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I always struggle a little bit when reviewing non-fiction books because I guess you either accept the author’s point of view/thesis/whatever or you don’t. So this will no doubt be a bit waffly (why break the habit of a lifetime, I hear you cry)
So I’ve had this book for ages and just never got round to reading it until Silvery Dude mentioned that he had heard Malcom Gladwell speak at some work-related event and that it had been hugely interesting, and that was just the spur I needed to pull this off the shelf and have a go. But please note for the record this is not a Silvery Dude recommendation….
The Tipping Point tries to explain why some things just seem to take off in unplanned or inexplicable ways, and uses a whole range of examples to explain why that may be the case, from sexually transmitted diseases to preferences in footwear to children’s TV programmes.
And I must admit I found it all pretty persuasive – the idea that epidemics can occur in more than diseases (if that makes sense and I’m not sure that it does), the idea that there are certain types of people who can influence responses simply by the way they behave or their own particular personality traits, and so on – it all began to make sense.
But I have to confess that the thing that stuck with me the most took only a page to discuss, and that was the effect on your personality of the order in which you were born. Full disclosure here; I am the oldest of three born across a six-year spread. I’m the only girl and my youngest brother was born on my 6th birthday. I’m not bitter (actually I am still seething quietly 42 years later).
But that’s not the point (well it is the point but not for the purposes of this discussion). The actual point is that all my life I have read that being the oldest makes me naturally domineering and conservative. Which isn’t me at all (well, I don’t think so anyway). What Gladwell points out (from work done by another sociologist) is that this is only true within the actual family; when with others we are no more likely to behave that way than anyone else.
I was quite pleased to read this, and felt mildly vindicated. Though the Book God pointed out that this means that my bossiness must be rooted in something else.
An unhelpful statement at best.
So all in all this was a fascinating read, and like the best books dealing with cultural behaviour it all seems like common-sense when spelled out. But none the worse for that.
I can announce quite happily that my reading slump is finally over, but what that means is that I now have a nice stack of reviews for both here and the Screen God blog that I need to catch up on (grammatically incorrect I’m sure but too hot to think of an alternative).
But I have an excuse (I think) and it’s not my normal gosh-I’ve-been-so-busy-at-work-poor-little-me nonsense. No, this backlog is all because of a hectic social life which has seen lunches and cocktails and catching up with friends before they go on holiday all having taken place since last Sunday. There won’t be another week like it until Christmas, mark my words.
I like excuses like that, it sounds like I know how to have a good time. Which I do, I just don’t get the chance to do it all at once. Anyhow, enough of all this nonsense.
First on the review pile is the latest Christopher Fowler, namely Bryant & May off the Rails. Now, it isn’t that long ago since I read and reviewed the previous book in the series (see here) and I normally don’t read sequences close together because I’m always afraid that I will somehow lose interest, but in this case I was really keen to get my hands on this because the events follow on almost immediately from the previous story and I wanted to know what happens.
And it doesn’t disappoint, building on what’s gone before, developing the character of the enigmatic Mr Fox, and throwing in loads of absolutely fascinating information about the London Underground. As before, not going to discuss the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but as always I really, really enjoyed this. Not terribly eloquent as a review, but that just shows what too many Cosmopolitans can do to a woman; although I’m not entirely convinced that there is such a thing as too many Cosmopolitans, but that may be a Scottish thing.
And behind the curve as always, I discover that I’m one of the last to know that Mr Fowler has his own blog which is really worth reading; you can find it here.
So it’s a sunny if windy day here in London after a week of heat and humidity which I always find difficult to handle. And my usual summer grumpiness has arrived slightly earlier this year (I usually wait until August to feel annoyed with heat and my favourite people not being around and travelling on crowded public transport and all that jazz) but is not as intense as in previous years so I may just get through this OK (fingers crossed).
So my thoughts are turning to what I might read over July and August.
The latter is usually Crime Month and I will certainly be reading that sort of thing, but I had the thought that I might do some re-reading of old favourites in tandem with the murder/mayhem thing. Said thought was triggered by purchasing books for friends, a practice I’ve started in preference to lending things to people as (a) it takes the pressure off (no hurry to read the thing just to get it back to the owner) and (b) I don’t get twitchy wondering what’s happened to my precious, precious books.
I recently got Espedair Street by Iain Banks for Silvery Dude and Fifth Business by Robertson Davies for another good friend, the Semi-Scandinavian. So that’s two for the re-read pile, plus I want to read the sequence of four novels by AS Byatt that starts with The Virgin in the Garden, plus I want to re-read all my Laurie Colwin books (especially Family Happiness) and suddenly this look like it might be fun.
But I’m not giving any hostages to fortune so no lists will be posted, and you’ll just have to watch this space……..
I also have a small stack of reviews to catch up on (hurrah, actually managed to finish some books), so hopefully activity on the blog will pick up over the next wee while.