Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Dead Famous: Alexander the Great and His Claim to Fame by Phil Robins – Book Review



Publisher’s write-up:

‘You’ve probably heard of Alexander the Great …

He is dead famous for:

·       Marching a huge army halfway across the world

·       Conquering loads of countries

·       Just being generally great.

But have you heard that Alexander:

·       Built dozens of news cities and named them ALL after himself

·       Told everyone he was a god

·       Had a best friend with four legs and pointy ears?

Yes, even though he’s dead, Alexander’s still full of surprises. Now you can get the inside story with Alexander’s secret diary, follow Alex’s progress in The Macedonian Mail and find out why the grest man still has a claim to fame more than 2,000 years after he conked out.’

Dead Famous is a series from Scholastic which features a person who is dead and very famous. I have reviewed several books from the series before in this blog such as Spartacus, Horatio Nelson, Charles Darwin and Writers and enjoyed each one of them. Thus, it was only time that I add one more and started reading about the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great.

The book starts by establishing how Ancient Greece was not like how we know it as today. Greece had several kingdoms and city states and a dominant large kingdom among them was Macedonia. The book starts with how Alexander’s mother, has very high ambitions for Alexander and is willing to employ any means to get Alexander on to the throne. Post Alexander’s ascendancy, Alex’s adventures are described by the author as letters her is sending to his mother and his accomplishments being described in The Macedonian Mail. This follows all of Alexander’s conquests, his efforts to integrate the newly conquered Persia to his kingdom and his eventual death.

The book was very well illustrated, as always, by Clive Goddard and I really liked the personal touch they tried to add through those letters that he supposedly wrote to his mother. Alexander’s personality was brought out very well – a great orator who can motivate his soldiers under the direst circumstances, a man with extreme determination and of course, a hard-core narcissist. The book not only brings out his personality, but also that of his mother who is willing to go any extent to ensure that her son manages to consolidate his power. The book covered nearly each of the well-known conquests of Alexander, starting with Egypt, followed by Persia and finally India; supported by well-illustrated maps.

However, a conqueror’s biography with inadequate description on battles and strategies thereon makes the book incomplete. For instance, the famous Battle of Gaugamela was barely half a page long and other battles, even less, sometimes even a one liner stating that ‘the Macedonian Army secured a decisive victory’.

This is a good light read, you get to know about ancient Greek History mixed with a lot of humour and fun and on that note, I would rate the book a six, with the rating mainly cut owing to the lack of detail on battles.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Albert Einstein: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History – Book Review



Often dubbed as the greatest person to have lived, Albert Einstein has made path breaking discoveries in the field of physics and led certain game changing projects. However, with any great person, there are myths and exaggerations that surround and this compilation from Hourly History could help us explore the personality in less than an hour.

It starts with Einstein’s childhood in Germany, and also dispelling the myth that Einstein was a late bloomer considering the fact that he was very proficient in mathematics even at a very early age. It then moves on to his career first as an examiner in the patent office in Switzerland. His move to Switzerland was to avoid compulsory military service in Germany. The book also focuses on his personal life, his eventual move to Prague and finally to the United States.

The book brings out Einstein’s personality of someone being too dedicated to his own work and did not bother to keep time for anything else, including his wife and children. The book also did a good job dispelling a lot of myths surrounding Einstein, such as him being a late bloomer or the Nazis chasing Einstein owing to his Jewish heritage despite the fact that Einstein had emigrated even before Hitler assumed power. It also focused on Einstein’s views beyond that of physics, be it his love for music or his views on god and afterlife.

However, I felt that his scientific work was inadequately described and those who are going to read the book expecting to know about his scientific achievements (such as the theory of relativity) have very little to read about, in this book.

On the whole, I would rate this book a six on ten, it is a reasonable read for someone who wish to know a little about Albert Einstein.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Wodehouse at the Wicket by PG Wodehouse – Book Review



Publisher’s write-up:

‘From his early days Wodehouse adored cricket, and references to the game run like a golden thread through his writings. He not only wrote about this glorious British pastime, but also played it well, appearing six times at Lord’s, where his first captain was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Illustrated with wonderful drawings and contemporary score-sheets, Wodehouse at the Wicket is the first ever compendium of Wodehouse's writings on cricket. Edited by cricket historian Murray Hedgcock, this delightful book also contains fascinating facts about Wodehouse's cricketing career and how it is reflected in his work.

