Books of 2014

After such excitement these past two weeks, let’s get back to normal, which now means ‘off-topic’ and ‘random’. I’m afraid there’s nothing to add to either album or tour speculation just yet, it’s still far too early to say anything about anything, and if you are lucky enough to have tickets, you’ve six months to wait, so best think of something else. Some of you seem to be hyper-ventilating and I’m starting to worry.

The music of 2014 in general, some of us already agreed, was so-so at best. The books of 2014, however, were much more interesting.

The one that stood out for me above all others – and there were many excellent others, which I’ll come to later – was Harry Leslie Smith’s Harry’s Last Stand.

Harry is 92 and clearly someone with more ‘get up and go’ than most. At the age of 75, he backpacked across Europe, returning to the places he’d visited during the Second World War when he’d served as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force.

After moving audiences first to tears and then to their feet at the 2014 Labour Party Conference with an impassioned speech, where he spoke of the desperation of his boyhood years, his pride in voting for the first time – for change, in 1945 – and concluded with the warning: “Mr Cameron, keep your mitts of my NHS,” now he’s travelling around Britain speaking to young people to encourage them to register to vote, reminding us all of what life was like before the introduction of the welfare state.

As he writes in his blog: “If we don’t remember the past injustices done to ordinary folk, the powers that be will commit them again, except this time it will be upon you and your children.”

His book is a timely warning to us all that we should heed the lessons of history and stop taking the things our ancestors had to fight so hard to gain over so many decades, for granted.

Harry has a lovely way with words. It’s very hard to stop reading, so engrossed in his memoirs do you find yourself. His compassionate observances, brutal honesty and aching for his beloved wife Elfriede, who died in 1999, leave you wanting to shake this proud man’s hand or give him a great big hug. How he has deserved each standing ovation.

He recounts a childhood of poverty during the Great Depression; of working after school – aged seven – as a barrow boy until dark, for four shillings a week, to help put food on the family table; of losing a sister to tuberculosis in the workhouse infirmary at the age of ten, and seeing her buried in a pauper’s grave (the few lines devoted to this are heartbreaking). It should be compulsory reading for anyone who thinks standing by and doing nothing but complain when we can vote and protest for change is acceptable. With a Conservative government privatising the health service, dismantling the welfare state and cruelly removing support for the most needy and vulnerable, there are too many parallels between now and the time Harry witnessed his desperate parents struggle to eke out a grim existence in 1930s England.

The book is able to shock, chill, then amuse just a few lines later, but always shames younger generations who have had it relatively easy and really don’t know hardship on such a scale. We must fight the social injustices of low-pay, obscene bonuses, zero-hours contracts and food banks as Harry’s generation rallied against its own injustices.

Insightful and inspirational, I’m now reading his earlier books and recommend 1923: A Memoir (2011) and Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip (2012). If you have an interest in social history, I suggest you read these. If you don’t think you’ll bother to vote in May, I urge you: please read them.

65 per cent of the British public voted in the last general election, in 2010. The turnout among the under-24s was just 44 per cent. The young are being hardest hit by austerity and must vote for change.

I certainly stand with Harry on the issue of voting (it should be compulsory), not Russell Brand, who has instead been sympathising with those who do not vote. This is easy to do, obviously, when you’ve plenty of money in the bank and need never work again nor fret about housing or education or who will care for you in your old age.

I have to agree ever so sightly with Robert Colvile, writing in the Telegraph, who considered Revolution, Russell Brand’s call to arms, “a rambling, egocentric mess.” He does tend to meander. He is a master populist and young people make up the bulk of his audience. None of this means that his views should be dismissed, though, just that you have to read through an awful lot to find out what his views are.

I quite like him, loutish, foul-mouthed hedonist that he is. You can of course be rich beyond your wildest dreams and still care enough for those less fortunate to join strikers on a picket line or to exploit your celebrity to attract media attention to the plight of campaigners who feel that nobody is listening. He has earned his wealth, he wasn’t born rich, he has enough experience of real life’s struggles to be able to write with an authenticity lacking in the writing of many others. For this, he has my respect.

