Back on the reading list (ish)

bleekerhillI have had a very interesting last couple of months. I’ve just checked my Massive Book List and I started reading Anna Karenina (my current book) on the 11th August!!! I managed to get almost half way through it, but other events have overtaken me and I have decided to admit defeat, for now. I usually read and come back to books, so this is a pause for AK and not the end. Most of my spare time since august has been spent writing, sending stuff off to agents, doing nanowrimo successfully and going to writing club.

I am sat here on a Sunday afternoon with what is shaping up to be a nasty cold (man flu) and a wish to read something that is not Anna Karenina. I have had my eye on the next book in my list for a while, and although I want to finish AK, I need a break; even though I just had one! I’m starting Bleeker Hill by Russell Mardell this evening.

I still have lots of writing to do.

I still have lots of work to do.

I still have a cold and don’t want to use my brain. (Those two things are related for once!)

but here goes with Bleeker Hill...




Book Review – The Natural Navigator by Tristan Gooley

TheNaturalNavigatorI was given The Natural Navigator a year ago for my birthday and although it always looked like a good book, I had not opened it even once. That is my confession and the reason I am here writing my brainwaves down here!

I have a couple of other books that I would file in the same category as The Natural Navigator:- Never Eat Shredded Wheat by Christopher Somerville (Number 139) and The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Number 174) to name the two that come to mind. Incidentally, The Natural Navigator mentions Gavin’s Cloudspotter’s Guide so it will be fun to read that when the time comes. As I think more, I have also read Longitude by David Sobel which again is mentioned in TNN, and I have 1421 by Gavin Menzies (Number 57) which is not mentioned but is sort of related(ish); I have actually read over half of 1421, but as I didn’t finish, it is still on my list! I guess that’s 4 books which come to mind, but hey, who’s counting? Except of course me who introduced the counting thing to start with… [rolls eyes, awkward silence]

Of the (maybe) 4 books I own that talk about natural navigation in some way or other, The Natural Navigator is the one that I saw in a book shop around the time of my friend’s birthday after embarking on this blog. I had started to do a bit of list creation and noticed my copy hanging around; an idea struck me. I bought the book for my friend and gave it to him with a caveat. The gift came with a task; read the book, then do a practical! I have a set of books that are on a separate list called “read then do.” My commitment to books of this kind is captured in Rule Number 9. The Natural Navigator is one of these books that has snuck onto my main reading list. “What’s the Task?” I hear you ask. Well, my friend and I need to get lost, then navigation our way out of trouble. I will write a follow up post when we get the event planned, but to be honest if there is anything that is going to let me down it is my shockingly poor memory and it’s lacklustre ability to retain all of the cool stuff that Tristan Gooley’s book has given me.

The book itself is a wonderful way to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world. In the deep and varied way that Tristan introduces the concepts involved in natural navigation it is obvious that a very strong atunement with nature and it’s cycles is a core principal of the book. This fundamental appreciation of nature struck a chord with me. The need to have a holistic awareness of everything that can be used including not just the local nature, but the planet, the solar system and the rest of the visible galaxy was wonderful. With all that at our disposal you really do wonder why we bothered with anything more?

Tristan’s enthusiasm to find direction and location using the more obvious signs and confirm it via the use of the less obvious, more arcane knowledge is what brings the book to life and what will ultimately keep the skill of natural navigation alive. It also happens to be a very important lesson. Tristan states repeatedly that the navigator who complacently relies on one or two observations risks failure. But there is always more depth and more understanding to gain. Tristan shows that with so many double checks in place you can actually start to deduce new measures. At the end of the book, such is Tristan’s confidence of orientation that he adds a bird-poo compass to his arsenal. N.B. the bird-poo compass does not need to be carried in a pocket and to be honest, that is at least part of the point.

