The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark


When I was at school we learned a lot about the causes of the First World War. I didn’t think there was anything much to learn about it. I was wrong. This book went in to so much great depth and covered the topic in such an interesting way I found it fascinating. Definitely a recommended read.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


The original post for this was a lot longer and significantly more interesting than this one. But wordpress had a brainfart and lost it. So here’s the abridged version. Good book. Interesting stories. Well written. Not convinced by the argument. Not convinced I learned anything I didn’t already know.

Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson


I had no idea so much happened in 1922. Kevin Jackson argues that this was the year that modernism was born. We follow the year, diary format, going through every major event that took place – political, economic, literary, artistic, and more. It was absolutely fascinating. So many incredible talents, So many important events. I learned a lot and it inspired me to go away and learn more about the people and things he spoke about. Perhaps some of them will appear in this blog?

The Watchers by Stephen Alford


So far I’ve read almost 40 books, I’ve liked each and every one of them in one way or another. Some more than others. Some entirely. Some only slightly. I guess I’ve been lucky that it took until now to meet a book I wasn’t that fond of. It’s not that The Watchers is bad. It’s not – although the writing style isn’t for me. It’s mostly that I felt there was something more interesting, more exciting, and more involved lurking behind the stories in this book. I always wanted to know more and instead was left frustrated.

Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood


When we think of pirates it tends to be sailing the Caribbean with wooden legs, parrots and pieces of eight. But there was a whole other pirate menace for hundreds of years that operated out of the north African coast harassing ships throughout the Mediterranean. Covering the whole span of their activities this book does a nice job of covering both the characters involved and also the quasi-official politics of their situation. These were not mere renegades but in many cases the primary economic activity for many of these cities. Their rise and fall is charted in great detail. An enlightening read.

Why We Build by Rowan Moore


Something totally different for this book. Architecture. I’ve always been interested in buildings and spaces. I would have liked to have been an architect but sadly I never had the creative or artistic skills necessary. This book is a series of essays really about various points around architecture. Some are more successful than others. Some carry the authors own prejudices more heavily than others. But that variation still makes them interesting and thought provoking. It will make you look at buildings, and the spaces in and around them, in a whole other light.

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones


A dynasty who did more than probably any other to shape England and what it means to be English. Taking over from the Normans and running the show for over two centuries they were around for historic events like Crecy and Magna Carta, left behind legacies such as common law, and provided us with some of our most famous and successful kings. All of them are covered here and the constant ebb and flow of fortune that made up medieval England. So much history covered in an engaging and entertaining style without being too simplistic or sensationalist. It may have been 600 pages long but it certainly didn’t feel like it.

1848 by Mike Rapport


Year of Revolution proclaims the cover and it certainly was – breaking out all over Europe. This book does a great job of explaining how they were all linked and how they were all different at the same time. The creation, confusion, counter-revolution and aftermath are all covered in great detail. Having been to many of the cities mentioned in the book it was especially nice to try and imagine what it must have been like to have been there at the time (although perhaps watching from a safe distance!)

Blood Cries Afar by Sean McGlynn


An interesting look at a largely forgotten episode in English history when King John fought a civil war with his barons. They were aided by the dastardly French who invaded in support (as the title mentions). Perhaps a little too much hyperbole at times for its own good – seen in the wider context of medieval history it was hardly a unique event warranting such bold claims. Having said that though it gave a thorough review of the details and the personalities of those involved.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman


A very detailed and interesting look at the way our brain functions and how we make decisions.  Quite heavy going in places Рlots of examples and probability questions to go through. Unsurprisingly for a Nobel Prize winner this is detailed and thought out stuff not something jotted down on the back of an envelope. Kahneman references Nudge quite a bit for how to use some of these ideas on a practical level but it was nice to read this one too in order to see where many of these ideas first came from.