Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How I review books (and why)

I just updated my LibraryThing library entries for the Flashman series with review links that all linked back to my single review of the Flashman books. Since some people might think this is rather odd, I'll explain a bit how (and why).

The "why" is fairly straightforward. I enjoy books in the way that Jefferson did; "I cannot live without books". And since I have been helped by many in my quest to find and enjoy books, I feel that one way I can help others is to post reviews.

The "how" I review books is different than the way I would have a decade ago. Nowadays, in the advent of online resources like, it's easy to find the publisher's description of the book. So what I like to do is add some opinion about the book to give the readers a feel as to whether the book is one which they might enjoy. I might summarize or give a brief outline of the book's contents, but mostly I am focusing on the experience of reading the book. For instance, is it a fun read? Does it feel like a bit of a grind, like leveling up in World of Warcraft? Or is it a scholarly challenge, intended for reference and listing in someone else's bibliography?

Additionally, are there unique aspects of the book's style that make it more enjoyable? Recently I finished reading Victorian America (link to my review). I didn't really enjoy the book that much since the writing style made reading it more like research. However, currently I am reading Victorian London (link to LibraryThing entry) and the style of Liza Picard is much more enjoyable (I'll have a review soon).

I'm just in my first week of this blog, so I am still defining and developing my review style, but I hope that at least I have made my intent clear.

{Review} Cooper Cars (World Champions) by Doug Nye

This would have to be considered the definite work on the history of Cooper, as a constructor and also as a race team. It is a very sizable book and while it is well illustrated it also is quite detailed. Definitely not a coffee table book. Cooper Cars (the constructor) started off after world war 2 in a minor 500cc formula by welding together the wrecked rear ends of two Fiats, fabricating the bodywork and ended up with a superbly fast race car. From a small garage operation, Cooper expanded and by the late fifties was a major player in Formula 1 racing and also branched out into sports car and rallying. After the death of founder and owner Charles Cooper in 1964, son John struggled to manage the factory and the works team but eventually sold the business. In less than two decades Cooper had gone from a corner garage to one of the most revered marques in auto racing.

The author, Doug Nye, is one of the best automotive writers and this is one of his best works. The book touches upon the people and events, but also delves substantially into the design and construction of the cars. The photographs are excellent, including many candid shots of obscure but interesting events. The book not only deals in great depth with the grand prix and lesser formula race cars but also thoroughly explore's Cooper's other efforts, including several sports cars, some of which developed into successful race entries. Nye also relates the story of Cooper's entry into top rung of American motorsports, the Indy 500. Additionally there is a chapter devoted to Cooper's association with the British Motor Corporation's Mini, which turned a small economy sedan into an iconic symbol known all over the world.

Nye's writing style is informal and he obviously enjoys relating the small personal anecdotes he gathered over dozens of interviews. At times the relating of the events of each racing season become somewhat laborious, but Nye's intend is to give a thorough history of Cooper and so he includes all of the details of things Cooper.

Most heartily recommended for those with an interest in motor racing. Other may find the book a bit too challenging, but perhaps might be worth giving a try.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book