Friday, February 17, 2006

Holiday Reading

Just got back from the holidays this afternoon after 20 hours of travel, so I'm a bit pooped and will keep this brief. This holiday I brought three non-technical books with me as reading material and I thought that you might like my thoughts on them.

First up was Nick Mason's Inside Out which tells the story of Pink Floyd from the perspective of Pink Floyd's drummer. I've been a fan of the Floyd since Dark Side of the Moon was released (and have all their work since then) but never really got to know the band's background. Mason's book is a well-written documentary of the band from its pre-Pink Floyd origins, when Syd Barrett was the creative force, right through to their reformation for last year's Live8 concert. It's basically a light read with a lot of Mason's dry wit making it quite funny in places. However, strictly one for the Pink Floyd fans. By the way, in the course of reading the book I discovered that the name Pink Floyd was a combination of the first names of two blues singers -Pink Anderson and Floyd Council - worth reading for that fact alone!

The second book I read was The Road to McCarthy, which is Pete McCarthy's follow-up to his best seller McCarthy's Bar. I would heartily recommend the latter, which is a travelogue around Ireland loosely based on the premise that you should never pass up the opportunity of having a drink in a bar that shares your name. McCarthy writes with the same pithy humour as Bill Bryson and will have you in stitches despite your best efforts to keep a straight face. Unfortunately I found the Road to McCarthy to be a lot less consistent, somewhat more contrived and more of a pastiche of travel writings than his earlier best seller. Nonetheless, a good holiday read with McCarthy's wit in abundance.

Finally there was Bob Dylan's recently published Chronicles, Volume 1. This one was a bit of a surprise. I guess I was expecting a conventional autobiography with a beginning middle and end, but found something very different. Chronicles, Volume 1 is the first of three planned volumes written by Dylan to document his life and his work and doesn't follow conventional timelines. It is, however, written in a way that reflects the poet in the man - both sophisticated and simple at the same time. Having read Volume 1 you won't know exactly what makes Bob Dylan tick but you will have some glimpses into the man, what inspired him to write some of the songs he did, and how, for him, it's all about the music. You'll also learn how Bobby Zimmerman nearly became Robert Allyn and why he became Bob Dylan. A gem of a book that should leave you looking forward to the next two volumes.

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