To further elaborate on the Raison d’être of the book, I loved the differentiation made between finding your way and knowing your way. A depth of understanding and a commitment to build the understanding of nature into your every day processes to such an extend that you know where you are and where you’re going at all times. The techniques described in the book will allow you to orientate yourself and find your way from natural cues, but, Tristan is so obviously trying to educating us in so much more. I know that I will forget a lot of what I have learnt, but I will retain enough and I have enough of a care for nature and how it works to re-visit this book in the future, if for no other reason than I am going to try to use it’s teachings in the mini-adventure I mentioned above.

The book is written in a nice succinct prose with enough descriptive content to make it enjoyable to read and there is a healthy undertone of comedic content. The clarity is almost a requirement as some of the concepts are quite hard to comprehend. When you have to take so many factors into consideration it can play havoc with those little grey cells. I continually imagined the navigators of history using these natural techniques, relying upon them when the users didn’t understand the solar system as we now do! I kept thinking of someone stood on the deck of a ship a long time ago trying to divine the correct course, and by some magic of logic and perseverance, succeeding!

It is scary to think that some fundamentals of our existence are no longer understood. We see so far because we are stood on the shoulders of giants… If we were to step (as we now do) off the giants shoulder onto higher ground and the giant walks off, then what? The Natural Navigator is a book that can act as the ladder in my simile, reconnecting us with the not just the ground, but with the natural navigation that is wondrously built into our planet and it’s surroundings.

Rating 8/10

The Book List is finally 100% complete!

My list of books has been in existence for a very very long time. It is the reason why I started the blog and the reason I have been consciously reading since last August, almost 10 months ago. The problem until today was that I didn’t know the full extent of my challenge. The list wasn’t written down, it was literally only evident in the physical presence of the books I own it was defined logically, but was in no way visible. I knew that it was going to take a very long time to complete, I knew that it would drag me through every possible emotion (including boredom!) and I knew that it would make me write this blog and therefore instil a discipline so that I can get more and more into writing as I go. Other than that I didn’t know anything.

The essence of both my reading and writing ambitions is to do more of both, to commit to them and see what happens. From the day I started the blog I knew I needed to get organised at some point. I wanted to start quickly and strike while I my idea was fresh in my head, but over the first few months I got more involved with reading and reviewing than I did with organising and other blogging about, for instance, I don’t know, maybe post consumerism?

The actual kick up the arse for getting this book list finally sorted was Andy Miller. He actually thought about his list before he started. As it happens, Andy managed to take multiple years to get going with the actual reading part. But in reading his book I realised that I didn’t have a clue what the scope of my challenge was. There wasn’t anything wrong with not having a list, but to be able to see what is coming, to have created some kind of sequence and to know where any of the rare new books should be added is going to be a revelation for me.

So, without further ado, I have the great pleasure of being able to direct you to my book list. Please step right this way Madame et Mesures to the massive link below:

My Book Activity page that contains my Massive Book List

It’s just a spreadsheet at the moment, but it will evolve over time. It has additional tabs for books I own that don’t belong on the list, but the star attraction is the 210 books I own that I haven’t read! I have managed to knock off 25 since I started this “interesting” journey, but I have a loooooong way to go.

Every now and then I am planning to throw in something from the “Read Then Do” list. These are practical books that I should be able to not just read, but prove that I have read with an interesting practical test. Although it is actually on the Reading List, my current book The Natural Navigator is going to have a practical element which, lets face it will probably result in me and mate getting horrendously lost, or, maybe not? Only time will tell.

So, wish me luck with my list and check in to see how I’m doing every now and then. It would be great to see you 🙂


Book Review – The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

2015-04-04 08.55.02The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller is a book that illustrates a project so close to my own bookish journey that I have found it very difficult to review. As a book in its own right it’s great. Andy delivers a fantastic articulation of his emotions and his opinion about the books that he read. More importantly though, he describes a process that changed his outlook on life. The book is a well written account of a year in Andy’s life and how 50 neat little piles of paper-potential made their impact… OK, OK, some of them were actually quite big!

