“Not Dead Yet” by Phil Collins (Crown, 2016)


Phil Collins has been kind of quiet for the last five or so years. He said it’s because he wanted to semi-retire and actually spend time raising a family for once, having never had this experience with his previous three families during his multiple decade-spanning superstar career. He also spent it working on this autobiography. And he also spent it as an alcoholic and addicted to intense pain medications, a deadly cocktail that almost killed him multiple times. The last five years have been pretty busy for Phil, much like the previous four decades. Not Dead Yet is his story in his very own words from birth to the present.

Unlike the four founding members of Genesis, Philip David Charles Collins didn’t go to a fancy private school but lived in a poor household and had to earn everything in life from the very beginning. With a mother who loved and supported him greatly, and a father who was distant and indifferent and never seemed to believe in him, Phil knew from a young age he wanted to be a drummer. It was either that or an actor. But when his voice dropped and he had trouble getting roles that paid anything, he dedicated himself to drumming. A lesson or two was all he ever bothered with, and self-taught everything else. During the late sixties he went to every gig he could and got the chance to see acts like Eric Clapton with Cream and Led Zeppelin before they were Led Zeppelin. From a young age he had his heroes and knew where he wanted his life to go, fostered with a foundation in the growingly-popular Motown scene.

A succession of bands led to occasional gigs but nothing really stable and longterm, until he saw an ad for a drummer and went to an audition in front of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. He got to cool off in the pool on the private estate while waiting his turn, and was able to hear the other drummers’ auditions and learn from their mistakes. It was 1971, and that was the start of his career with Genesis.

In 1975 Peter Gabriel left the band, but Genesis would keep going on. They recorded an album with Phil doing some vocals while auditioning over a hundred singers for the lead singing role. None of them fit and at the end with touring and commitments to be made, Phil said, “Well, why don’t I have a go?” and thus the new front man for Genesis was decided. In 1980 after his marriage fell apart, Phil spent some time alone recording and eventually the result was his first solo album, Face Value, with the iconic hit and opening track that will never leave him, “In the Air Tonight.”

From then on when he wasn’t recording a Genesis album, he was recording a solo album. If he wasn’t doing that he was producing albums for Eric Clapton or Robert Plant, or going on tour with them as their drummer, or performing at both Live Aids in London and Philadelphia with the aid of a Concord, or he was becoming very close with British royalty as an important member of the Prince’s Trust. And then there was his acting career. The man was everywhere, his music was on every radio station, and the awards started pouring in. But as Mr. Collins recounts in the book, he never asked to do all these once in lifetime opportunities, but when Eric Clapton or Robert Plant asks you to work with them, how can you say no?

Not Dead Yet is both a fascinating and sobering read. Phil Collins is a millionaire many times over, and readers see how with the insane workaholic he was for over thirty years, but at the same time there are those who have suffered, who have loss, mainly family, and Phil himself has had a lot of hardship and pain himself. But he makes no excuses, admitting to his faults and failings as a father and a husband, and goes into excruciating detail when he hit rock bottom as a drug addict in his late fifties and having to go into rehab.

Not Dead Yet is a very moving book, as readers enjoy the many highs of Phil’s life and career, as well as suffering through the many painful lows. If fans want to go that extra yard, they may want to listen to the audiobook as it is read by the great man himself, with his still very prevalent London accent.

Originally written on January 4 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Not Dead Yet from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature” by Roland Keys (John Hopkins University Press, 2016)


We’ve all seen those spectacular National Geographic covers of a leopard at night, or a bird of paradise in full plumage, or an elephant shrew deep beneath the ground doing whatever an elephant shrew does. But how did that photographer get that precise, beautiful shot? Sometimes, actually, often it involves sitting in one place with little movement for a long time until you see the animal you’re trying to photograph. Other times it involves a specially placed camera in a camera trap and when the animal goes by, the camera is activated and takes a number of shots, hopefully capturing that exact one you’ve been looking for.

Candid Creatures is a coffee table book bursting with photos of many different kinds of wildlife, all caught using these camera traps. The photos give a different, lesser seen side to viewing the animals in their natural habitat, where no human is involved. The book provides lots of information on camera traps and creating them, as well as on the different species. The only real lacking with the book is that while the photos are colorful and breathtaking, they are sadly small, and the book could’ve used lots more giant splash pages of these wondrous animals and less words on the page.

Originally written on May 11, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Candid Creatures from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Life in the Dark:Illuminating Biodiversity in the Shadowy Haunts of Planet Earth” by Dante Fenolio (John Hopkins University Press, 2016)


Ever since we saw our first shot of the great white shark from Jaws we’ve had some animosity about the oceans and the seas of our planet. When it comes to the deep dark depths of this world, that animosity blossoms into outright fear. Just thinking about those strange, alien creatures down there in the dark deeps where things like eyes aren’t even necessary causes one to shiver uncontrollably.

Thankfully, there’s a book called Life in the Dark where the deepnesses of the world can be experienced and enjoyed without dipping a toe in the water.

Life in the Dark is a coffee-table-sized hardcover that immediately entrances and sucks you in like an addictive thriller. The design features glossy black pages that help give a sense of the dark depths of the oceans of our planet. The pictures and photography is spectacular, with incredible detail and color. The book is also packed with information on different fish and watery wildlife from below, showing just how complicated and fascinating nature can get in an ecosystem of darkness with a pressure level that would squash an ordinary person as flat as a pancake.

Originally written on April 2, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Life in the Dark from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans of War” by Mary Roach (Norton, 2016)


Mary Roach has wowed her addictive readers with corpses (Stiff), sex (Bonk), and life in space (Packing for Mars). In Grunt she delves into a new arena with the world of the military and the science behind it that protects them in every way possible.

