Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Yoga for Athletes

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020 | Books

Yoga for Athletes is a book by Ryanne Cunningham. It provides an introduction to yoga and makes some suggestions as to how athletes can use yoga. But, to be honest, it all felt pretty vague. More like a general book of yoga with a nod given to the idea that the reader may also be an athlete and that yoga could be useful for that.

The various poses are explained, but not in a manner I found completely clear. The routines may be more useful, but only make up a few pages at the back of the book.

Content Inc.

Saturday, March 21st, 2020 | Books

Content Inc. is a book by Joe Pulizzi. In it, Pulizzi makes the case that you can build a business using a content model in which you begin by providing your audience with lots of useful content, and once the audience grows you figure out what to sell them.

It is a long-term gain. Pulizzi suggests you need to do producing regular content for 12-months before you will have a sufficient audience and understanding of the marketplace to bring in the dough. But once achieve this, it should rain down.

There is a tonne of useful information here for building a content-based business and it gels with a lot of what the internet marketing industry is talking about. Definitely worth a read if you want to make money from online publishing.

Irongran

Friday, March 20th, 2020 | Books

Irongran: How Keeping Fit Taught Me that Growing Older Needn’t Mean Slowing Down is a book by Eddie Brocklesby. She started running in her 50s, took up triathlon in her 60s, and holds the record of the oldest British woman to finish an Ironman, aged 74.

In her biography, she shares her story of how she got involved in endurance sports, went on to found the charity Silverfit, an organisation dedicated to getting older people active, and the many Ironmans she has done. I lost count but I am pretty sure she has finished at least five: Lanzarote twice, Kona, Vichy and Cozumel.

It’s not a rags-to-riches story. She starts by talking about her grandmother who was Winston Churchill’s private cook. But throughout the book, she shows a high level of self-awareness about her opportunities and ability to afford what all of us in triathlon must surely admit is an expensive sport.

Some of the story seems like a sharp contrast. For example, she says she is not well organised. And yet managed to maintain a career, running Silverfit and Ironman training: all things which sound like they need a lot of organisation. Similarly, it’s not like she never got off the couch before 50 as she did play netball competitively, although it is true that she never tried endurance sport until later in life.

Overall, it is a fun and inspiring read.

Mike Reilly Finding My Voice

Monday, March 9th, 2020 | Books

Mike Reilly is a famous race announcer. It is not a field you would usually find celebrities. However, Reilly’s consistent appearances at the Ironman World Championship since 1989, and his having coined the phrase “you are an Ironman” as athletes cross the finish line, mean that many triathletes dream of having Reilly call them across the line. In this book, he tells tales from year decades of race announcing.

It’s a fun book. Sort of. I mean that in an “it’s a good collection of stories” way, as opposed to a book you are going to learn anything about triathlon from. Which is fine, because it doesn’t promise to be anything else.

That said, it is not as fun as it could be. Naturally, Reilly tells inspirational stories about amputees who have completed Kona, horrific accidents people have come back from, and the adversity so many people overcome to complete the greeted one-day sporting challenge there is.

But, to be honest, there is only so many tales of horrible things happening to people, like accidents, cancer, and myriad unlucky turns that, at times, the book becomes depressing.

Reilly’s passion for announcing shines through, though. He is a fellow Toastmaster, and while other people wonder how he can stay passionate for 17 hours of racing, I had no problem understanding how he becomes more energised and more excited the longer the night goes on.

The audiobook version is read by Reilly himself.

Copenhagen

Monday, October 28th, 2019 | Books, Food

Copenhagen Food is a cookbook by Trine Hahnemann. This book looks beautiful and demonstrates a lot of plain but tasty Nordic cuisine. But that said, I have only made a couple of recipes from it, even though I went through and indexed all of the ones I wanted to try.

Prawns will and homemade mayo is the only recipe I regularly use, which is like twice a year. The only modification to the mayo I have made is to add a little bit of lemon.

Since then, it has languished on my sideboard waiting for a review, which I have not written because I did not really know what to say. So, this is me saying very little.

In fairness, it is titled Copenhagen Food: Stories, traditions and recipes, so the sparsity of recipes is clear from the title.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 | Books

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a non-fiction book by Yuval Noah Harari.

It is the most interesting book I have read in a long time. I was ignorant of a lot of early human history. For example, I thought that homo erectus was an earlier stage of human evolution, rather than a different species of humans that sapiens killed off (or possibly interbred with).

Much of it I kind of had an idea about but it was fascinating to see it all laid out. Humans used to be in the middle of the food chain. But, 100,00 years ago, we began to hunt large game. Around 30,000-70,000 is what Harari calls the cognitive revolution. Language developed in humans alone, despite other species (parrots, whales, elephants) being able to make a large variety of sounds, too.

15,000 years ago we domesticated dogs, which is the only real evidence you need in the dogs vs cats debate. Dogs are our friends.

Whether sapiens went, we caused destruction. Australia and North America had a large variety of large mammals, for example. We killed and ate them all. This wasn’t modern man: this was the first peoples of these continents. In comparison, horses, which are often seen as an integral part of Native American life, were only introduced to America by European settlers.

