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The World of Tides by William Thomson

3.5 out of 5 stars

In William Thomson’s first book, The Book of Tides,  he took us a journey around the coast of Britain exploring the sea and the tides of our country. But there is a whole world out there that is covered by ocean and in this book he sets out to introduce us to the most amazing places around the globe and their tides.

Ironically he begins in the places where there are no tides. Because of their specific geographical location. These points are called amphidromic and there are a dozen around the world, mostly in the middle of the oceans, apart from one around the coast of New Zealand. From this beginning, we will find the coasts with the greatest tidal ranges in the world, the most impressive and most deadly tidal bores, and the strongest whirlpools. He explains what happens when two oceans meet and what the immense forces can do to the seas at those points. There are chapters on Tsunami’s, rip tides and ocean currents.

Once again it is full of excellent infographics that explain clearly the way the part of the ocean that he is describing. It is a beautifully produced book, with the layout that worked so well in the first volume. If there was one flaw, I felt that there was a little too much overlap with his first UK based book, that said though, one. this is a great companion volume to that one.

Citizen Clem by John Bew


4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We have had some great politicians and Prime Ministers over the years and, how should I put this, some less than great ones too. Especially recently… Go back a few years though and you will find most political leaders of our country were also great statesmen too, working for the greater good of the country regardless of their particular hue of party. Several politicians spring to mind, but one that doesn’t often is Clement Richard Attlee. Born in 1883 in Putney to Henry Attlee and Ellen nee Watson, he was the seventh of eight children. He was educated at Northaw School, then Haileybury College; and before getting a degree in modern history from University College, Oxford. From there he trained as a barrister and worked at his father’s company and was called to the bar in 1906.

He served in The Great War, whilst his brother Tom was imprisoned for being a conscientious objector but was fortunate twice to escape heavy action that saw a lot of his regiment perish. The law was not where his passion lay though, having seen the poverty in the East End of London it inspired him to become politically active and he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1922 as the MP for Limehouse. Two years later he became a junior minister and a few years after that became a cabinet minister for the first time. Shortly after in 1931, the Labour Party were defeated in a general election, but Attlee held his seat. Four years later he was to become the leader of that party.

As tensions rose in Europe in the 1930s, he preferred pacifism and opposed rearmament, but was later to reverse his position. He became a strong critic of Chamberlain’s attempts to appease Hitler and Mussolini and after war broke out joined the war coalition serving under Churchill as Deputy Prime Minister. In 1945 after the end of the war in Europe the, coalition fractured and a general election was called.  Churchill expected to win, but he didn’t, and Attlee had a landslide victory.  His time as Prime Minister would prove to be the most progressive of all that held that position that century.

Bew has studied his subject in almost intimate detail and not just the written about the time that he spent as Prime Minister. The thorough research goes into the background that drove this fairly unassuming man to the political stance and outlook that he took consistently all his life. There are snippets and anecdotes that fill in the gaps from the official stories as well as lots of details from the life that he lived outside politics. It also goes some way to disproving the claim from those that opposed him that he had no intellectual or political footing, instead it shows a man of strong principles and rigor. For anyone with an interest in political history, this is a balanced and objective view of a man who should be considered the most radical PM of the 20th century.

Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.


Round One

In his training for the fight in a charity match at Madison Square Garden, McBee joined the Church Boxing Gym. It is in downtown Manhattan and in underground down several flights of stairs. There are several rings in the room and it is covered with posters of fighters long forgotten.  It is a place that oozes testosterone, echoes to the sound of people working out and sparring and the aroma of stale sweat permeates the place.


Round Two

Mangual and the other guys training him admired his energy and enthusiasm and were fully behind him for this match. Thomas Page McBee was learning how to punch, how to get hit, when to defend and when to strike. Every time he entered the ring he learnt a little more about what makes a man, what makes them resort to a physical way of dealing with issues and why some sorts of masculinity were toxic. But McBee had not been completely open with those training him; when they said he had balls facing the other guys in the ring, it turns out that he didn’t.


