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Monday, April 06, 2015

My Books Of 2014

Yes I know we are a quarter of the way through the year but it takes me a while to get around to doing things sometimes.

I like to read books on the train journey to and from work.  That is pretty much the only time I will read a book.


And this is briefly what I thought of the books I read last year:

Everything You Need To Know About DJing And Success, by Danny Rampling

I think this is quite a good book for anyone just starting out DJing.  I wish I had had this book when I first got my DJ decks.

Having been immersed in DJ culture for decades, a lot of what is written was hardly new to me.

The technical side would have been very useful for when I first got CDJs but I managed to work it out myself, and by watching others.  I will keep it handy for when I first get some technics as it will again come handy.

The second part of the book was all about self-belief bullshit and the psychology of success.  Yeah.

5.5 out of 10.

Weatherman by John Kettley

John Kettley is easily of of my favourite weathermen out there, and I am sure many others feel the same.

Sadly the book is written as though by a scientist and is rather dull at times.

There were some amusing anecdotes, and it is interesting to read into the background of one of the more revered weather forecasters from the BBC, including his passions for cricket and football.

The controversial way that he was removed from the BBC was touched on, but one feels that there is so much kept out of the book that it was hardly worth mentioning.  Book sales could have been much higher if more was revealed.

And again, sadly, the book finishes on the "fact" of climate change, which is a disappointing way to end.

5 out of 10.

Storm Force, by Michael Fish MBE, Ian McCaskill & Paul Hudson

Another weather book written by another three hero weather forecasters, including the only one I have met - which will be the only one you haven't heard of.

This tracks a history of storms in the UK, from 55BC to the 2007.

It gets across a point that storms have always happened in the UK, and there are countless mentions of damaging tornadoes in particular.

Again it suffers from being written by scientists, and often becomes a list "On 21 September 1982 a rash of tornadoes broke out across England".  Wow.  Put me down.  It really is written matter of factly, including when talking about injuries and deaths.

Worse still it then attempts to predict future weather events thanks to fucking global warming - making up stories about record numbers of tourists from Spain, hurricanes and floods.

2 out of 10.

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton

Before I read a book, nobody had ever told me that I had saved their life from DJing.

Now I have read this book, still nobody has told me that.  Though someone did tell me fairly recently that my music is boring.

The book tracks the history of the DJ all the way from 1906 through to the superstar era of the late 1990's.  The book was updated around 2006 but I haven't quite worked out what with.

Chapters that were of particular interest to me included the Northern Soul scene - something I had heard of but had very little knowledge of.  I do wonder if I would have been into it had I been around back then.

Certainly I would have been into disco - there is no question about that.

Some of the book was of scant interest such as the reggae and hip-hop sections but other parts were a good summary of how scenes became of themselves.

6.5 out of 10.

The Blair Years - Extracts From The Alastair Campbell Diaries

I put off reading this book for quite some time.  757 pages of small writing.  This was no small feat of reading.

And not only that I really didn't want to read 757 pages of bullshit about how New Labour saved the world, why the Iraq war was necessary and how they had eradicated boom and bust.

Why had I bought the fucking thing in the first place?!

Eventually I said to myself, read 50 pages, and if you don't like it, give it to Oxfam.

And I was soon intrigued.

At times it was deathly dull - page after page after page of frustration on for example the Northern Ireland peace process, oh how boring that was to read about.  I actually felt for Tony Blair and those having to negotiate with the respective dinosaurs.

What was most of interest was how he had managed to spin the media around his fingers, it was indeed quite fascinating how he had managed to control and hoodwink the media and much of the country.

A very clever and cunning man.

Though one has to always remember how he manipulated the media on a constant basis - and the story within these diaries should always be remembered as his version of events, and also the parts that he wanted to release.  Alastair Campbell's version of the history of New Labour.

7 out of 10.

Narcomania - A Journey Through Britain's Drug World

This was much lighter reading.

Basically an argument for legalising, or at least decriminalising drugs, that everyone including Daily Mail readers could understand.

Starting off by showing how endemic the use of drugs is throughout society, and also how the sale of drugs has changed - rare are drugs sold by your big chief, instead a phalanx of small-timers paying for their own stash.

Then it talks about how legitimate businesses launder the money generated from the drug world - nail bars seem to be a significant source of money laundering according to the book, but it goes right to the top with lawyers and bankers involved too.

There isn't much new knowledge for someone who has been around the clubbing scene for a couple of decades and has seen much of what goes on, but for many it would be revelatory.

It does have some amusing and interesting stories and I enjoyed reading it, although wasn't at any point captivated.

6 out of 10.

John Major - The Autobiography

I thought that it was my duty as a Tory to find out more about John Major, whom a friend of mine believes was the best Prime Minister of recent times.

Was I overlooking the best PM with my adulation of Thatcher?

What better way to find out then his autobiography.

The beginning was probably the best part of the book, where he described a joyous but difficult and poverty-stricken upbringing.  This is what I think of when I think of Conservatism - someone from an average background being able to do really well for themselves.

It continues with his progress into government, and his relationship with Thatcher (good when he worked for her, not so much afterwards though he does seem to hold back on his thoughts).  He made remarkably swift progress up the party and was clearly well thought of.

He also touches on his love of cricket at many a point, with several analogies.

There are exceptionally dull parts - especially the chapter on Maastricht negotiations, that was particularly tough going.  Then the sections on the bastards, and further European chapters are fairly dull too.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the Gulf War, and also finding out more about Black Wednesday, and the circumstances around it, the difficulties with taming inflation and the exchange rate mechanism.

It is a competent book from a competent leader.  But he was no Thatcher.

6 out of 10.

Man, Machine And Music - Pascal Bussy

This is a book about the notoriously media-shy Kraftwerk.  One of the more inspirational bands around - a band that helped to shape the modern face of electronic dance music.

I didn't actually start reading this until 2015 but it will probably be 15 months until I write the next book review so it's in here.  My blog, my rules.

The book is aptly robotic in it's story-telling, split into chapters roughly based around each album launch.

However robotic writing is not as charming as robotic music and it was another quite dull book.

Also it is over 20 years old, having been published in 1993, so it seems like it is only half the story - though the most important part.

The author had no access to the group themselves, and relied on limited press quotes, making many assumptions about the thought processes of the band members along the way.

Nethertheless some information was gleaned - the importance of studying this band if you are into house, techno and especially minimal should not be undervalued.

Though the main conclusion has to be if you want to find out about Kraftwerk, you need to listen to their music.

4 out of 10.