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Reviews

Books of the year

Have you got any idea just how many books you've missed out on this year? Loads, that's how many, from new directions in linguistic anthropology to introductions to gel electrophoresis, via searing endictments of more or  less everything.  Almost any would have left you a better informed, and in fact better person than you are. For shame! Thankfully, there may still be time to catch up. Once again, friends and family of Third Way have come to your rescue with a reading list for the year. Get busy. There will be a test in the March issue.


Blood Knots
Luke Jennings
Atlantic ISBN: 9781596270428
Third Way bookshop price £11.70 (RRP £12.99)

RJennings.jpgBlood Knots is the improbable but easy favourite of the year. It's a tender, voluptuous, and compellingly readable book about fishing, childhood, and our Jungian reliance on the unknown: the unknown below the surface of ourselves, our parents, things in general, and English ponds. I read it with mounting excitement on a slow, rattling train from Dorset, and when I got home raced straight upstairs to write a gushingly un-English email to Jennings (something I just don't do), and to dust 20 years worth of dust from a pike rod.
Charles Foster



A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix
Edwin H. Friedman
Seabury Books ISBN: 9781596270428
Third Way bookshop price £18 (RRP £19.99)

RFriedman.jpgThis is the most exciting and insightful book on leadership I have ever read. Friedman was an academic and practitioner for over 40 years working in the understanding of religious, family, educational, therapeutic and business systems. He identified a common thread running through them - the symptoms of chronic anxiety.  His fascinating and perceptive analysis of how to overcome this debilitating dynamic makes this book a must-read for everyone, regardless of their profession, who wishes to maximise their own potential, as well as for every parent, priest, politician and CEO.  
     Two brilliant quotes from the book:  'People cannot hear you unless they are moving toward you, which means that as long as you are in a pursuing or rescuing position, your message will never catch up, no matter how eloquently or repeatedly you articulate your ideas.'
    'The children who work through the natural difficulties of growing up with the least amount of difficulty are those whose parents made them least important to their own salvation.' 
Christina Rees


God Doesn't Do Waste
Dave Bookless
Penguin ISBN: 9780141036250
Third Way bookshop price £9 (RRP £9.99)

RBookless.jpgTwo years ago, Dave Bookless, an Anglican priest and one-time vicar of a multicultural parish in west London, fused together in a very readable paperback (Planetwise) his understanding of environmental problems with the Bible mandate for creation care. He has now put a frame round his earlier book, telling, warts and all,  the story of his personal journey (collecting on the way a wife and four children). God Doesn't Do Waste starts with tipping the Bookless holiday rubbish into the sea, travels over an erupting range of challenging personal and family switchbacks and ends with the exciting global reality of A Rocha, Christians in Conservation.  An easy but very worthwhile read.
RJ Berry


On Roads: A hidden history
Joe Moran
Profile ISBN: 9781846680601
Third Way bookshop price £18.10 (RRP £8.99)

RMoran.jpgJoe Moran is a cultural historian who specializes in writing about the significance of ordinary, everyday things like kettles and Ken Barlow. This could be dull, or pretentious (most writers in this field are French philosophers), but isn't - not least because Moran writes beautifully, with lyricism, wit and warmth.  
    On Roads, his social history of Britain's post-war road system, is a minor miracle, transforming the mundane (ie tarmac) into something profoundly meaningful. In particular, he maps our once-blossoming but soon-blighted romance with motorways, devoting whole chapters to the human story behind the font used on blue signs, for example, or the invisible temptations of the Travelodge.    
    Along the way, you discover all sorts of useful stuff, such as how many Mills and Boon novels were used to build the M6, or which stretches of bypass are now haunted by spectral hitchhikers - each fact turning the blacktop into a murky mirror of British society.
    A deeper, funnier alternative to those 'Books of the Road' that people used to keep in their cars to enliven the dragging hours of motorway travel, On Roads sparkles like a Cat's Eye. Read with glee on holiday this summer, my copy is staying in the glovebox.  
Andrew Rumsey


­­Open: An autobiography
Andre Agassi.
HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007281428
Third Way bookshop price £18 (RRP £20)

RAgassi.jpg20 years ago, someone from Christians in Sport put it to me how nice it was to see two Christian lads, Agassi and Chang, battling it out on court. In this captivating account of a world-class sporting life, the record is set straight: '[Chang has] developed a bad habit since we last met. Every time he beats someone, he points to the sky. He thanks God - credits God - for the win, which offends me. That God should take sides in a tennis match, that God should side against me, that God should be in Chang's box feels ludicrous and insulting. I beat Chang and savour every blasphemous stroke.'
    Agassi's own faith seems talismanic. He designs a necklace with a gold pyramid with three hoops inside, each representing a member of the Trinity for his beloved trainer, Gill and has his own earring to match.
    But it is the circle of friends and family that support him that prove key. In the striking portrait on the book's cover Agassi's piercing brown eyes suggest a tale of grace but also his harrowing upbringing at the hands of a tyrannical father. The American sporting Dream goes hand in hand with a US Nightmare.­ Catherine von Ruhland

