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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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Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Minimal spoilers only – no major twists, but does reveal headline content and comments on characterisation, quality of endings and so forth. A brilliant collection of science-fiction short stories. Includes three Nebula Award winners and one Hugo Award winner; the title story, Story of Your Life, was the basis for the major 2016 film, Arrival. The stories are a little longer than most short-stories, typically 40-60 pages and are well plotted, deeply imaginative and have excellent characterisation. Most are set…

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Book Review: The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure by Gerald Durrell

Book Review: The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure by Gerald Durrell

One of Gerald Durrell’s less well-known books, I first read this myself as a child and have recently read it to my own son, aged five. It was an amazing hit – we read the whole book (95 pages) in under 24 hours – and deservedly so: it’s full of Durrell’s trade-mark charm, description and humour, with added adventure. The plot follows three children who accompany their great-uncle back to the Mezozoic era to track a pair of villains who…

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Personal opinion: I really dislike World Book Day

Personal opinion: I really dislike World Book Day

This may be more controversial than my posts on Brexit, but as an avid book-lover I really dislike World Book Day. In particular, I dislike the way the primary focus of the day is about dressing up. I recognise that some people like dressing up – but we already have other days dedicated to dressing up, notably Halloween. There are also fancy-dress parties and other fancy-dress events. We have one day a year that’s meant to be about celebrating books…

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