The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life.

The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life.
By Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.
ISBN-13: 978-0593058299.

It turns out that the answer to ‘Life the Universe and Everything” is not 42 after all…. See The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts by Douglas Adams.
Ho… there I am thinking I had cracked it when along comes M – Theory. Which it is hoped could unite the two currently incompatible theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity.

If M – Theory allows for 10500 possible universes, why couldn’t I have found myself in one where Guinness is free……!

This is not ‘A brief history of Time’ one needed to probably read that a couple of times (well I did anyway) to understand it(?). It is quite light reading for a subject that presents recent discoveries that help explain the expansion in the universe, with the reintroduction of the cosmic constant and the unknown repulsive force (dark matter).
It also introduces the universe in the context of 11 dimensions and suggests the quantum possibility of many universes, each with their own fundamental rules of nature.

Arabia and the Arabs: by R G Hoyland.

Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam.

Robert G. Hoyland  ISBN: 0415195357.

An interesting insight into the Arabian Peninsula, from prehistory to the coming of Islam. Even with the limitations imposed by the lack of direct archaeological evidence (not because there is none – rather the reluctance until very recently of some areas allowing archaeological research to be carried out) The book is very readable and is enhanced by numerous maps, figures and plates.  

Way Beyond Monochrome.

“Way Beyond Monochrome Edition 2”   ISBN: 9780240816258  by Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse –  Advanced Techniques for Traditional Black & White photography. This book has 560 pages and over 1000 illustrations, it provides all the important requirements of the craft of photography (it even has a bit on digital!).

This is not a beginner’s book: but for those requiring in depth information about the use of traditional materials used in the production of film based images, it is probably one of the best available.

Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu By Bernard B. Fall.

Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu.

By Bernard B. Fall. ISBN: 978-0306811579

The battle at Dien Bien Phu marked a historic turning point in France’s occupation of Indochina and offers a premonition of the United States future military defeat in the same area. By the end of the 56-day siege, a Viet Minh army had destroyed a large French force which eventually led to France withdrawing from Southeast Asia.

This book is a very detailed but easily read account of the lead in, siege and eventual defeat of the French army. It has some very moving accounts of the heroism not to mention horror that the defenders went through, along with an analysis of the political strategy adopted by France and the reluctance of both the United States and Britain to help militarily.

Travels in Oman (Arabia Past & Present) by Philip J Ward.

I have been re-reading:

Travels in Oman (Arabia Past & Present) by Philip J Ward.

Travels in Oman : On the Track of the Early Explorers: Philip Ward
Oleander Press (3 Nov 1986).

This is a very good book for anyone with a passing interest in the history of Oman, as it has many references to papers written by past explorers ( mainly the 19th early 20th century)

Colonel S B Miles on his Wadi Dayqah expedition in 1884 is fascinating because he entered the wadi from the ‘Devils Gap’ approach in Wadi Tayeen and paints a very vivid picture of the topography around him.

I first managed to retrace his steps in the early 90’s using an old ordinance survey map produced some time in 1966. They were not very detailed and it took me three expeditions until I found the correct approach as described. I have since been back a number of times and it is still the most dramatic approach into the wadi – far better than the Quriyat entrance.

The Master Photographer’s Toning Book.

Occasionally a photography book comes on to the market that becomes a ‘must have’ and this is one of them.

The Master Photographer’s Toning Book: by Tim Rudman.

Unfortunately for the buyer it proved so popular that it has sold out and the odd copy that does become available can reach the dizzy price of $1000. And no, I did not add an extra zero by mistake.

Fortunately Tim has decided to reprint the book himself at a far more affordable price. So if it is maybe of interest then visit the link below, or just go and look at his photography – excellent.

Freya Stark.

Freya Stark – Passionate Nomad by Jane Fletcher Geniesse.


Freya Stark – now she was a lady we do not see much of these days, of Polish/German English descent. Made Dame of the British Empire in 1972.

To quote The New York Times –

Dame Freya’s books about the Middle East and nearby countries were called lucid, spontaneous and elegant and were lauded for imparting an inspired sense of both history and people. The consensus of reviewers was that she wrote with spirit, authority and humour and that she was a consummate traveller because of her fearlessness, candour, charm, idealism and streak of naïveté.

And to quote her –

“One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism”   – Freya Stark