BOOK REVIEW - HOW TO MURDER YOUR LIFE - CAT MARNELL

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As soon as I saw this on Netgalley I knew I needed it in my life. I absolutely love fashion magazines and just find the whole fashion industry intriguing (and often ridiculous). If you loved The Devil Wears Prada you will adore this real life version. I recently read Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman (UK Vogue Editor-in-Chief) and I thought that was juicy! How to Murder your Life is something else entirely; it’s totally off the charts.

The book charts Marnell’s journey from growing up with a dysfunctional family, tricking her psychiatrist father into giving her a ton of prescription drugs. She becomes an (almost) functional drug addict, working her way up to Beauty Editor at Lucky Magazine.

I absolutely flew through this book as it was like living in an alternative universe. My life could not be more different than this and couldn’t believe some of these things actually happen in real life! Not to make light of Marnell’s troubled life, this has everything from psychotic best friends, drug-fuelled celeb parties and eating disorders to weird sex and teen pregnancy.

I found it interesting that despite all the issues her drug use has caused (not including the impact on her health), Marnell continues to use drugs albeit in a much more liberal way.

For me, books are there to experience things that you wouldn’t otherwise; learn from other people’s experiences and mistakes. I am so grateful to Cat Marnell for sharing her story as it took me on a whirlwind adventure I will never forget. It sounds like she’s a lot more settled now and I hope she continues to have a calm but never-boring life.

BOOK REVIEW - ENTITLED : A CRITICAL HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ARISTOCRACY - CHRIS BRYANT

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A polemical history of the British ruling class and how they ended up owning our nation.

The full, shocking story of the British aristocracy, from Anglo-Saxon times until the present day.
Exploring the extraordinary and sometimes pernicious social and political dominance enjoyed by the British aristocracy over centuries, Entitled seeks to explain how a tiny number of noble families rose to such a position in the first place and reveals the often nefarious means they have employed to maintain their wealth, power and prestige. It examines the greed, ambition, jealousy and rivalry which drove local barons to compete with one another and aristocratic families to guard their inheritance with phenomenal determination. In telling their history, it introduces a cast of extraordinary characters: fierce warriors, rakish dandies, political dilettantes, charming eccentrics, arrogant snobs and criminals who got away with murder.

Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Entitled tells a riveting story of arrogance, corruption and greed, the defining characteristic of the British ruling class.

A brilliant book. Everyone should read it. Here we see how aristocratic landowners have done everything - including breaking the law - to ensure they hang on to their wealth and power. Even Labour governments, to their eternal shame, have not legislated to get rid of trusts that allow landowners to avoid inheritance tax nor have they done anything to remove the final 92 hereditary peers from the House of Lords - this means 92 people simply have to turn up each day to collect their £150-£300 daily attendance and then they can go home. And where are these homes? The answer is estates and farms that are hugely profitable and yet receive vast state handouts (landowners prefer to call them support payments) via the Common Agriculture Policy. The joke is that these wealthy individuals are Tories to a man and feel it is terrible that single mothers should be given £60 a week in benefits. Meanwhile the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Farms Estate, for example, received £913,517 in taxpayer's money (state handouts) in 2015-2016. This is money that goes to a family worth more than £9 billion. If it had been more widely known that these sorts of payments were and are being made I have a feeling the Brexit vote would have been even bigger.

BOOK REVIEW - AMERICAN RADICAL - TAMER ELNOURY with KEVIN MAURER

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The explosive memoir of a Muslim American FBI agent fighting terror from the inside

It's no secret that federal agencies are waging a broad, global war against terror. But for the first time in this memoir, an active Muslim American federal agent reveals his experience infiltrating and bringing down a terror cell in North America.

A longtime undercover agent, Tamer Elnoury joined an elite counterterrorism unit after September 11. Its express purpose is to gain the trust of terrorists whose goals are to take out as many Americans in as public and as devastating a way possible. It's a furious race against the clock for Tamer and his unit to stop them before they can implement their plans. Yet as new as this war still is, the techniques are as old as time: listen, record, and prove terrorist intent.

Due to his ongoing work for the FBI, Elnoury writes under a pseudonym. An Arabic-speaking Muslim American, a patriot, a hero: To many Americans, it will be a revelation that he and his team even exist, let alone the vital and dangerous work they do keeping all Americans safe.

Elnoury’s family immigrated to the US from Egypt when he was only four years old. He is a devout Muslim, but also a loyal American. From his early years, he wanted to be involved in police work and became an undercover agent in drug enforcement. From the stories early in the book, he must have been very good at it. 