I care very little for the sneering of cultural and intellectual snobs who have been particularly unkind about Revolution. It seems rather spiteful to ask, as Robin McGhee did: “Why is that while serious political thinkers languish unread, a TV presenter can get a reportedly six-figure advance for an unfunny autobiography with political pretensions?”

I take his point, but Revolution caught people’s attention and generated debate, which can only ever be positive. People get more for contributing less. (We’ll come to them shortly.)

Of course, I take Brand’s general point, too: who do you vote for when they’re all more or less the same, all serving the same business interests, all from the same comfortable backgrounds, all from the same select schools and universities? I’m all for a revolution, I just don’t expect to see one, so we absolutely must vote in the meantime.

I enjoyed Revolution. I didn’t read it in one sitting; I couldn’t. I had to stop, read something else, and return to it days, even weeks, later.

That said, Brand is intelligent, passionate, self-deprecating and means what he says. I like his colourful vocabulary. I just hope youngsters don’t think it acceptable to refuse to vote because Russell Brand says so.

Andrew Sayer’s Why We Can’t Afford the Rich should also be required reading in the run-up to the next election, as we observe ever more rapid growth in inequality. It challenges the myth that the rich are specially-talented wealth creators, pointing out that the richest of all (defined as “income extractors” rather than earners, because most of their revenue is acquired from their control of assets such as land, property and money) extract much more wealth than they create.

The media barons, controlled by the richest, keep the public focus squarely on the poorest in our communities, so often seen as ‘scroungers’, yet surely this rentier class, free-riding on the labour and necessary expenditure of everybody else, should be labelled ‘parasitic’?

Furthermore, it is claimed, because of their undemocratic and often anti-democratic influence in politics and on society, along with their excessive over-consumption and all its dire environmental consequences, it would seem that we can’t afford them any more.

The author, Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy at Lancaster University (who blogs here) makes a strong case for taxing this unearned income more appropriately to check the self-sustaining greed of the One Percent at the expense of the 99. Amen to that.

In a similar anti-capitalist vein, Naomi Klein’s hard-hitting, thought-provoking, authoritatively researched This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate had me nodding like Churchill the dog from start to finish. What a book this is.

Five years in the making, this hefty tome makes it as clear as what little water remains in California that unfettered capitalism is destroying our environment. She unleashes a vicious attack on neo-liberal market fundamentalism, insisting that our contemporary, predatory capitalism is wholly responsible for creating our numerous, irreversible environmental problems, as well as resisting significant changes to curb carbon emissions to the levels that 97 per cent of climate scientists have long recommended.

Clearly we need sweeping changes, and we needed them years ago, yet the unbridled greed of those with financial interests in continued unsustainable growth, who have benefited from a culture of deregulation, from free market ideology, from colonialism and industrialism – those most likely to be climate change deniers, funnily enough – for all their vaunted superior intelligence continue to deny and defy at such great cost to our imperilled world.

“We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and most of our major media outlets.”

Indeed, the misery of austerity being experienced by so many right now is all for the benefit of an economic system that is making the rich richer while decimating our blue planet.

Pragmatic as always, Klein reminds us how, during the collective sacrifice throughout two World Wars, we embraced the rationing of food and fuel, dug for victory and made do. So we should now.

She points out the sickening hypocrisy of so many environmental organisations which have ties to the worst polluting businesses, blaming them for softening the Green agenda and redirecting public attention away from the need for change on a grand scale, which they’ve done so effectively for more than a quarter of a century.

Not surprisingly, in 1988 when James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, famously stressed the need to urgently reduce emissions, Reagan and Thatcher were in full flow, too busy eagerly forcing globalisation and privatisation on everybody to listen.

We really have “wasted precious decades attempting to make the square peg of the climate crisis fit into the round hole of deregulated capitalism, forever touting ways for the problem to be solved by the market itself.” Does anyone still believe these people give a damn?

