Read: The To-Do List by Mike Gayle

The To-Do List by Mike GayleThis is the second time that I read this book.The story is based on reality, but I’m sure it didn’t go quite like this in the author’s life. Still, it’s believable and funny.

Mike, the author, looks at his neighbours and thinks, “I’m close to forty but no-where near a proper adult.” His neighbours seem to be a lot more organised than he and his family are. For one thing, he’s sure they don’t have a smelly milk spill from weeks ago under their fridge, and he’ll bet you their CDs are all nicely alphabetised.

So, Mike makes a list of all the chores he’s been meaning to do and everything else that he has not got round to (such as meeting up with old friends). His list grows and grows, until he has 1277 items. As it’s almost his birthday, he decides to work on the list in the coming year, and finish every single item by the time it’s his birthday next year. He tells all his friends about it, so he can’t back out anymore. Then he puts the list aside, because really, who can ever do that many things in one year?

After a while, he decides to go for it anyway, and we read of some of the more interesting things he needs to do in order to cross off the items on his list. Luckily, we don’t get a full account of all 1277 items. That would be tedious. And this book is far from that. It’s fun and exciting. Will he get all items done?

Since Gayle is an author and works from home, he is very flexible with his time, which definitely helps in getting through the list. Even better, at some point during the year his editor suggests he write about the to-do list in his next book, so the carrying out of the to-dos could be seen as research for his book! Most of us don’t have this luxury, but I doubt that most of us would be able to come up with such a long to-do list. I wonder if I could think of more than 25 to-dos. Oh well, I guess I probably could. But, say, 50? Not likely. And over a thousand? No way! No, I’m not going to try to write them down. I might feel tempted to actually do them.

This is my 15th book of this year (just keeping track!).



Book Review: A Mile Down by David Vann

A Mile Down by David VannA Mile Down: What it is about

Windmill Books says: “In this inspirational memoir, internationally bestselling author David Vann tells the true story of building his own sailing ship and of the disastrous voyage that ensues.

As a thirty-year-old tourist in Turkey, David Vann stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat and decides to fulfill a long-buried dream: he will rebuild the boat. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows $150,000 to construct the ship and achieve his ambition.

However, when the Turkish builders take shameless advantage of him, eventually charging him over $500,000, Vann finds himself on the edge of financial ruin and decides to start a chartering business. Battling with construction nightmares, spiraling debts and freak storms, Vann begins to wonder if he is merely repeating his father’s failures at sea, and a career that led to tragedy.

At once a page-turning memoir of adventure on the open ocean and a tale of one man’s attempt to overcome fate and realise his dream, A Mile Down is an unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer of rare power.”

A Mile Down: What I thought

This was indeed a bit of a page turner, as it promises in the blurb! I read it during the 24-hour readathon, at the worst hours (when tiredness has set in), and it was very readable. It was a little depressing, though, as many of the things the author tries don’t work out for him. He knows the Turkish boat builders are taking advantage of him, but there is very little he can do, and he can only hope that the finished boat will be as he specified.

Later too, he meets mainly people who take advantage of him in some way, or refuse to help him. Worst is a captain at sea who does the very minimum to aid him when Vann’s boat is all but sinking. But slowly but surely, Vann meets people who are happy to help him out and things turn for the better. Or do they? It’s a journey of frustration, but great to read about.

Given that I would never buy a new house (too much hassle choosing wallpaper, a kitchen and bathroom, flooring, etc.), let alone have a house built from scratch, I was almost ill with the idea of having a boat built from scratch: that’s like a house with an engine. Think of all that could go wrong!! (Well, it did in this book.)

An enjoyable read, even for people like me, who don’t sail or would ever want to build their own boat.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 242

First published: 2005

I got this book: from a book shop

Genre: non-fiction

Extra: Other books by Vann I read: Sukkwan IslandCaribou Island, Dirt, Goat Mountain, Acquarium


Book Review: Extreme Food by Bear Grylls

Extreme Food by Bear GryllsExtreme Food: What it is about

William Morrow (publisher) says: “In the tradition of the million-copy-bestseller SAS Survival Guide, former SAS paratrooper Bear Grylls—the world’s most famous survival expert—teaches the necessary skills for eating in the wild.