Then 911 came. The author couldn’t believe his fellow Muslims would do this. He offered his services to the FBI, but at the time they were unable to take advantage of him. Years later, he met another FBI agent and this time, as a Muslim fluent in Arabic, they wanted to use him. He became Tamer Elnoury. The FBI created this individual and backstopped his identity. Under this cover, he brought down a terrorist network. 

If you enjoy police procedurals and spy stories, you’ll love this book. This is a real life thriller. The early chapters give insight into the undercover work in drug enforcement. The latter chapters are as exciting as a spy story, but they’re real. The writing is good and the action is non-stop.

This is an important book. It’s incontrovertible that Muslim radicals have done a great deal of harm in the world, but not all Muslims are radicals. The author is a devote Muslim who has risked his life to keep the rest of us safe. I recommend reading the epilogue. Elnoury makes a good case for why we should welcome Muslims into the country. All religions have adherents who use the sacred books to substantiate their own beliefs. That doesn’t equate to all members of a religious group being terrorists. 

I highly recommend this book. It’s an entertaining read and makes an important point for today’s world. 

BOOK REVIEW - YOU CAN'T SPELL AMERICA WITHOUT ME - ALEC BALDWIN & KURT ANDERSEN

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Political satire as deeper truth: Donald Trump's presidential memoir, as recorded by two world-renowned Trump scholars, and experts on greatness generally

"I have the best words, beautiful words, as everybody has been talking and talking about for a long time. Also? The best sentences and, what do you call them, paragraphs. My previous books were great and sold extremely, unbelievably well--even the ones by dishonest, disgusting so-called journalists. But those writers didn't understand Trump, because quite frankly they were major losers. People say if you want it done right you have to do it yourself, even when 'it' is a 'memoir.' So every word of this book was written by me, using a special advanced word processing system during the many, many nights I've been forced to stay alone in the White House--only me, just me, trust me, nobody helped. And it's all 100% true, so true--people are already saying it may be the truest book ever published. Enjoy."

Until Donald Trump publishes his account of his entire four or eight or one-and-a-half years in the White House, the definitive chronicle will be You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President.

He was elected because he was the most frank presidential candidate in history, a man always eager to tell the unvarnished truth about others' flaws as well as his own excellence. Now that refreshingly compulsive un-PC candor is applied to his time as leader of the free world. The mind-boggling private encounters with world leaders. The genius backroom strategy sessions with White House advisers. His triumphs over the dishonest news media. The historic, world-changing decisions -- many of them secret until now. What he really thinks of Melania and Ivanka and Jared, Donald Jr. and Eric and the other one. And many spectacular, historic, exclusive photographs of him in private and public, making America great again.

Presented by two of America's foremost Trump scholars, Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen.

Definitely 5 stars in a lot of places, but like most full-length parodies - think any SNL skit turned into a movie - it's hard to keep up that pace, and so ends up going on a little too long. But if you like the Baldwin sketches, you'll enjoy this overall, and probably laugh out loud more than a couple of times.

Not sure why, but I particularly got a kick out of the number of ways "Trump" mispronounced things - world leader's names, obviously, but also the various references to Ivanka and Jared being unavailable on weekends because they were observing Shabbat - or as he calls it, Shaboom, Shebang, Schmata, Schmo Robot, Shlimazel, and probably a few others.

Also some pretty funny if predictable running gags about Barron being his smartest child, his own daddy issues, his wanting to dump Melania, his not-so-latent racism and his barely-suppressed lust for Ivanka. And yes, admittedly childish and probably not for everyone - but anything that contributes to the world's overall mockery of this buffoon deserves our love and support.

BOOK REVIEW - HOTEL SCARFACE - ROBEN FARZAD

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First, I have to say I thought this book was going to be fiction. I had no idea that this was a true story account of the late 70's and early 80's in Coconut Grove Florida. I didn't understand before I started reading that The Mutiny was a real place and that the characters in the book were real people selling/doing drugs and living large during the early days of cocaine being imported into the US.

Way before Pablo Escobar stepped onto the seen in Miami there was a group of Cuban immigrants who imported and sold cocaine. They could be found any night of the week at the exclusive Mutiny Club. They did drugs, partied with prostitutes and threatened to kill each other. The story is told by waitresses, clients, drug dealers and cops who all hung out together at the Mutiny.

"Gomez was still convinced the Monkey would blow him away with a flick of his wrist. He imagined his head in a puddle of blood. But Morales rapidly tucked his semiautomatic back into his pants. His rival bolted, but Gomez didn't put away his revolver. 'Get the fuck out of here, Ricky!' he yelled to Morales, panting, almost hyperventilating. 'Try! If you even try to fucking come back...'" 