As much as I agree with Naomi Klein about the evils of a rapacious system that continues to relentlessly pillage resource-rich lands in pursuit of profit, and welcome its demise, it would be nice if she and all the other environmentalists included that which is inextricably linked to capitalism, an economic system that requires non-stop growth: overpopulation. This unpopular and politically-incorrect issue warrants only the briefest of mentions in the book’s footnotes. Yes, doing so would obviously make a rather large book even larger, and climate change as a battle between capitalism and the planet is the clear message throughout, but it’s a shame that the pressure of our burgeoning global population on our planet’s finite resources, which capitalism promotes and to hell with the consequences, wasn’t deemed worthy of closer examination. Surely we need to consider both numbers and distribution. Those defending one and blaming the other are just wasting time we don’t have.

Yes, fine, whatever. I’m clearly a misanthrope.

(I’m hoping that Elizabeth Colbert touches upon it in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, which I’ve yet to finish.)

Someone else who does a good impression of a misanthrope from time to time is the wonderful David Mitchell, whose Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse: And Other Lessons from Modern Life will probably cause you to laugh out loud more than once. A collection of his weekly columns for the Observer – “a weekly attempt at a public moan with jokes” – some from as far back as 2008, so not terribly current (which of course you could read online for free if you wanted to), he muses on a variety of topics with the potential to infuriate, from people wearing sparkly poppies rather than paper ones in Remembrance to the self-righteous way we demand public apologies for everything, in his usual self-deprecating style. I really enjoy his dry, laconic wit and perfectly measured eloquence. He’s a fine writer.

Here’s one of my favourites, if you did want to read for free: ‘Snakes are evil, but save your venom for the self-appointed language police’.

It’s good to chuckle in agreement and occasionally self-recognition, to feel relieved that someone else is as irrationally irked by silly little things as you, particularly when many of the books you choose to read, as I have shown and will continue to show, are clearly gloomy. Thank heavens, fellow grumps, we can still laugh at something.

This is one to pick up and put down many times rather than read in a few sittings. If I had to catch a bus or train to work, I’d look forward to reading this on every journey, feel silly for giggling, then despondent when I’d got to the end and realised I might have to go back to listening to music (probably not from 2014) or talk to people instead.

Although then I’d have Randall Munroe’s What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions to fall back on. I think some of you will like it. (Randall Munroe is responsible for the ‘Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language’ – xkcd.) I’ve not read it all yet, it’s far too clever for me, but it’s very funny.

Enough jollity.

Beheaded by Hitler: Cruelty of the Nazis – Civilian Executions and Judicial Terror, 1933-1945, by Colin Pateman (told you there was more despair), made for truly shocking reading. An area of Nazi history that has often been overlooked, I could not believe some of the things I read about the Volksgerichtshof, or People’s Court, established in 1934 to try those accused of treason. Death sentences were handed down to ten per cent of defendants in 1941, rising to forty per cent between 1942 and 1944. So accustomed are we to death tolls being expressed in the tens of thousands, even millions, as is the case of the Third Reich and Second World War, 12,891 death sentences in a four-year period might not have the power to shock any more. Remember that these were death sentences for crimes where there was often insufficient evidence to arrest and imprison, never mind execute.

Markus Luftglass, for example. Elderly and Jewish, he was executed on 4 November 1941. He had originally been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison – for stealing eggs.

The book demonstrates how easily the manipulation of the judicial system was accomplished. The Civil Service Law of 1937 required all judicial officers swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler. Yet judges were often willing accomplices, enthusiastic in this ideologically-driven purge of Germany, still resentful of their diminishing role and weakened status during the failed Weimar Republic.

In all, Hitler’s public prosecutors were responsible for the executions of some 26,000 people in Germany and occupied territories.

An incredible amount of research has obviously gone into this book. The cases and statistics will leave you open-mouthed.

What else? The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics, by Kenan Malik, is an absolute steal on Kindle at the moment. Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else, by James Meek, and Good Times, Bad Times: The Welfare Myth of Them and Us, by John Hills, are next on my list.

What did you read from last year? And, are you reading your books off paper or a screen?

Remember, no discussion of tickets or touts or tours allowed for the time being. Just books for now, please. Thank you for your patience.

