September 2020 reading list
As it happened I got through just eight books this month though one at least was something of a beast. However, given I took on the editorship of the BJGP that’s not too bad. Here’s the September list.
Carpe Diem Regained by Roman Krznaric Very good. I came to this after reading Krznaric’s new book The Good Ancestor and I’m inclined to go through his back catalogue. In this one he takes the whole concept of carpe diem — first expressed by Horace — and applies it to modern life. There is some interesting crossover here with Storr’s book Selfie and the nature of individualism.
Crashed. How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. No less than 25½ hours for this audiobook and I have mixed feelings. If nothing else it has made it clear to me just how complex the global financial system and its inter-linked cogs have now become. The best bits are when the political angles are explored and the hardest bits are endless technical details about bonds, credit swaps etc. I just let them wash over me and it is one of the advantages of audiobook.
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson I read Johnson’s book about ideas and creativity last year and you can see the germ of that book in here. This is a rather wonderful exploration of Jon Snow that goes well beyond the simple tale of the Broad Street pump handle and highlights how hidebound we all become when it comes to our opinions. The contortions performed by the establishment to hold onto the miasmic theory of disease are almost comedic to our modern sensibilities. However, it was a deadly serious business and Snow was a remarkable individual.
Selfie by Will Storr Another excellent book by Storr who is a compelling writer. It isn’t laser focused and there is much of Storr’s personal experience in it - no bad thing - resulting in a very readable, occasionally funny book. There are also many insights into the cult of self, of personality, which is engulfing us. He reminds of Ronson in his long form style, only a little more academic, with a slightly more melancholic edge.
MBS by Ben Hubbard One of the reasons I wanted to read this was because I am a Newcastle fan. The Saudi takeover of Newcastle hasn’t, at the time of writing, yet happened but it is still possible it will get resuscitated. There is plenty to deplore about Mike Ashley but he is not in the same league as Mohammed Bin Salman. This is far from a hatchet job and Hubbard covers some of the liberations in Saudi society - women now being allowed to drive. There is, of course, much on Khashoggi and his dark, brutal murder.
The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac I didn’t get a great deal that was new about this but it is a good summary of the climate concerns we face, the options we have for developing a society to cope, and it manages to strike an optimistic tone.
The Prime Ministers by Steve Richards I was concerned this book might be a little too concerned with the topic of leadership and veer off into expansive conclusions about ‘how to lead’ using the experiences of PMs as fertile ground for handy anecdotes. Not a bit of it. It’s a political book that gives a precis of each of these PMs and the struggles they faced, concentrating on their characters and their reactions. Very good.
A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton Another gem that skips across the major branches of philosophy with a light touch. It is accessible and it is engaging. What more could you want?