The BookWag List 6: 10 Books to Buy/Beg/Borrow and Read This Week

April 11, 2013

It’s Friday so it is time for our BookWag Reading List for the week, with ten of the best books that we think are worth picking up (how you choose to do so is your option – we mention some in the heading). As always, the list is free of genre, author or style. The core idea of the BookWag reading list is to provide fodder for those who read for the sheer joy of reading. Which is why we tend to focus on titles that entertain as much as inform, for we firmly believe that a book that cannot hold the attention of its reader does the reader a disservice. Here is this week’s selection of ten titles then:


1. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot

By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

We have had numerous books on both John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his controversial assassination. However, few authors have managed to compress both compress into a volume that is relatively slim and still eminently readable as Messrs O’Reilly ad Dugard here. Expect no radical revelations here, or any new details. Killing Kennedy is a perfect book for those who want to understand the Kennedy mystique and the controversy surrounding his death at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald. Actually, it is the handling of Oswald by the authors that we are not too convinced by, but all said and done, this is a terrific addition to the Kennedy book collection. And a great example of how one can churn out compelling text without being too verbose.

2. The First Rumpole Omnibus
By John Mortimer


Lawyers who pull off amazing victories in court battles are supposed to be gentlemen with dramatic eloquence who never say die and believe in the power of the truth. Horace Rumpole of the Bailey can quote poetry, but he is a bit of a cynic, does not pull on well with judges, and often ends up defending people he knows are guilty. That has however not stopped him from being one of the most entertaining characters seen in a courtroom. His heart is in the right place and notwithstanding his heckling wife, he has no ambition. He is no Perry Mason, but he is the best Horace Rumpole he is. Perfect for those who like their legal thrills packed up in brilliant narrative with stacks of humour.

3. Ogilvy On Advertising
By David Ogilvy
Ogilvy on advertising
If there was one book on communication that we would make it compulsory for every person to read, it would be this masterly work by advertising legend, David Ogily. Yes, it is primarily about advertising and in particular about its creative side, but it is also about using your resources to get your message across. Quite often it is nothing more than common sense, but it is brilliantly explained and the layout of the book with its plethora of pictures of Ogilvy’s campaigns, make it both accessible and readable. Do Ogilvy’s principles work even in the era of the Internet and social networking? Yes, they do. One of those books that have to be present on the book rack of every person who claims to call him-or-herself a business person.

4. Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human
by Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison occupies a special place in the superhero comic book pantheon, having worked on and created some memorable ones in his own right. So when he writes about superheroes, their evolutions and their backgrounds, all those who have read a Batman or a Superman in a comic in their youth (and there are not many who have not) should sit up and take notice. Supergods is a terrific ride down the superhero highway, packed with gems about their evolution, the changes that were made in them, and of course, the stories that made them famous, as well as what happened to the men and women behind them. It can get a bit complex at times, but this is pretty much a must-read for anyone who has followed the Caped Crusader, the Man of Steel, and others oft that ilk.

5. Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel’s Separation Barrier, For Fun
by Mark Thomas
No man-made barrier has divided opinions since the Berlin Wall quite like Israel’s security recently built barrier. While the pro-Israel lobby claims that it has improved security and cut down on attacks on its people, those in the opposition camp claim that it has further isolated Palestinians and ruined their lives. There is a lot of serious literature about the matter, but perhaps the best book on its impact on people is Extreme Rambling by Mark Thomas, who decides to take a stroll along the barrier, talking to Israelis and Palestinians. The result is a part travel, part journalistic feature book, which also manages to make you smile, courtesy of Thomas’ sense of humour. Well worth reading even if you are not interested in the Middle East position. For, all of us can do with a smile or two.

6. Killing Floor
by Lee Child
This was the book that gave birth to the Jack Reacher saga. A former marine who is built like a tank and has grey cells that would give Monsieur Poirot a complex, Reacher has chosen to drift from place to place with no worldly possessions. Of course, he always gets into trouble. Of course, he always sorts it out. And in his first book, we see him in a much rawer, less diplomatic avatar, as he is arrested for murder even as he sits eating at a diner. The quotes still come, the force of the fists is still there. And best of all, this is Reacher telling his own story – the book is in first person. There are thrills, spills, twists and broken bones galore as Reacher tries to work things out. A very good read and the best starting point for anyone who wants to get familiar with Jack Reacher.

7. All Creatures Great and Small
By James Herriot
Can the stories of a veterinary doctor going around Yorkshire, trying to cure animals be any good to read? Well, if they have been written by James Herriot, they would stand proudly alongside any work of literature. All Creatures Great and Small actually is an omnibus comprising Herriot’s earliest work. Herriot writes of his experiences with animals and the people around him with an affection and humour that makes all of his books among the most readable ones around. The narration is simple, sensitive and more often than not tinged with emotion that will either make you smile or weep. The eccentric Yorkshiremen are there as are dozens of animals, and Herriot treats each with genuine affection, and just a touch of humour. Wonderful, wonderful reading.

8. Geoff Boycott: A Cricketing Hero 

by Leo McKinstry

Some people have a knack for attracting extreme opinions, and England’s legendary opening batsman, Geoffrey Boycott, is one of them. There is a sect that believes he is God, and another who believes he is the Devil reborn minus the ears and tail. Whatever you fell, what cannot be ignored is the fact that this son of Yorkshire was one of the greatest batsmen of his time, and one of the most outspoken commentators of any. McKinstry’s book is an attempt to reach the man behind the records, the controversies (from women to cash to being selfish) and yes, at times even the cricket. In this, the author succeeds, drawing on records and conversations alike. You may not agree that Boycott is a cricketing hero after reading this book, but you will know and understand him a lot better. One of the best sports biographies of recent times.

9. Pickwick Papers 

by Charles Dickens
When you think of Charles Dickens, you think of Oliver Twist (the boy who asked for more), you think of the bloody French Revolution depicted in a Tale of Two Cities or the hopes of Pip in Great Expectations. And yet, not too many know that Dickens started his literary journey with a book that was actually a hilarious fictional travelogue. It narrates the adventures of four gentlemen who travel around England, observing people and life in general. They are members of the Pickwick Club, after which the book derives its name. Yes, the book has the biting sarcasm that became Dickens’ trademark in his pomp but it also has something that a lot of his latter work lost – pure, unadulterated humour, whether it emerged from the hilarious similes of Sam  Weller or the staccato, unconnected pronouncements of Mr Jingle. A great volume for all those wanting to get their reading teeth into one of the world’s greatest authors. And have a hearty laugh while doing so as well.

10. Batman: Hush
By Jeph Loeb
A Batman graphic novel in which he falls in love with the Catwoman? A Batman graphic novel in which Batman and Superman actually fight each other? A Batman graphic novel in which he leaves one lover to guard over another? And all this apart from the usual battle with crime and cunning criminals like Clayface, Ra’s al Ghul, the Joker and the like? Yes, Batman: Hush has all that and more. It is also one of the most brilliantly sketched Batman titles we have ever seen. Read it, and you will discover that there is more to the Dark Knight than some Chris Nolan films.

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