Posted by: billpurdue | June 17, 2010

Two light reads…..

….but two quite different books. There’s nothing wrong with a light read, especially when you might be sitting out in the garden in this lovely weather and needing something to read which will go down a treat.

The first book does go down a treat, but not in the way you might think. Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries all have titles with the name of something sweet and mouth watering in the title. There’s the Blueberry Muffin Murder and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder or perhaps you might be more partial to the Lemon Meringue Pie Murder? Whichever one you choose, it might not do your waistline much good; the one I‘ve just read has seven recipes scattered throughout the book. I might make a note of some of them before I take the book back to the library!

In The Strawberry Shortcake Murder [Kensington £6.95 978-0758219725] Hannah Swenson , proprietor of “The Cookie Jar” a popular café in the small town of Lake Eden, Minn. sets about doing her own investigations after the husband of one of her friends is murdered. It’s one of those stories where there’s a clear divide between the goodies and the baddies. Everyone is so polite to each other, but if they’re not, that’s a clear sign that they’re up to no good. Everyone seems to get through an awful lot of coffee and lots of Hannah’s lovingly baked cookies – if Hannah were real, she would be an overweight caffeine junkie.

It’s a nice homely type of murder mystery, one you can curl up with and one which won’t tax the brain too much. Love the name of Ms Fluke’s website by the way:

Writing any kind of book is not an easy thing to do, but I suspect that writing a lightweight book on a scientific subject for adults is a little more difficult than, say a lightweight novel.  About the Size of It by Warwick Cairns [ Pan £6.99 978-0330450300] is described on the author’s website as “a serious, but seriously funny book about measuring things”.

Mr Cairns takes great pains to explain that the origins of our units of measurement are mainly derived from the size of various parts of the human body or from the volume of liquid you can comfortably hold in your mouth at any one time, or the heaviest boulder you can hold in one hand without discomfort. I always thought that feet and inches for example were confined solely to Britain and the USA, but it turns out that most of the World’s countries have their own versions : take the Japanese “tanjaku” or the Argentinian “pie”. The metric system is mainly derived from the ideas of groups of influential people who wanted to standardise measurements and impose them on the populace of their countries, but human nature being what it is, people devised ways of using the new system which were not originally intended, tweaking it to make it more user friendly.

This book, besides being a very entertaining read, explains how people adapted various units of measurement for their own needs. It’s not a justification for using the old systems of weights and measures or a plea for universal adoption of the metric system. It’s a quick read with a touch of humour, but when you’ve finished, you can pass it round other members of your family. No previous knowledge of science or indeed how to measure things is required.

Next Wednesday there’ll be a special edition of the blog with an interview I recorded recently when I met Gervase Phinn. Look out for my article in next week’s Chad too.


  1. I love the variety of books you review – always such good ideas for gifts. Many thanks

  2. Hey man, was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more. You, my friend, ROCK!!!

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