Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Book 39 - Dawn of the Dumb

Book - Dawn of the Dumb
Author - Charlie Brooker
Year - 2007
Genre - Columns
Pages - 338
Bought for me by James Sheppard

I'm still not reading an incredible amount at the moment, but I have managed to work my way through this - the second Charlie Brooker book that I have read, after The Hell of It All last year.

I've always liked Brooker.  His TV shows are brilliant, and despite being a grumpy sod all of the time, you always get the idea that it would be good to be his friend.  Much like the previous book I read, Dawn of the Dumb is a selection of articles and columns that he as written for newspapers, and is split between television reviews and more generalised musings about anything else that springs to mind.

Brooker is amazing at showing disdain for things, and the entire thing has so many laugh out loud moments as a result.  Whether he is berating the current crop of Big Brother housemates, or spouting off about the latest government initiative, he tends to be brilliantly funny, and a clear cut above most other writers who do a similar thing *cough* Jeremy Clarkson *cough*.

It's not a heavy read, but is pretty accessible to anyone who likes a 'grumpy old man' kind of a laugh.  I shall now look forward to him releasing another collection of this kind of thing.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Book 38 - Don't Tell Mum

Book - Don't Tell Mum
Authors - Simon Hoggart and Emily Monk
Year - 2006
Genre - Humour
Pages - 174

Think of all of the hilarious stories that your friends bring back from their time travelling.  I have many friends who have been travelling over the years, and many of them bring back genuinely funny, exciting stories.  It is good to know what your friends have been up to, and I have loved to see how excited they get about places they've visited and people they have met.

Now think about being given these same stories about someone you don't know.  And in abridged form.  And being smacked over the head by several hundred of them.  And they usually aren't that interesting.

Guess which of those situations is more like this book.  There are moments of this that are entertaining enough, but this series of 'emails to home' falls flat because they are largely similar stories about people who we don't know or care about getting into scrapes that usually involve being drunk and falling over.  An unfortunate case of something that is usually interesting in real life, not transferring over to an interesting book.

Maybe it's just because I am not someone who has ever gone travelling - or more to the point not a parent of someone who has gone travelling - but without being absolutely dreadful, the whole thing is a little dull, which is almost worse.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Book 37 - Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops

Book - Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops
Author - Jessica Swale
Year - 2009
Genre - Theatre Theory
Pages - 169

I am writing this on the eve of taking my very first drama lesson at Gillham's School of Performing Arts.  As I may have mentioned in the past here, I am quite into theatre, and am incredibly excited to be starting work at Laura's school.  In preparation, I have been reading a fair bit of, not just plays, but also some books based on teaching drama.  If anything is worth doing, then someone has written a book about it.

And the someone that has taken the time here is Jessica Swale.  I wanted to get a hold of a book that would be a handy reference for drama games.  Something that I would be able to dip into for inspiration, and to find a workshop game that would fit the lesson I want to plan best.  If I am completely honest, the thing that drew me to this book over any other is the fact that it was significantly cheaper than anything else about.

A fact for which I am very glad.  This book is a fantastic little compendium, and I have already recommended it to a couple of my friends.  It is worth mentioning that you will probably find little new here.  Of the 101 games in the book, I think I must have played at least 80 of them over the years, but it is great on a couple of different levels.  Firstly, it reminds you of things that you have forgotten.  There was a time when I played the game 'Rubber Chicken' - not as silly as it sounds, but still pretty silly - before most rehearsals, but I had completely forgotten its existence until I opened this book and discovered it was the first one in there.  As a result, it is now definitely in my lesson for tomorrow.  There are loads of games like this, and a few of which I think I can plan whole lessons about.  The second reason this book is great, is that it categorises everything so well.  Each game is laid out the same, and includes details such as recommended age range, number of people to play, areas that the game develops, and then everything is indexed.  This makes things really handy.

It's not a book to plan a year's work around, but nonetheless, is one that I can see myself referring to regularly over the next few weeks, months and years.  I have always seen drama games as an incredibly important precursor to developing theatre skills, helping with devising work, and working on full scale productions.  Having such a handy book seems like a great idea for anyone who feels the same way.

As a side note, I Googled the author - Jessica Swale - just after I had ordered the book, and was pleasantly surprised to see that she is the director responsible for a production called Palace of the End - a theatre piece that I saw in Edinburgh a couple of years back, and remains the most powerful thing that I have ever seen.  Funny how it all ties together.