On the flight to Cape Town on a two week holiday in March I read Westwind, by one of my favourite authors, Ian Rankin (see my blogs on Ian Rankin, Christmas Reading, and Christmas Reading 2018). It is billed as his ‘lost thriller’, written early in his career, when the Cold War was still happening in earnest and when technology only went as far as cars having central locking. In this novel American and British generals are up to no good, behind the backs of their respective governments. Caught up in all of this are a range of protagonists, including a young female journalist curious to know the truth, an astronaut, and a suspicious satellite tracker, who is determined to get to the bottom of what is really going on. Westwind is a really enjoyable piece of escapism, back to a simpler time, but one where baddies didn’t always get their comeuppance.
Next up book-wise when I arrived in Cape Town was You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why it Matters by Kate Murphy. I had heard about this book on one of my favourite podcasts, and as someone who is very bad at listening, it had been on my reading list, in the hope of it helping me to do better in future. It points out that these days everyone is trained to lead the conversation and it has resulted in everyone talking and hardly anyone listening. Part of this is about the rise of mobile phones, and our growing addiction to distraction, but it goes deeper than that. In the book Murphy hears from qualitative researchers who listen for a living, as well as improv actors, couples therapists and air traffic controllers. It is packed full of techniques, including how to support rather than shift conversations, and how to stop assuming you know what people are going to say. It’s a great book if, like me, you need a reminder about what you are missing by talking too much and not listening enough.
My final Cape Town book was another airport purchase – The Body: A Guide for Occupants by one of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson (see my blogs on Bill Bryson, Going Down Under and The Road to Little Dribbling). It’s a delightful canter through how the human body works, written in understandable lay person’s terms and with many a witty anecdote thrown in, in true Bryson style. For the squeamish like me you can skip though the chapter on blood, but generally it is not too gory a read, and it’s a timely reminder of just how little we still know about how the body works. There is a very prescient end to the chapter on infectious diseases, where Bryson discusses the dangers of new flu viruses. The owner of our B&B in De Kelders in South Africa was a big Bryson fan, so it was good to be able to pass this one on to him when I finished it.