Just time to add that Polly’s new book, her second novel entitled The Kindness, was published this month. The reviews have been ever-so positive. I’d love to know if you’ve read it yet. It’s out in the USA in July.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

68 thoughts on “Books of 2014”

  1. Well, ‘Harry’s last stand’ seems to be really interesting. I’ll look out for it.

    A book I’m reading now (on screen this time but I will touch paper forever…) is Dave Eggers’ ‘The Circle’. Very close to reality, talking about social networks and privacy, informations, e-commerce, digital personalities, controllers. The starting idea is transparency, honesty but what is really scaring is the power of the web…all in one, but why? Who is the Master? it’s just a novel, but not so far from reality, and maybe we’re going towards a strange era if we keep posting everything everyday or so, I am the first to do this indeed but…just my feelings. I’ll try to finish it and keep alive my facebook account!

    Another book of 2014… and of 2013, and 12, and 11…is the good Allen Carr’s ‘Easy Way to Stop Smoking’…but this one, I think I’ll never finish it! Have just started reading it for 2015. Hope it’s the right time!

    I want to wish you all a nice weekend! I’m looking forward to see tomorrow morning’s eclipse, scientists say we will be able to see it in south Italy.

    And, of course, I’m sorry for my English as usual.


    1. I’m looking forward to seeing it, too. I have my colander ready.

      And, of course, I’m sorry for my English as usual.

      It’s far superior to anything I can manage in another language.

      My feeling is that anyone who contributes to this blog in their second language is brilliant, quite frankly.

      1. Well thank you so much! I’m sorry if you have to arrange my posts sometime!

        An eclipse with a colander! That’s crazy. 🙂

        We did see just the 35% of it, but was a sunny morning, luckily, and the effect was still amazing.

      2. I can’t wait to hear about the eclipse!

        We’re basking in the glow of your warmth and welcome, Fed!

        What an amazing, positively stunning confluence of events this year has been!

        It was a totally indescribable joy and pleasure to read this post. I laughed. I cried. I read the links.

        I laughed some more.

        Choked up with emotion, I gibbered in Hawaiian.

        I have oceans of feelings on the subject of conservation. They are some of the best people I know. Thank you a thousand times for throwing your heart over the fence on all the ecological topics I’ve followed from this blog.

        One thing I’ve learned from studying the Concho Water Snake in Texas (they really ARE cute: they are also named for a neighbor of one of my Great Aunts) is that the stigma can lead to extinction. I could tell you horror stories from the “there’s no good snake but a dead one” front. I really appreciate the humor: its a lifesaving antitoxin to all the brutalities perpetuated against nature.

        There’s nothing better than sitting around a campfire with a bunch of loopy naturalists, laughing about giant salamanders (real) and hoop snakes (myth).

        1. Thank you very much for that, Sharon. I really appreciate it.

          To think of the creatures we have already driven to extinction, and those that we will almost certainly drive to extinction, makes me sick with shame. Having made a little progress into Elizabeth Colbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, I absolutely recommend it.

          The first chapter is about amphibian decline. The focus is on the Panamanian golden frog, probably now extinct in the wild (those bred in captivity might never be released), the type of fungus responsible for killing so many, so suddenly, and how it quickly spread around the world. Add habitat loss, pollution and poaching, and how anyone can defend or justify human expansion, or even pretend that our increasing population isn’t a serious problem, is beyond me.

          I just noticed that this was one of The New York Times‘ ’10 Best Books of 2014’. Here’s Al Gore’s review, if you’re interested.

          1. We will read it.

            OH, the fungus you mentioned is the chytrid fungus. Here are a few links (not for the squeamish).

      1. 🙂 Very good. I like that – and him. We certainly need more politicians like him. He was also one of the architects of the first treaty on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, of course.

        I also enjoyed his Pulling No Punches autobiography…

  2. I don’t know if it has been translated in English, but you might be interested in reading ‘Héros oubliés: les animaux dans la grande guerre’ de Jean-Michel Derex (which I would translate as ‘Forgotten heroes: the animals in World war One’).

    It offers an original approach of the Great War, showing the crucial role of so many animals (over 16 million animals served in WW1), the close relationship between men and their animals, the psychological comfort they provided.

    Forgotten heroes… More War Animals Memorials should be raised. I know one at Fort-de-Vaux (Verdun), raised to ‘Vaillant’, a heroic pigeon who managed to carry vital messages during seven days despite attacks from poison gas and shells. Of course he died.

