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On not having a reading resolution

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It's getting close to mid-January, so I'm guessing most of us have already broken a few of our resolutions. Skipped a morning run, for instance, or been passive-aggressive towards Janine in the
office because, surely, she knows what she's doing, right? God, I hate Janine.

I, too, have set a few resolutions, although I'm working more on the "I would like to..." rather than "I will..." model. That way, the focus is on what I actually want and would benefit from, not on some set of edicts that I'll automatically hate myself for breaking. It's a small semantic thing, but the pressure we place on ourselves is exactly why resolutions generally serve us so badly.

It's also the reason I'm not giving myself any reading resolutions this year. Ok, there's my World Cup Challenge, but that's more a way to guide my reading than some kind of expectation. I've seen a lot of people set themselves a number of books to read over 2018, and …

Like Father, Like Son(s)

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Collaborations are interesting beasts. As a reader (a Constant Reader, in this case), you find yourself looking for the seams, the evidence of two different writers with different voices and different ideas. To the credit of Sleeping Beauties, it's not immediately obvious where these borders are, which sections were written by Stephen King and which by his son Owen. In fact, this feels very much like a Stephen King novel, just with some of the sharper edges smoothed down. It'll be up to each CR to decide whether or not that's to their taste.
The story, weirdly, seems closer in tone to Joe Hill's The Fireman than King's more traditional horror. One morning, women stop waking up, instead becoming cocooned in a web-like mesh. If this covering is disturbed, the women turn murderously angry, lashing out before falling back into their sleep. As the world tries to come to terms with what's going on, the women of the small town of Dooling attempt to keep their eyes op…

We are all conspiracy theorists

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Rob Brotherton's Suspicious Minds is a book written for these turbulent times. When it seems like those on opposing ends of the political spectrum - Republican/Democrat, left/right, Leave/Remain - are incapable of taking each other seriously or of having a genuine discussion about issues, this book provides a much-needed insight into why we think and believe the things we do.

The trouble with a book about conspiracy theories, ironically, is that we are all going to read it with some preconceived ideas. We'll either already think that it's all crackpot nonsense from losers in tinfoil hats or that conspiracy theorists are the kind of people who have a healthy distrust of authority and the official line on things. As Brotherton shows, we're quite likely to come out of the book with these prejudices reinforced, possible even strengthened, as psychological quirks like confirmation bias come into play. We'll see what we want to see, put more emphasis on the evidence tha…

At each other's throats

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I really wanted to like Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. Although I'm a little young to have been part of the Riot Grrrl scene, the music of bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney was a big part of my late teens, so the idea of a history of the movement intrigued me. I wanted to hear the stories of the women involved, find out how teen-written zines inspired a generation to embrace the new wave of feminism, and get an insight into the inspiration behind some of my favourite music. Unfortunately, the true story is nowhere near as romantic as I'd hoped and, to Marcus's credit, she doesn't shy away from the ugly side of the Riot Grrrl scene.

Riot Grrrl had inspirational roots and was borne out of a genuine desire to address sexism within the punk movement and society in general. The earlier adopters worked to make gigs more open to women, particularly younger ones, both by getting them on stage but also making the crowd a …

Those who don't learn from history...

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I'm not the greatest fan of non-fiction. It's a personal failing. I'm totally unable to retain information so learning about something new is always followed by the frustration of not being able to remember any of the interesting trivia or fun anecdotes when I try to talk about it with someone else. I'll remember the feeling I had when reading the book, will retain a general impression of the topic and people involved, but don't even try to get anything specific from me. It's not how my brain works.
However, certain non-fiction books do manage to break through this barrier, and one of them was Sarah Bakewell's How To Live, about the French philosopher Montaigne and his teachings. Again, there's a lot (A LOT) that I can't properly remember, but the humour of the book, the uniqueness of Montaigne and his way of life, those sort of features stuck with me, so I was thrilled to see that Bakewell had turned her pen to a subject I know very little about: e…

5 star cooking

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Jamie Oliver gets an awful lot of abuse for championing family cooking and quality school meals for children. I do get some of the criticisms - he does seem unaware that easy and affordable access to certain products isn't universal; his 30- and 15-minute meals require quite a high level of skill to be realistic; his children do have terrible names - but it seems unfair to criticise a guy so heavily for trying his best to improve food and health for the wider population.

For his detractors, the idea of a set of recipes involving only five ingredients is likely to encourage an eye roll. Only five? Surely that means he'll expect a stacked cupboard of "essentials", like crushed unicorn horn and dragon roe? But no, Oliver also stresses only five essentials that are needed to supplement these recipes: salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. That doesn't seem so unreasonable, does it?

Which brings us to the second potential stumbling bloc…

Books to snuggle up with

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We've had the quintessential British summer (rain interspersed with shortlived heatwaves) and we've now moved into September and the slow, inevitable decline into winter. But it's not all doom and gloom! Autumn is perhaps the prettiest time of year, what with the falling leaves and the dwindling sun, but it also provides a wonderful excuse to cosy up in bed with a cuppa and a good book. Which begs the question, which new releases should we be saving our pennies for?

If you're like my dad, it's a good thriller that you want on a cold night. After the death of Stieg Larsson, David Lagercrantz stepped in to continue the Millennium series; a daunting task but one which he seems to have managed admirably. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye sees Lisbeth and Mikael back together for the fifth book in the series, and should be a gripping read throughout. The Girl... is published on 07/09 by Quercus.

Sometimes reading can be a great escape; sometimes it's needed to un…