Round Three

Because McBee was trans.  After a lifetime of being, but not feeling female and having had surgery and testosterone and hormones that he started at the age of 30, he finally got a new birth certificate at the age of 31 declaring the sex he always knew he was. But there is more depth to this book than just his personal journey across the gender divide. He uses it to ask wider questions as to why men are as they are, how women’s perception of him changed and how culture and stereotypes should not always define who we are or who we aim to be.

The Wellcome Book Prize 10th Anniversary Blog Tour

Welcome to Halfman, Half Book, I am Paul Cheney. This is the first stop on the 10th Anniversary Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize. Launched in 2009, the prize celebrates the best new books that engage with an aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of literature. These exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction illuminate the many ways that health, medicine and illness touch our lives. Over the last decade, the prize has recognised an eclectic variety of titles from novels to memoirs to popular science. In 2019, the prize will celebrate this legacy and this extraordinary genre of books that add new meaning to life, death and everything in between.

Today I am going to be highlighting one of the books from 2009, the first year that the prize ran, Tormented Hope. First, though I will be talking about, Illness by Havi Carel.

What is illness? Is it a physiological dysfunction, a social label, or a way of experiencing the world? How do the physical, social, and emotional worlds of a person change when they become ill? Can there be well-being within illness?

In this remarkable and thought-provoking book, Havi Carel explores these questions by weaving together the personal story of her own illness with insights and reflections drawn from her work as a philosopher. Carel’s fresh approach to illness raises some uncomfortable questions about how we all – whether healthcare professionals or not – view the ill, challenging us to become more thoughtful. Illness unravels the tension between the universality of illness and its intensely private, often lonely, nature. It offers a new way of looking at a matter that affects every one of us.

Revised and updated throughout, the third edition of this groundbreaking volume includes a new chapter on organ transplantation. Illness: The Cry of the Flesh will prove essential reading to those studying philosophy, medical ethics, and medical anthropology, as well as those in the healthcare and medical professions. It will also be of interest to individuals who live with illness, and their friends and families.

My Review:

However, there are those that have long term, debilitating and life-shortening illnesses that affect them and their families in a multitude of ways. How does society as a whole consider those that are ill and how should we as individuals treat those that are ill.

Havi Carel is well placed to consider the impact of illness on an individual and the wider implications in society in her position as Professor of Philosophy at Bristol and as a long term sufferer of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM). This is a rare, progressive and systemic disease that typically results in cystic lung destruction and affects younger women.

Using the intimate knowledge of her own illness from when she began to realise that there was something wrong in 2004, learning about the illness with her father there, to details on the medical treatments that she needed. She is open about how some friends, family and medical practitioners have treated her since the diagnosis and when their care has succeeded and when it hasn’t. With the finely honed gaze of a philosopher and through the prism of phenomenology she is best placed to understand how and why people do the things that they do.

It is quite a profound book in lots of ways. Carel explores from a very personal perspective the feeling and emotions that come with severe and long term debilitating illness and gets to the very crux of the matter on how we need to treat those in those long term illnesses. Some of the more esoteric philosophy I didn’t really get the first time, so it will be worth a second read again on those sections. In my opinion, this is a brilliant companion volume to the book by Kathryn Mannix that was shortlisted last year, With The End In Mind, that explores different and more empathetic ways to treat people as they reach the end of their life.

Another book on the shortlist in 2009 was, Tormented Hope. 

In this, Brian Dillon looks at nine prominent hypochondriacs – James Boswell, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Paul Schreber, Alice James, Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould and Andy Warhol – and what their lives tell us about the way the mind works with, and against, the body. His findings are stimulating and surprising, and the stories he tells are often moving, sometimes hilarious, and always gripping. With a new afterword on Michael Jackson.

