Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by internet sensation Mil Millington, is “a comic novel that was ‘inspired'” by the theme of the website of the same name. As this is a book review site, I won’t go into the whole internet aspect of this, but it is worth keeping in mind that the website which served as the genesis for this novel, has received over 5 million visits. So similarly to the Sh*t My Dad Says website, internet blog popularity seems to have spawned this book.
The main character is the curiously named Pel, who narrates this chaotic and absurd story. The plot is loose and fluid, and perhaps uniquely for a novel, the plot isn’t really important here, serving as it does essentially as a vehicle for the author to serve us up lashings of argumentative dialogue between the English Pel, and his German girlfriend Ursula. This is the sort of dialogue over 5 million internet visitors love, and presumably so as not to disappoint or disenfranchise them, we get a long list of things the two main protagonists argue about.
The stated aim of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins, is to prove that evolution is not a theory, that it is a fact. Confusingly though, having stated the aim of the book is to prove the “theory” of evolution, Dawkins in typically combative style says that “it is no longer possible to dispute the fact of evolution” – makes you wonder what the point of this book is at all then, doesn’t it? Also, is it not utterly unscientific to assume a theory (I am aware he calls it a fact and answer this below) is infallible? Worrying signs then, right at the start of this work, which purports to be a scientific proof of evolution.
I came to this book open-minded, genuinely anticipating the “proof” of evolution, as I had never quite fully believed all of it. For example, I wondered what the answer would be to evolution violating the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (the law of increased entropy), the attack on evolution on the micro-biological scale, the errors in Darwin’s initial timescales which were an essential element of the “theory”, and of course the fact that no transitional fossils had ever being discovered, nor any species observed throughout the history of humanity to “evolve” into another. I would leave the book extremely surprised and disappointed, that the “arch-darwinist”, as he calls himself, did not actually address any of these, to any sort of degree. As we will see, he has plenty of glib arguments, zealously and nastily attacks “creationists” and “history-deniers”, debates the meaning of the words “theory” and “fact”, questions whether species actually are distinct, but does not truly scientifically address any of the above. If that sounds like your cup of tea, so to speak, bully for you!
Jerusalem – The Biography, from the pen of Simon Sebag Montefiore, is a fittingly epic work chronicling the history of the city of Jerusalem. As you would expect from the author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which was the most impressively researched biography I have ever come across, pieced together as it was solely from the actual correspondence of Stalin and his cohorts, this “biography” of Jerusalem is an incredibly well researched and authoritative account of this mystical city from approximately 1000 B.C through to present times.
It is a brave undertaking, as the sweep of history covered in this book is truly immense. Helpfully though, the author has employed a novel approach here, in that he treats Jerusalem as a biographical subject, and that Jerusalem acts effectively as a witness to the historical events that occur throughout this broad expanse of history. This keeps the historical focus squarely on events impacting Jerusalem, and acts as a sort of historical filter. This device works very well for the most part, and despite there being a few flaws with it, the reader is richly rewarded with not just a detailed, thorough, exciting and vibrant history of this city, but also having read it will likely emerge with an illuminated and refreshed view of world history in general.
The central thesis of How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly–and the Stark Choices Ahead, Dambiso Moyo’s latest offering, may come as an interesting theoretical shock to some people, may seem inevitable to others, and may be rejected outright by others. Her argument is that the West as we know it, particularly the United States, is fated to lose the economic “battle” with China and the other major emergent economies, and sooner rather than later the roles of “the West” and “the Rest” as they currently are, will be reversed.