Books

Guns, Germs and Steel

Jared Diamond

What a wonderful book this is. I watched the documentary series many years ago and had always intended to read the book on which it was based. Finally I picked it up for a dollar at our local charity book festival.

The book was amazing, so much deeper than the documentaries. So many things which were illuminating to understand, the spread of agriculture, of language, of writing, of modern humans, of so many things which are part of our global civilisation, are outlined in this book.

Letters to a Young Contrarian

Christopher Hitchens

It is with some annoyance that I see cigarettes feature so prominently on the paperback covers of this book.  Smoking is a wonderful example of the nihilistic, destructive, stupid side of contrarianism.  It does this book no justice because it is one of the most positive, constructive books I have read in a long time.

The Blank Slate - The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Steven Pinker

Nature or nurture? It is obvious to most people with even a brief understanding of the science that we are a complex combination of the two. Pinker sets out the evidence here that nature is far more compelling than most of us realise and it is difficult not to agree with him.

What really stood out for me from the book was the political implications of the discussion.

World History -A new perspective

Clive Ponting

Reading such vast works is both incredibly stimulating, but in some ways frustrating. As enjoyable as they are to read, the details slip away so quickly and one is just left with impressions.

Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism

Peter Marshall
I've always been attracted to the freedom and responsibility of the individual inherent in anarchism as a political philosophy. It was my readings of Noam Chomsky and interviews he'd given on anarchism that first made me identify as an anarchist. Still, as someone who considers themself as a democrat might never have heard of the demos in Athens, I wasn't really aware of the history of anarchism and the thinkers who had contributed to it over time.

1984

George Orwell

When I sit on the train watching people reading crime and fantasy novels, I despair at how stupid most non-fiction is, and then I remember George Orwell's 1984.

This is a towering work of fiction, whilst I love the Lord of the Rings which won a number of polls of best fiction book of the 20th century, 1984 would be my choice. I remember talking to a female friend who saw it as a love story, whereas I hardly noticed that aspect of the book, this is part of Orwell's genius, to write on so many levels that different readers will take away different aspects.

Globalization and its Discontents

Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz went from academia on to some of the most powerful positions in the world possible for an economist, from advisor to the Clinton government to chief economist at the World Bank, he also picked up the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics along the way.

Stellar credentials indeed, yet I have heard reports that at meetings of the major world economic institutions, he is forced to stand behind the barriers along with the protestors, barriers which make sure the economic tyranny is not threatened by an outbreak of social democracy.

Growth Fetish

Clive Hamilton

This book looked really interesting from the first time I heard about it, and with Noam Chomsky recommending it on the cover (Along with Rev Tim Costello and Natasha Stott Despoja) I kept trawling the library for it until it finally came in.

I must say the first few pages really rocked my world, particularly about the disjunct between the union and social justice facets of the left.

No Logo

Naomi Klein

This book was released with enough hype that I had heard about it for a while before I had any idea what it was about, therefore I assumed it was a stupid novel or something. I'm not sure how I came about to know what it was really about and read it, but I was very glad I did.

This book talks about what is behind the facade of trends and brands in our modern world, how they are created and sustained both in the factories of impoverished countries, and the soulless designer offices of the PR world.

Stupid White Men

Michael Moore

"..and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!".

The Awful Truth, which was a television show hosted by Mike Moore, is one of my favourite shows of all time. Therefore I was a sucker to buy this book, along with the gazillion other people who did.

It had its moments, sometimes it was even funny, it even told me a couple of things I didn't know, but it left me wanting something more, a more comprehensive look at power, glimmers of an alternative social vision.