Brian Dillon’s first book, In the Dark Room, won the Irish Book Award for Non-fiction in 2006. He lives in Canterbury.

Please do come back later for a review of this book and thank you for stopping by today

Do find the other blogs and book lovers on social media as they talk about the books that have made the shortlists over the past decades

Find out more about the prize and the Wellcome Trust here:

Follow the hashtag too: #WBP2019


The longlist for the prize will be announced in February, the shortlist in march and the winner announced in April. Really looking forward to seeing what makes it on this year.

Elif Shafak, the award-winning author, is chair of the Wellcome Book Prize 2019 and is joined on the panel by Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospitals; Viv Groskop, writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian; Jon Day, writer, critic, and academic; and Rick Edwards, broadcaster and author.



Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award Shortlists

There are Lots of excellent books to read on these shortlists announced today. The scary thing is that I am an official judge for the Stanford Dolman list!:


Ottoman Odyssey: Travels through a Lost Empire by Alev Scott

Lights In The Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe by Daniel Trilling

The Rhine: Following Europe’s Greatest River from Amsterdam to the Alps by Ben Coates

Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days by Witold Szablowski (translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd Jones)

The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas

The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins


Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Ponti by Sharlene Teo

The Madonna of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

Woman At Sea by Catherine Poulain

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma


The Secret Surfer by Iain Gately

Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth

Up: My Life’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Ben Fogle and Marina Fogle, Mark Fisher (photographer)

Arabia: A Journey Through The Heart of the Middle East by Levison Wood

Around the World in 80 Days: My World Record Breaking Adventure by Mark Beaumont

Me, My Bike and a Street Dog Called Lucy by Ishbel Holmes


Destination: Planet Earth by Jo Nelson, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Alastair Humphreys’ Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphreys, illustrated by Kevin Ward

Explorers on Witch Mountain by Alex Bell

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World by Ben Handicott, illustrated by Lucy Letherland

Journeys by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Leo Hartas, Chris Chalik, Jon David and David Shephard

Maps of the United Kingdom by Rachel Dixon and Livi Gosling


The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands by Huw Lewis-Jones

The Hidden Tracks: Wanderlust – Hiking Adventures Off the Beaten Path by Cam Honan

Wonders: Spectacular Moments in Nature Photography by Rhonda Rubinstein and California Academy of Sciences

Maps of London and Beyond by Adam Dant, foreword by The Gentle Author

Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking and Touring Off-Road by Joshua Cunningham

The Golden Atlas: The Greatest Explorations, Quests and Discoveries on Maps by Simon & Schuster


Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Copenhagen Food: Stories, traditions and recipes by Trine Hahnemann, Photography by Columbus Leth

Shetland: Cooking on the Edge of the World by James & Tom Morton, Photography by Andy Sewell

Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes – Through Darkness and Light by Caroline Eden

Nightingales and Roses: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Maryam Sinaiee

Khazana: Saliha Mahmood Ahmed (Hodder & Stoughton) by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed


The Crossway by Guy Stagg

Step By Step by Jonathan Litton

Thinking on My Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Skybound: A Journey In Flight by Rebecca Loncraine

More details on this link:

The Dark Stuff by Donald S. Murray

4 out of 5 stars

Normally the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Dark Stuff is Guinness. What Murray thinks of though, is peat. This decomposed vegetable matter is formed on acidic and very wet ground, but when dried can then become fuel and is the strong scent in the delightful Islay whiskies. He had grown up with them in Scotland all around him and even fell in a few. But these moorlands that make up swathes of our uplands in our country and Ireland also exist in Europe and all around the world.