"'You know who you talking to?' shot back Morales, snarling. 'Do. You. Know?' He pulled back his coat to reveal a giant grenade on his belt. It was practically the size of a Florida avocado. The Monkey flashed a deranged grin and took his time walking out the front of the Mutiny."

Soon most of Miami, Florida and the east coast knew what cocaine was and they were all doing it. With such a huge demand there was room for lots of drug lords and they all chose to spend their free time in The Mutiny. Eating, drinking, doing drugs and plotting against each other.

"They were Miami's ruling drug lords. With bullets flying everywhere there at all hours of the day, the town was increasingly being called Dodge City. And so these guys were it's "cocaine cowboys" the Latin masterminds of the era's go-go wonder drug: yeyo, perch, toot, snow, white pony. Cocaine. And The Mutiny was their favorite saloon."

The more drugs were sold and the more cocaine was used the more paranoid the drug lords began to get. Soon they were all thinking about killing each other and being killed. They jockeyed for position as the reigning drug king. It didn't help when the movie Scarface was based on them and The Mutiny. They all thought they were the lead character and vied for roles in the movie.

"'It was a crazy time,' said Mollie. 'I knew Rudy and Carlene as friends. Then all of a sudden you had to pick sides. You never knew if they'd open fire in the club. Things felt like they were just coming to a head between them.'"

The era of decadence went on for years before law enforcement stepped in and began turning drug kings, their families and body guards into informants. Soon they were all ratting on each other and getting arrested. By the early 80's a lot of The Mutiny's regulars were in jail. Some of them even together!

As The Mutiny lost it's high rollers it began to go down hill. Soon the place was in disrepair. Finally they had to file for bankruptcy and the federal government seized the property. It was a sad ending for a place that saw Friday night net profits of $60,000 at one time. 

Hotel Scarface is a history lesson of how cocaine became popular in the US. It tells the story of a height of glory for the men who brought it here, the club they hung out in and then the demise of their way of life. 

The first half of this book was excellent. I could have done without some of the details in the middle, but was glad I continued to read so I got to see how the story ended. It was crazy to think about how easy it was to bring cocaine into the US during that time!

BOOK REVIEW - THE FOUR : The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google - SCOTT GALLOWAY

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‘The Four’ considers the enormous power accrued – for good and for (tax-avoiding, job-destroying, fake news-propagating) ill – by the big four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

This examination takes place at a very interesting time for, as author Scott Galloway makes abundantly clear, the only competition the Four face is from each other, and the race is now on between them to become the premier operating system.

The first half of the book looks at the history of retail and the business strategies of each of the Four (such as the inspired decision to transition Apple from a tech to a luxury brand and to move into retail), whilst the second half chiefly considers the Four’s relations with governments and competitors and suggests future trends. 

Galloway most definitely knows what he’s talking about. Now Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, he previously founded or co-founded nine firms, some of which foundered at the hands of the Four. These experiences have not embittered him. On the contrary, he writes not only with great insight but also with considerable humour, not least about the origins of our consumerist cravings.

In so doing, Galloway occasionally overstates his case, as when he writes that, “At its core, Apple fills two instinctual needs: to feel closer to God and be more attractive to the opposite sex.” The bald facts are already sufficiently astonishing - Apple has “a cash pile greater than the GDP of Denmark, the Russian stock market, and the market cap of Boeing, Airbus and Nike combined” - for there to be any need for this kind of hyperbole.

This book is by turns frightening and funny, depressing (on the demise of quality print journalism) and visionary (on the possibility of a tuition-free university). 

I cannot recommend it too highly, as it is both a superb eye-opener and an entertaining page-turner.

BOOK REVIEW - GIRL CODE : CARA ALWILL LEYBA

Rebel Editorial

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Seriously enjoyed this. I'm on a bit of a self development drive at the moment and reading as many books like this as I can, but this is one of my favourites by far. Maybe because it's written by a woman specifically for women, but it's just so empowering, and... nice! 

I've made a major shift in my life over the past year, distancing myself from people who bring me down, turning away from bitchiness and gossip and not engaging with haters. Instead I've surrounded myself with positive influences who support and encourage me, inspiring me every day to work harder and be a better me. I can't explain how much happier I am!

This book is geared towards female entrepreneurs or business women, and having been in an industry where women work together and SHARE without competition or judgement for the past year I can tell you that this book is right. We can be so much more when we work together. 

