One or two books for Christmas …

Jane and I are just back from an overnight visit to the Scottish Borders, where we spent a lovely Christmas Day (from about 14:00 onwards) at my Mum’s in Selkirk. Today we drove over to Galashiels to visit Mum’s cousin for our annual family get-together (the Saunders’, Brodies, Brydons and Auntie Jasmine). Good company, good food, and silly party games.

I took a couple of books down with me to Selkirk (I like to read while I’m away) but there was really no need as I received the following as presents:

Sight Unseen
by Robert Goddard

Cover of Sight Unseen by Robert Goddard shows a row of standing stones stretching out into the distance, on a hazy day. There are trees on the horizon

Although I don’t read that many novels, (I’m more into non-fiction: theology, manuals, technical books, grammar, etc.) I find Robert Goddard to be an excellent storyteller. His stories have more twists and turns than … well, Designing with Web Standards by Jeffery Zeldman for at start!

“Exhibits his mastery of plot, tension and action” – Marcel Berlins, The Times

“A typically taut tale of wrecked lives, family tragedy, historical quirks and moral consequences” – The Times

“A supberbly plotted thriller with an astonishing but totally satisfying climax” – Good Book Guide

I look forward to reading that one.

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? – The Encyclopedia of Modern Life
by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur

Cover of Is it just me or is everything shit? shows a British road sign

This was a bit of a surprise gift, especially given the title. It’s basically a 277-page rant about everything from, and I quote: “Adult editions of children’s books” to “Z-list celebrities as fuckwit pundits”. On the way it takes in Crazy Frog, Designer Baby Clothes, Jimmy Carr and Coach trips to Shopping Centres.

Since you’re probably wanting an example, and given that even in this household the words “Rant” and “Crazy Frog” have been known to go hand-in-hand here’s what these cultural critics have to say about the original “Annoying Thing“:

My issue is this: why did he have to have a cock?

During the frog reproductive process, the male graps the female’s body in a special embrace called amplexus. The female releases eggs, usually into water, and the male sheds sperm over them from an opening called the cloaca. As no penetration occurs, the male frog has no need for external sex glands.

So, I’ll ask the question again: why did he have to have a cock?

See: educational too! Thankfully “blogging” isn’t mentioned, so I’ll continue…

Does Anything Eat Wasps? and 101 Other Questions
by New Scientist

Cover of Does Anything Eat Wasps? shows a frog on a lilly pad catching a wasp with its tongue

Another book of facts for my collection; I love books like this. These are compiled from the New Scientist magazine’s questions and answers from the popular “Last Word” column. I know that because it’s printed on the cover.

The book is divided up into eight broad categories:

  1. Our bodies
  2. Plants and animals
  3. Domestic science
  4. Our universe
  5. Our planet
  6. Weird weather
  7. Troublesome transport
  8. Best of the rest

Today I’ve learned about the bubbles in the head of a pint of Guinness, fossils, poison and how fat you’d have to be to be bullet-proof.

And yes, there are loads of creatures that eat wasps.

The Pythons’ Autobiography By The Pythons
by The Pythons

The Pythons' Autobiography By The Pythons

A few days ago Jane came through to my study and was looking at the books on my bookcase.

“Do you have the Monty Python autobiography,” she asked.
“No. I do have the history of Monty Python, however.” said I. “Why?”
“Oh, someone from work was wanting to read it, and I said that I thought you had it,” lied Jane.

‘Someone from work’ wasn’t wanting to borrow it: Jane was trying to determine whether I had it because my brother and his wife wanted to buy it for my Christmas present. Which is what they did, because I now do have it.

I wonder if anyone from her work would like to read it now, because it’s going to be a couple of months before I get round to reading it now.

Great Lies to Tell Small Kids
by Andy Riley

Great Lies to Tell Small Kids book cover
This book I thought would make an excellent present for my brother Eddie, who’s wife is due to deliver her baby any time now. Great lies to tell children … such as:

Every June Scotland is towed 1,000 miles south so it can have a summer. Only 10% of people in Scotland know this.

If only! Actually, this is true: did you know that Scotland has a designated Rain Season? It begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December.

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Selected and Written by 90 Leading International Critics

Cover for 1001 Albums: You Must Hear Before You Die Jane was quick to point out that the title of this book is 1001 Albums You Must HEAR Before You Die and not 1001 Albums You Must BUY Before You Die.

I’ve been quickly flicking through the book these last couple of days and sounding like a kid in the playground trading football stickers with his mates: Got … got … got … not got … got … NEEEEED!!

The book is arranged into decades: 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. Oddly, pages 105 – 120 are missing. Perhaps I’ll never know who sits between Captain Beefheart and Donovan, which is quite a leap in my experience of 60s music. The only Captain Beefheart I have is on Frank Zappa’s excellent Hot Rats album, which, incidentally, is also listed here.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

One thought on “One or two books for Christmas …”

  1. ‘Is It Just Me…’ sounds like the coolest book ever written – going to have to get that one.

    I’m currently writing a follow up to the last one called ‘1001 Black Metal band’s MySpace pages you MUST see before you die (laughing)’

    death to false metal!


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