These moorlands have affected and influenced people for hundreds of years. Not only have they provided the fuel to heat and cook with, but they have been a focal point for ritual and darker matters in the past as well as inspiration for stories, art, poetry and folk tales. Murray takes us on a path through his own personal history of moors when growing up on the Isle of Lewis as well as peering into the murk to discover the cultural history and investigates the science and the crucial role they play in our climate. The challenge of keeping these fragile environments going and meeting the balance of economic needs of the local populations  is a difficult one given just how much carbon they are capable of storing

The book does weave around, just like the path that you would take through a bog, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of what Murray does here in telling us of his love for these places. There are fine illustrations from Douglas Robertson and a smattering of his own poems throughout the book which nicely adjusts the pace. Overall a fascinating book of a part of the landscape that is often overlooked.

The Beautiful Cure by Daniel Davis

3 out of 5 stars

Just being alive is a fight, but it is often a fight that you are unaware of until you feel a few degrees under and have a temperature.  That is the thing that keeps you alive working, your immune system. It is a complex marvel of nature and is something that scientist have really started getting to grips with, with painstaking research and a few lucky and intuitive breakthroughs. This new understanding of our immune system is now unlocking the keys to dramatically different approaches to our health and well being.

Daniel Davis is an expert in this field, and it shows in this book which is an in-depth look at the way that our bodies work in keeping us safe. He covers the history of our understanding of how they think it all works and brings us right up to date with the very latest discoveries. These are not only details on the very latest drug trials, but how lifestyle and mindfulness can play their part in our health and resilience against diseases. There is a long way to go, and there will no doubt be many more revelations as scientists delve deeper. It does have a strong narrative and Davis does mix the complex science with real-life stories. Even though most of it was clear, I did feel it got a bit too technical at times for me but the majority was straightforward to read.

Around the World in 80 Words by Paul Anthony Jones

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The United Kingdom has a habit of acquiring things from all around the world and keeping them; just take a look in any museum… But one of the things that we are very good at keeping is words and phrases, incorporating them into English and calling them our own. So far not many have objected, but how they ended up in the English language and where they came from is a story in its own right. Paul Anthony Jones is well placed to tell us too. He has chosen eighty well-known ones and is about to embark on an etymology world tour.

Starting in London with the Kent Street ejectment, Europe beckons where we will learn the origins of the phrases and words, zabernism, ampster, Abderian laughter and where the colour magenta is from. Nipping across the straits of Gibraltar, tangerines and Algerines enter the lexicon. It is bedlam in the Middle East and doolally in India, before reaching Xanadu in the Far East. There is a brief sojourn through the islands of the Pacific and then onto the Americas for yet more bunkum. Heading back over the pond is an opportunity to collect the final few words in this 70,000-mile tour de lexicon around the planet.

Paul Anthony Jones has written another cracker of a book for the lovers of words and language. There are scores of fascinating details on the words he has traced and much more from each location as we head around the globe with him. If you weren’t a word nerd before, reading this should make you one. It would have been nice to have a map showing the route round the world too.

2018 Books of the Year

2018 has been quite a year for reading really.  Went to two literary prize events, the Wellcome Prize and the Wainwright Prize, was a member of the official panel for the Young Writer award and got the briefest of mentions in the Sunday Times.

I reached the grand total of 200 books for the first time ever, and from those 200 I had twenty-one five star reads. I have featured eleven independent publishers on my blog too, each describing the unique way that they approach publishing books and finding authors who need to have a voice in this modern, multicultural country of ours. On to the books then.


First up are my fiction books. The Gallows Pole and  Beastings. They are both by Benjamin Myers and if you haven’t read them, then you need to read them as soon as possible.

I am an engineer in real life, and Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created The Modern World by Simon Winchester is a considered look at how almost everything that you touch or use has been created by engineers.

With The End In Mind by Kathryn Mannix is a book about a morbid and in modern society and almost taboo subject. This book needs to be read by many more people as Mannix shows that our last days on this planet need not be traumatic nor painful for the people that we are leaving behind.

I have never read Ring of Bright Water (have now got a copy, so it will be read at some point next year). Douglas Botting’s biography of  Gavin Maxwell tells the story of this man and holds no punches with regards to his attitude, flaws and brilliance.