The reason that this review has taken me quite a long time to write is not because I wanted to do justice to Andy’s prose (soz.) It is that the book has many rather disconcerting similarities to my own Post Consumer Book Club. I experienced a truly odd feeling when I unwrapped a Christmas present to find this book. Unexpected and unknown to me, yet so close to the journey which I had started 6 months before. As I read I found so many familiar feelings described, so many similar situations that drove Andy towards doing something more than just read occasionally, made him commit to something to see where it took him.

I expected there to be some fundamental difference in our reasons for doing what we’ve done. Mainly because the manifestation of our discontent is quite different. Andy chose a list of special books, books that he needed to read, books of betterment.  I chose everything I own that I hadn’t read! Yet I could have written the formative sections of TYPOD (all be it badly!) We both found ourselves looking at bookcases full of unread books and wanted to commit to something meaningful; his motivations were startlingly close to mine. The difference? Well, as I said, Andy chose to commit to a list of well thought out books; a subjective list, but a good list. There was one slight problem with Andy’s approach; it took him a long time to create the list. It took him years in fact, but once done, he had a strong list of 50 books of betterment. In my case, I wanted to take some more immediate action, in recognition of the fact that I wouldn’t have done anything if I had waited. The difference in the two approaches meant that, relatively speaking, I started about 2 years early, but I have a few more books to get through so I guess, duration wise, it may be a dead heat in the end? We might even find out in a year or two unless I’m still going? That’s always possible, as I’m already demonstrating, my book list is going to grow and be added to. As long as change is strictly in adherence to the rules then that will be fine! I also know that I will have to let some of my books go along the way, for the obvious reason that they will be shite! Still, when I started The Year of Reading Dangerously, all these parallels built up and I felt an affinity with Andy and his well written reasoning, his books and his dangerous year.

The Year of Reading Dangerously does not describe reading on a cliff, or in the middle of the M25, or even next to a crocodile! Although these could definitely be considered dangerous in the usual sense. Andy’s interpretation aligns with the definition of the word that has always been synonymous with the written word; reading some things is still illegal, some are revolutionary and some will take you to places you don’t want to go. Andy’s reading changed his life and made him consider what’s important in it. I was hoping for something similar when I started my blog. I can feel my understanding and opinion of my path through life changing as I read and as I work through some of the reasons I embarked on this interesting path. So Andy has completed his year and is changed for it. For me, it was decidedly odd to read through to the end of someone else’s reading experience when I am not even half way through mine yet.

Andy says that reading made him ask serious questions about art, work, family, freedom, integrity and packed lunches. Good. I really got a sense of how different books evoked emotion and  concepts as The Year of Reading Dangerously played out. The book is not about mentioning all 50 of the books Andy read, its about the journey, but I would have liked to find out a little more about why some of the books were on the list. I would also like to have heard about one or two that didn’t make the final cut. Both our lists shared a book in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. For me it  really did make an impact. I was jaded by consumerism and  interested in ethics when I started reading for PoCoBooC. I agree that it was pretty dry in places, but it doesn’t half speak to a dispossessed class. I try to imagine what reading it would have been like if I were one of Tressell’s peers? I suppose that I took the realisation of something that I already knew from Andy’s experience: Read, look, investigate, understand, question. Art provokes, but its a foil for us to test ourselves against. Someone else’s concept to accept or reject. Serious, dangerous, questions indeed.

There were so many aspects of this book that I want to talk about or mention, but I verge on writing a whole book about about a book about book, and that is just silly. I will end this post by saying that because I read The Year of Reading Dangerously:

  • I now have a book list in creation to give my challenge some form. I had previously not been so definite in my organisation.
  • I have also been considering the balance between writing both blog and twitter against reading. I’m keeping the blog, but will regularly check.
  • Lastly, I have Andy to thank for the addition of 3 books of betterment to my list. In a week, on my birthday, I will be adding War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Moby-Dick to my list. Not sure where they will be inserted yet though…

Thanks Andy. Great book and a great project. Keep up the good work 🙂

Rating: 9/10

Book list updated. Squeeze in The Damned

TheDamnedCoverIf I had some damned (maybe in a jar?) I would need somewhere to put it. I am about to get hold of some in the form of a book. A book written by one of my friends which has been published and was released this week. I and Mrs.Pocobooc are going to the book launch this weekend and I’m getting a signed copy. I will therefore have some damned and I need somewhere to put it.

