Monday, 31 January 2011

What I've been reading

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It's Only a Movie
by Mark Kermode

"Join the author as he embarks on a journey through the former Soviet Union on the trail of a low budget horror flick, cringe as he's handbagged by Helen Mirren at the Bafta awards ceremony, cheer as he gets thrown out of the Cannes film festival for heckling in very bad French, and gasp as he's shot at while interviewing Werner Herzog in the Hollywood hills."
I enjoyed this, but Lola II has possession of it now so I can't refer to it for detail. I gave it to Mr A as a Christmas present, the main reason being Mr Kermode's collaboration with Simon Mayo doing film reviews on BBC Five. What comes across strongly in that podcast is a) Kermodian enthusiasm and passion, and b) Mayo's extraordinary broadcasting talent. I used to listen to Simon Mayo when I was a teenager - he was good then, and he's just as good now. Anyway, the book: it was good, and I laughed quite a lot while reading it.

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Lucky Jim
by Kingsley Amis

narrated by Paul Shelley
"Jim Dixon has accidentally fallen into a job at one of Britain's new redbrick universities. A moderately successful future in the History Department beckons if he can survive the probationary year. Not the least of his problems is the necessity to keep in with his eccentric Professor Welch, who although detested and despised by Jim, has sufficient influence in the faculty to affect the continuation of his appointment."
This is one of those 'classic' books that one is told is worth reading, so raising an expectation that it will at least be engrossing. I suppose it was all right, but I didn't much like any of the characters, who were all fairly self-obsessed and/or repressed, but it did feel like a real reflection of life in a provincial university in the 1950's. The only thing that chimed with my own experience is the pleasure and emotional release of making faces at annoying people behind their backs.

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My Family and Other Animals
by Gerald Durrell

narrated by Nigel Davenport
"This book is soaked in the sunshine of Corfu where the author lived as a boy. The family is vividly portrayed moving between the the strawberry pink, the daffodil yellow and the snow white villas. The 'other animals' are equally carefully drawn: Roger the dog, toads, tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and geckos, ladybirds, glow-worms, rose-beetles, Quasimodo the pigeon, the puppies Widdle and Puke, and the magpies."
I first read this at school, it might even have been a book we 'did' in English, but I know I really liked it. I even recognised some of the phrases this time round, and remembered that I'd had to look up quite a lot of words, this being the first time I'd come across the words 'diaphanous' and 'translucent'. It's still a classic, but in an accessible way that Lucky Jim isn't. Even though Gerald's brother Larry is almost as annoying as the eponymous Jim, I had some sympathy for Larry, yet cared not a whit about whether Jim kept his job or not.

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Clinical Biochemistry
by Nessar Ahmed (ed)

"Modern medicine is dependent on laboratory investigation of disease in order to confirm diagnosis, monitor treatment, and for screening and prognostic purposes. This book is concerned with the biochemical basis of disease processes and their laboratory investigation."
I reviewed this for OUP, and it's the most useful book they've sent me so far. Interpreting clinical results has been very hit and miss so far; I only feel relatively secure with high phosphate and potassium being a bad thing in renal disease, and generally high levels of white cells indicating infection. This has chapters on some extremely relevant conditions: lipid abnormalities, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders and specific nutritional biochemistry. It's really well explained, nicely laid out, seems comprehensive to the level that I need at this stage, and I'm anticipating it will get used quite a bit on my placement.

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Taking the Medicine
by Druin Burch

"From Revolutionary America to Nazi Germany and modern big-pharmaceuticals, this is the unexpected story of just how bad medicine has been, and of its remarkably recent effort to improve. It is the history of well-meaning doctors misled by hopeful intuition, of the startling human cost of their mistakes, and of the exceptional individuals who have helped make things better."
This is another book that recounts a history of medicine, reinforcing the message that basing treatments on evidence gleaned from reliable trials rather than the doctor's best guess is incredibly recent. It has an interesting section on how thalidomide is being used today - obviously not by pregnant women - but its ability to disrupt orderly growth and cell division may turn out to be a boon for one type of leprosy as well as cancer.

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