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Search tags: MbDNonFiction
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review 2018-07-23 08:46
Book Towns
Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises of the Printed Word - Alex Johnson

A travel itinerary for all bibliophiles, bound in hardcover for easy reference.

 

All kidding aside (if I am kidding), this is a gorgeous book filled with 3-4 page spreads on towns that have dedicated their existence, or tried to, to the joy and importance of the written word in all its forms.  Except digital.  Because digital is evil (now I'm definitely kidding.)

 

The bittersweet part of this is the success rate of some of the towns.  At least half, by my very loose and statistically inaccurate count, have struggled, or find themselves with far fewer bookshops than they started with.  Some of this is the natural atrophy of any business category; there are always those that failed to prepare themselves adequately for the roller coaster that is small business ownership, but the ever shifting market of bookselling and the control of the market by big business, of course, bears the brunt of responsibility.  

 

There are success stories too, and those success stories are significant.  Hay-on-Wye (my personal nirvana/paradise/heaven), Wigtown, and embarrassingly enough, Clunes here n Victoria.  The one that's only 90 minutes from my doorstep and I haven't been to yet!  Boy, is my face red.  Anyway - these towns as well as others all over the world are proof that the concept is important and chock full of possibilities.

 

Johnson does a good job generally, giving a solid overview of each town, featuring the shop names you hope are solvent enough to be around by the time the reader figures out how to get there. He even occasionally mentions (especially for the French towns) the concentration of languages shops focus on.  My only complaint is that I'd have liked this thoughtful touch to be more consistent.  At least one reader of this book does see it as a bucket list (me), and, while most of the towns in this book would stand on their aesthetic merits, it would be helpful to know whether I'd be unlikely to find much in the way of reading material if I'm to visit.

 

Definitely a book to put off reading if you're trying to avoid the travel itch.

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review 2018-07-20 06:40
The Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany
Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany - Paul Bangay,Cecilia Hewlett,Narelle McAuliffe

In 1967, while doing some shoring up of the outer walls surrounding the Pallazo Vaj, gorgeous frescoes from the 1400's were found hidden inside the wall (one assumes it was a double wall sort of thing).  This became the later inspiration for Monash University's restoration of the Pallazo's car park, back to the Renaissance garden it originally was.  This book is a chronicle, of sorts, of that "restoration".  Explanation of the quotes later.

 

First, let me say this book is gorgeous.  Beautiful in its construction, photography - all of it.   The writing was ... adequate.  Mostly written like University professors submitting committee reports, but on a subject so rich and interesting that, with the exception of one section, it's still easy reading.  (Not sure who Luke Morgan is, and I'm willing to bet he's a delightful, engaging person when he's at home, but his writing is nothing but pretentious gibberish.  I've read articles about quantum physicals that were less opaque and obscure.)

 

So, this book would make a lovely gift - but maybe not for a gardener.  The thing is, and this is my biggest disappointment, that while the book is beautiful, the garden is most decidedly not.  I realise beauty is entirely subjective, and I realise too that this garden needed to serve as a public space.  

 

But 80% of it is GRAVEL.  Hand to god, 80%. According to the book, there were only 4 types of plants used in the entire space: box (so. much. box), jasmine, magnolia and lemon.  Lovely plants, beautifully scented, but nothing else and EVERYTHING clipped to within an inch of its life.  Even the magnolias are forced into a Christmas tree shape.

 

This is the "restored" garden:

 

I'm pretty sure you could still use that as a car park, just sayin'. 

 

So, thus my rating.  Great book, decent writing, horrific garden.  Sorry Monash Uni, that's not a garden.

Source: www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj59sKQ-azcAhVQ7mEKHSyOBWcQjB16BAgBEAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fartsonline.monash.edu.au%2Fexpectations-in-healthcare-testing%2Fevents%2F
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review 2018-07-12 01:07
100 Books That Changed the World
100 Books That Changed The World - Scott Christianson,Colin Salter

I bought this on a whim, because it's just a gorgeous book, chock full of old book covers.  I figured I'd be interested in the contents too, of course, but was prepared, based on the title, for a lot of hyperbole.

 

Not so much really.  I'd say the editors did a fantastic job of choosing books that most people would agree significantly affected, if not changed, the course of society.  I enjoyed the narratives written for each one too; I learned at least a little something about each book, in spite of at least 95 of them being familiar to me already.

 

I knocked the rating back a little because some of the choices would have had a more localised influence than others (A Book of Mediterranean Food and The Cat in the Hat come most quickly to mind), and because there was a slight but noticeable political bias to the choices.  Whether that bias was the editors' or history's, I don't know, and I can't argue the impact most of these books had, so it's a pretty small quibble really.

 

A nice book for the bibliophile or the armchair historian who enjoys the trend of history through objects.

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review 2018-07-11 01:38
bookshelf
Bookshelf - Alex Johnson

Based on Alex Johnson's blog about bookshelves (theblogonthebookshelf.blogspot.com), this is a collection of the myriad styles of bookshelves as traditional cases, single shelves, furniture, and everything in between.  The hardcover edition is nicely bound and chock full of beautiful full-colour images of every piece, each with a website address for the particular designer.  At the back of the book is a further reading section listing book titles, articles and website links to related reading.

 

As a design book, it's great.  For a serious bibliophile constantly struggling for creative ways to defy the laws of physics, it's a fun book to flip through but rarely does it offer practical ideas (though there are a few gems) for anyone but those that have small collections or extraordinarily large houses.

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review 2018-07-08 08:52
A Book of Book Lists
A Book of Book Lists: A Bibliophile's Compendium - Alex Johnson

This was a lot of fun.  Johnson has compiled book lists, but not the usual "you must read" sort.  These are lists like Darwin's TBR, Oscar Wilde's bookshelf at Reading Gaol, the books on Scott's Discovery bookshelves (he had them in every room of the ship), books seen to be on Sheldon and Leonard's living room bookshelves in Big Bang Theory.  Fun stuff like that.

 

Some of the titles listed are no longer to be found (Henry III's books, for example; probably hard to find if not impossible, and expensive to boot), some of them don't exist (books never written list - how did The Giant Rat of Sumatra not make this list?), some have yet to be written (the future library), and some of them are all to readily available and might be the death of any reader's TBR.  Personally, I was doing pretty well until the very end, where he includes a list of books about books.  My kryptonite!  Aaahhhh... 

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