Broad-brush book reviews – 3
Just three books this time, one on design, one on the standing stones of the British Isles and one on refining the art of copywriting, reports Iain Robertson, who is aware of how valuable some of the subject matters will be to a wide range of reader types.
The Story of Design – from Palaeolithic to the present
By Charlotte and Peter Fiell
ISBN: 978 1783 130177
To be a definitive history book suggests that 512pp and a weighty content is not a bad starting point. This all-pink paperback title is actually a reprint of the original 2013 publication, which I missed first time around. However, as design is central to many of the stories that I write, I am glad to give this book space on the bending shelves of my domestic library. Through 20 complete chapters of history, from its earliest origins in prehistory, through the Renaissance and Neoclassical eras, Art Nouveau (a personal favourite), to post-Modernism, which includes the seminal work of Philippe Starck and leads into the current field of global design superstardom (as represented by Apple, 3D printing and biomimicry), this sensational book details how man has created form that is both artistic and practical. Were I designing anything new, I would refer to this amazing book for inspiration and currency. That is what it is. A useful reference book that is colourfully illustrated, which garners reader interest, and describes why the most successful everyday items are also among the most practical and memorable. In terms of value for money, this book is verging on unbeatable.
The Old Stones
By Andy Burnham
ISBN: 978 1786 78154 3
Standing stones and prehistoric locations are fascinating to anybody delving into the past, or attempting to understand the wit and wisdom of our ancestors. Naturally, the world-famous Stonehenge provides levels of fascination for serious historians, archaeologists, stones aficionados, casual snappers and even theorists. As a field guide, this 416pp paperback is invaluable and provides an unique portal to moorland circles, horizon landmarks and some of the more recent discoveries that this past summer has revealed to observers and scientists alike. Contained within its guide book style pagination are over thirty maps and site plans and, whether you are a geomancer, or douser, you will obtain a different perspective on each of them. There are well over 1,000 UK sites highlighted and the content also pinpoints the most relevant aspects of each location. Beautifully illustrated and well-written, it has already motivated me into making a few trips around my locale to investigate Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, while also contemplating visits to the South Cotswolds, where the barrows, dolmens and prehistoric settlements proliferate. Each region of the British Isles is covered comprehensively and the appeal of the book is far-reaching and immensely interesting.
Copywriting Made Simple
By Tom Albrighton
ISBN: 978 1789 013641
Matador (Troubador Publishing)
As much as I wanted this potentially useful paperback to act as a counterpoint to the shocking standards of writing that afflict every aspect of human life these days, I am most concerned that it does not. As an exponent of good English, how could I regard this book’s author as ‘authoritative’, when his own use of language is questionable? To be fair to the book, it does provide a practical guide into writing clearly and engagingly, how to create punchy headlines and the harnessing of persuasion and psychology in creating a tone. However, our nation’s PR, marketing and advertising companies, for whom judicious copywriting is central to their survival, in the main employ young people, whose knowledge and skill with language is sorely lacking. Sentence construction is vital in creative copywriting but, if the writer cannot spell, makes grammatical errors and does not comprehend the value of punctuation, it becomes a lost cause. Even Mr Albrighton’s inevitable quotations in the marketing blurb for the book are peppered with language errors. Therefore, I cannot recommend this book as anything other than a cursory guide. My advice is to learn and understand the language before you start to fiddle with it.