The next milestone was the agricultural revolution. This wasn’t the first time we saw permanent settlements: fishing villages existed before this. But the change to agriculture meant an end of the hunter-gatherer way of life. It wasn’t a happy one: gathering is easy and produces a rich diet. Agriculture produces a poor monotonous diet and increases our workload from 30 hours per week to 40+. But it also supports more people and so the trap quickly closed shut.

Harari argues that much of culture is arbitrary: why did one religion win out, or one group of people come to dominate another? Luck, mostly. The only thing that seems to recur independently is patriarchy. We don’t know why this, but many of the reasons you may think of are deconstructed and thrown out in the book.

The author also argues that almost everything is a religion. Religions, of course, but also Humanism, and Communism, and Capitalism.

The third milestone was the scientific revolution. Although technology occasionally improved in the ancient and classical worlds, it was mostly by luck. The Romans did not have amazing technology: they were just better organised. It was only in the 16th century that the idea of experimentation and improving things just to see what was possible sprung up in Western Europe. For the first time, we started drawing maps with blank spaces in. Until then, it was assumed we already knew everything.

Until this point, Western Europe was entirely unimportant. The Middle East had been the centre of civilization for thousands of years and the economic powerhouses of the world were China and India. But embracing science and technology gave the West a huge leg up. In just a few hundred years, Western Europe came to dominate the world, and to become much richer than Asia.

Harari then turns his attention to capitalism, describing the way that states and markets have replaced families and communities. Arguably, capitalism has caused more depths than any other ideology: National Socialism and Communism killed people on purpose. But capitalism, with the slave trade, Bengal famine, etc, has killed far, far more people due to cold indifference.

All in all, this is a fascinating read. Drop what you are doing and go read it now.

Rick Stein: The Road to Mexico

Sunday, May 19th, 2019 | Books, Food

Rick Stein: The Road to Mexico is a cookbook by Rick Stein that draws on recipes from the Southern United States (California area) and Mexico.

There are a lot of good recipes in here. That said, I never found the motivation to make a lot of the seafood dishes, instead opting for the easy taco options that I could make by marinating a meat of my choice and wrapping it up in tortillas.

I also made some salsa and guacamole, so we tended to do several days of tacos in a row so that I could make one big batch and enjoy it while it was still fresh.

12 Rules for Life

Friday, May 17th, 2019 | Books

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is a book by Jordan B. Peterson.

He’s a controversial figure and I’ve written about this before. I can’t really work him out. He says some thought-provoking things and a lot of people who I respect have a lot of time for him. However, he also says a lot of silly things and digs himself into holes. Some would argue that people are misinterpreting him. But he makes a huge deal out of picking your words carefully, so saying he has been misinterpreted seems a feeble defence.

In any case, I read the book. He wrote a more academic book, Maps of Meaning and openly talks about the lessons he learnt from that, making this one a more popular and accessible read. That said, it’s not for those with a lack of concentration. There is a lot of philosophy in here and he doesn’t always do a good job of explaining what he means. Other parts are just a ramble.

He talks about hierarchies and how they are inescapable. Why? Because lobsters have them. And we’re only very distantly related to lobsters. Which is true. But then we also see a lot of rape and killing in the animal kingdom. Should we also accept these things are inevitable and just live with it? I see no such reason to be pessimistic. Society has been an incredibly powerful tool in overcoming these evils. Of course, we should strive to find a way that is compatible with human nature rather than fighting against it. But we often already do this.

Many of his rules I am on board with. Telling the truth, even when hard, is something I strive for. Sam Harris makes a similar argument in Lying. Pursuing what is meaningful in the long-term is another great rule. And assuming the person you are talking to knows something you don’t is good advice for anyone who doesn’t want to look really stupid at a later point in the conversation.

I think this is a book for fans. Peterson rose to prominence because he sticks by the evidence, even when the left tried to make that politically unsayable. And he continues to do that in this book. But he goes beyond that into ideology. And in a way so complicated that you have to like him to bother to keep reading.

Dietland

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 | Books

Dietland is a novel by Sarai Walker. It follows the adventure of an overweight protagonist as she explores the weight loss industry and has since been made into a TV series.

I tried to give it a good go but ultimately I couldn’t get into it. As an observational piece on the way society treats overweight people, it is very astute. However, as a piece of storytelling, it’s not so good and seemed to walk the line between a real-world novel and fantasy reality in a way that really jarred with me. I couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief.

Slow Cook Book

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018 | Books, Food

The Slow Cook Book is a cookbook by Heather Whinney. It contains hundreds of recipes and all of them come with instructions for how to do it in a slow cooker, or using a more traditional method. This feature is great when you forget to put your slow cooker on and need to cook your dinner in a lot less time.

Some of the recipes are a little involved: there is 15-20 minutes of prep and pre-cooking in a pan before you put it into the cooker. However, once you get used to this and plan for it, it’s not too much hassle and comes in a predictable format.

The recipes are tasty. However, as is a problem with most slow cooker recipes, they tend to be very liquidy. And there is a lot of them. We’ve been doing one a week for probably over a year and still haven’t got the end.