For non-entrepreneurs I do think it still applies though, it offers a lot of ideas on how to treat and be treated, attitudes and mindset, facing fears and being your own inspiration.

Only small criticism from me is the interviews that end each cjapter; they just got a bit repetitive for me. But otherwise I really enjoyed it and I LOVE the message

BOOK REVIEW - Why Aren't They Shouting?: A Banker's Tale of Change, Computers & Perpetual Crisis : Kevin Rodgers

Kevin Rodgers turned Deutsche Bank into the number one player in the global FX market. For many years Deutsche's FX business was the model for other ambitious banks and one of his bank's main sources of profit.

Given he helped create a multi-billion euro business it wold have been easy for Rodgers to have written a "Celebrity CEO" type book that simply recounted his successes. He has actually written a deeply insightful and honest book about his experiences, the mechanics of capital markets and the need for reform.

In the financial literature there are many great stories of investment banking heroes and villans or triumphs and disaster. There are also a great many useful technical books. "Why Aren't They Shouting?" is seemingly unique because it manages to both explain the mechanics of trading in an accessible way and also make it real, by drawing on his real life experiences.

The final chapter “Das Ende” contains an intelligent analysis of the problems of managing and regulating the highly complex organisations, that banks have evolved into. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not it will certainly make you think about the sector more clearly and challenge your assumptions.

This book is be particularly useful for both those who want a detailed understanding of FX markets or a broader understanding of markets and trading. I would strongly recommend it for anyone working in bank or a regulator, that does not have direct experience of working in the front office.

BOOK REVIEW - PHONE : WILL SELF

Phone is the witty and fast paced new novel from Will Self, a side-eyed look at the modern worlds of intelligence, warfare, and technology. The main focus is on Jonathan De’Ath, a spy known as ‘The Butcher’ to all who and know him, and his secret longterm lover, tank commander Gawain Thomas. The other thread of the narrative follows the recurring Self character Zach Busner, an aging psychiatrist, and his family, particularly his daughter-in-law Camilla and autistic grandson Ben. Self creates a riot of a ride, darkly comic and reference-heavy, in this novel about technology and life in the twenty first century.

The narrative hurtles full throttle in one direction, narrated by one character without room for pause, then screeches suddenly into a new point of view. This style - not unexpected to anyone aware of Self’s work - is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste, but it creates an obsessively-echoing and detailed novel full of parroting phrases and cultural references. Acronyms are written phonetically, making the proliferation of them in the modern day very apparent. The Butcher is a fantastic creation, a meticulous and twisted spook who ends up with a glaringly obvious Achilles’ heel, and his sections make for the most exciting reading. How his story has any connection to Busner, Camilla, and Ben is not apparent for much of the novel, but becomes apparent by the end in a satisfyingly fitting yet somewhat ambiguous way.

Phone will not appeal to everybody. However, its blend of exposing military and intelligence cover-ups, political and societal satire, dark comedy, and strangely intriguing characters is a success, leaving a novel that is an intense and unrelenting read, one that pulls the reader into its style and idiosyncrasies. Despite being a spook adept at hiding, Jonathan De’Ath is not easy to forget.

BOOK REVIEW - ED BALLS : SPEAKING OUT

By and large, I find politicians a rather scurrilous bunch. Too often, they're blessed with egos the size of a planet and once elected, they seem to be driven by ambition which will end to personal benefit, rather than political or public benefit. Occasionally, there's an exception to this sweeping generalisation and Ed Balls is an individual who seems to stand head and shoulders above many. The world of Westminster is the poorer without him.

This book is a delight. It feels as though it's written from the heart, with no agenda to poke fun at colleagues or gloat over others misfortune. He comes across as a genuinely decent guy, not one from a privileged background, but with family, personal and political values that are at the heart of everything he does. I love his passion for Norwich FC, I enjoyed his insight into fiscal planning, banking and the Exchange Rate Mechanism. His intellect shines through, but he's also a guy with a sense of humour, compassion and empathy. He struggled to overcome difficulties with public speaking and he's open and honest about his feelings.

He's generous in his assessment and account of some events in recent years, not least his own recent defeat. It was unexpected and clearly hurt, but the measure of the man is that he's moving on and whilst I'm not a fan of dancing shows, I can understand how he was drawn into taking part in this ludicrous public show! Why not? It's another of life's adventures and it won't be his last.

The book is divided into chapters which follow various themes, making it both entertaining and interesting. His written style is easy going, and he tackles some complex matters in a way that's easy to follow. Some great insights behind the scenes and a darn good read. One of the best 'political' memoirs.

