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Book review: Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams.Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

A book on the problems that problems sleeping could have. Does that sound good to you? I mean, the author has given TED talks, been hired by Google and has done the media rounds since this has been published, all on the strength of his scholarly interest in the effects of the Land of Nod.

A book on sleep. Written by a scientist. It’s pretty lucky that it isn’t a big snooze, then, isn’t it?

Any excuse.

*pause for laughter*

All right then. (more…)

Book review: The Allingham Minibus

The Allingham Minibus.The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Before I picked up this iteration of The Allingham Minibus – a work that’s been around in varying versions since the 1970s – I’d never read any of Margery Allingham’s work. I knew little of her, save that she was considered one of the Queens of Crime, alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I expected, given her contemporaries, that I’d have a quaint read ahead, of clockwork mysteries and tea and crumpets before bedtime.

Pictured: the 428. If you know, you know. 

Thankfully, that presumption was false. The 18 tales gathered together in this collection (the name of which admittedly made me think of a Tarago packed with story denizens) are of a distinctly stranger bent. (more…)

Book review: Tar Heel Lightnin’

Tar Heel Lightnin': How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World.Tar Heel Lightnin’: How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World by Daniel S. Pierce.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I wouldn’t have thought a state-specific recounting of the historical importance of a spirit well-known for poisoning and/or blinding a percentage of its consumers would be something I’d be eager to read. I would’ve thought such a work would be a little too esoteric – I’m neither a moonshine aficionado, nor an NC native – for me, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong on this count. Tar Heel Lightnin’ is a lot less dry (fitting, I guess) than I’d suspected a scholarly work on the subject might be.

I think you’ve had enough, buddy.

(That said, most scholarly works don’t usually include a hefty tranche on the dodgy history of early NASCAR racing. But maybe they should.)
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Book review: Infinite Ground

Infinite Ground.Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So what’d happen if you were in a restaurant, right? And then you got up from the table, went to the bathroom and then never came back.

Would you be missed? Would people know where to look? More importantly, would people know how to look?

This is, in a fashion, the thrust of Martin MacInnes’ first novel, Infinite Ground. It’s a detective story – more or less – but that’s a bit like saying that Gravity’s Rainbow is a war story. There’s a bit more to it.
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Book review: Freakonomics

Freakonomics.Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I studied economics for a couple of years in high school. I did not study it particularly well, nor did I remember very much.

The sum total of my economic knowledge is the term stagflation, and I only remember this because it sounds like antlers with a boner. That, and the fact that Ross Gittins wore Dunlop KT26s when he delivered my year’s economic update before the HSC. Two facts, you’ll agree, that stand me in good stead for understanding the economy as a whole.

HSC students gonna know what I mean.

This is the background with which I read Freakonomics, a collection of chapters loosely corralled together under the guise of making data answer interesting questions (such as why sumo wrestlers might cheat) instead of boring ones (involving GDP and the like).
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Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 6

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 6.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 6 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Well, it’d seem I’m cutting through these collections the way prison-toilet wine cuts through intestinal lining. Time for some thoughts on another hilarious collection of lost moments from a horrific human research facility masquerading as a prison.

I’ve almost got it. Can you explain a little more, though?

Y’know, with DEATH GAMES. (more…)

Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 5

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 5.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 5 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

It’s always a good sign when a collection begins with the potential execution of a main character.

Dunno, but for the love of god please work on it.

It’s not so good when you then remember there’s about another hundred volumes of the story to go, so chances that they’ll be successfully poleaxed are probably slim. (more…)

Book review: Q

Q.Q by Luther Blissett.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Q is a book I’ve had on my to-read list for quite a while. I can’t remember where I first heard of it but I’m willing to lay money on the fact that it was in my pretentious “I only read LITERATURE!” stage, fairly recently after graduation. (Which, as we all know is bullshit, because airport lit absolutely slaps in the right circumstances.)

Where was I? Pretension. Right. Well, I’m assuming that Younger Me was driven by that rather than an earnest interest into the religious and political machinations of middle Europe in the 16th century. (Unlike Me Of Today who is All About That Shit.) So I have to assume that the main reason I wanted to read it was that the author, Luther Blissett, doesn’t exist.

Pictured: the author, but also not the author.

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Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 4

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 4.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 4 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Back on this again. Deadman Wonderland remains a decent break from more taxing literature, given that you’ll always be assured of some grimly violent fighting and some embarrassed-teen interchanges in ready supply.

And corpse biscuits. Don’t forget the corpse biscuits.

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Book review: Morbid Magic

Morbid Magic.Morbid Magic by Tomás Prower.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Death is something that most of us don’t like to talk about, or is something – if we mention it all – approached with humour. Yet it’s really the only thing, other than birth, that all humans have in common. In this book, Tomás Prower provides a tour of the world’s interpretation of the end of life.

Just hangin’.

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