Where better than in my book list, and as I’m excited about reading it, I have updated My Book Activity page to show that I am going to squeeze it in after my current book.

The Damned between Tristan Gooely and Isaac Asimov? sound about right to me 🙂

Booklist complete… Almost

IMG_20150424_214824Yo, how are you lot today?? I am, as usual, a bit behind with this blog thingy, but I am doing a lot behind the scenes at the moment which should improve things. If you follow my twitter account (@pocobooc) then you will know that a large part of last weekend was taken up with the creation of a book list. This is ALL of the books that I own but have not read yet, all lined up and all in one massive list. I took the time to categorise them, broadly, into ones that I will read properly, ones that are reference and a couple of other groups that I will reveal later. I have catalogued all this fun with a huge number of photos, a spreadsheet and an evernote note. I now have to organise it all and (most importantly) work out the best way to show it on my book activity page. I also want to integrate the books on the loose info; again for future expansion plans. Queue evil laugh – BWAHAHAHAAAAaaa.

I took the categorised books and worked out the right IMG_20150424_224438order for series of books where applicable. I do have some gaps, for instance I own Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books numbers 2,3,6 and 10. I am therefore going to have to work out how to start that particular series from the first book. In this case I know I used to own the first one, but it is no longer with me. I either need to order it for a birthday or get it from the library. I will cross that bridge when I get to it… Once categories were ordered, I started the book list with a category, then interleaved the next and the next. I ended up with a very long line of books. The photo on the right is the line about 3/4 of the way through.

DSCF4632The most time consuming part of the process was working out what to do with the books that were left over! The main list of books went straight into my main bookcase and what didn’t fit went in the loft, but there are only so many other places to stuff books. Ultimately I managed to do it and I now have some order in my book world. BUT…

On the way home in the car I realised a major gap in my now perfect list. An imperfection of what may be gargantuan proportions. It is actually an issue in itself that I can not currently estimate the scale of the issue!! I haven’t included any of my e-books. I have books in Kobo. I have books in Kindle. I have some “independent” e-books that I “found” and I need to have an internal conversation about what to do with them!!! I therefore have to add all of my digital estate into the list, but I have a list to add them to, so that is good 🙂

One Book List to rule them all

Hello Sunday evening. Where did you creep up from?? Before I give up for the day, I wanted to update you all (or at least the Ether!) I have spent a lot of time with books this weekend and most of it wasn’t with my nose in one. Since I started the blog I have been gradually mining into my book backlog one at a time. Each time I do, I post a next book article, then I blog the review at the end. This double entry for each book takes much of my allocated blog time and I don’t get to blog the other amazing stuff I want to.

This weekend took a huge step towards resolving that. I got all of my unread books out, and I mean ALL. I organised them, then built a book list to beat all other book lists! I created one single list of all of the reading books I have left to read. I interleaved the various genres so that I get variety and I made sure that series were in order (if I have the series that is!) I *think* that there will be 160 books in the list. That’s from now, not from the start of my Quest! I also have some other books in what will become Libraries. Three main ones have been created so far: “Reference”, “Read Then Do” and “A little and Often” The names may change and I will explain all when I have my life back in order.

I’ve got loads of work still to go, including faffing around with pictures. Therefore, I think this is my first every picture-less blog post! The Horror!

I’m going to be getting the new structure in over the next few weeks, or more likely weekends. I will start with the first part of the list so we all know what is coming up, after all, that was the whole point. Then I will get funky with the book pictures I have taken. There will also need to be some updates to The Rules and stuff. It’s all going to be occurring right here, but not now. Now is bed time for Mr.Pocobooc.

Nighty night all.