Sunday, 30 September 2012

A HIstory of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

This is the book that came out of, and prints pretty much word for word, a series on British BBC radio where the head of the British Museum talks about 100 objects in the collection and surveys world history in the process. I listened to a few of the radio episodes and enjoyed them but a book is a much better format, not least because it has pictures, which help to colour in the ideas in the text.

Each object is described and discussed in what was mostly the script for the radio programmes. Neil McGregor writes cleverly, humorously and with great erudition. It is an ideal book to read occasionally, when you have about 5 minutes to spare.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

I wanted to read this because it is so often dramatised, quoted and referred to by other writers. It was originally serialised in Punch magazine, a British humorous journal that went out of business about 20 years ago but which was for most of the twentieth century a British institution. It is a very Punch-ish sort of book. Funny, in a gentle and ironic way.

Weedon did the drawings, which are alright but don't add all that much, and George did the writing. It is easy to read and quietly amusing, as long as you are familiar with the British class system and the niceties of social mores it brings about.

I enjoyed it but it is an entertainment (no shame in that) rather than an attempt to capture serious meanings.

God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

For people who have never been believers in religion, like me, this book is an invigorating cold shower that dusts off the ideas you sort of knew but never articulated and reassures you of the righteousness of the atheist view. It is so well written and well argued - funny frequently and simply brilliant at explaining, with appropriate levels of irony, the absurdities of the religious view.

A great, great read, especially for people 'of faith', who will surely have to resort to the last intellectual refuge of the religious, namely the assertion that the Supreme Being is somehow testing us and that faith is virtuous in some vague way, in order to deal with its arguments.

Recommended to all.