Philip Wiebkin

Job Title: 

Wait, What?

Summary: 
The Dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education discusses the art of asking—and answering—good questions. Five questions in particular: Wait, what?; I wonder…? Couldn’t we at least…?; How can I help?; and What truly matters? Using examples from many sources, as well as his own personal life, Ryan attempts to show how these essential inquiries generate understanding, spark curiosity, initiate progress, fortify relationships, and draw our attention to the important things in life. And finally how to answer what he considers to be able answer life’s most important question: “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so?” This is a light-hearted and sometimes amusing and thought-provoking book, that could change the way you think about asking questions. As a scientist, I was trained to ask questions and consequently found this book a very interesting read. I would recommend this to anyone who is of like mind. I have always said there are no silly questions, and this brief little book adds another dimension to this idea.

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Fire and Sword

Summary: 
This third novel in the series following the careers of Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington, takes place in the years from 1804 to 1809. The French revolution is over and Emperor Napoleon sets his sights on the rest of Europe. Wellesley has just returned to England after many years in India. When Napoleon puts his own brother on the throne of Spain, Wellesley sees the opportunity to damage Napoleon's ambitions to rule Europe. He finally gets his chance to command a British force in Portugal and begins to inflict losses on parts of Napoleon's army. Extremely well written and meticulously researched, this book continues to build his characters. Scarrow is a great storyteller, bringing this period of history to life. I devoured this book and will be reading the fourth very shortly.

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Conclave

Summary: 
The Pope is dead!! As the Dean of Cardinals, Lomelli has the task of facilitating a Conclave. We follow his investigations into corruption, secrets, his spiritual struggles and the reflection of his own conscience as he navigates mystery upon mystery in this compelling novel. Meticulous research on the traditions and laws of Roman Catholic Conclave results in an exciting story of an election of a Pope. I was enthralled by the events described in this book and it made me wonder about actual elections that have take place over the centuries. Robert Harris is an excellent storyteller and the ending was incredible. I could not have anticipated the final chapter. Brilliant!

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (George Smiley #5, Karla #1)

Summary: 
"Control" is dead, and George has been forced out of the Circus by the younger generation. When a would-be defector surfaces with a shocking revelation that a Soviet mole, code named 'Gerald' has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence, it is clear that his treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. George Smiley is assigned to identify and destroy him.. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal group,Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla—his Moscow Centre nemesis—and sets a trap to catch the traitor. Le Carré's writing, in my view is brilliant, his language and ability to convey the inner workings of the spy industry as a profession is without peer. This is a world-class entertainment and an important, enduring novel, one of the few legitimate classics to arise from the espionage genre. Even on the second reading, the experience was just as enthralling.

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The Fallen Angel (Gabriel Allon #12)

Summary: 
While Gabriel is taking refuge restoring art in the Vatican, he is summoned to St. Peter's Basilica by the Pope's private secretary Donati; the body of a woman lies beneath Michelangelo's magnificent dome. The Vatican police suspect suicide, though Gabriel believes otherwise. Fearful that a public inquiry might inflict another scandal on the Church, Donati tasks Gabriel to quietly pursue the truth—with one caveat. "Don't ask too many questions." The dead woman had uncovered a dangerous secret—a secret that threatens a global criminal enterprise looting and sellingtimeless treasures of antiquity. Gabriel's investigation becomes a chess match between Gabriel and the terrorists planning the third Intifada. The climax takes place in Jerusalem on Good Friday during a visit of the Pope, with a breathtaking race between the terrorists and Gabriel and Eli to defuse a bomb that seeks to destroy the Temple Mount and all the history with it. A great read. Daniel Silva clearly has a better understanding of Middle East dynamics than most of us.

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography

Summary: 
This book for me is a journey back in time, when I was at university in England and "Monty Pythons Flying Circus" was fresh, new and outrageous. Trying to get a spot in the many television rooms on campus each week to watch the latest episode was highlight for me and most of the students there. Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on a remarkable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theater, and film. This is a wonderfully entertaining read -- and I had to chuckle at the fact that the song he wrote for the "Life of Brian", 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life', has since become the number one song played at funerals in the UK. What an epitaph!! Hilarious.

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Munich

Summary: 
This is a wonderful and gripping piece of historical fiction set in 1938 Europe during the time of the Munich Crisis. Hugh Legat, a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serves at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain; and Paul von Hartmann who is on the staff of the German Foreign Office, who is secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Their language skills are vital to the Prime Minister and the Fuhrer, respectively and so they meet in Munich. Set against the background of actual historical events, Robert Harris tells a story that is certainly a fascinating, engaging, and ultimately thought- provoking. Whether Chamberlain was a truly astute politician and negotiator for peace, or a weak, misguided leader, naïve in his attempts to find peace with Germany, clearly remains open to debate. However, if the real events that occurred in 1938 are even remotely like those described in this book, I have to admit have much more sympathy for Neville Chamberlain. A must-read for anyone interested in this time.

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Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Summary: 
This is Stephen Hawking's final gift to us, a book in which he answers some of the big questions facing this world. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? ​​Hawking addresses these and other issues in this wide-ranging, passionately argued book. Anyone who reads this book will draw their own conclusions, but the message I came away with, was that he is optimistic over the fate of the human race, with science playing an integral part. A thoroughly thought-provoking book, that has to be read more than once to appreciate the thoughts of one of the most brilliant minds seen in history.

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Sacred Britannia:Gods and Rituals in Roman Britain from Caesar to Constantine

Summary: 
Sacred Britannia is an excellent academic book on religion in Roman Britain. I learnt a lot the gods and rituals of those times and it the writing is easy to take. However I was not fond of the speculation and which I felt went a little to far. Worth reading for a glimpse of a very different world in a country that I am very familiar with.

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The Generals

Summary: 
The second in the quartet of novels focusing on two giants of European history, Wellington and Napoleon begins with Arthur Wellesly (later Wellington) and Napoleon Bonaparte making their mark as men of military prowess. Wellesley, as commander of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, is sent to India, where his skill and bravery make a remarkable impression on his superiors. Napoleon's role as commander of the Army of Italy leads to success in battle and rapid political progress. By 1804, the time has come for Wellesly to stand against Napoleon in the confrontation that lies ahead, for Napoleon has established himself as Emperor, and has his sights set on conquering all of Europe. Another epic tome, this is a joy to read, easily moving from Wellesley to Napoleon, slowly bringing their paths together in a totally absorbing account. Will move to the next, once I've caught my breath!!

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