I discovered Patrick Leigh Fermor a few years ago by accident after reading his biography by Artemis Cooper. I have since acquired most of his books and read a fair number of them. The biography of his wife is worth reading too, but I was delighted to receive a copy of The Photographs of Joan Leigh Fermor which is a celebration of her talents as a photographer. Edited and curated by Olivia Stewart & Ian Collins it should be an essential part of any Leigh Fermor’s fans library.


I read a lot of travel books and one essential place for the lover of travel writing to start is Eland. I have read several of theirs this year (and have a big pile still to read!!) but two that were outstanding were Forgotten Kingdom: Nine Years in Yunnan by Peter Goullart and Old Glory by Jonathan Raban. Both are brilliant books by two outstanding authors about two very different places.

Stanza Stones by Simon Armitage is a book about where poetry meets art and landscape. Just a thing of wonder.

I read a lot of natural history books as this is a subject that interests me. The natural world is a place of refuge for a lot of people now days and we all need to take time to get outdoors and walk through woodlands and sit by a river watching the water flow by. The Nature Fix by Florence Williams is a very well-written book with lots of examples of how the natural world can help people with mental health issues.


Two essential reads this year about the state of our natural world are Our Place by Mark Cocker and Wilding by Isabella Tree. The first is the perilous state that our wildlife is in at the moment and even though it is a polemic it should be compulsory reading by anyone with an interest in politics. Wilding is a different spin on the same crisis, in this Isabella tells the story of the decision to stop farming their land intensively and let their land revert to nature once again. They chose low impact animals and let them roam and watched in amazement as species they had never seen there appeared. The changes over a decade are quite staggering.


The next two that I really enjoyed reading were collections of writings from a wide range of authors. Both Ground Work and Cornerstones offer a range of subjects and perspectives from a complete range of authors. Both are good to dip into.


Of all the books that I read over the past twelve months, three soared above the others. Two are from Little Toller and are from their Monograph series. I have been fortunate enough to be sent some of these, but have now acquired the remainder in hardback to complete the collection:

This series is full of contemporary authors and their passions. Eagle Country by Seán Lysaght and Landfill by Tim Dee are fine additions to this and both are brilliant books about very different birds. Seán’s lyrical book is his story of looking for the places that the Golden and Sea Eagles used to live before they were eradicated from the West Coast of Ireland as well as the tentative steps that have been taken to re-introduce them. Landfill is about those chip stealing feathered hooligans that most people call seagulls. It seems to involve Tim spending a disproportionate amount of time at landfill sites spotting the rarities that appear with the more common gulls as well as discovering why gulls have gone from being a coastal bird to an urban bird.  Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? by Lev Parikian is his story of taking up the hobby of birdwatching again and setting himself the challenge of spotting 200 different species of birds over 12 months. It is a charming and very funny book.


The blurring of landscape, natural history and memoir writing is very common nowadays and there have been lots published this year. Three that are outstanding are Under The Rock by Benjamin Myers, 21st Century Yokel by Tom Cox and The Light In The Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare. Myers writing is quite something and his descriptions of Scout Rock in Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, around where he lives is something else. Tom Cox does unconventional in a very unconventional way and this is his book about all manner of subjects, so if you want to read about cats, scarecrows and hear about his VERY LOUD DAD, this is a good place to begin. Lots of people find the darker nights of autumn and winter very hard to cope with; Horatio Clare is one of those. The Light In The Dark is a diary of how the long nights one winter almost consumed him and how with love from family and friends and the appropriate medical care got him out the other side.

So far I have only mentioned 20 books, which leaves one more which is my Book of 2018.

The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence by Neil Ansell is about him returning to the same part of Scotland. Each visit is in a different season and you feel the changes that have happened since he was last there. It feels like a spiritual journey too, as he connects deeply to the landscape each time he visits, but it is tinged with the remorse that he has of no longer being able to hear the birdsong. It is a beautiful book to read, he has a knack of teasing out all that he sees around him into the most exquisite prose.

