Posted by: billpurdue | August 31, 2010

Setting out on a new road

Well, it’s September and, as promised I’m starting off a new series of postings. They may not be much different from the first series, but I hope you enjoy reading them.

Amongst other things, I promised that I would be writing about titles you may have missed, so I’ll begin with a book I read and enjoyed a few weeks ago.

Now, you may think that a book about roads might be rather boring, especially as it concentrates on the development of Britain’s motorways. Well, On Roads by Joe Moran [Profile, £8.99 ,9781846680601] is far from boring. In fact, I wouldn’t object to reading it a second time as it was not only full of interesting stuff about roads (without the civil engineering details), but written in a very entertaining style: but that’s not to say it is in any way frivolous.

Back in the 1950s, everyone was very excited about the first motorway, which was actually the bit of the future M6 which formed the Preston By-Pass. Some drivers waited anxiously to be among the first to drive along a new stretch of motorway and government ministers queued up to be allowed to cut the ribbon to open the road. A few strategically placed new bits of road would spell the end of traffic congestion – or so they thought.

Many years later motorways had fallen out of favour: ministers were in short supply when new motorways needed someone to open them and the public were more concerned about road rage and the threatened introduction of road pricing. This book is a journey through the history of motorways and other roads via the antics of politicians, motorway service stations, motels , protests against road building and much more.

On Roads was published last year – Joe Moran’s previous book was Queuing for Beginners [Profile £8.99 978-1861978417] which appeared in 2007 and, according to Moran’s blog, is “a cultural history of daily habits since the war, inspired in part by the Mass-Observation surveys of the 1930s and 1940s” Sounds good too.

Just Out

The presenter of that epic documentary BBC series “History of Britain”, Simon Schama presents a new collection of entertaining essays on anything and everything – his mother’s cookery and Barack Obama to name but two topics. A Telegraph correspondent, Elizabeth Grice describes it as “a busy and eventful voyage round Schamaland”. The title is Scribble,Scribble, Scribble [ Bodley Head £20, 978-1847921314]

In 1969 two Australian guys bought a lion cub in Harrods. As he grew older the young lion became too hot to handle and eventually he was taken to Africa to be in the care of George Adamson. A year later the Australians visited their lion friend and that’s when the YouTube video which caused such a sensation was shot. The book telling the whole story was reissued a few months ago; A Lion called Christian [Bantam, £7.99 978-0553820607]

There’s a new cookery series on the telly – “The Great British Bake-Off” – presented by Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. It’s another of those cookery competitions which I personally am not keen on (though I quite like Sue Perkins), but there’s a book to go with the series : The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties by Linda Collister [Michael Joseph £20, 978-0718157111 ]. I might just have a look at this book as I like to dabble in a bit of baking from time to time.

Next time: tackling a George Elliot classic when you are used to only 20th century novels.

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