20 books of summer 2016

20 books of summer 2016

Two reviews today which go together in the sense that all the first two chaps do all day long IS swim, bike and run! I’m steaming ahead with my #20BooksofSummer reading and really enjoying everything I’ve gone for so far – I must have made good choices! I see I’m working my way up the pile to the left from bottom to top: not sure what that says about my book-pile-making abilities, but there you go.

I’m steaming through these because I know I’ve got a) a big work booking coming up at the end of next week and b) I should have at least one book outside the project to review for the lovely Shiny New Books. I’m taking advantage of the slower work days and lack of review copies to read when and where I can. Yesterday, a heavy shower and more importantly a thunderstorm sent me downstairs with the current read as I get twitchy about my computer in storms, even with surge protection, etc.

Anyway, on to the reviews …

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee – “Swim Bike Run”

(2 June 2015)

It was nice to see an acknowlegement of the brothers’ ghostwriter for this book, something I always look out for now with sports and celebrity ‘autobiographies’, having worked for a while with some lovely ghostwriters.

This joint autobiography of older brother Alistair, driven, hard and a bad time-keeper and younger, routine-obsessed Jonathan, always striving to catch up, is really well done, with alternating short sections from both, apart from in one chapter where they talk at length about each other. There are also interesting short sections on their cycling, swimming and running training, which I must say differ from other guides I’ve read and work I’ve seen people do, and would not necessarily be recommended for the novice triathlete. Basically, they train all the time, it’s just what they do. They’re out on the hills on their bikes, doing swimming sessions, running in the same pattern they developed when they were at school. They don’t seem to taper (when you cut down on exercise sessions before a big race to conserve energy) and they exist on pies and chips (which is great, no problem with that in principle: most of my running training is supported by the good old hot cross bun).

Alistair is less centred and careful and gets injured more, seeing that as part of the process. I took a good mantra on injury from him, which is helping me cope with being less prepared than I’d want to be for my big run, having had an accident at Easter and only now being back at the same stage: “I’ve done everything I can, considering I was injured”. I’m going to add that to Murakami’s “I am a machine” for chanting (silently) as I run.

It’s quite startlingly acerbic – OK, rude – in places as the lads talk about each other’s failings, and you do wonder just how supportive their relationship is. But it’s a good read, and the parts describing the detail of their London 2012 Olympic triathlon were moving. A good book to read in the run-up to Rio 2016!

This was Book Number 3 in my #20BooksofSummer project

This book will suit … people who like sports biographies; people who like triathlons as long as they’re prepared to take the training advice with a pinch of salt and remember they’re human beings.

Joanna Biggs – “All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work”

(From Ali (her review) June 2015)

A fascinating set of interviews with workers – paid and otherwise – around Britain. You can’t go wrong with a book that mentions gypsy tart on the first page (this is a special Kentish pudding that no one outside the county has ever heard of; the introduction is set in a charity shop in Dover). The scene is set, the limitations of having to chose just a few jobs from the hundreds there are, and the fact that many of the interviews failed are covered, and then we’re off through various people’s authentic voices, from a sex worker to a stay-at-home mum, an Irish fishmonger to a Scottish crofter and all points between, including all sorts of people, born here, moved here, different ethnicities, ages and genders.

Although the interviewees were picked fairly randomly and through chance encounters and links, parallels do appear, and are pleasing: the crofter who keeps himself going by doing several different jobs and the member of the landed gentry who constantly diversifies; the ballet shoe maker and the ballerina who will only use shoes made by a certain maker.

It’s all cleverly pulled together in the final chapter about school children’s aspirations, and its’ a great portraits of work traditions and ‘innovations’ (from workfare to warnings for not smiling), and the ways in which people pull together to help and support each other, whether that’s the prostitutes’ union or the cleaners and interns who work against unfair practices. Fascinating and detailed and really honours and respects all of the interviewees, whatever their differences. I wish I’d been the transcriber for this book!

This was Book Number 4 in my #20BooksofSummer project

This book would suit … Anyone who likes a bit of social history / oral history or is interested in the modern way of life in the UK. This could have been paired with David Kynaston’s book but I won’t have finished that one for a while!

20booksofsummer2016I’ve been on a roll and have actually completed the Arnaldur Indriðason that will be Book Number 5 – that’s down to the thunderstorm yesterday! I’m also reading the marvellous Kynaston tome and am up to about February 1958 in that marvellous mix of social and political, oral and economic history from so many different sources. And I took a little time out of the Project to start the next Dorothy Richardson, as I didn’t want to leave her behind to languish. Not the best, not the worst volume so far.

How are you doing with your reading challenges? Have you read any of these? Are they weird choices? (I didn’t get many comments on my last update so I’m wondering if my new blog readers are flummoxed by my obsession with non-fiction …)