    I think I heard of a War Animals Memorial raised in London, but I’m not sure.

  3. Hey FEd and fellow Bloggers:

    Want to say how lucky those of you living in England, Europe, North Africa, and Iceland are.

    On the 20th of March there will be a full solar eclipse visible in the above mentioned areas.

    And in England it is predicted to have clear skies so happy eclipse watching.

    The 21st of August 2017 is the next full solar eclipse visible in my area. I will look forward to it as it is a day after my birthday and sense I am on borrowed time, each day is a gift. I always look forward to each day and hope for the best and that nothing bad happens, one can always hope…

    There are two total lunar eclipses this year in my area: the 4th if April and 27-28 of September. It is fun to watch and be part of nature events.

    1. Thank you, Suzy. (The more I read these gloomy books, the more I’m convinced that we’re all living on borrowed time. I don’t know if that makes you feel better or worse…)

  4. I am reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl a gritty, un-sugar coated account of life in early America. Wilder’s Little House books fascinated me as a child, but this adult and very real account of pioneer life is riveting.

    P.S. I am enjoying good health and will be a Grandmother for the third time sometime in September. Life is fleeting, but from time to time it can be so sweet. Let us revel in those joyous moments!

  5. Dear FEd. Your comment comforts me. We all are on borrowed time from the day we arrive. Some just do not look at it that way. And other times we are actually told.

    That is why it is important to be kind to one another and the planet.

    Happy first day of spring,

  6. I have to say music isn’t the same for many years, it’s techno, rap or hip hop. But there are still some really good musicians out there but not like it use to be.

    So I find myself reading Tom Clancy’s books which I really love. Plus Stephen King and many others that I enjoy.

    Take Care, Thomas

  7. Kingdom of Ice, by Hapmton sides. Thrilling read recounting an Arctic expedition in the 1800’s, don’t wish to give too much away but it’s wonderful!

  8. Right now I am reading Nelson DeMille’s Panther.

    Rather altruistic 2012 version of what’s going on in modern times and Yemen.

    I love his one liner anecdotes in all his novels.

    My nephew gave me a newer version of Inside Out by our famous Nick Mason and co reading it as well and enjoying the colourful pics. He is humorous.

    Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follet, trilogies galore. What more do you need?

    Oops, forgot Jimi Page’s excellent memoir too. The outfit he wore at the Siverdome in Detroit was as I remember him wearing on stage. The last of Bonham sadly enough.

    1. Oops, forgot Jimi Page’s excellent memoir too.

      Ah yes, I also forgot about that one. I’m glad you remembered it.

  9. Hi FEd,

    having issues with my neck didn’t let me read as much as I’m used to, but the list of books I bought in 2014 seems to be a bit longer than the music one, although most of them weren’t newly published.

    I’m reading them in English on screen (e-paper, that is) and it’s a real treat not having to handle big books in bed. 🙂 The exception are used or books with graphics/pictures…

    Here’s a partial list:

    Very British Problems: Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time by Rob Temple
    Quite funny for us foreigners. 😉

    The Annotated Monty Python: The Complete Flying Circus… All the Bits
    Just completing my Python collection.

    Mad’s Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works
    Alway loved his work…

    The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill: A Treasury of More than 1000 Quotations by James C. Humes, Richard M. Nixon
    Interesting to read…

    Alan Turing: Unlocking the Enigma by David Boyle
    I recommend this one. It’s a bargain on Kindle!

    Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake
    One cannot learn too much about Pink Floyd. 😉

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Was curious to read something written by Vonnegut and ended buying a lot of his books.

    The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré
    I just love the atmosphere in le Carré’s books…

    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
    See above!

    1. That’s some list.

      Very British Problems always makes me laugh. I have attempted to close windows on buses many times by staring angrily at them.

      If you’re on Twitter, I suggest following @SoVeryBritish. It’s good to laugh.

