Category: Book

Book Review: The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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They may be yellow, and the voices in the first series may be unrecognisable to the point of rendering it unwatchable, but The Simpsons has raised a generation. As series followed series, subtly and subconsciously, Bart and Homer, Lisa, Maggie and Marge came to tease snippets of learning into the minds of all those laughing as Moe, once again, calls out for “Amanda Hugginkiss”

I grew up on The Simpsons and, in our house, they were a Sunday night staple. They were the soap opera of my childhood. Far-fetched, comedic and entertaining. But at their heart, behind the characters, lies academia. So often you hear people answer a question, recount a fact they shouldn’t realistically know and cite The Simpsons as the point of reference. I know I certainly have. The quality in The Simpsons is in its writing, its style, you learn by osmosis. You laugh and cry, enjoy and smile at their hilarity and misfortune, whilst all the time, learning. Read more

Book Review: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

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After I read Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, a book which in theory is one of the most famous tales involving a balloon, only to discover it actually doesn’t, I turned to social media to find me a true lighter than air tale. A few people suggested Mike Kendrick’s biography Thursday’s Child (which I’d already read), but mainly, people just pointed me towards Enduring Love by Ian McEwan.

I don’t exactly know why, but in my mind I had this idea of Enduring Love being a very old fashioned tale, maybe it’s the word “enduring” and the slow, step back from life it invokes when you hear it, but there was something that just made me feel cold towards the book. Before I’d even turned a page I didn’t expect to enjoy it and that niggling though had actually kept it in my “to read” pile longer than it otherwise would have. Read more

Book Review: Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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With my university psychology reading list having reverted back to its standard “textbook chapters and peer reviewed periodicals”, neither of which are really designed to be read over the morning porridge, I started to hunt for an alternative. How I came to discover Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her battle with anorexia and the contributing factors of a life under the Hollywood spotlight, I don’t know. I have an idea it was, once again, social media. But please don’t quote me.

I knew nothing about Portia de Rossi before I set about reading it. I couldn’t have described her appearance, told you her biography, or even her real name. It was purely her link to anorexia that drew me in; the same way it drew me in to Tina McGuff’s Seconds to Snap or Todd Tucker’s simplification of The Great Starvation Experiment. The fact she was famous was just context. Read more

Book Review: Children’s Minds by Margaret Donaldson

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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It’s fair to say that my Psychology department like a reading list, not quite as much as I imagine the English department do, but none-the-less, they like to suggest that you keep your head in a book; or more often than not, a journal article; drowning under monotonous descriptions of research methods and monochromatic walls of statistical data. Occasionally though the list will be kind, and an actual, proper book will appear, hidden amongst the periodicals and offering a chance to read something not formally structured or academically stifled.

Psychology, obviously, covers a vast array of topics and ideas. I have mentioned Neuroscience (the study of the physical structures and workings of the brain) in my review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and it’s a field that I find fascinating, but vast amount of psychological research and time is spent on developmental psychology. The study of children and how we grow to become the adults that live and exist as we do in society within specific social, cognitive and behavioural boundaries. Read more

Book Review: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat By Oliver Sacks

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I am 5 weeks into a psychology degree at the University of Reading and whilst there are various reasons why I have chosen to go “back to school” as it were, and study psychology specifically, I will keep the explanations for another time, after all, this is meant to be a book review. But, it was during my first ever Neuroscience lecture that Oliver Sacks entered my life. He appeared as a throw away remark at the bottom of a slide, mentioned briefly and forgotten quickly, as the lecturer orated her topic.

I, however, was coming to the end of Once Upon A List by Robin Gold, and was looking for something new to read and being in a excitatory mood and wanting to jump fully clothed into the deep end of my new subject, this seemed perfect. After all, whether you’re fascinated by the mind or not, a book entitled “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” should never be passed by! Read more

Book Review: Once Upon A List by Robin Gold

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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Whilst I was searching for images to adorn my review of What Milo Saw by Virginia MacGregor I stumbled across a photograph of a table covered in books, and before I’d notice the finer, important detail (all the books were German translations), I was instantly drawn to one cover with a picture of a hot air balloon on it. The fact it was titled in German meant it took a few google translations and searches later to turn up the original, Robin Gold’s Once Upon A List, but the mere decoration of a balloon was enough to make me decide to read it. I truly was judging the book by it’s cover because I had no idea what it was about and the only reason it had entered my life was that single image.

