RaveThe Times (UK)... it seems we got Neanderthals all wrong. Rebecca Wragg Sykes’s fact-packed but highly readable book puts us right with a superbly authoritative guided tour of much new evidence ... Wragg Sykes...[draws] together the extraordinary results of such arcane new sciences as fuliginochronology (analysing soot smudges embedded in lumps of carbonate to determine the frequency of human habitation) and micromorphology (the microscopic study of soil and sediment). What they reveal is astonishing.
RaveThe Times (UK)Of all the astonishing things that happened in the 1960s, the transformation of Ravi Shankar into global superstar and hippy hero is one of the hardest to explain to anyone who wasn’t there. Yet Oliver Craske’s superlative biography — the fruit of 130 interviews, exhaustive research on three continents and six years’ writing — achieves that and much more. Shankar’s protean 80-year career as mesmerising boy-dancer and virtuoso instrumentalist, joyous composer and inexhaustible Casanova is narrated in revelatory detail ... Still writing an opera on his deathbed at 92, the perpetually impish Shankar lived in a kind of wonderland conjured up by his musical genius and the effect it had on people. Craske evokes that world superbly; a masterly chronicle of a life teeming with all-too-human incident but heavenly inspiration.
PositiveThe Times (UK)It’s unlikely I will ever be the subject of a book-length biography. So here’s the next best thing: a likely bestseller all about me. Of course it’s also all about you, which takes a little of the shine off it. On the other hand, you and I would never have a biographer who writes in such loving detail about every facet of our physique: from skull to toenails; dawn halitosis to midnight insomnia; conception to cremation ... Bill Bryson isn’t a medic, biologist or psychiatrist, but that’s what makes his exploration of the human body, all seven billion billion billion atoms of it (the book is rich in jaw-dropping stats), so readable and useful. As with his earlier A Short History of Nearly Everything, which offers a non-specialist introduction to science, he asks all the questions a layperson doesn’t dare to ask for fear of exposing humiliating ignorance, then answers them in witty, jargon-free prose that glides you through 400 pages. It’s fun to read because it’s not just comprehensive, but quirky.
MixedThe Times (UK)Andrew Blum is an American geek with a gift for explaining complicated things in simple sentences ... he reveals the flaw in the worldwide system that delivers our weather forecasts, but he does so in such a low-key way that you can easily miss it. It’s as if, having interviewed dozens of meteorological movers and shakers, he is reluctant to point the finger at anyone who is making weather forecasting worse rather than better. Yet his impeccably researched book discloses precisely where the problem lies ... but I am perturbed by his lack of indignation because by making hyperbolic claims about being able to predict the weather in any location at any hour these apps are bringing the whole weather-forecasting business into disrepute. And that is merely one aspect of another much bigger issue, which Blum again identifies without condemning outright.