Roach begins with the military combat uniform and its development over time. The author does her job – as usual – as she delves back into America’s military past providing shocking and insightful tidbits, leading up to the current model. She dedicates entire chapters to combat medics, how the military and technology works with extreme heat, how to deal with excessive noise, military vehicles and how they are developed to protect the soldier in every conceivable situation.

The two chapters that are the most moving and poignant of the book are “Below the Belt” and “It Could Get Weird.” With the disturbing evolution of improvised explosive devices or IEDs, the number of men coming back from the front lines alive but often maimed and mutilated below the waist has increased significantly. Often IEDs go off beneath vehicles or from a low vantage point beneath the person causing the explosion to go upward and usually in the groin area. This had led to an astonishing and impressive development in penis reconstruction and genital transplants. Roach goes into fascinating detail with this line of medicine and surgery, as well as the slower development in therapy and helping these injured veterans in living their lives with their families again.

The book ends with a sobering chapter on the autopsies performed on the fallen men and women in action and how they are learning from this to help those soldiers fighting on the front lines.

With most of Mary Roach’s books there is a learning curve, but in Grunt the author learns and develops along with the reader as the military is one of those facets of our society that most of us are not brave enough to be a part of, and sometimes – perhaps often – take it for granted in the incredible daily job those women and men do, and know very little about. Grunt does a great job of educating us on this.

Originally written on July 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Grunt from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon” by Andres Ruzo (TED Books, 2016)


There is a Peruvian legend that Andres Ruzo once heard his father tell him, of a mysterious river deep within the Amazon jungle that consists of rushing boiling water so hot that anything living that falls into it is immediately boiled alive. It seems like little more than an entertaining folk tale that can’t possibly be true, but now a geoscientist, Andres Ruzo intends to find out whether there is any truth to this “boiling river” story.

Ruzo starts with the research, uncovering what stories he can about this unique river and reading what evidence there is. Through special grants and research trips each summer he travels to his native Peru in search of this river. He eventually is able to track the location within a sacred spaced watched over by local shamans and must gain permission before he can take his team there. When he finally sees the boiling river, through a cloud of steam, he cannot believe it. As he continues his research, he must consider what it means to preserve this sacred site from misuse and neglect.

The Boiling River is a fascinating story about one man’s discovery of this phenomenon that blends science with the Peruvian culture, as Ruzo provides plenty of photographic evidence to back up what he is documenting.

Originally written on March 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Boiling River from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Inflection Point: War and Sacrifice in Corporate America” by Traci Medford-Rosow (Pegasus Books, 2015)


Inflection Point: How the Convergence of Cloud, Mobility, Apps, and Data Will Shape the Future of Business examines how businesses can leverage the trends occurring, and changing, every day in the information technology (IT) field. It examines the success and failures of businesses impacted by inflection points. Written in terms the average layman can understand, Inflection Point is a fascinating look at the birth and transformation of IT trends in the business world.

I couldn’t help but compare Inflection Point to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which examines trends and why they become popular in society and popular culture. In much the same way, Scott uses former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s definition of an inflection point: “an event or a series of interrelated events that result in a significant change in the progress of a company, an industry, a sector, an economy, or even a nation,” which is very similar to Gladwell’s definition of a tipping point: “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” While Gladwell examines this phenomena from a sociological perspective, Stawski examines it from an IT and business perspective.

Scott breaks down how companies can anticipate inflection points within their respective industries and how they can stay ahead of the trend wave. Additionally, he provides real-world examples of businesses that have succeeded or failed, based on their ability to recognize and adapt to inflection points. He highlights steps taken by companies whose CEOs or COOs have embraced changes in technology and taken their companies to the next level while their competition floundered and failed.

He provides a detailed explanation and description of cloud computing and encourages companies not to worry about ‘how’ it works, but, instead, focus on the fact it works and what the expected outcome should be. This is good advice for the average person as well as the CEOs and COOs of the business world. You don’t have to understand combustible engines to get in your car and drive.

Scott also does a very good job of addressing the issue of security with regard to cloud computing. In the age of compromised data, when everyone is affected by the IT breaches of Target and the government’s Office of Personnel Management, security should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. He highlights that the majority of data breaches have occurred against businesses employing the traditional IT model. By breaking down the different cloud computing models, he explains how security can be leveraged at each level of useage.

Although written from a business perspective, Inflection Point is an extremely useful analysis of changing IT trends for the average person. Scott uses simple, easy-to-understand language to explain the current trends within the IT enterprise – cloud computing, Software as a Service, and Big Data. He incorporates real-life experiences from his personal life as a hobby sailor, as well as his professional life as a consultant, to draw analogies between how we use IT in our personal life and how businesses can use IT to further their interests.

First published in the San Francisco Book Review.

Originally written on April 20, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Inflection Point from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“James Herriot’s Animal Stories” by James Herriot (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)


If you’ve never read any James Herriot (as I hadn’t until I read this delightful book), James Herriot’s Animal Stories is a perfect little volume to begin with, as it’s not too long but offers a very entertaining selection of Herriot’s best and most popular stories.

From the very beginning, the reader is entranced and wrapped up in Herriot’s easy conversational tone about the beautiful Yorkshire dales. He describes the scenery with such life that the reader is automatically transported to northern England in their imagination. While the first few stories involve Herriot sticking his hand up a cow, pig and sheep, he imbues the stories with such enjoyment in what he does, as well as appreciating the reward in helping a suffering animal.

The stories cover the whole farm with pigs, lambs, horses, cows, and even features a moving story about an old dog with eye problems who Herriot performs a simple operation on and the animal is able to spend the rest of his days seeing clearly. The stories are moving and heartfelt, making it easier to understand why Herriot’s writing and stories continue to be so popular.

Originally written on July 29, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of James Herriot’s Animal Stories from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.