Having put it in the “To Read” pile in the online book store I actually um’d and ah’d for quite a while about reading it. For you see, the British cover doesn’t have a balloon on it, in fact it has a lady in pink wellington boots and blue skinny jeans walking a dog. It’s a very feminine cover. And I wondered if I was about to read a light and frivolous piece of “chic lit”. But a book’s and book, and a story’s a story right? Read more

Book Review: The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

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Over the past 12 months there has only been one answer if you’ve talked to anybody about psychological thrillers. It didn’t matter whether it was in literacy or cinematic form, want a story that will worm inside your mind and twist and warp and freak you out? Then Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the answer. I haven’t read the book, but I have seen the film (which is why I now won’t read the book as I know the twists), so when I wanted a psychological thriller to read myself, I started at Gone Girl and looked at the novels people recommended afterwards. The name coming up time and again was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

I knew nothing about it as I started reading, I purely went on the strength of a few recommendations and Google’s own comparison of: Rear Window meets Gone Girl – not that, that means anything as I’ve never heard of Rear Window! However, within the opening few pages, reading the first few lines and the prologue, my heart sank. I was expecting a dark, teasing story, keeping it’s secrets hidden until the end and suddenly, light was being thrown upon it. It felt as though the book wanted desperately to release the tension I wanted it to hold on to and I wondered, whether, by not skipping to the actual first page, I’d naively, spoiled the entire book. Read more

Book Review: Seconds To Snap by Tina McGuff

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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It’s slightlu hard to review a book that is, essentially, somebody’s life story. It’s difficult to dissect the truth or critique the story. A fictional narrative is easy, you can tear it apart, say which bits you liked, disliked, believed or found fanciful but with the truth that’s impossible. You have to ignore how the story moves from A to B. It has to solely rest on the emotion and feelings you draw instead.

Anorexia, strangely, have a competitive edge. I think it his partly because one of the personality traits that is mostly commonly found amongst suffers is perfectionism. You have to be the best and therefore, anything that challenges your idea that you are as good as possible at something needs to be disproved. As a result, suffers will often talk about triggers. How hearing stories about other’s battles with the illness has caused them to relapse, or to push on further. “If they can do it so can I”. Thankfully, that isn’t something that has ever affected me. I have never felt anorexia was a challenge or something to compare. I can read tales of suffers living on nothing but lettuce leaves and not feel bad that I eat more, in the same way I don’t wish I weighed less than I do because Tina McGuff managed to reach 6 stone. Read more

Book Review: The Humans by Matt Haig

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I wrote in my review of What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor that I follow a lot of writers on Twitter and, as a result, dip in and out of their literacy musings through the natural saturation of promotion they share. I spend so long flicking past tweets discussing, describing and advertising their books that I just become curious to the stories they hold. It’s like hearing constant background whispers, not really paying attention until one day, you just reach that point where you have to be let in on the secret. To know what’s being said.

I started following Matt Haig on Twitter after I read his semi-memoir Reasons To Stay Alive, which I found uplifting and enjoyable, if not overly engrossing. It is essentially a mission statement of what it means to be alive twisted through his own personal story about a battle with mental illness. But, before it though, he had dabbled with writing about mental illness by creating The Humans, a book that thinly veils the isolating bleakness of depression and what it means to recover from it by using the metaphor of an alien hiding on earth, adapting to the unknown stimulations of life. Of being Human. Read more

Book Review: What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Posted on by 5WC in Book
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When it comes to social media I am a far greater fan of Twitter than I am of Facebook. I have always felt that Facebook is somehow egotistical. That’s it’s “friends” structure forces a culture of boasting and voyeurism, whereas, Twitter is about engagement. It’s about finding people: friends, strangers, companies or brands, and talking, debating, listening. It’s not about showing off but rather, about sharing interests.

And it was Twitter that lead me to What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor. My interest in reading and my love of writing mean I like to follow authors on Twitter, whether it’s the obvious “big names” like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, or the smaller influences on my life like Matt Haig, they provide a constant source of interest with their tweets and it’s through them that I came to be following Virginia Macgregor. Read more