 

The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The four forgotten needs that energise great performance
Tony Schwartz
Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9780857200488
Third Way bookshop price £11.70 (RRP £12.99)

RSchwartz.jpgTime management doesn't work, argues Schwartz, because there's never enough time... Instead we should focus on energy. In this wonderful book he considers two things: how we expend our energy and how we renew it.
    Schwartz suggests four categories of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. In today's corporate culture we expect each other to work like computers, he argues - starting early and multitasking all day without a break until evening. But it's not sustainable, and 'performance' becomes 'survival' becomes 'burnout'.     
    Instead, we should remember and reconnect with how we were created to be: oscillatory beings, who live and move and have our being within a universe of natural rhythms, seasons and cycles. As we go, we must find time within our daily, weekly and monthly patterns to 'renew' ourselves. How do we get more done in less time and in the process fashion unforced rhythms of grace? There are many brilliant clues to be found within.
Brian Draper

­
Information is Beautiful
David McCandless
Collins ISBN: 9780007294664
Third Way bookshop price £18 (RRP £20)

This book describes itself as 'A series of experiments in making information approachable and beautiful'. Facts and statistics are presented in unusual and creative ways using a diverse selection of visual representations. Some of the diagrams are sobering (most endangered species, the remaining supplies of non-renewable materials). Others range from informative (relationships between countries in the Middle East, how psychotherapy works), to the more trivial (internet virals, salad dressing proportions). A book to make you think about a wide range of subjects,  and about how information is presented.
Dave Walker

 

Leviathan or, The Whale
Philip Hoare
Fourth Estate ISBN: 9780007230143
Third Way bookshop price £8.10 (RRP £8.99)

RHoare.jpgA schoolboy is fascinated by huge models of whales in the Natural History Museum and his fascination evolves into a lifelong passion for, or even obsession with these magnificent creatures. That passion is beautifully expressed in Leviathan in which Philip Hoare mingles history, folk-lore, biology and personal experience, interwoven throughout with references to Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Whale strandings, the whaling industry, the life of the whaler, whale migrations, whale life cycles, swimming with whales - they are all there, in a beautifully written text that compelled my attention from beginning to end. It is totally informative and fascinating, from time to time moving, from time to time humorous, and even quirky. I am very grateful to the friend who recommended it to me and without hesitation I pass on the recommendation.  And just in case you are wondering - this is not just a book for biologists. It has a very much wider appeal and indeed is a worthy winner of the BBC's Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.
John Bryant


Under the Sun: The letters of Bruce Chatwin
Edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare
Jonathan Cape ISBN: 9780224089890
Third Way bookshop price £22.50 (RRP £25)

Rchatwin.jpgWho reads Chatwin now? In his time (mid-70s to late-80s) he was fêted as a unique and brilliant travel writer-cum-novelist. Today he is largely forgotten. Yet his small oeuvre (five short books published in his lifetime, two short collections of essays afterwards) remain as intriguing and beautiful as ever. His selected letters reveal the best and the worst of the man. He was endlessly fascinated by ideas, deeply and widely read, inspired and affected by landscapes, sensitive to the spiritual. And yet he could also be monumentally selfish (his much put-upon wife emerges as a saint) and he was always more willing to complain about social or political problems than do anything about them. His renowned promiscuous homosexuality and subsequent of HIV Aids are largely silent in this volume (although his slow demise in the final chapter makes sorry reading). What is present, and well brought out by Shakespeare's thoughtful commentary, is his sheer fascination for life.
Nick Spencer


Etty: The letters and diaries of Etty Hillesum
Edited by Arnold Pomerans
Eerdmans
Not available from Third Way bookshop

RHillesum.jpgAt a whopping 800 pages, this book is still keeping me going. It's a captivating read not just because of the intimate view one gains of this secular Jewish woman dancing and wrestling with depression on her search for transformation, but because all of this is taking place against the backdrop of spiritual, political and cultural violence of Nazi invasion. It's an extraordinary story of her suffering being exquisitely transformed into spiritual hope and healing for others. Joanna Jepson


Work Less, Achieve More
Fergus O'Connell
Business Plus ISBN: 9780755318698
Third Way bookshop price £7.20 (RRP £7.99)

I'm not one for reading self-help books, especially not on public transport. I find the hassle of juggling both tome and notebook in which to scribble tasks from said tome most inconvenient. However this book was mercifully short and note scribbling optional. I am now fully capable of managing complex projects and staff, while setting up my own business and ensuring I leave on time. Unfortunately since my day job involves none of these things, I have not yet had the chance to put this theory into practice.
Hannah Kowszun

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