Books We Read in 2013 (Part 3)
2014 is nearly upon us! This week, the Icon Books team will be sharing with you two books that we’ve each enjoyed reading in 2013, including one book of our own. Let us know which books you’ve enjoyed this year in the comments or @iconbooks!
Michael (Sales Executive)
Far from a natural choice for me as someone who is still haunted by GCSE chemistry, 30-Second Elements, edited by Eric Scerri, made a previously intolerable subject appear interesting and, more impressively, relevant. I’d long felt that a bland curriculum had deprived me of some genuinely important knowledge and this book went a long way towards addressing that.
Aside from the beautiful illustrations and the brevity implied by the series title, two features stood out for me: the description of how individual elements came to be discovered and their early uses made it far easier to retain the knowledge because the elements ceased to be mere elements – much like those object-association techniques taught by memory experts, and each page comes with a related elements suggestion which directs you to two other similar pages, making sense of the practical relationships throughout the periodic table.
A fantastic read for novices and experts (I assume!) alike.
Where I Lived and What I Lived For by Henry David Thoreau was a book I’d been meaning to read for a long time and I’m so glad I finally did. Wilderness and travel writing have always appealed greatly to me, even more so in the past year as I’ve relocated to more urban surroundings. Naturally I’ve often come across Thoreau’s words in truncated form and with so many of my favourite authors finding value in his wisdom I thought it was high time I experienced it first-hand.
Where I Lived… is Thoreau’s account of how he came to live in his famous home beside Walden Pond, and the pains of societal living which moved him to do so. I’d argue that there is no place more fitting to read this book, lamenting the perils of urban living, than aboard a packed tube train. It’s almost as if Thoreau had anticipated the needling elbows in my back and the suitcase jutting into my shins as he wrote. He speaks with the authority and well-reasoned truths that leave you plotting what essentials to pack in your rucksack and Googling ‘cheap flights to Alaska’. Anyway, enough of that. Back to work…
Cracked by James Davies was the first book I worked on earlier this year and it was a jaw-dropping read to say the least. James Davies uses numerous studies and interviews with American and British leaders in the field to skilfully reveal the duplicitous and collusion of the Big Pharma, in the field of mental health. A MUST READ!
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood had been on my reading list for a long time and I finally was able to read it earlier this year. Published in 1939, it’s a collection of six overlapping short stories set against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Using his own experiences in Berlin as a basis for this novel, Isherwood (also the name of the main character) is a struggling writer describing his meetings with decadent, often doomed eccentrics, bohemians, and showgirls around him.
Goodbye to Berlin is a grim world where the decaying past is about to be transformed into a horrible future. It’s a period of transition, of change, and yet few people seem to see it coming and fail to recognise the significance. The title refers not just to Isherwood’s departure from a city he clearly loved, but also to the sense that the Berlin of the early thirties was irrecoverably destroyed by the rise of the Nazis.