NonFiction

Aquarium & Pond Fish, Alderton, Paul, (2013) Encyclopaedia DK



This is the definitive manual for those who do not know how to keep fish, want to keep fish, and wish to learn how to do so from scratch. It is also a philosophical book, for in the very first chapter, it asks, on an ontological as well as a rational basis-what, effectively, is a fish? The explanation is the irrelevant part. For the rest of it, the book provides a completely stunning-and this is the term in which I would describe it-feast of colour illustrations and graphics that hypnotise the eyes with each and every turn of the page. The authors exhibit for our wide eyed astonishment (though not as wide as the ocular apparatus of the ocean dwellers themselves) the diversity and richness of marine life that arouses questions that look to the roots of our own existence itself.
This is not a book simply about aquatic life but also about us-the human race. We came from the water as amphibians, breathing through our gills, crawling over the mud, until finally striking inland were we learned to walk upright. Through the stages of reptilian and mammalians into warm blooded bipeds, we forsook an environment that had defined us for millions of years. Water still connects and reminds us of this through the amniotic fluid in which all life is conceived through the thrashing fervour of a sperm reaching an egg, the carapace within which many fish also emerge. The water that we drink from our cups is the water that rises to form clouds from the condensation drifting into the skies above the oceans in which this class of life teems. 
Each chapter is prefixed with a clear heading, a précis and a summary that divides the pages into succinct paragraphs outlining their particular theme. The prose, like the ripples of a wave, trawls a sylvan sea like the blazingly coloured fish that assail us on each glossy turn of the book.
Though at roughly point 8 the font size used by the book seems smaller than even the smallest species, it is clear and easy for the eye to follow-in fact, to hook like a line. The instructions have a lucidness and clarity that makes an Ikea assembly book look as easy as Sanskrit; every syllable is sparse, economical and completely to the point. Specialists, global consultants and enthusiasts all have their say in harmonious balance.
Fish are not the only theme of the book. The authors acknowledge the neighbours with who all fish share their space-that is, Sponges, Adenomas, Echinoderms (starfish) and Crustaceans. There are even suggestions and tips on keeping pond plants. This type of book, in fact works on all levels-as a guide, an authority and as a story. You can approach it as a novice or as an expert. Everyone will come away satisfied. 
No document is as likely to arouse the ecclesiastical spirit of even the most stubborn atheist as this one, which shows off nature's diversity in all of its utterly stunning glory. No less than Darwin, who dealt the death blow to Victorian Christianity, paid tribute in admiring refrains to 'the extraordinary abundance of the many species across the world' in The Origin of Species (1859). Read, and be bowled over by every description and title attached to fish that defy the imaginations in their inventiveness of even the greatest science fiction writers and comedians;-the Jelly Bean Tetra-(what?); the Blind Cave Fish-(who?)-and my favourite, The Fighting Groucho-(amazing!) 
Sit in a comfortable chair, turn the television and mobile off, and put on your snorkel and flippers for this experience.

Gary Canning.





My Word Hardcover – 14 Jun 2007 by Terry Christian



 Message left on Channel 4 complaints line: 'Your presenter is a heap of shit. You've got a raving fxxxg poofter on there -- this is not entertainment. I'd love to talk to that txxt. He wants whacking. Ring me back tomorrow and I'll discuss it with you.' The Word, and Terry Christian in particular, tended to divide its audience. Its late-night mix of cutting-edge music and irreverent, what can best be described as 'student' humour won the hearts of millions while bringing an equal number out in hives. There's no question though that the programme helped shape TV for years to follow. My Word is Terry Christian's take on life behind the scenes at Channel 4 in the nineties. He takes no prisoners in this hugely entertaining account of the journey from a working-class childhood in Manchester to the heart of London's television world. The picture that emerges is not of some leery Manc geezer chancing his arm on national television, but of a slightly leery Manc geezer who has a more sensitive side, is a grammar school boy, is a twice Sony-award winning radio presenter, who is soaked in music, and who has had to battle for all his working life against the prejudices of those who control broadcasting in the UK.
available from Amazon








