Monthly Archives: March 2020

The books by my bed

When I started writing this blog post some weeks ago, little did I think I’d have the time to do some serious reading! What follows is largely what I wrote then. The main difference is that I now plan to write short reviews of the books by my bed to share over the coming weeks while we’re all staying at home. 

What are the books?

As regular readers of my blog posts will know, I’m a lover of real books and enjoy reading almost as much as writing. My  reading is largely Influenced by author reputations; based on previous books I’ve read by them, and recommendations from other book lovers that I respect. There are currently 14 unread books by my bed

The books – the baker’s dozen

Top Five Regrets of the Dying Strangely uplifting given the subject matter (and the current Coronavirus crisis) this book started life as a blog and grew into a journal of the Australian author’s own life and learning as a professional end-of-life carer and house-sitter. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Bronnie-Ware/Top-Five-Regrets-of-the-Dying–A-Life-Transformed-by-the-Dearly-Departing/23828296

Top Five Regrets of the Dying reviewed here https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/death-and-life-review-article/

The Sentence is Death Crime writing at its best says the publicity, but I already know that Anthony Horowitz is a versatile and talented writer so I believe the blurb. I’ve particularly enjoyed his new Sherlock Holmes novels, and I expect this second title in his Daniel Hawthorne private investigator series will be equally entertaining.  https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Horowitz/The-Sentence-is-Death–A-mind-bending-murder-mystery-from/23639303

The Sentence is Death reviewed here https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/a-successful-recipe-review-article/ 

Broken Vows; Tony Blair – The Tragedy of Power The unofficial biography of Tony Blair. Bought for 99p in a book sale and, given its size, it doubles as a doorstop from time to time when the bedroom window is open. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Tom-Bower/Broken-Vows–Tony-Blair-The-Tragedy-of-Power/19673554

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us I like popular psychology books and a positive review by Malcolm Gladwell (one of my must-read authors) prompted me to order this probably a year ago. I’ve got to page 61. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Daniel-H-Pink/Drive–The-Surprising-Truth-About-What-Motivates-Us/21901101

Duane’s Depressed given/lent (can’t remember) to me by brother-in-law (author of Nobody of any importance – see below) a fan of Larry McMurtry, who also wrote The Last Picture Show and Texasville, and other American authors. I see I made it to page 116 first time around… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54816.Duane_s_Depressed

How to be alive: A guide to the kind of happiness that helps the world Already people are talking about how our world might (or might not) be changed forever when the Coronavirus pandemic is over. This book is apposite in that context. I bought it, got to page 184, then my daughter borrowed it to read (she’d read the author’s previous book No Impact Man) But that was a while ago, so I think I’ll have to start again!  https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Colin-Beavan/How-to-Be-Alive–A-Guide-to-the-Kind-of-Happiness-That-Helps-the-World/19419158

Nobody of any importance This book is written by my brother-in-law and is his late father’s recollections (written and verbal) of frontline action in World War One. It’s a great work of love and dedication – self-published and sold in aid of the British Red Cross.  http://www.footsoldiersam.co.uk

One Hundred Years of Solitude This book gets my award for ‘most-appropriately-titled-Coronavirus-reading’ (alongside Love in the Time of Cholera by the same author). A gratefully received recent gift which, given my past life in publishing on Latin American affairs, is wholly appropriate. A book I’ve been meaning to read for many years (but not 100). https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Gabriel-Garcia-Marquez/One-Hundred-Years-of-Solitude/15437723

Rethink: The surprising history of new ideas Author Steven Poole writes on ideas, culture, language and society. I share his love of words and I’m interested in creativity, so that was the attraction when I bought the book (a couple of years ago…) https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Steven-Poole/Rethink–The-Surprising-History-of-New-Ideas/20530224

The Last Landlady This was an impulse buy, except it wasn’t; I paid for the book but didn’t receive if for another 18 months or so. You see, publication was crowd-funded and the campaign must have come to attention at the right time. As a book and pub lover it was particularly appealing so I happily paid over the odds. The book is described as a memoir of the author’s grandmother – a landlady – and a social history of pub life.   https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Laura-Thompson/The-Last-Landlady–An-English-Memoir/23910248

The Snowman Author Jo Nesbo has millions of fans worldwide and my brother-in-law (another one) is one of them. I was given this book as alternative holiday reading (I usually take the latest Lee Child or John Grisham blockbuster). My bookmark tells me I made it to page 17 when I last picked up the book last summer. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jo-Nesbo/The-Snowman–Harry-Hole-7/16453092

Tickbox Written by David Boyle who I’m admired for many years as a thinker (and writer) and known through our shared involvement in Timebanking when it was new to the UK. He writes on diverse subjects – I think he’s essentially an economist (he’s a Fellow of the New Economics Foundation) and has written the wonderful Little Money Book, but I also enjoyed his book Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life more than 15 years ago. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/David-Boyle/Tickbox/24240617

Upstream: How to solve problems before they happen A new offering from one half of a writing team of two brothers (Dan and Chip Heath) who author intriguing popular psychology type books. I can recommend Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die and The Power of Moments: Why certain experiences have extraordinary impact. https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Dan-Heath/Upstream–How-to-solve-problems-before-they-happen/24555849

The 14th book in the photo (spine to the wall) will be my last read – if necessary – when I’ll reveal what it is, if I do read it.

