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The ’80s called: Usborne Puzzle Adventures

The ’80s called: Usborne Puzzle Adventures

I’ve recently been thoroughly enjoying redoing the Usborne Puzzle Adventure series with my son (just turned 6). He’s at the age where he can do some of the puzzles by himself and most of the others with a little help, which make them a great joint activity. A child a little older could do them independently. For those unfamiliar with them, they are stories where on most pages you have to solve a puzzle to proceed, the puzzles typically comprising…

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Why the Gods of Brexit smile upon Tim Shipman

Why the Gods of Brexit smile upon Tim Shipman

There’s a classic structure common to many science-fiction or fantasy trilogies, which is perhaps epitomised by the original Star Wars trilogy. In the first installment, the protagonists are introduced and win a stunning victory over their adversaries against overwhelming odds. There is much rejoicing. In Star Wars terms, Luke and Han rescue Leia and blow up the Death Star. In the second, the adversary is revealed to have not been as badly beaten as all that. Demonstrating strengths and capabilities…

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Stuck for Christmas presents?

Stuck for Christmas presents?

A few books written by me and friends of mine that might serve to fill those last minute ideas. For science buffs, Cosmos, the Infographic Book of Space, by astronomers Chris North and Stuart Lowe provides brilliant visualisations that will make you think about the universe in different ways. For historians, try Jacqueline Reiter’s The Late Lord, a biography of the Earl of Chatham (a relative of Pitt). If you’re buying for children, Cluck Cluck Duck by Jean Blakey is…

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Review: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Review: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Minimal spoilers only – no major twists, but does reveal headline content and comments on characterisation, quality of endings and so forth. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed by this collection, largely because of how brilliant I’d found Stories of Your Life and Others. That being said, it’s still a good collection, with all of the stories enjoyable and some very good – they just didn’t blow me away the way they did in the first collection. Like the…

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Influencing Higher Education Policy

Influencing Higher Education Policy

A new book, Influencing Higher Education Policy: A Professional Guide to Making an Impact goes on sale today. Edited by the superb duo Debbie Mcvittie (Editor of Wonkhe) and Ant Bagshaw (formerly of Wonkhe), the book shares insights from professionals working in the field of higher education policy to provide useful, practical, and implementable information. It considers: what it means to work in policy and public affairs in higher education; the increased complexity and fluidity of higher education politics; regulatory…

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Three detective stories

Three detective stories

I seem to have been reading and watching a number of detective stories recently. Here are three recommendations; all very different, all very good. 1. The Mystery of the Yellow Room – Gaston Leroux One of the first ‘locked room’ murder mysteries from the author of The Phantom of the Opera, this was a straightforward classic detective story, very good and very clever. 2. Storm Front (Dresden Files, Book 1) – Jim Butcher Recommended to me by someone who knew…

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The Last Battle: A Great but Flawed Work

The Last Battle: A Great but Flawed Work

Spoilers for The Last Battle, other books in the Chronicles of Narnia, A Game of Thrones. C. S. Lewis is one of my favourite authors. He’s so good that I’ll read anything he’s written, even if it’s something I normally wouldn’t- such as numerous Christian books and his adaptation of an undergraduate lecture course on Mediaeval worldview and imagery. His imagination, writing ability and clarity of thought stand out as a giant of his generation. Of all that he’s written,…

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Looking along a light-beam

Looking along a light-beam

I’ve recently started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my eldest child and, even though we are bringing up our children in the Christian faith, I’ve taken a deliberate decision to not explain the Christian symbolism to him. Now, this may simply be a bias on my part. I read the Chronicles myself without any awareness of the hidden meaning(1) and enjoyed them tremendously, an enjoyment that was no way tarnished when I discovered that meaning as a teenager. Also,…

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A History of the World in 100 Pictures

A History of the World in 100 Pictures

I recently read a brilliant children’s non-fiction book by Usborne, A History of the World in 100 Pictures. Last year I suggested that the goal of the compulsory years of the secondary school curriculum should be to give an overview of world history, its drivers and where Britain fits in it (the curriculum was roughly: 1/3 UK, 1/3 Europe, 1/3 the world). A lot of people got very angry at me for suggestion something so ‘elitist’, for thinking that pupils…

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Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Defining influence is tricky. We have all undoubtedly been influenced by many people; in particular parents, teachers, friends and others we spend time with. Yet when talking with others about about those views are insightful, ‘hang around with my friends’ is not particularly useful, and parents or teachers are even less accessible. So we think of public figures. In coming up with this list, I’ve focused on those who’ve helped to bring particular issues into focus, or to shed light…

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