James Frey: A Remarkable Tale in Overcoming Addiction

When Janine commanded me to read A Million Little Pieces about a recovering crack head, the remarkable story of James Frey’s battle against addiction, it was never on the short list of books that I would ever read. Never! Not even on the extended list. Firstly I mainly read history but mostly because who wants to read about the travails of a recovering addict. Being an instruction and not a request, to keep the peace in the McCleland household I reluctantly demurred to do as I was instructed. The fact that the book was classified as non-fiction and had been highly recommended by Oprah Winfrey in 2003 as the best book on the subject swayed me slightly as well as the fact that I would be reading my first book on a Kindle.

For the English purists like me, it was quite a revelation. The earthy raw language often without punctuation and with arcane repetition of words is child-like and puerile but it is precisely this debased language by James Frey which brings the story to life. The depravity and the lengths to which an addict will sink in order to obtain their next fix, is evocatively expressed in this cacophony and kaleidoscope of sounds and words all intermingled.

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Take these Men by Cyril Joly

Summation: A vivid evocation & excellent cupola eye view of the armoured battles of the Desert war from 1940 to 1943.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Even though this is written as a work of fiction, the author based it 100% on fact. Presumably the main reason for this decision, I believe, was to protect his incompetent subordinates & fellow officers.

Unlike most of the other soldiers in the to and fro desert war, Cyril Joly served with the Armoured Corps throughout this part of the war. Unlike the other theatres of war, the desert was eminently suitable for armoured warfare. Without the distractions of civilisation such as towns & people, the true potential of armoured vehicles was unleashed.

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Challenging Beliefs – Memoirs of a Career by Tim Noakes

Summation: A Thoughtful Rebuttal of Medical Orthodoxy & Prevailing Wisdom

Rating: 5 out of 5

All serious runners have made an acquaintance with Tim Noake’s opus magnum, The Lore of Running albeit fleetingly. But what one is not aware of is that Time Noake is more than merely a writer on running propounding the sage & epiphanous thoughts of the greats whether as runners or as scientists. Instead Tim Noake’s must surely rank as one of the giants of Medical Exercise Research on a par with the best in the world. As well as being co-founder of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, he is also a world renowned researcher in his own right.

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The Grand Scam – An Expert Dissection & Expose of a Classic Ponzi Scheme

Rating: 5 out of 5

By all accounts, Barry Tannenbaum was the most unlikely person to either be a crook or even to be able to harm a fly yet ultimately the extent of his fraud & lies was to affect not only the super-rich for which losses of R30m were like pocket money & were written off to experience without a second thought.

But it was not only the mega-rich who were financially affected but life-long friendships were annihilated as a consequence but ultimately the small players were sucked in through greed & their better judgment into this scheme.

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The Diet Delusion – An in-depth scientific investigation into dieting

Rating: 5 out of 5

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Like a defence advocate in a trial, in the book The Diet Delusion Gary Taubes builds his case against the accepted wisdom on dieting from the very first scientific test on the efficacy of various diets way back in the 1860s.

Prior to this time, diets & dieting was not considered at all as all contemporary photos will attest. All people of the period were slim with nary an ounce of fat bodies to be seen in any photos. It is only with the advent of the 1950s that the phenomena of obesity started to rear its head to become the epidemic that it is now.

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Glenn Agliotti – Hagiographical view of a true-blood Hustler

Rating: 4 out of 5

By his own admission Glenn Agliotti is a hustler. A larger-than-life person physically & temperamentally, Glenn’s Curriculum Vitae can only list one attribute & that is being able to connect people who are involved in shady deals. That is how Glenn ultimately became involved in “donating” money to the South African National Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi.

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Book Review: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Provocative examination of the case against Religion

Rating: 5 out of 5

With his indomitable spirit & lucidly argued analysis, Richard Dawkins comprehensively demolishes the deeply held beliefs buttressing the rationale for religion.

He skillfully exposes all the claims made by the various religious movements & society in general that Religion is the arbiter of morality & bedrock of morality. This is convincingly proved to be totally fallacious.

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Book Review: Stalin – The Court of the Red Tsar

Rating: 5 out of 5

Of the two, the coterie of Stalin is virtually unknown as compared with Hitler’s entourage. This book illuminates these close friends & colleagues of Stalin. Some names might be remembered but most will be quickly forgotten after reading this book. The likes of Malenkov, Zhdanov, Beria & Molotov feature prominently towards the end of Stalin’s life.

Despite their high status & closeness to Stalin himself, the sycophantic nature of their relationship meant that Stalin was the supreme power, the marionette operator. Unlike Hitler who left the details of execution to his subordinates, Stalin increasingly initiated campaigns such as the Doctors’ & the Jewish Conspiracies. This attention to detail grew in his dotage probably due to the fact of increasing paranoia as his physical power ebbed aways.

In spite of being in Stalin’s inner circle, they were no safer nor less likely to be summarily denounced by Stalin & executed. A case in point is Molotov whose wife Polina was a Jewish. Due to abstaining in a vote whether she should be denounced & incarcerated in the Gulags for five years, Molotov was forced to make a grovelling apology at a meeting of the Central Committee for not voting for her denouncement; her nefarious crime was be friendly with certain Zionist Jews.

Stalin’s sadism is shown in numerous examples where he forces his subordinates to be become inebriated on pain of being tortured in the notorious Lubianka Prison. Threats of excruciatingly punishment were used as a method of tormenting his subordinates. Having known Stalin for years, they readily comprehended his capacity to action those threats.

Of his three children, Svetlana was the only one with sufficient chutzpah to speak openly to her father. Both his sons were disappointments but for different reasons. Yakov was captured by the Germans during WW2 & ultimately dying at their hands. As he was no supposed to have been captured, Stalin never forgave him. Like all the other Russian POWs, they were distrusted & persecuted forever. In spite of mediocre ability, Vasily was appointed an air force general but due to alcoholism & incompetence, he had to be side-lined.

Stalin was diabolical. He would be utterly charming to an associate at a party knowing full well that he had already signed the death warrant of the unsuspecting individual.

Personally I found the final years of Stalin’s life to be of more interest as I found a lot of the earlier years quite banal.

This is a landmark work which has only now been able to peel back the veil on the inner circle due to the available of newly released source material. It will forever be the gold standard in understanding Stalin’s relationship with his minions.