BOOK REVIEW - GREAT BUILDINGS : THE WORLD'S ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES EXPLORED AND EXPLAINED (DK)

Dorling Kindersley have a well deserved reputation for producing reference books that are beautiful and stimulating. This guide to fifty-three of the World's greatest buildings is no different.

With full colour photographs and cutaway plans throughout, each building is shown clearly, in depth and with a good impression of its overall nature. Each building is pictured completely from a distance whilst something of its history and construction described in the text; each building is then examined in greater detail, in a photographic 'visual tour' which highlights and explains some of the more distinctive or important feature of each building. Those without great knowledge of architecture need not fear - all is explained simply and straight forwardly and in a way designed to help the general reader appreciate what makes each building special.

The buildings illustrated take us from the the earliest civilisations with the Great Pyramid in Egypt (around 2500 BC) to the MAXXI in Italy (built in 2010). Necessarily, this book is not a complete history of architecture, nor does it attempt to be. What it does do is illustrate some of the most iconic and important buildings still standing today. Memories of those that you might have visited are enhanced by being reminded of aspects of them and you might well gain an interest in going to those you haven't.

This is a book that is not only great to read or browse but also one that looks lovely and that you'll probably want to keep on your shelves for a good long time.

Recommended.

BOOK REVIEW - Volunteer : A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World (Lonely Planet)

Are you looking for a more meaningful travel experience? Do you want to give back to the communities you visit, make a genuine connection with locals, meet like-minded travellers and build your skills?

International volunteering opens up all these opportunities and this book has all the advice you need to get you there.

Much more than just a resource directory, Lonely Planet'sVolunteer is packed with invaluable information and full-colour inspiration to get you planning your perfect short- or long-term volunteer experience anywhere in the world - whether it's monitoring sea turtles in Greece, helping set up handicraft businesses in Ghana or building community centres in Guatemala!

Inside Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World:

159 organisations listed and reviewed
Opportunities on six continents, in 130 countries
Over 120 seasoned volunteers share experiences and top tips
Unique, user-friendly structure arranged by volunteering programme type
Fully illustrated with colour photographs of volunteers in action
Covers practicalities and raising money

Volunteering programmes included:

Conservation and wildlife
Agriculture and farming
Emergency and relief
Education and training
Authors: Lonely Planet

BOOK REVIEW - THE MEANING OF CRICKET : JON HOTTEN

Hotten loves cricket as I do. He was a very promising schoolboy player. His book is beautifully written and there are some jewels in its pages. The author regales us with facts about how much willow is used to make a bat, the type of willow, the legal width of a bat, the composition of the ball, the true length of a pitch when facing deliveries at over ninety miles an hour. He relates how the game is an obsession in India while in Ausralia it is embeded in the national psyche.

Hotten explains how cricket is an inscrutable game. It has very odd rules and conventions. It is a game that is seriously affected by the weather which is why it should never have been played here. In brief, as the author says, it is, like many of its adherents, eccentric. It is a game you love or hate, find mesmerizing or boring.

Hotten's book is also about the Gover Cricket School in Wandsworth, the various psychological aspects of the game, the numbers of people who watch the game and the cruelties of cricket. Regarding the latter, one error and you are out, one error and a batsman is not out. Apparently, suicide is not uncommon. It is 2.07% amongst Test players compared to an average of 1.07 in the general public.

Read about the fascinating experiment to demonstrate how a batsman needs to read visual clues from the bowler in order to hit a ball travelling at over 80 mph. Relish the statistics that reveal Brian Lara's genius, and learn how today's cricketers look different and train differently.

The author says he became hooked on the game after reading Peter Roebuck's diary of his 1983 season with Somerset. Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa in 2011.

Cricket lovers will find much to enjoy in this delightful account.

BOOK REVIEW - Final Girls by Riley Sager

I've read a few psychological thrillers lately, but this one really had me transfixed. It moves along at a startling pace, and has you wondering what happened, right up until the final few chapters and its startling conclusion. 

Quincy and five of her friends from college, have gone up a cabin for their friend Janelle's birthday weekend. It's meant to be a weekend of fun; hiking, cooking, drinking and partying. However, it all seems to go wrong when they go for a hike up to a rock at the top of the hill. On the return they spot someone outside the cabin. He's around their age and claims to have broken down. They invite him to join them as night is falling. After getting ready for dinner and eating, the partying commences. So does the nightmare. All of Quincy's friends are murdered that night, leaving her the sole survivor of the Pine Cottage Massacre. 

