David McRaney – You Are Not So Smart

Two very minor things bothered me about this book. First of all, the repeated use of the refrain “You are not so smart” in almost every chapter. The book is adapted from David McRaney’s blog. If you’re reading an article a week, then the repetition might just be a fun running joke. When I was reading many chapters in quick succession (they’re very short), it quickly became annoying.

The second thing was that many of the cultural references and analogies just felt…weird. It wasn’t until I read the acknowledgements at the end that I discovered that the book’s manuscript has been “adapted” for the UK edition. Here’s an example from chapter 39, “The Anchoring Effect”

Does a £500 Louis Vuitton purse function better than a £10 handbag from Tesco? … If Tesco offered a purse at £500, it would never leave the shelf.

I don’t have a copy to the US edition to compare it with, but I suspect that “Tesco” would have been WalMart, and that the pounds would have been dollars.

Every time I came across such an explicitly British reference in a book whose tone felt so American, my internal proofreader knew that something was wrong. I understand why the publisher would do such an English-to-English translation, but I found it jarring. Maybe it wouldn’t bother you. But if you’re planning to buy a copy, I’d recommend getting the US edition just in case.

Great book, otherwise. Lots of fascinating nuggets that prompted self-reflection.


The sound design of the film has incredible dynamic range, from ear-splitting car chases to long scenes of almost total silence. This matches the plot and emotional content of the story, which goes from calm and passive to brutal, gory violence in jumps you know are coming, but which nevertheless arrive as gut-wrenching shocks. The way the film builds tension is incredible. I loved it.

John Sandford – Stolen Prey

“Somewhere along the line, it occurred to him that he hadn’t spoken to Virgil Flowers. He’d probably taken the day off, and knowing Flowers, he’d done it in a boat. The thing about Flowers was, in Lucas’s humble opinion, you could send him out for a loaf of bread and he’d find an illegal bread cartel smuggling in heroin-saturated wheat from Afghanistan. Either that, or he’s be fishing in a muskie tournament, on government time. You had to keep an eye on him.”

This is the first John Sandford book I’ve read in a couple of years. Much though I love Virgil Flowers as a character, his spin-off series didn’t quite catch fire for me, and I felt that the Prey series had gone off the boil. Stolen Prey, however, is Sandford back on good form. A nice, tight thriller, with some excellent character touches.

Get Smart

The difference between Get Smart and many other spy comedy films such as Johnny English is that the main character Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is not incompetent. The film doesn’t have to tortuously explain why an imbecile is placed in charge of saving the world. Instead it chooses to create an unlikely situation that grants CONTROL analyst Smart his dearest wish of becoming a field agent. Smart’s inevitable pratfalls are the result of inexperience rather than inability. This makes it easier to sympathise and identify with him, and makes the film’s humour feel very comfortable — like you’re laughing at a friend.

And Anne Hathaway looks nice, too.