This is the perfect gift for Wodehouse readers and fans of all things cricket.’

Similar to Wodehouse, I am a very great fan of test cricket. That is quite a thing considering this is an era where most prefer the limited overs entertainment rather than the artistic test cricket. However, I am not a great fan of Wodehouse and I have read a couple of Wodehouse books in the past; and I found them extremely boring and gave very bad reviews as well. Wodehouse at the Wicket is apparently the perfect reader for Wodehouse readers and fans of ‘all things cricket’. I certainly do qualify in the latter but far from the former and thus, I decided that if at all I am to ever be pleased by a Wodehouse book, it had to be this one.

This is a compilation of his various writings on cricket, short stories, columns in newspapers and his own experiences and observations. It begins with an introduction, probably the longest foreword I have ever read roughly at around 50 pages – describing Wodehouse’s own cricketing pursuits, the Authors Vs Actors match, among other things. So, the book has around 150 pages remaining and 17 stories to occupy that space, at less than ten pages per story on an average.

A cricket match has twenty-two players involved and two umpires, at least and as a result, there are a plenty of names mentioned within a very short story which gets highly confusing and difficult to follow. Most of his stories features club cricket in England and except for two stories on a certain Mike Jackson and his brother. There was absolutely nothing impressive about Jackson’s character or any unique aspect to his game which was worth reading, except for the fact that he kept accumulating runs.

A lot of humour is usually expected out of a Wodehouse novel but then, what I got out of this book was very mundane observations which he tried to pass off as jokes; which any reasonable follower would have made herself / himself.

The only story which I felt was worthy of a read was ‘How’s that Umpire?’ which too had very little to do with cricket and parts of the plot that was childlike but at least, it generated some decent amount of humour. I also liked the aspect that I was left with some interesting trivia, such as the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was passionate about cricket

This book is an attempted hagiography of Wodehouse in the foreword, followed by a lot of dull stories and some interesting match reports and galleries. I hope to read a plot on cricket in the near future, a better one and from a better author and it is unfortunate that Wodehouse at the Wicket had to be the first one.

Third time lucky is in fairly common usage but it so happens that my perception of Wodehouse has become worse after I picked up one of his titles for a third time. I would award the book a rating of two on ten, considering the one reasonable short story in the book.

Rating – 2/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

Thomas Edison: A Life from Beginning to End by Hourly History – Book review



It is a trivia question asked in school – who invented the lightbulb? Thomas Alva Edison, who is often credited with inventing the lightbulb also did a lot of other great things during the course of his life and this is a short biography compiled by Hourly History.

It starts with early life and Edison’s very early interest in business, wherein, he ran a local newspaper. Post that, it moves on to some of his early inventions, his setting up of his Menlo Park lab and also busting the myth of his invention of the lightbulb (he had merely improved it and made it commercially viable for the masses). It also talks about some of his less known inventions which revolutionised our lives today, such as the motion picture camera. It also talks about his business ventures (which is today known as General Electric) and his rise and fall in that field.

This book brought about a rare feature of Edison, being, one of the previous century scientists who had the drive to invent and also the business acumen and ensuring its commercial success. It also brought about his mission to impart knowledge to people, wherein it brought about his visible dislike over the fact that people used the motion picture camera for making films whereas he intended it for educational videos. Moreover, they weren’t bent on glorifying Edison, they did bring about his relentless pursuit of trying to discredit Tesla’s AC motor, a campaign which eventually took his own business out of his management.

Yet again, my only point repeatedly with regards Hourly History books featuring scientists, inventors, engineers, etc. is that they can illustrate some of their works, such as the images of some of his inventions or the design of it made part of the book. This was especially true when they were describing the phonograph.

On the whole, this is a fine read about Edison, I got to know a few things about him which I didn’t know in the past (such as his role in revolutionising the film industry). I would award the book a rating of six on ten.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,
Andy
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