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Review: Never Push When it Says Pull by Guy Browning

Never Push When it Says Pull is something of an odd-man in my series of book reviews: it was published eight years ago, and is a collection of inconsequential but amusing newspaper columns. Yet I recently re-read it, and enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t resist including it some time.

Guy Browning’s series of five hundred How to… columns in the Saturday edition of the Guardian, which finished in 2009, remains one of my favourite columns of all time thanks its absurdist satirical view of everyday life. This book is the second collection of these columns – a follow-up of sorts to the previously released Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade.

The fact that I find each individual column laugh-out-loud funny means that the book is like a little bundle of hilarity. I read this pretty much in one sitting, but it’s also the perfect book for reading at random, in odd moments – after all, each column is only about 500 words, and each is an individual nugget of joy. Read it when you’re stressed at work and need some light relief, read it while relaxing on the beach, or read it on the toilet. All are decent options, although reading it at work might be inadvisable if this book makes you as prone to outbursts of laughter as it does me.

If you want a taster of what you’ll get in this book, all Browning’s columns are available on the Guardian website. You can read up on how to use a library (aka brothels of the mind), how to wiggle (after all, pleasure is wiggle shaped), or – if this review isn’t doing it for you – read up on how to sulk. I should confess that I’m writing this review in a coffee shop, and have attracted some strange looks thanks to the outbursts of laughter that re-reading those columns has produced.

I cannot give this book anything other than five stars. It might be the case that the slightly strange humour of this book passes you by, but for me, this is pure comedy gold, and I can only highly recommend it.



Never Push When it Says Pull is available now from amazon.co.uk in paperback, but unfortunately not on Kindle.

This 1,983rd post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

iPad App Review: The Times

I used to be a regular newspaper reader, and had The Guardian delivered daily for some years. But, in 2007 I moved to my current house and couldn’t find a newsagent who delivered. Being a lazy git, I can’t be bothered to take the hundred or so steps from my front door to the nearest shop to buy a paper, and so my readership lapsed.

Instead, I turned to getting my news online more and more. Especially via the Guardian website, where I could keep up with the writing of my favourite Guardian columnists right up until most of them left the paper, when my interest waned a bit.

Someone once said that from the outside, The Guardian looks like an exclusive club, and hence it struggles to build it’s readership. I think there’s some truth in that. I don’t feel the same connection to The Guardian that I once did. Nancy Banks-Smith’s TV reviews, Guy Browning’s columns, Anna Pickard’s columns, Gareth McLean’s thiny-veiled gossip columns, Emily Bell’s MediaGuardian leaders: These (and others) were the skeleton on which I hung my consumption of The Guardian, and once they evaporated there was nothing left but a mass of unstructured news I could get anywhere else. Heck, it’s not been the same since they axed Ros Taylor’s Wrap, and that wasn’t even a newspaper feature.

I guess what I’m trying to describe is my descent from Guardianista to media tart, moving from news outlet to news outlet depending on the news stories that were being hawked at any given time. And that’s pretty much where I am now. Google Reader gives me selected news from across the web, Twitter fills in the gaps, and I’m out of the habit of reading a single organ’s daily summary.

But then my iPad came along, and the opportunity arose to download The Times on a daily basis. And it is The Times – not some sliced and diced hint of the news, but an actual full-fat version of The Times formatted for the iPad, even including the crosswords and sudoku. And it is great.

One of the most important things about it is its release time. The Times has been available to download every day when I’ve woken up. I believe it’s released around 4am, but I’ve never bothered to wake myself up to check. Essentially, being there for the time I eat my cornflakes is what this app requires – and actually beats the paperboy who used to deliver.

20110329-080501.jpg I didn’t used to like The Times’s journalism much. I used to read it quite a lot when it was a broadsheet, but when it switched to tabloid it seemed to simultaneously switch to picture-led storytelling, which is a danger of the format. It gained ‘silly’ page three features, true tabloid style, and lost a lot of the genuinely interesting Times 2 human interest stuff. I don’t know if / when any of that changed in the print version, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case so much in the iPad edition, which feels much more like The Times of old.

In iPad terms, the experience is great. Landscape viewing tends to work best for me, with my iPad propped up in its case. News articles cross pages, swiping from right to left, whilst more in depth features tend to have the header on the right-left swipe, with a downwards pagination for the rest of the article. Pictures are often linked to videos or slideshows, accessed with a tap. And a ‘contents’ pop-up bar allows jumping quickly to any part of the paper (or a quick review of the headlines). Like most descriptions of user-interfaces, that makes it sound awfully complicated. It’s really quite intuitive.

The nature of the beast is that copy tends to lag behind current events, but articles are sometimes updated over the course of the day, and on heavy-news days, an additional 5pm edition is published. Brilliant.

20110329-080754.jpg Another benefit is the price… An online subscription, which includes access to the pay-walled website and the Sunday Times app costs £2 per week – bizarrely cheaper than the £9.99 subscription to the Times App alone.

But it’s not all good news. Because The Times is paywalled, there’s no social features. No ‘share this’, no ‘this is what others liked’, no ‘leave a comment’. It’s one-way communication, and feels a little out of step with modern life.

There’s also no search, which is a little bit of an odd omission, and there are ads – I’d estimate about five full pages per edition – though they’re easy enough to flick past and ignore.

Overall, I think the iPad experience of The Times is great, and I plan to stay subscribed. Whether that will change when The Guardian’s app is released later this month remains to be seen, but it will take something very impressive to blow The Times out of the water.


This is the first in a series of posts reviewing iPad Apps. Check back tomorrow for my review of the iWork Apps.

This 1,430th post was filed under: iPad App Reviews, Reviews, Technology, , , , , , , , , , , .

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 1,369th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , , .

Summer Books: Never Push… by Guy Browning

Never Push When It Says Pull

Never Push When It Says Pull

The fifth book I’ve picked for my Summer Books series is perhaps the most summery of the bunch so far: Never Push When it Says Pull: Small Rules for Little Problems by Guy Browning.

Guy Browning is one of a very few newspaper columnists whose pieces genuinely make me laugh out loud, thanks to their absurdist satirical view of everyday life. Browning’s How to… column in the Guardian is one of the joys of my Saturday mornings, and this book is the second collection of these columns – a follow-up of sorts to the previously reviewed Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade.

The fact that I find each individual column laugh-out-loud funny means that the book is like a little bundle of hilarity, which, whilst good for me, is perhaps not such a good thing if you happen to live with me or sit next to me on public transport – unless, of course, you like the sound of apparently inexplicable hysterical laughter at random moments, and public book readings from some seemingly crazed idiot.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, the columns lose all humour when read aloud by someone who can’t stifle their manic giggling, and so it’s crucial that you, dear reader, become the first person you know to read this book. And, surely, this summer provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy some light humour.

Alternatively, it’s the perfect book for reading at random, in odd moments – after all, each column is only about 500 words, and each is an individual nugget of joy. Read it when you’re stressed at work and need some light relief, read it while relaxing on the beach, or read it on the toilet. All are decent options…

This is the first of my Summer Books which both I and everybody I’ve shared it with have really enjoyed – so I guess it’s probably a pretty safe summer bet.

» Never Push When it Says Pull: Small Rules for Little Problems by Guy Browning is available now in the sjhoward.co.uk shop

An earlier version of this review was posted here on sjhoward.co.uk in October 2005. It has been extensively rewritten for the ‘Summer Books’ series of reviews published on sjhoward.co.uk and Gazette Live.

This 1,359th post was filed under: Summer Books, , , .

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