A few years before Pine Cottage, two other women - Lisa who survived a college sorority mass murder spree, and Sam, who was the only person to escape with her life after a massacre at a motel - also endured and survived horrible massacres. As they were the only survivors of similar situations, the press nicknamed them "The Final Girls". 

Eight years after the event, Quincy still has no memory of what happened that night, and is suffering from repressed memory syndrome. She's managed to start afresh and runs a successful baking blog, lives with her boyfriend Jeff, and has a guardian angel in the form of police officer Coop. Sam went off grid and Lisa was living a nice life in a small country town. This all changed the day Lisa was found dead. Now only two final girls remain. 

None of them had ever met, until one day, not long after Lisa's death, when Samantha turns up out of the blue on Quincy's doorstep. Sam seems intent on making Quincy remember what happened at Pine Cottage all those years ago. Which makes Quincy wonder what she really wants, and whether she's hiding something? When the media breaks new details about Lisa's death, Quincy starts to try to untangle the messy web of what Sam wants and where she's been, Lisa's death, and what actually happened that grim night at Pine Cottage. 

Final Girls is an intriguing, twisty and utterly compelling novel. It's extremely well written, with the characters slowly showing more sides to themselves, which pulls you further and further into the book. It's written from the first person point of view, apart from the chapters which flash back to the day leading up to the massacre and the following police interviews, which are in third person. 

It's an easy, yet gritty and brilliant read, which will see you flying through the chapters wanting to know more about what happened at the cabin that night. I ended up second guessing each character along the way, with the many turns the story takes. By the end of the book I felt like I had had the rug ripped out from underneath me; there are more than a few gasp out loud moments. Highly recommended to all fans of dark and suspenseful thrillers. 

Available from Ebury Books on July 11 2017.

BOOK REVIEW - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF FIFA : David Conn

I’ve just finished The Fall of the House of FIFA and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who needs a complete commentary of the state of the Federation over the last half century (albeit more detailed since the start of the 21st Century). David is a thoughtful journalist who has aggregated the publicly reported and documented chronology in an interesting and easy to digest way.

I was particularly impressed with the balanced reporting he afforded Blatter (interview in final chapter so won’t do plot spoiling). To that extent, the cover picture was a cheap shot over which I’m sure the author had no control.

As with all outsiders, he makes a comparison to his own childhood memories of World Cups in the 70s that included some of the contemporary protagonists, a love of football from an age of innocence that juxtaposes with the descent into decadence and corruption of those role models.

Horst Dassler doesn’t come out of this very well, but then any interview with Patrick Nally is likely to lean in that direction. Dassler didn’t invent bribery in sports but he lit the fire at the federative level in what would become intergenerational abuse of power.

If I can offer any criticism, it’s that it relies on the English language reporting quite heavily for reference and there is a small industry of FIFA-bashers that all work from roughly the same geography and the same agenda. Thomas Kistner of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung has been a particularly sharp thorn in the side of FIFA over the years as a for instance and has landed many stingers on Messrs Radmann and Abold as well.

Infantino is not the total reformer, he is the guy that comes before the great reformation but nobody can predict when this will happen and who will lead it so for now he's in charge and he's got to make the best of what he has. Turkeys and Christmas comparisons to be added here! As Conn points out, history will not be kind to Havelange or Blatter for some good reasons. There are many people who should be grateful to them (and even Dassler) for what they achieved in making Football the mass employer and maker of dreams that it is today. I think Conn leaves the door open to future writers and for that this book is to be commended.

As for ISL … you had to be there, man.

BOOK REVIEW - THE 37TH PARALLEL : BEN MEZRICH

I picked this one up because I felt like I was in the mood for a non-fiction book that was not related to politics or social issues in ANY way. And I thought, "Hey, aliens. That seems like it's pretty unrelated to that kinda stuff."

Here's what this is not: A solid narrative that answers the question, "Do aliens exist?"

Early on it's pretty clear that this is more a profile of a guy who becomes more and more interested in the question and into finding evidence of little green men.

So I find myself wondering...do I believe there are little green men?

Let's start with the belief I had before I started the book.

There is probably some form of life out there somewhere. Intelligent or not I couldn't have said, but it seems likely that in a universe with so many possibilities, and so little of it explored by us, that there's something out there. It seems MORE likely that there's nothing, but far from impossible, if you ask me.

Yes, I think there's some kind of life out there somewhere, and I still think that after reading this. It seems more than possible, especially if you consider the possibility that there are shades to the universe that we can't perceive. 

Now, AFTER reading the book, what's changed?

Well...not much. 