Plats Du Jour by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd (Persephone Books ISBN 978-1-903-155-60-8)

I remember this book when I was child when it was originally published by Penguin Books. It was as important as any books by the more famous Elizabeth David in introducing Continental cookery into post-war Britain. Persephone Books focus on reissuing neglected classics from before and after World War 2 (see www.persephonebooks.co.uk for their complete listing.) With its evocative illustrations by David Gentleman, the book is more than a timepiece as its recipes and advice are as relevant as ever. The only thing that has really changed are the suppliers; when the book was first published, olive oil in Britain was usually only available at chemists – for earache treatment!! 




The Rough Guide To The Best Music You’ve Never Heard by Nigel Williamson (Rough Guides ISBN 978-0-84836-003-7)


I cannot stand musical snobs or those who pretend to like obscure stuff just to impress the rest of us. This Rough Guide will help you discover genuine, quality music that “history forgot”. Fourteen sections with titles like “Lost Soul” and “Outsiders” guide the reader through the margins of popular music. Williamson has written for national newspapers and has been on the Mercury Music Prize judging panel; therefore he can write lucidly and he knows his stuff. Free of the self-indulgence and inaccuracy of too many “fan” websites, this book will change your listening tastes for the better forever.

Richard Heaven


Ways Of Seeing by John Berger  ( Penguin ISBN 0-14-013515-4)

Few books will totally change how you see the world and how it is represented in pictures. Ways Of Seeing is one of them. Originally written in 1972 to go with the BBC Television series of the same name, this book is highly recommended to anyone who has visited an art gallery or simply wants to broaden their understanding of art and media. The book has seven essays, three of which use only images. Berger’s views are highly provocative and you may not agree with him. However you will not question his passion or knowledge about the visual arts. Thankfully this book is still in print and you will want to take it with you when you go to a gallery.

Richard Heaven

Villages Of Vision by Gillian Darley ( Five Leaves ISBN 978-0-907123-50-7)


Gillian Darley’s book, subtitled A Study Of Strange Utopias, looks at planned villages in Britain and Ireland. That is, places like Saltaire, New Lanark, Bournville and Port Sunlight where factory owners designed and built attractive villages for their work force to live in. Elsewhere there were other reasons why villages were planned: the Duke Of Devonshire moved the village of Edensor so that it did not spoil his view from Chatsworth House ! Gillian Darley’s book contains a gazetteer of over 400 villages so that the reader can discover these places themselves. 

Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (Fourth Estate ISBN 978-1-84115-043 –7)


Lorna Sage taught English at the University Of East Anglia, eventually becoming professor there. Like all brilliant writers, she was a voracious reader herself and, arguably, Bad Blood was the culmination of over 40 years of reading, studying and teaching literature. Lorna grew up in Hanmer, a village on the Welsh borders,  and the book focuses on her childhood and teenage years. Born in 1943, Lorna lived through post –war rationing and the beginning of rock ‘ roll and youth culture. The book, however, is no easy trip down Memory Lane and avoids all the clichés of ordinary memoirs. It is simply in a class of its own, describing the small mindedness of her village and the strange relationships within her family. It won the Whitbread Prize for Biography, but, unlike many book award winners, is wonderfully readable.

Richard Heaven


Things The Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett  

(Abacus ISBN 978-0 –349- 12084-3)

Mark Oliver Everett is better known as ‘E’ the singer, guitarist and songwriter in the band Eels. Anyone familiar with Eels’ music – from Novocaine For The Soul to Mr E’s Beautiful Blues (the latter featured in the film Road Trip) – will know that Everett is no ordinary rock musician. His memoir is no exception; his eccentric childhood was followed by a series of quite devastating family tragedies. The book avoids being morbid or self-pitying because of the sheer quality of the writer’s matter of fact prose style. Everett is also incredibly funny at times in a dark and honest way. Try it and I am sure that you will agree.

Richard Heaven

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Please feel free to send me suggestions especially if you have just recently published a book in either hard copy or e-book.