Continuing my Four Paws rating for some recently read book I have either enjoyed, been depressed by, or learned a lot from – on all possible subjects.  All books can be purchased from or any good book shop.

🐾🐾🐾🐾: as good as it gets on the subject.  Drop everything, , sniff out, scramble to catch up and ‘read’!

🐾🐾🐾: well-written, entertaining, or informative.  Worth putting on your reading list.

🐾🐾: Average read, will pass the time but does not exceed expectations – even modest ones. Ultimately forgettable.

🐾: Seriously! There are many far better books out there on this subject. Don’t bother unless it’s a given as a present.

Arkady BabchenkoOne Soldier’s War in Chechnya – 🐾🐾🐾

Paperback : 432 pages

ISBN-10 : 1846270405

ISBN-13 : 978-1846270406

Publisher : Portobello Books Ltd (1 Jun. 2008)

A vivid, autobiographical account of what life was like for a young soldier in Russia’s Chechen wars, Arkady Babchenko provides an unsparing, unsentimental, blackly comic and brutally beautiful account of active duty. (courtesy

‘The most unsparing memoir I’ve seen – of any war.’— Financial Times

‘A devastating testimony from an extremely talented young writer.’— New Statesman

‘This is an exceptional book, and an important one. Babchenko has transcended reportage, and succeeded in turning his terrible war experiences into art.’IndependentMy view:  Having a dear Chechnyan friend (from my days of working in Istanbul) I had this book on my, erh, short’ish list of books to read for some time, as I wanted to try and better understand his bitterness towards Mother Russia.  Finally I got round to reading it, expecting a first person narrative of ‘contact’ between Russian troops and Chechnyan rebels.  However, my take on the book was that the enemy is not always across the front lines, but also behind.  Babchenko’s book is the most unflinching and devasting account of cruelty within the ranks of the Russian Army of the late ‘90s.  Systematic torture and casual brutality of young enlisted men, carried out by soldiers just a few months longer in service than their nightly victims.  It sorta reminded me of my naval academy schooldays!  Please read this for a no hold barred appreciation of the total waste of war – within the fighting ranks themselves.

Ben SmithDoggerland – 🐾🐾🐾

Hardcover : 208 pages

ISBN-10 : 0008313369

ISBN-13 : 978-0008313364

Publisher : Fourth Estate (4 April 2019)

In the North Sea, far from what remains of the coastline, a wind farm stretches for thousands of acres. The Boy, who is no longer really a boy, and the Old Man, whose age is unguessable, are charged with its maintenance. They carry out their never-ending work as the waves roll, dragging strange shoals of flotsam through the turbine fields. Land is only a memory. (courtesy view:Doggerland is the archeological name for the strip of land which once bridged the British Isles with continental Europe before the last ice age submerged it under the North Sea.  The Doggerland of this novel is a submerged landscape of loneliness, the exhaustion of an endless hoping for the better, and a dystopian view of our renewable energy near future.  Short, sparse, and with only two characters to create the story dynamic, Doggerland leaves an after taste of the salt of a cold sea, and an even colder emotion of how we are not only increasingly living apart from our fellow humans in this modern world, but desperately still yearn to be a part of a human fellowship.  Depressing yet fascinating!

Sylvain TessonConsolations of the Forest : Alone in a cabin in the Middle Taiga – 🐾🐾

Paperback : 256 pages

ISBN-10 : 0141975482

ISBN-13 : 978-0141975481

Publisher : Penguin (3 July 2014)

Sylvain Tesson, found a radical solution to his need for freedom, one as ancient as the experiences of the hermits of old Russia: he decided to lock himself alone in a cabin in the middle taiga, on the shores of Baikal, for six months. Noting carefully his impressions of the silence, Sylvain Tesson shares with us an extraordinary experience. (courtesy

My view: Consolations of the Forest, by it’s title and (the above) marketing blurb sounds a truly exciting book to dive into and disappear for several rainy afternoons.  No doubt about it, Tesson is an extraordinarily well-read French travel writer, and this should have been a feast for the intellect – especially as I still urge to travel into Sibir, the Sleeping Lands myself one day. Unfortunately, what should have been a mediation on the sublime stillness of big nature (the vast taiga forests of Siberia) is totally lost under the trees with endless, irrelevant verbiage, and stuffed full of quotes from writers I have never read or never even heard of – ouch! No problem with that – but not simply for the sake of trying to show me, the reader how, literate he isand how poorly read I am.  Sure there are better books out there on absolutely stillness and living a solitary life. In this case, I couldn’t see the wood from the trees – erh, sorry about that!

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out the latest MUTTOBER drawing of the day and the updated MUTTSHOTS page!


  1. Good stuff! A few more you would enjoy – or might have already read are: The tartar Step by Dino Buzzati, The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer, and, Blood Red Snow (The Memoirs of a German Soldier) by Gunter Koschorrek – all available at


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