I think the most likely explanation is simple. When you decide that there are aliens and start looking for proof, basically, anything unexplained that happens goes into the "aliens are real" bucket. A helicopter flying over a given spot, cattle mutilations, black SUV following you home. When you're on the alien thing, all that seems related to aliens. But if you were, say, manufacturing drugs, then you'd probably put all those same things as being related to that somehow because it's what you're worried about.

Or think about it like this. You start to feel sick. You start googling your symptoms. And then whatever comes up, you start thinking, "Hey, I HAVE felt fatigued in addition to that other stuff. And come to think of it, my mucus MAY be a different color than normal."

In short, when you decide on the answer and then start looking for the questions afterward, it shouldn't be surprising that you end up finding questions that lead to your answer.

However, there is one difference in how I feel about paranormal shit.

I do feel like I'm a person who is one good sighting away from becoming a complete nut. Whether it be Bigfoot or a UFO, if something pushed me to the tipping point where I believed in something supernatural, then I don't really see any other way of life other than being completely consumed by that thing.

Which is a realization I came to from this book. It's not a pity thing. It's not like I feel bad for someone who investigates UFO sightings. It's that I think I can empathize with the idea of believing in something that, to most people, seems very crazy, and I can empathize with the idea of having to move forward knowing that something so important and life-changing that I've experienced will be met with skepticism forever. And the frustration of seeing parallel stuff (religious stuff comes to mind...) that is equally bizarre and unproven, and yet a churchgoer is a pillar of the community. Meanwhile, I'm a total nut for having similar beliefs (I believe there's something intelligent up in the sky that visits us occasionally, performs strange acts, and then vanishes without a trace).

And for now, I suppose that my belief isn't that there are little green men out there, but that there are unexplained things going on, and it's good to keep an eye out. Not because I want to blow the lid off some conspiracy or something, but because that's a more interesting world to live in.

BOOK REVIEW - Doughnut Economics : Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth writes accessibly and persuasively about how some of the basic assumptions and prescriptions of neoclassical economics and political economy need to change for us to have a socially just, environmentally sustainable, and thriving economy. Attuned to the central role that images/diagrams play in how economics is taught and understood, she came up with her "doughnut," a way to reflect the embeddness of the economy within society and within the environment. The "doughnut" inspires us to think about thriving--within given limits. 

Raworth's "seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist" are the following:
(1) Change the Goal (from GDP to the Doughnut)
(2) See the big picture (from a self-contained market to an embedded economy)
(3) Nurture human nature (from rational economic man to social adaptable humans)
(4) Get savvy with systems (from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity) 
(5) Design to distribute (from "growth will even it up again" to "distributive by design")
(6) Create to regenerate (from "growth will clean it up again" to "regenerative by design")
(7) Be agnostic about growth (from "growth addicted" to "growth agnostic")

Raworth cogently breaks down the failing of dominant economic theory and practice and weaves the history of the discipline into her narrative. Changing the way economics is taught at universities (and thus the mindsets of future business leaders and policymakers) is a tough task, but Raworth has the right passion and intellect. We should all hope that she succeeds.

It's rare when someone has the vision + the brains + the charisma to 1) challenge received wisdom, 2) offer a fully-formed alternative, and 3) explain it clearly & succinctly. I read about 30 "business" books a year cover to cover (have to for my work), and this is the most jaw-dropping one I've read in a long while. Whole-heartedly & whole-braintedly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW - Urban Cowboy : Magnus Walker

Magnus Walker is one of life’s originals. Serial entrepreneur, fashion designer, TV presenter, motivational speaker and one of the world’s most prolific Porsche collectors, the dreadlocked, tattooed hoarder of individual creativity is a very modern incarnation of idiosyncratic success.

Raised in the grim, urban decay of Thatcher’s Britain, Sheffield-born Magnus Walker left school with just two O levels and drifted for several years before buying a one-way ticket to America. Now, 30 years and three successful businesses later, by following his instincts, rejecting convention and pursuing his passions Magnus has succeeded against all the odds.

Here, for the first time, is the full story of his journey from a Northern steel town to the bright lights of Hollywood, from a boy with little hope to an anti-establishment hero. Along the way we’ll witness his potent combination of inspiration and graft, discover his motivations and his ambitions, and come to understand his philosophy and the keys to his success.

Inspiring and exhilarating, URBAN OUTLAW is a compelling tale of succeeding through pure instinct and determination by a man who was brave enough to follow his own path.

Magnus has got a lovely, easy to read conversational style. I would have liked him to expand on his track and racing days a bit more which were dismissed with a single paragraph. Perhaps his modesty prevented him.
I loved his story, very inspirational.

