Category: Books

The Social Animal by David Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks’ The Social Animal works on the pretense that it’s a story. Picking apart the lives of Erica and Harold bit by bit, Brooks manages to weave stackloads of textbook psychology and sociology theory into what would otherwise be an unremarkable tale. The book contains some great insight into what could a successful person. It carefully balances years contrasting research and  opinion, and by the end your left with a nice overview of the consensus of thought. The device works; more often than not the reader forgets they’re reading the synopsis of some hefty academic research. Occasionally when the story wanes, you do realise what exactly your being fed – the sections on the different schools of rational thought in particular were heavy going. I still enjoyed the book though and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anybody that is thinking of reading it. While being a slightly odd, I found The Social Animal fascinating. I’m not sure what life lessons I’ll be taking from the book (there are some early sections parents may find interesting though), but it did what every good book should; it made me think.


A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit From The Goon Squad has been on my books to read list for a little while now. As someone that frequently ignores the old adage ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’, I was immediately lured in to a bumper sized paperback copy of the book by the sleeve’s vibrant illustrations and an impressive collection of one liner reviews. Week by week the book has slowly crept further from the back of the Waterstones bookshelf now to the front of the store, and then I probably thought I should probably read it before I’m told to by the TV Book Club.

The story itself is funny (I often found myself laughing aloud on the train, something that happens very often before 9am and a coffee), moving (often very suddenly the mood shifts) and is told through a narrative that shifts between time and character in each chapter, cleverly interlinking constantly throughout. I found my sympathy rested with different characters at different points of time within the story and Egan was really not afraid to show the dark side to a lot of her characters. Egan is clearly not afraid of bending convention, and I thought the powerpoint presentation towards the end of the book was inspired.

That’s probably all I can go into without spoiling the story, but I can wholeheartedly recommend A Visit From The Goon Squad to all.





The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Pulitzer Prize winning, a movie reputedly in the works, New York Times best seller and nominated for countless other literary awards, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay had a formidable hype to live up to. The book, as you may have guessed, follows the amazing adventures of Jo Kavalier and Sam Clay, as they fight nazis, take on the comics publishing world with The Escapist and face their own personal battles. The book is crammed full of heart, themes of love, friendship, war and racism run throughout, and all whilst still manging to be a clever homage to the golden era of American comics. I found myself unable to put the book down at times, Chabon is a real compelling author. If you haven’t already, you should go read this book.

For those of you who have read the book, I highly recommend this part live action/part animated concept reel by Jamie Caliri.

Letters of Note

Just a brief post, but today I stumbled across the rather brilliant blog Letters of Note. Edited by Shaun Usher, the blog features some great letters and correspondence and is well worth a read. Particular favourites include Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson’s response to an avid Football Manager players application to a job, and a letter to a fan from the Cleveland Browns.

The blog can be found here:

Solar by Ian McEwan

I’ve been meaning to post for a little while about Solar, Ian McEwan’s latest novel, that I finally got round to reading. Having never read a McEwan novel before and only having seen some very good films adapted from his novels, I was quite unsure what to expect. I can say however, I was pleased with Solar and I shall be reading another McEwan book again. I’m not one that likes to spoil the plot or reveal too much about what’s going on, but I’ll say a few things about Solar:

– Solar was very funny, often in a dark twisted manner. I did find myself laughing out loud at points. There are a few twists and turns, and some moments that change the life of the main character play out in an instant.

– Climate change is featured throughout the book. Thankfully it’s not an over-preachy guilt trip filled with disaster scenarios, but it does indirectly raise a couple of thoughts. As the main character is a physicist, there is some jargon, but I think it’s more for effect than to drive the plot.

– The journey of the main character is without doubt the book. We don’t really hear too much from anyone else in Michael Beard’s life, and we only really get a mild sense of what they’re like through his eyes. I suppose that’s the risk of the book being written from the narrative of one character, but it’s a shame, there were a few moments I would liked to have seen the story from a different perspective.

I can recommend Solar, and it’s out now in paperback.