Of making many books...

There Is No End

Enthusiastic about his subject, Robin Lane Fox traces Alexander's military expedition from Macedon to India and back to Babylon. Fox's strengths are his command of the sources and his willingness to challenge existing interpretations. Fox is uncritical of Alexander's aggression and cruelty, seeing these through (as far as he can) the mores of Alexander's own time. more...

Geoff Mulgan was head of policy to Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, and has held other positions in government at various levels, so he is familiar with power as it is actually practiced. In this book, he looks at the principles underlying government, and asks whether there is such a thing as ethics in politics. Mulgan takes an historical and global approach, using thinker such as Kautilya (India). He traces the development of government from the earlies times. more...

...and I have read it all. It must be at least 4000 pages, a million words, longer than the Bible, longer than Homer, longer that the Mahbharata... was it worth it? Certainly Rowling and her publishers were able to maintain interest in the book up to its publication. Wikipedia has managed to summarise the last book in a page, so why did Rowling need 600 pages? So will the books be read in a hundred years' time like Edith Nesbit? more...

We understand the life of Julius Caesar with the benefit of our knowledge of subsequent history — the fall of the republic and the later establishment of the empire. Yet to understand his life, we must set aside that knowledge and see how Caesar and his contemporaries understood his life, as it happens. Meier's life, translated from the German, attempts a new approach. This biography of Caesar is a mixture: a history of Rome during the late Republic, a meditation on 'greatness' using Caesar as an object case, an attempt to understand Caesar as a person, a study of causation in history, and a biography. more...

On 18 April 1521 at Worms in Germany, two of the most important men Martin Luther (a professor of Bible studies), and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (ruler of Spain, half of Italy, most of Germany, the Netherlands, and half of the Americas). Both had a common aim — to reform the Christian Church — and both saw themselves as faithful to the will of God. The result was to divide Christianity into innumerable warring factions. more...

Alexander McCall Smith has previously achieved some notice as the author of the Ladies No 1 Detective Agency (set in Botswana) and also the Portuguese irregular verbs series. He has now created a new detective based in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is where McCall Smith now lives. The detective genre is notoriously used as by its authors as a platform for their ideas, such as Catholicism by Chesterton (Father Brown) or Judaism by Kemelman (Rabbi Small). more...

Quicksilver, together with the two equally-long volumes that follow it, The confusion and The system of the world, together comprise Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Together they form an historical epic set in the period 1660 to 1714, from the 'restoration' of Charles II to the arrival of George I from Hanover. The cycle is based on invented characters, but surrounded by 'real' characters such as Isaac Newton and Louis XIV. Perhaps there is too great a reliance on the 'real' characters — a characteristic of bad historical novelists is to drag in historical personages as puppets, and the example of Patrick O'Brian should be followed here. more...

Well, ok, perhaps it's me, but I think he has reached the stage where there is a legion of loyal fans who will buy and read anything that he writes, and he doesn'y have any hope of reaching a wider readership, so he doesn't try. Or, alternatively, he has transcended the genre and he is now writing works of great literary value. Perhaps it's my lack of taste. more...

Hawking's Brief history of time attempted to give a short overview of fundamental physics without any mathematics. Penrose provides us with a very long overview with all the mathemetics. The first third of this book is a survey of the mathematics required for the rest of the book. It is largely concerned with analysis (calculus) rather than algebra — the only algebra that he really covers is symmetry groups, with a brief introduction to knots later in the book — with a focus on complex analysis. more...