Vesuvius: History of the Volcano – a review

This is going to be a review on the shorter side today, because I know a lot fewer people will be interested in this book compared to my usual reviews. Not only is this book non-fiction, which the online bookish world isn’t as keen on (which breaks my little heart) but it’s also in the style of a kids textbook and covers the topic of Mount Vesuvius. See? Told you this wouldn’t be up your alley. But I still want to talk about why I loved this book.

Vesuvius: History of the volcano and it’s eruptions

This book doesn’t even have a listed author, because it’s just a little touristy book to pick up when you’re visiting Naples, Sorrento or Vesuvius itself. That’s where I picked this up! At the shop just before you start upon the trail up the volcano to the summit. I’ve been up this volcano a number of times, and I picked this up when I was 19 (so back in 2016) and last visited the site with my parents. It’s taken me a fair bit of time to get around to it, but I’m kinda glad about that, because it’s allowed me to have a pretty different viewpoint on this.

Since I bought this book I started and finished an MSc in GeoHazards where my thesis focus was actually on Vesuvius, and reading this after I had carried out my studies meant I could really appreciate the accuracy of the information and how scientific and detailed it was without being too complex. It reminded me of the non-fiction books I would read as a child because I was so so interested and whilst some of the information was even new to me (you tend to hyperfocus for a thesis, don’t @ me) at no point does it overwhelm the reader, nor does it talk down to them. Instead it states the facts in a clear and understandable manner whilst also being engaging for a non-fiction reader.

In essence, I was quite surprised by this book. I had expected it to be fluff, or to be boring. But no. I judged it!! Literally the only fault I had with this book was that it had been translated from Italian and clearly hadn’t been done by a native speaker because some sections were a little weird. But nothing that wasn’t understandable and it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. If you’ve somehow made it to the end of this review and are vaguely interested, I really do recommend this little book!

Keeping it Sciency!

My first read after finishing up my thesis! Seeing as my masters degree is a science one, I decided to keep it in the family and go for a science non-fiction read for my first delve back into the bookish world. I picked this bad boy up randomly whilst in a charity shop, I grabbed a Stephen King book (11/22/63) and it was 2 for £1 (or £1 each) so I grabbed this as the cover is bright and it looked kinda interesting. I’m so glad that I did because I really enjoyed this delve into a variety of different areas of science, with Ben Miller explaining everything in simplistic detail and keeping it amusing as well.

We start off sticking quite closely to the topic of aliens, but as the book progress there are minor deviations made. Alien life is still the primary focus, but Miller pulls you back down to Earth to make you aware of what we can accomplish here which will help us when looking out towards the stars.

This was a really interesting read and one that I’m going to make my science loving boyfriend pick up, as I know he’ll really enjoy it. There was a lot of research put into this book and it really shows. If you’re at all interested in the search for alien life out in space, or just in a cool non-fiction sciency book, then I recommend picking this one up.

What If? by Randall Munroe

I spotted this book in the British Heart Foundation charity shop near my flat and just could not resist. It was Non-Fiction November, and this is non-fiction, that meant I could buy it right?

Well, whether I was supposed to buy it or not, I did! I’m really glad that I did, as this was a great book to read and I sped through it in one day and almost one sitting (it was a lecture day, damn education getting in the way!). It comes from Randall’s website which is where he answers absurd questions in an intense and researched scientific manner. Great for anybody who is interested even slightly in science!

He has some posts from his website in here, as well as ones that are unique to this book. And he’s also added in some questions he’s gotten over the years which he hasn’t answered simply because they’re too weird or worrying! I definitely recommend checking out the website (which I linked above) and seeing if you like what’s there, if you do then you’ll like the book too!

So glad I got it, a five-star read!

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

I had been spotting this in bookshops for over a year before I read it. Obviously, the word geography caught my eye every time (I have a BSc in Geography) and I was so so tempted but for some reason I never bought it. In the end, one of my friends off of my Geology masters had the book and allowed me to borrow it. I then hoarded it for a bit until Non-Fiction November came around, and now I had no excuse for putting it off anymore.

This book covers how the physical geography of our planet has influenced the political lines that are present today. How waterways can increase trade capabilities, how the US was so easily made into one large country (at the expense of the natives already living there) and why Africa isn’t as developed as other areas in the world as well as much more.

It goes into the impact that geography has had historically on politics, as well as what is happening in the present (Russia anyone?) and how the future is likely to progress, still being restricted by the world around us. An incredibly interesting read and one I’m glad I finally got around to! 4.5/5*

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

This was a quick read as I expected, Ronson’s writing is very easy for me to read as it flows quite well. It also helped that for me this topic was incredibly intriguing and interesting as it looks into how the minds of criminals work.

I enjoyed reading the interviews that Ronson held, both with those within the prison system and also with those who have not been convicted of any crimes but whom some believe may have psychopathic tendencies because of actions they have committed. There was a little bit of insight there as to how their minds work and what their thought processes are.

I will say that this is incredibly unscientific. This did bother me, and it’s a reason that the book only got 3.5/5* from me, as within a topic such as psychology you really should have more data before extrapolating theories and ideas. This is obviously true of all topics, however, there runs the risk of people reading this book and believing what Ronson says to be gospel truth, and with the mind that can be a dangerous thing.

Overall, a really interesting commentary piece, just don’t read too much into it.