      1. I’m already following it and there it was, where I learned that I could buy the book…

  10. It’s no wonder you’re permanently waiting to finish that kitchen of yours Fed, you read too much.

    I struggle to read more than a few books a year as my lips get tired moving and I nod off after 3 pages … and as I still have a great deal of backlog from the 20th Century to catch up on the chances of me reading a book FROM 2014 IN 2014 are minimal indeed. Indeed one of the books I did read was one of your recommendations from last year! (The one about the German executioner – I never remember the title).

    I shall certainly keep my eyes open for Harry’s Last Stand.

    We do seem to be doing a lot of World War remembering these days and I’ve just finished Boris Johnson’s book on Churchill. Normally I would give the ‘mock buffoon’ a wide birth but to be fair it’s a good read and a reasonably politically neutral take on one the the few men who really did make a particular contribution at a vital time in our history.

    2014 was of course the year chosen to commemorate WW1 but I preferred to look to contemporary accounts and read ‘Storm of Steel’ by Ernst Junger, which had previously escaped me.

    1. The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honour and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, by Joel F. Harrington. I really enjoyed that one. What did you think of it?

      I must read Boris Johnson’s – The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. I imagine he writes brilliantly and I’ve never read a Churchill biography before.

      I quite like Boris, certainly more than I like Churchill, but I suppose I’m far enough from London to be able to say that (and even then I say it quietly).

  11. One that found its way into my headspace is called ‘Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn’, by Amanda Gefter. An inspection for the definition of ‘Nothing’.

  12. I won’t review it, because I am an extremely biased and long standing friend in this family’s wild life.

    Adirondack by the extraordinary Ed Kanze was published in 2014.

  13. Wow, FEd. That is one big, informative thoughtful blog! I’ve been in book reading mode for the last year or so and I love it. I’ve read thousands of pages, many more than in any other comparable period in my life. (How I would love to become ‘well read’!) The books you recommend are intriguing and I may have to find room in my reading list for them.

    Speaking of ‘lovely books’, I await my copy of Polly’s new book, The Kindness, from your fair land. It won’t be published in the US for a few months so I ordered a UK copy (complete with Polly’s autograph!) and hope to receive it in the next few days. The reviews are out and it sounds like her best work yet. Excited to read it!

    Happy weekend to Irregulars and all blog readers! And big congrats to Irregular Renee Barrera who recently married! And, Emilio, your English is brilliant! (I’ll stop now.)

    1. Excellent. Do let me know if you read any of them, especially Polly’s. I’d love to know what you think.

      Many congratulations to Renee.

  14. The older I get the little bit wiser I become. The money is always out there, but this country tends to make sure it’s only the few that share it. Us one percenter folk fight for the scraps. Must be a trillion pound out there, it’s always there but who the hell has it? And why is it not evenly distributed? After all it’s our money, and everyone should have the right to a good job that pays a real living wage.

    And if you’re earning millions or even hundreds of thousands then you should pay proper tax and not be allowed to have a twaty accountant fiddle so much you end up paying nothing. Google, I would shut them down until they pay up, Costa another one. If they won’t pay, then bye bye, I say.


    P.S Not a book reader but never off the web and I’m a mine of useless information.

    1. Oh, but they create jobs! They’re so important to our economy and would move their businesses elsewhere if we didn’t pander to their every whim…

      I agree with you, Damian: let them bloody-well leave if they won’t pay up. And don’t let them back in, either.

      1. We could always get a Chinese search engine instead and they know how to copy Google and other well known search engines. Maybe rename it Noodle, LOL.


  15. I’m not much of a reader because I have such a hard time settling down. However, I did manage to read two paperback books last year. They are older books, not recent, yet touched my soul in a very deep way.

    The first one was Motherless Daughters, 1994. As a young preteen I lost my mother to a massive heart attack. Over 40 years later I read this book and realized so much about myself and why I am the person I am today. It brought me to tears more then once.

    The second book was “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying”, 2012. This book too touched my soul. Never having met any of my grandparents, I find myself drawn to the elderly. I love to spend time listening to them and their stories. They have such valuable lessons to teach the next generation. Such as you’ve mentioned, the importance of voting.