Why do they remain unread?

Despite 4-day weekends, I can’t find/ don’t make enough time for reading for pleasure. Luckily, I don’t have any problem getting to sleep at night or staying asleep, so no reading in the wee small hours. You’ll notice I’ve started quite a few of them, so maybe that says something about my inability to stick with reading books a bit at a time – I need a long run-up like when I’m on holiday. I’m also a slow reader.  The magazine you see on top of the pile of books – Private Eye – is another reason I don’t get through books; I’m too busy reading that (I’ve been a subscriber for decades).

Another reason I have so many unread books is… shameless plug; I can’t resist the ease of ordering online through Hive Books (often cheaper than you-know-who and they support local independent bookshops https://www.hive.co.uk). Even when I’ve bought a book but not (yet) read it I don’t feel it’s a waste of money. For now my plan is to read the books by my bed, before adding to the pile.

Once the books are read, some will stay in our house (‘too many’ says my wife) , others will find their way to my little library (outside https://www.facebook.com/MillRoadLittleLibrary) and/or charity shops, or will be given as gifts to friends (Man Walks into a Pub https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Pete-Brown/Man-Walks-Into-A-Pub–A-Sociable-History-of-Beer-Fully-Up/783549 being a recent example)

Do share details about your own bedside reading – ideally with a short review!

Related blog post:                              https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/my-love-affair-with-books 

 

What’s the going rate?

What the going rate for mending a toilet flush? What would you expect to pay someone to make and fit a solid wooden outside gate? An impossible question to answer without further information – the spec for the job – even for a trained plumber and carpenter.

I know that the price for a product or service is about supply and demand, and it may vary even from the same provider. You’d  expect to pay more for an ice cream on the beach in the middle of summer than in a city centre in the middle of winter; and similarly with cinema seats. Then there’s the cost of the materials, the time it takes to do the job, and the quality of the work (I wonder – do more skilled workers take more or less time to do a job?)

Before we go out to get an estimate for a job – from someone like a plumber, a carpenter, or an electrician – we’re unlikely to have even a ballpark figure at the start of the process. We need to do some research – find out if anyone has had a similar job done locally, get a number of actual quotes and compare them.

In an emergency you have less scope to ‘shop around’ and the providers know this – a burst pipe needs fixing quick and you’re prepared to pay almost anything to stop further damage. I understand why the hourly rate of a service provider can look high (apart from you paying for their expertise) – it has to cover the down time, and all the business costs – including time spent on travel and the administration when they’re not out actually earning money.

I was talking about my plumbing problem (no, not that kind of plumbing) with a friend who thought that insurance companies were to blame; that plumbers (he was talking about one that came in to fix his boiler…) will declare something beyond repair because they know an insurance company (and, ultimately, premium payers like you and me) will pick up the bill, however inflated.

Back to the plumber who had come round about a non-urgent job – my toilet flush. I had little idea about the price for the job but I think he assumed I’d say ‘go ahead’ whatever the cost. I didn’t – I said I’d consult my other half about it when I heard the cost – twice the price of the plumber I eventually used. He went off in a bit of a huff making me feel guilty for not giving him the job (maybe that was the idea?) I also felt bad when a gate supplier sent me a short text message saying ‘you get what you pay for’ after I told him I’d gone with a quote that was 40% lower than his. I suspect I’m being too sensitive; that one-man (and yes, they tend to be men) providers of domestic services see the to-ing and fro-ing around prices as a normal part of running a small business.

But what about the multinational providers? I was advising someone recently about the art (it’s not a science) of pricing products and services; about how the cost of his time and his expertise might fit into the equation I’ve outlined above. We got on to talking about the ridiculous price of printer ink (often more than the cost of the printer itself, and many times more expensive than the finest champagne). I learnt from him that the brand leaders have invested heavily in making their printer ink of such a viscosity that other inks clog up the printer jets if you use so-called ‘remanufactured’ cartridges. Once again big companies are locking us into making them money by cutting out alternatives – so much for competition!

Meanwhile, my bathroom toilet is now flushing fine. I’m still waiting for the wooden gate…

 A related blog post: https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/value-cost-and-price/