been edited properly. So the book does not proceed coherently and it is frustrating to find points which have been fully explained earlier in the book then being covered all over again later on.

There is a good book to be written about time. This is not it.


Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently
Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently
by Beau Lotto
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebuild your own brain, 5 Jun. 2017
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This book is exceptional and mind opening. It is very easy to read, it is well written, and it always holds the interest. But most importantly it is full of mind altering concepts which will have you thinking deeply for years ahead.

The design of the book is very clever as author uses lots of little tests in the text (which are fun to try out on your own brain). Sometimes these tests comprise pictures, large and small, which draw out the strange way your brain perceives things.

There are interesting insights on free will (a subject that sometimes ties neuroscientists up in knots). I was particularly interested to understand to see how you can change your own brain yourself, causing it to see and react differently in future.

The book is not perfect – sometimes it goes on too long. The author has a blind spot of his own which makes him over susceptible to human exceptionalism (much of the perception and automatic reactions of a human brain will derive from the experiences of non human ancestors, whereas the author too readily takes us to the much clichéd savannah for his explanations).

But overall this is a rare find and one of the best science books I have read in a long time.


The Shortest History of Germany
The Shortest History of Germany
by James Hawes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another defeat for the forces of tolerance, openness and civilisation, 5 Jun. 2017
This book is well written, enjoyable and easy to read. Unfortunately the actual content does not live up to the same standards.

The author seems to have taken inspiration from the geographic voting patterns in the 1933 election that brought Hitler to power. He then works backwards to try to fit all German history, from the Romans to Charlemagne to Bismarck, into the same pattern. In order to do this he has to ignore many German speaking populations and much German history (the diverse German speaking populations throughout the Habsburg Empire don’t fit into his tidy pattern).

Trying to interpret 2000 years of German history on the basis of a brief 12 year period in the mid - 20th century is obviously a futile exercise, but one that seems to appeal to the English and the Americans, for perhaps obvious reasons.

When the Prussians arrive on the scene this history goes seriously off the rails. Try substituting the word ‘Jew’ or ‘black’ for the word ‘Prussian’ and you will quickly see how racist this book actually is.

Sadly fascism and racism are parts of human nature. All societies at all times need to be constantly on the alert against this threat. The rather smug British and American obsession with that 12 year period only serves to increase the blindness of their own countries, leaving them wide open to the dark forces of racism and fascism in the present and future.

How sad that the otherwise enlightened Philip Pullman has endorsed this insidiously dangerous book.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 6, 2017 1:01 PM BST


Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
by Helen Czerski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional understanding, 5 April 2017
The author certainly has an exceptional understanding of physics, and a wonderful way of explaining things. You could not find a better or more inspirational introduction than this.

My favourite chapter was the one on waves. Parallels between the different types of wave is excellently handled, and the explanation of how mobile phones work was new to me.

For much of the rest the material was familiar to me already, so while I solidified my understanding I was not really inspired. However that is my fault, not the book’s.


It Can't Happen Here (Penguin Modern Classics)
It Can't Happen Here (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Sinclair Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing the future, 5 April 2017
I was astonished to see that the speeches of Brexiters, Trump, Wilders, Le Pen & co are not original at all – they were written down 80 years ago by Sinclair in this novel. The parallels are incredible. I especially liked the part where the locals all start spending on new kitchens in anticipation of being much more wealthy – thus the post Brexit bounce in the UK economy was forecast long ago. Who needs Nostradamus or the prophet Ezekiel when we have Sinclair?

Apart from the almost surreally prophetic nature of the book, it is also an enjoyable read. Admittedly it was a bit hard to follow at the start. I think this is because 1930s English is so unfamiliar to us now. But after about 50 pages you stop noticing the archaic language and it all flows much more easily.

It turns out to be a great adventure story, with excellent characters, and especially noteworthy roles for the women.

The only downside? If real life continues in the manner predicted by Sinclair’s novel, then we are all in for a very hard time indeed. Time to think about emigrating before the borders close?

Strongly recommended!


Being a Dog
Being a Dog
by Alexandra Horowitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Reawaken your childhood smells, 5 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Being a Dog (Paperback)
This is really good in parts.

It opened my nose to my own sense of smell. I especially liked the way Horowitz makes you think about how you smelled things as a child. She has brought back long forgotten memories of the way I myself used instinctively to sniff at everything. Also she made me realise that many memories from childhood are strongly linked to smell. For some reason adult etiquette doesn't allow us to continue using our noses so openly. These revelations were the most interesting part of the book for me.

But I also enjoyed learning more about a dog's sense of smell, and how the dog can measure time passing by changing intensities of smells. Horowitz is right up to date with her understanding that dogs possess types of intelligence and consciousness that humans lack.

The only drawback with this book was that it goes on a little too long. The descriptions of the training centers for dogs and so on lost my interest. Overall I would have been happier if one third of the length had been cut.

Recommended!


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