    Thanks so much for sharing Harry’s Last Stand. It’s right up my alley and I’m going to make that the first book I read this year….The second will be Polly’s, The Kindness, which I’ll pick up and read on my long flight across the Atlantic in September! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Harry’s Last Stand. It’s right up my alley and I’m going to make that the first book I read this year

      I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  16. .. another good one that I had forgotten to mention and which was published in 2014:

    Taking the Purple: The extraordinary story of The Purple Gang – Granny Takes a Trip . . . and all that! by Chris (Joe) Beard.

    It is only available as a eBook (3,70€) as far as I can tell, but it’s realy good to read. Even if you discount the fact, that memories tend to be better than the reality, the author must have had a very interesting time. Even the police men seem to have been different then. 😉



  17. Hi FEd plus all the Irregulars.

    Haven’t picked up a copy of Polly’s book yet, was sorry I missed her and David when they were in Dun Laoghaire last Saturday. I hope they enjoyed some Irish hospitality at the weekend, weather wasn’t too bad either.

    Best regards,
    Tom B – Dublin

  18. Just wanted to add – my mum does read at least three books a week. The only book I have read and remembered was the Devil Rides Out.


  19. Don’t think I disagree with you on much FEd, but your comment “The young are being hardest hit by austerity and must vote for change”, I would disagree with. I’m keen on seeing how the next few weeks pans out though.

    Happy Days,
    Simon J

  20. Just heard bad news, want to celebrate here a great engineer, Doug Sax, who passed away today…he had really a fantastic sense of music and sound… rest in peace and thank you for all the music through the years!


  21. ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 2014 Day-to-Day Calendar’. I don’t know if it fits in here, because um… It’s a calendar, not a book.

    1. Is that Richard Carlson? If so, he’s on my shelf and looking very tatty. I should read him again.

      1. Yes. I have the ”At Work” version of the book, the principles are universal and the titles of the chapters alone are very profound.

        1. I agree, and flicking through it now, chapter titles such as ‘See the Glass as Already Broken (And Everything Else Too)’ and ‘Choose Being Kind over Being Right’, are welcome reminders of the author’s good advice.

          Thanks for reminding me that I have this book.

  22. We are, all of us, stronger in the broken places.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  23. I recently discovered an author called Kat Zhang. She has this great quote on her blog.

    “Starbuck to all Vipers, do not fire. Repeat, do not fire. I’m a friendly, okay? We’re all friendlies. So let’s just… be friendly.”

    …Perhaps the most beautiful words spoken from a human tongue.

  24. Oh it’s all gone quiet over here. I think our Fed has gone to Cardiff for a beer.

  25. Off Topic: Does anyone know where I can get “In The Flesh (Part 2)” backing track for Drums? Paid via PayPal or more preferably ‘free’.

    1. Unfortunately I don’t, but I had to add that I love the drumming on The Wall and often play along on my steering wheel. I’m sure I’m not alone.

  26. I was out in the hills of Cumbria today. I was listening to The Endless River, the more I listened, the more I enjoyed. I was just wondering if you could find out, Fed, what the song titles meant. It’s a beautiful album.

    Will we be treated to Polly perhaps joining David on stage to sing Louder Than Words?


    1. I wonder.

      I wouldn’t be able to find out what the titles are all about, though. Sorry about that, but we’re really not supposed to know these things.

    2. Isn’t ‘Anisina’ a Turkish word that means ‘In memory of’ in English?

      A fitting title, no?…

  27. I just wanted to add I have been listening to Endless River non-stop all day everyday on and off for 4 days in the car. I have to say I think this is Floyd’s greatest Album since Animals, some tracks so brilliant, almost makes you weep.


  28. There’s a sweeping, panoramic landscape quality to The Endless River that is so perfectly attuned to driving through the hills and bucolic mountain landscapes, stone fences, and now, flowerscapes and retina-searing greenscapes that the CD is currently living in our car!

    Please excuse my tears. That was just beautiful, Damian.

    As some of you know, we suffered the unexpectedly sudden loss of a dearly loved and missed family member during the release of this album. South of Ferguson, Missouri.

    As well as a dear old Pink Floyd fan and friend of 20 years, and a brilliant science colleague from Texas. The drum solo for me has become a part of the madness of the riots and picking up the pieces of several lives shattered. The cold emotion of shock as we fled into Dante’s inferno, with this beautiful piece bleeding out into the cornfields as we fled West.