“There’s no getting away from it; I’ve eaten some pretty extreme things in my time—live tarantulas, raw goat testicles, elephant dung, you name it. In a situation when your life depends on it, you need to put your prejudices aside to keep your stomach filled and your strength up.

Whether it’s mastering the art of foraging and cooking up a tasty feast around the campfire or learning about the more extreme end of wild food (ever tried a scorpion kebab?), there’s a lot to learn when it comes to dinner time in the wild. Extreme Food will teach you all the necessary skills and techniques to get your teeth into meals you might never have thought of as food in the first place—and, crucially, how to recognize plants and animals that might end up doing you more harm than good.

In today’s world, we rarely need to venture beyond the local supermarket and we turn our noses up at the thought of snacking on bugs and grubs. But out in the wild, Mother Nature has provided us with a plentiful supply of nutritious—if not always delicious—food for the taking. And when needs must, we just have to know where to look.

Some of it might take you out of your comfort zone. Some of it might turn your stomach. But it’s saved my life more than once. And one day, it might save yours . . .”—BEAR GRYLLS”

Extreme Food: What I thought

I didn’t read this book, but my son (16) did. He’s isn’t at all the outdoorsy type and doesn’t voluntarily take a walk in the woods. Neither is he much of a reader. But he loved this book!

Over the course of a week or so, he read this book, regularly telling me about his newest findings. “Look at this fish trap! This is how it works!”, “Do you know that this plant is edible?”, “Look how you can make a fire with just X and Y!” And so it went on. He found all the different ways to catch and cook animals very intriguing. It didn’t make him go outdoors and try some of these examples for himself. But the book gave him a whole new way to look at nature. And that is great.

The book starts with the basics: nutrition, how to make fires, how to purify water. Then wild plants and mushrooms are discussed, which you can eat and what you can do with them. Fishing is discussed to some detail: how to make your hooks and rod, the best ways to try and catch fish, and a section about how to cook them. After a short section about edibles from the sea, the book moves on to bigger game: how to stalk and catch larger animals, how to make snares, how to cook and preserve your kill.The books ends with a section on insects and amphibians.

Both for people who never go out in the wild and those who do, this book will give you lots of new ideas about what can be done with nature’s supplies. Even if you never intend to use the knowledge in practice, it’s fun to learn something new, and you’ll never look at nature in the same way again.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 272

First published: 2014

I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review

Genre: non-fiction, survival


Book Review: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Between You & Me by Mary NorrisBetween You & Me: What it is about

The publisher says: “Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker‘s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris’s laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage—comma faults, danglers, “who” vs. “whom,” “that” vs. “which,” compound words, gender-neutral language—and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster’s groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world’s only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.”

Between You & Me: What I thought

As soon as I found out about this book, I knew this was one for me. So when I got an amazon voucher for my birthday, from one of the freelance editors I work with at Book Helpline, I decided this was the perfect book to buy with it, and a perfect birthday present.

Since I’m an editor myself, I was curious to find out what an editor of the distinguished magazine The New Yorker had to say about our profession. I only know The New Yorker from their use of the diaeresis, the double dots on the second vowel in a word such as naïve. I had a fun email conversation with a Dutch author about this once; we researched it and found that The New Yorker is one of the very few publications that still uses it. The diaeresis is discussed in this book, I was happy to see.

Mary Norris starts off her story with her background: her education and her first jobs, and describes how she ended up, many years ago, at The New Yorker. Then she moves on to her editorial pet peeves and other nasty traps an unsuspecting writer may fall into. We also get a peek of her shelves in the office when she describes which dictionaries she preferably uses, and how the first dictionaries came into being. Her love for pencils and pencil sharpeners is described to some detail, too.

The beginning chapters had a certain logical order to them, about Mary Norris’s career and her first steps into the editing world. However, the later chapters seemed like a random selection of topics that interest her. Although I, too, found these topics interesting, for me the book fell apart a little at some point. Still, with her fun, no-nonsense way of writing, Norris managed to entertain me for all 230 pages which I read almost as fast as a good thriller.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 230

First published: 2015

I got this book: from an voucher that I received for my birthday

Genre: non-fiction, editing

Extra: See also the video’s that Mary Norris made, in which she describes some common spelling and grammar issues:


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