2018 Book Stats

This past year has been my best ever for reading and I finished 200 books. This was eight more than last year. So here are my stats:

There is a slightly staggering total number of pages – 59181, and my monthly average was 16.7 books and I read this many each month:

January – 16.0

February – 17.0

March – 17.0

April – 20.0

May – 18.0

June – 17.0

July – 15.0

August – 17.0

September – 16.0

October – 18.0

November – 18.0

December – 11.0

Of those 200 books read:

Male Authors – 131

Female Authors – 69 i.e. 35%

I am aiming to get the number of female authors that I read up to nearer 40% in the future.

The split of books read

Review – 109 – 55%

Library – 73 – 37%

Own – 18 – 9%

I really need to read more of my own books that I have bought. (Major Tsundoku around the house at the moment!! )

As I say in my bio, travel and natural history are my favourite reads and this is shown in my totals at the end of the year. I have read more fiction this year thatn in 2017, too.

Genre                          Number of Books Read

Travel                          27

Natural History     27

Fiction                        25

Science                      13

Books                         12

History                     10

Biography               8

Miscellaneous      8

Science Fiction     7

Landscape              7

Fantasy                    5

Memoir                   5

Mental Health    5

Humour                 4

Poetry                    4

Weather               3

Language             3

Woodlands        3

Technology        3

Food                      3

Politics                2

Social History  2

Transport          1

Motorsport      1

True Crime        1

Photography    1

Engineering      1

Economics        1

Architecture    1

Cycling                1

Britain                 1

Dorset                 1

Maths                  1

Spying                 1

Craft                    1

Sport                   1

I read books from a  total of 92 publishers! Which slightly staggered me

Publishers                                       Number of Books Read

Bloomsbury Publishing        10

Canongate                                    8

Gollancz                                         7

Faber & Faber                            6

Unbound                                       6

Vintage                                          6

Eland                                              6

Little Toller                                 6

William Collins                         5

Head of Zeus                             5

Picador                                         5

Elliott & Thompson               5

Jonathan Cape                        5

Ebury Press                              4

Duckworth Overlook         4

Granta                                         4

Penguin                                      4

Doubleday                               3

The AA                                       3

Sandstone Press                  3

4th Estate                                3

Viking                                         2

Allen Lane                                2

National Trust                       2

Oneworld                                2

Transworld                             2

Haus Publishing                  2

Virago                                       2

Patrician Press                    2

Self Published                     2

Bluemoose Books            2

The Bodley Head              2

Hodder & Stoughton      2

Black Swan                           2

Profile Books                      2

John Murray                       2

Rider                                       2

W & N                                     2

Salt Publishing                  2

Bodleian Library              2

Modern Press                   2

Pan Macmillan                 2

W.W. Norton                    1

W&N                                     1

Serpents Tail                     1

Bloodaxe Books              1

Acorn                                    1

Paladin Books                  1

Yale                                       1

Fourth Estate                 1

Enitharmon Press        1

Full Circle                         1

Igloo Books                     1

Galileo Publishers       1

Macmillan                         1

Piatkus                               1

WH Allen                         1

Carcanet Press             1

Eye Books                        1

Profile                                 1

Influx Press                     1

Chatto & Windus        1

Dovecote Press            1

Random House            1

Yale Press                       1

Hamish Hamilton       1

Ikon Books                     1

Harvard University   1

Boxtree                           1

Constable                    1

Michael Joseph        1

Saraband                     1

WF Howes                1

Aurum Press            1

British Library        1

September Books  1

Yellow Jersey Press 1

Short Books            1

Bodleian Library    1

Simon & Schuster  1

Particular Books     1

Square Peg                1

Harvill Secker         1

Ballentine                 1

Orion                          1

I.B. Tauris                 1

Quadrille                 1

Tinder                       1

Scribner                  1

Titan Books          1

Nicholas Brealey 1

TOR                           1


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