    The review post I left on this blog was my Father-in-law’s last day.

    How is it that Pink Floyd and miraculously, life itself become so much a part of the warp and weft of who we are?

    All I know is the miracle of life, the Universe and everything is somehow mirrored in this music, which is also celebrated by life itself, and all of us, in this gorgeous madly improbable juggernaut that is Pink Floyd. And that this is still some of the best music that this life has to offer.

    1. So sorry for your loss Sharon.

      The landscape that is the Lake District, Cumbria was so in tune with The Endless River or with any Floyd track. The album is an emotional rollercoaster. And I have to say again, because in my job I’m in my car most of the time and I have had the Album on playing solid all week every day. You can get sick of eating bacon butties or chocolate, or they say you can have too much of a good thing. But not this Album, it just keeps getting better.

      And it’s material from 20 years ago, or much of it, but sounds so up to date, but that’s the men and the group who are Pink Floyd – timeless – and I expect if the planet’s still here, Floyd will still be playing a thousand years from now.

      Kind Regards

      1. Once again,

        Thank you, from the bottom of my heart or your kind words, Damian.

        I’m tearing up again.

        That’s my greatest hope. That somewhere in the Univeral bandwidth, or in some parallel Universe or time, long after humanity is gone, Pink Floyd is playing.

        Cumbria looks like a stunning landscape to play “The Endless River” in.

  29. Just finished reading an earlier book of Polly’s ‘Out of the Picture’, so beautifully written you could visualise all the characters and scenes, even managed a reference to Syd! A lovely read and looking forward to catching up with her other books.

    Have a great weekend.

    Best wishes

  30. Off topic, but important.

    In addition to it being Earth Day, yesterday marked the 5 year anniversary of the BP oil spill, which still is fouling up the Gulf of Mexico. To this day, I and my friends boycott BP and EXXON. The worst oil spill in the history of our country happened in a place we called home for six years.

    One of our friends who passed away, the Cajun chef we knew who also worked as a tourguide on West Ship Island became a recent victim of this legacy. To this day, I walk two to three miles a day, the length of a West Ship Island patrol. We keep a map of the Gulf Coast and a Walter Anderson print in remembrance of the deep nostalgia and love that was built on the hands and backs of millions who love the unique culure, or grew up in the gumbo pot themselves and simply can’t turn away.

    We will be living with this ecogenocidal legacy for the rest of our lives, for as long as the planet groans, and shakes off her fleas called humanity. We have already seen tremendous personal fallout from friends and family who live in, or around, or were displaced by the Gulf of Mexico’s dirty legacy. But it’s the animals that have no voice that I weep for, the endangered whales, skates, rays, sharks, dolphins, snakes, alligators, scavenging mammals, endangered sea turtles, black skimmers, endangered snowy plovers, hundreds of species of beautiful migratory songbirds that make barrier islands their first landfall, Ducks, rare shorebirds such as the Roseate spoonbill, all are dealing with the disgusting consequences.

    West Ship Island is to the Southeast of Louisianas Birdfoot Delta, if anyone here has the heart or stomach to look it up. This is where My husband and I made some lifelong friends, this barrier island is where we became islanders. But to swim in this area now, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    Jimmy Fallon sang a protest song recently called, Balls In Your Mouth. I hope you’ll allow it, Fed.

    1. Five years… My goodness.

      It broke my heart, too. It took me back to the 1996 Sea Empress Disaster, which transformed an area I know so well in such a terrifyingly short space of time. I’ll never forget those harrowing scenes; the struggling sea birds in particular, covered in oil, staggering about, unable to beat their wings. Tens of thousands dead. For oil, for us.

      And now we want to frack. It beggars belief how selfish and shallow and stupid we are.

  31. Internet arms aren’t long enough at times like these, are they?

    My dear friend, were you there? Pembrokeshire Coast NP, I mean? I was 26 when The Sea Empress ran aground. I remember some of the TV News footage. I’m crying buckets now.

  32. Just finished “Harry’s Last Stand” … and was intruded by my newest hero.

    Thanks again for the wonderful recommendation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his story.

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