November Wrap Up| 2018

November was the month of Non-Fiction, and so I set myself a heady tbr of 13 books, some from friends, some from NetGalley and some I just have with me at uni. I ended up with a total read number of 9, but this wasn’t all of the books I put on my tbr at the begining of the month. I knew I was likely not going to get to all of them, as depending on how it’s written, non-fiction can be really slow going for me. However, I also picked up 2 non-fic books in a charity shop just before starting the challenge and this meant that I ended up reading them! But at least they’re read now! So let’s get into what I actually got around to this month.

hero at the fall

Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton -> 5/5*

I finished this series off in the first few days of November and absolutely adored it. My heart was torn out, sewn up and then torn out again! This is one of my favourite series ever and I need to buy them all! (I got them all out of my libraries)

reasons to stay aliveReasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig -> 3.5/5*

This was a difficult book for me to read. I have depression, and hearing it talked about in this manner triggered it frequently throughout my time reading. However, it was also interesting hearing about his story. Just tread carefully if you struggle with mental health issues.

rspbNature’s Home by the RSPB -> 4/5*

This is the seasonal magazine that the RSPB send around to their members. It was surprisingly enjoyable and I am definitely going to read the ones I get in the future. I learnt a lot which I wasn’t expecting to and it was simply a nice read.

the secret barristerThe Secret Barrister -> 4/5*

I really enjoyed this, a book I had seen promoted on Portal in the Pages channel (click to see her YouTube page) so when I spotted it in the charity shop I just had to pick it up. It was incredibly interesting to learn about the structural failures and corruption issues present within the UK law system from someone who has no reason to hide anything other than their name (the author is annonymous). This was a great read.

Weird War TwoWeird War Two by Richard Denham -> 3/5*

Of course I was going to get to at least one WWII book in my selection. This one talks about weird tactics, rumours spread on purpose and weird beliefs of those on both sides. I knew a few of the facts within already, but it was also great to add more factoids to my knowledge!

love and kisses from my padded cellLove and Kisses From my Padded Cell by Dr Ellie Henkind Katz -> 3/5*

Dr Katz interviewed around 12 people who have came out the other side of the 12 step process of overcoming (a variety of) addictions. Some of them have been successful, some have not. And it also exposes their pasts and how they got to where they were. As someone who is interested in psychology this was interesting and a very quick read.

the path to changeThe Path to Change by Pope Francis -> 2.5/5*

An interview with the current Pope, this was incredibly interesting, however, also very hard to read. It was not written in an engaging way but I was interested in the content. Too much repetition meant it got dropped down, but I am still really glad I read it.

POG cover final.inddPrisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall -> 4.5/5*

This was such an incredibly interesting book. I learnt about how the past and the present have been hugely influenced by geology and geography and also how this is likely to continue into the future. It was also relevant with Russia’s current Ukraine situation so that was a nice added bonus.

what itWhat If? by Randall Munroe -> 5/5*

If you want scientific, thought out answers to absurd and stupid questions then this is your book! It satisfied the nerdy scientist in me and was also really funny to boot! Definitely one to pick up if you’re even vaguely interested in science!

And that’s that! A really fun selection and some absolutely great reads this month! Next month I should hopefully stick to my tbr a little bit more, but I’m still very happy with what I read this month. Have you read any of these? Or are you going to? Let me know in the comments!

Hidden Figures, exposing the amazing women who changed the world

This book is a tough read, or at least I found it to be. The language is technical, and it takes a surprisingly long time to actually reach the space race part of the book. I’ve heard that the movie starts straight there, so this is something to be aware of if you’ve watched the film before reading the book. I am looking forward to finally being able to get to the film as it looks really good.

You will really learn about the history of NASA and the women behind their success through reading this book. It is really sad that the contribution from white and black women has been pushed down in history, but this book starts to make up for some of that. It focuses mainly on the black computers (the name for the women working at NACA and NASA) and their fight for equality to the white women and also to the white men. I loved learning about the amazing women behind NACA and NASA in both the East and West sides and finding out about their contributions and how they were a driving force for many of the achievements of NASA.

I previously had no knowledge of NASA’s past, or that they even had “computers” or the racism which was present, as it was in the whole “western” world in this time period. Learning how they evolved from a department formed for aviation developments to help with WWII to launching astronauts into space was incredibly interesting and I wouldn’t say no to reading more about this topic area.

From what others have told me, this seems to be pretty different from the film that was based on the book. But if you are interested in learning more about the women behind many of the USA’s greatest achievements then definitely pick up this book and give it a go.




I am so proud of myself and being able to say that I finished this book! It took me probably six months to get through, and it wasn’t the easiest of reads. It is quite a long book and as someone who isn’t good at physics, those sections of explanation took me a little longer to comprehend and therefore expanded the reading time and did make me take breaks from the book due to its intensity.

This book taught me so much about Einstein that I never would’ve known otherwise and goes into a lot of depth about his personal life and his childhood. The author speculates about details when clear evidence of Einstein’s thoughts isn’t known, but the speculations are made clear and they’re posed in a way to make you think about your own opinion of what was happening rather than being a closed statement.

I truthfully only picked up this book as my boyfriend bought it for himself and I really wanted to borrow it! I ended up taking so long to read it that I had to keep the copy for myself (and I also enjoyed it and definitely want a copy on my shelves) and I bought him a new one! 😂 The copy I was reading was all battered and bend from carrying it around for so long so I would’ve felt horrible about giving him it back in that condition!

Despite the fact that this book is really long and incredibly detailed, it is a very good read and I’d recommend it to anybody who has an interest in Einstein, or physics as a whole. I am a geographer (at least that’s what I am doing for my undergraduate!), although I do have an interest in science, however, I imagine most people of average intelligence will be able to read this book with minimal struggle even if science and physics isn’t your specific area of expertise.