Book Review: On Writing

More than just a memoir.

On Writing: A Memoir by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On Writing is exactly what it says in the sub-title: a memoir. But it’s more than that. While the first third of the book recounts key events in King’s life that perhaps make him the writer he is, the second two thirds attempt to describe how he goes about the craft of writing.

This is the third time I’ve read this book, and I’ve given it five stars so it’s obvious I like pretty much all of it. The advice King offers is priceless, and I believe it will make most people who follow it much better writers.

The parts I didn’t like were those describing the grisly medical procedures he underwent as a child and as an adult following the road accident that almost killed him. The reason I didn’t like these was not because they were badly written or unnecessary, but because I vicariously experienced them.

A recommended book for anyone interested in Stephen King, or improving their writing.

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Book Review – Who Moved My BlackBerry?

Who Moved My Blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who Moved My BlackBerry is the hilarious story of Martin Lukes and his struggle to reach the top of the corporate ladder and become “22.5 percent better than his bestest”.

The book is written entirely as a series of emails from Martin to his coach, his wife, and colleagues at work. The writing is tight, with very little description, apart from what someone would write in an email, which makes the story fast paced, especially if you are used to reading countless emails every day.

What I liked about the book was the amusing but uncomfortable reminder that I myself often slip into using many of the corporate phrases used by Martin, the protagonist. Reading it has made me hyper-aware of the awful business clichés used in our daily lives.

Initially I felt the story would be complex and hard to follow due to the email-based narration. However, the complete opposite is true. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who works in an office and wants to be a better person!

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Computer Industry Book Reviews

Back in the 1990s, I wrote regular book reviews for computer industry magazines. It was a great little gig and I enjoyed reading the books and seeing my writing in print. I also got to keep the books after reviewing them, and ended up with a large collection. I’m sure I still have some of them.

One of my many book reviews from Computer Weekly, c. 1995.

My review of The Skin of Culture above mentions “the growth of new media such as E-mail and videoconferencing”. We are now living and working in a world where both technologies are so ubiquitous they are taken for granted.

Another of my book reviews from Computer Weekly, c. 1995.

In the review of Rewired above, I mention approaching the next millenium. It feels quite strange to realise we are now two decades into that millenium, and that I wrote those words over twenty years ago.

There were lots of different industry magazines like this, including Computer Weekly, Computing, Microscope, and several others. Some, like Computer Weekly, have now gone digital only.

Many of them no longer exist at all.

Book Review – The Funeral Birds

The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funeral Birds is a charming little tale about a private detective who is about to close his agency for good when one last client walks in.

I don’t usually read crime fiction, but I found this to be a fun, fast-paced story with some very well-shaped characters. I liked the protagonist and his wife, and the dynamic between them. Miss Legs Eleven intrigued me too, of course – the clue as to why is in her name!

What made this an interesting story was the subtle genre cross-over between crime and horror. Elements of the gothic were plentiful, including owls, churchyards, and graves. The fact the narration was from the perspective of a detective agency allowed the story to flow easily without being heavy on police procedure.

I think this could be the beginning of a series of novellas about Dave Cavendish.

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Book Review: About a Boy

About a Boy by Nick Hornby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About a Boy is a simple tale about a relatively shallow man in his thirties who thinks he has everything, and a twelve year old boy who is struggling to fit into life at a new school after the separation of his parents. The two of them go on a journey of self-discovery as their lives become more entwined.

Nick Hornby’s easy, humorous writing style is pleasant and engaging, and the development of the characters and story is thorough. I read this book in a week, which is very quick for me, and a sign of how enjoyable it was. I intend to read more of his books.

I was in the position of reading About a Boy after seeing the film at least twice over the years. Personally, I found this to be a good thing as it meant I could picture the main characters straight away. Other people may disagree, and feel the book should always be read first.

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