BOOK REVIEW - The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions : Jason Hickel

For decades we have been told a story about the divide between rich countries and poor countries. 

We have been told that development is working: that the global South is catching up to the North, that poverty has been cut in half over the past thirty years, and will be eradicated by 2030. It’s a comforting tale, and one that is endorsed by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations. But is it true?

Since 1960, the income gap between the North and South has roughly tripled in size. Today 4.3 billion people, 60 per cent of the world's population, live on less than $5 per day. Some 1 billion live on less than $1 a day. The richest eight people now control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world combined.

What is causing this growing divide? We are told that poverty is a natural phenomenon that can be fixed with aid. But in reality it is a political problem: poverty doesn’t just exist, it has been created.

Poor countries are poor because they are integrated into the global economic system on unequal terms. Aid only works to hide the deep patterns of wealth extraction that cause poverty and inequality in the first place: rigged trade deals, tax evasion, land grabs and the costs associated with climate change. The Divide tracks the evolution of this system, from the expeditions of Christopher Columbus in the 1490s to the international debt regime, which has allowed a handful of rich countries to effectively control economic policies in the rest of the world.

Because poverty is a political problem, it requires political solutions. The Divide offers a range of revelatory answers, but also explains that something much more radical is needed – a revolution in our way of thinking. Drawing on pioneering research, detailed analysis and years of first-hand experience, The Divide is a provocative, urgent and ultimately uplifting account of how the world works, and how it can change.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. An absolute must for all those curious about how the world got to be where it is today. Infinitely readable, and packed full of eye-opening facts about development, this book really helped me to rethink how poverty and inequality came to be. But better still, by taking us on a journey through the logic of colonialism and conquest, we come to understand the precipice of our own civilization and the threat of climate change. Hickel offers us hope by telling the story not only of what a better world might look like but how we might get there. Totally unmissable!

BOOK REVIEW - Chaos Monkeys : Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine - Antonio Garcia Martinez

I’m not a techie - I use a minimal amount of my smartphone’s many capabilities and survived the introduction of major technology into my chosen career with a bit of luck and much help from friends and colleagues – but I am interested in the business of technology. That’s to say, how the introduction of electronic technology has transformed industries I’ve known and worked in and how it has introduced new businesses I couldn’t have dreamt of when I began my working life. I know (or knew) little about Silicon Valley, other than an awareness that it’s the home of mega-companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple. So this ‘insider’ exposé, from a man who had worked his way up the ladder from launching his own start-up company to holding a prominent role at Facebook, seemed like the ideal place to commence my education.

Antonio Garcia Martinez quit his PhD studies in Physics to earn some lucre working for Goldman Sachs. His job was to model prices for credit derivatives (he explained this but I’d have to say it flew way over my head). After becoming disillusioned with banking he used his skill set to set up a new technology company in the field of advertising and after it’s sale to Twitter he took up a role within the Facebook hierarchy. By this stage he’d developed some expertise in linking data streams (e.g. Facebook’s own knowledge of it’s members and their personal internet browsing history) with which he hoped to leverage monetisation of the business through the improved ability to supply a more focused advertising approach. Well, that’s my own interpretation/understanding of what he was trying to achieve – in truth, one downside of this book is that there is a lot of technical language here with dozens of acronyms thrown in for good measure and consequently I’m sure his own one-liner on this would be much more colourful.

Aside from this, there is a good deal of interesting insight here. For instance, how new technology businesses are typically funded and how the entrepreneurs are ultimately rewarded for their efforts is explained in some detail. Also, the way in which online advertising has become increasingly targeted to individuals is brought to life. This is good stuff and it’s interspersed with the account of the author’s own life and experiences, though there’s not a lot on Martinez’s life outside of work simply because there wasn’t much life outside of his work. It’s clear that if you’re going to be a success in Silicon Valley then work is your life! There are some humorous moments too, but in truth these are few and far between.

Possibly the most interesting section for me was where he lifted the lid on the culture inside of Facebook. For instance, I didn’t know that meals were (and maybe still are) provided free to all workers - either as purely benevolent act on the part of the company or possibly to remove a reason for workers to head home or outside of the workplace for their next refuelling stop. And in the eager push to land new projects mantras such as ‘done is better than good’ and ‘perfect is the enemy of good’ were thrown about with abandon. 

Overall I enjoyed my time with this book. I do think that the tech-savvy reader/listener will extract more than I was able from this account but there was certainly enough here for non-techies like me too.