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Summer Books: Looking back

Summer Books

Summer Books

The Summer Books series, which has hopefully kept both sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live readers entertained over the last three months, was an idea conceived back in June to stave off a summer of desperate, straw-clutching silly-season posts about random topics. I think it’s worked rather well.

But it’s also revealed some interesting things about my sjhoward.co.uk readers. For example, the most popular of the reviewed books from the point of view of orders placed through sjhoward.co.uk/shop has been Never Push When it Says Pull: Small Rules for Little Problems by Guy Browning. That single book has outsold its nearest Summer Books rival by a factor of almost ten-to-one, which certainly surprised me, considering the relative national best-sellers that have also featured.

So why should this be? Is it because people hadn’t previously heard of Never Push… and liked the sound of it, whereas they’d already read many of the others? Is it because many of my readers are Guardian fans, and have previously enjoyed Browning’s columns? Or is it because Never Push… was the only downright good fun book I reviewed?

Whatever it was, I’d like to thank everyone that’s supported the site by buying the reviewed books (and others!) through sjhoward.co.uk/shop. From the point of view of funding the site, the series has been a remarkable success, with profits from sales of the featured books actually outstripping the sjhoward.co.uk advertising revenue for the summer.

So thanks for your support over the summer – I hope you enjoyed the series, and I hope you’ll stick around and continue to read sjhoward.co.uk into the autumn and beyond.

This 1,368th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , , .

Summer Books: My Trade by Andrew Marr

My Trade

My Trade

As we reach the final review of this series of ten, it seemed appropriate that I should return to something at least mildly connected with politics, given that I claim this to be a political blog. Hence, I’ve chosen the thoroughly enjoyable My Trade, by then BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr. 

My Trade certainly delivers on its promise to provide ”A Short History of British Journalism”, but rather than delivering a dry journalistic history, Marr injects copious amounts of humour and panache. He provides many personal anecdotes – some longer and more developed than others, but all entertaining – and passes judgement on developments in the media world, rather than merely reporting their occurence. It’s certainly a very personal history for Marr, and that helps to involve the reader much more than the normal style of books written by journalists, which tend to read something like extended newspaper features.

Anybody remotely interested in British journalism would be well advised to read a copy of this book – which certainly is no chore – as it provides much background on how newspapers are put together, and how this has changed over the years. It even provides some history on the rivalries between newspapers, looking at (as an example) how The Mirror’s sales declined at the hands of The Sun, and how Marr’s own Indy set out to be different from everyone else, but ended up being much the same.

This is not intended to be – and nor is it – a detailed history of the development of the British media. Instead, it’s an enjoyable romp through the subject, stopping off at points of interest – particularly recent ones, and many of which you’d have thought he may have liked to avoid. He goes into some detail about Hutton and the problems of modern journalism, making convincing arguments for his point of view – which is, in part, critical of the BBC which pays him. It’s very clear from his writing that he’s experienced as a journalist, not just because he lists his many and varied jobs, but also because of the detailed insight he is able to deliver, and the apparent wisdom of some of his comments.

Certainly, this is a very easy-going enjoyable read, from a political editor who comes across as an affable kind of chap, and a book which I must highly recommend.

» My Trade by Andrew Marr is available now in the sjhoward.co.uk shop


This review was originally posted here on sjhoward.co.uk in June 2005, and has been re-versioned for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This 1,367th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , .

Summer Books: Get Dead by Jamie Oliver

Get Dead

Get Dead

The penultimate book in this series of reviews pointedly isn’t a polemic by the most irritating of celebrity chefs, but is rather a wonderfully light but deep book combining the words of writer Jamie Oliver and the wonderful photography of Cristian Barnett, breaking taboos surrounding death.

This is also the only book in this series which has severely limited availability since the publisher, The Friday Project, went into liquidation earlier this year. TPF was a great publisher that took risks on new authors and new ways of doing things, and so if you’ve read any books published by TFP, then you’ll instantly understand that this is no ordinary book about death.

Get Dead deals with the subject from new and unusual angles, in this case through interviews with people with a ‘vested interest’ in death, and presents these alongside quirky facts about the dying process. Did you know, for example, that five times more people commit suicide in the UK than die in Road Traffic Accidents?

It’s amusing without ever becoming frothy, dark without ever becoming macabre, occasionally spiritual without being religious, but perhaps most of all enlightening without being educational. Think of it as a documentary version of Six Feet Under, and you’re not far off.

I read Get Dead over a couple of days as I got utterly addicted, but its an equally good book to flick through now and again, as it will always come up with something interesting and enlightening. It’s certainly a book I’d be happy to recommend, if you can manage to find a copy.

The Friday Project is presently being reborn under the new ownership of publishing behemoth HarperCollins (the first release under their new ownership is the excellent The State of Me, a debut novel by Nasim Marie Jafry about ME), yet whether Get Dead will get a reprint at some point remains to be seen. At the time of writing, there are just over a dozen copies available via sjhoward.co.uk/shop.


This book was originally reviewed here on sjhoward.co.uk in December 2006, but the above review is a new original for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This 1,366th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , , , , , , .




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