Not so much a book, more a manifesto. 64 principles to guide our relationship with food - some synthesized from in-depth research (see Pollan's "In Defence of Food"), some a reminder of homespun wisdom learned at your grandmother's knee. It's a map to keep us on the straight-and-narrow, despite Food Inc's best efforts to industrialise what we eat. Well done, nourishing, and sprinkled with wit.
Two themes run through this excellent book: the tendency of 'Gut' to influence decisions we think we take with our 'Head', and how vested interests use fear for commercial and political ends. Gardner combines narrative with in-depth research to firmly put the worries of C21st living in context, and shows how the world presented to us (what the FT's Gillian Tett calls "the cognitive map") is a topsy-turvy version of reality. A first class read, and highly recommended.
A book that practices what it (most certainly) preaches: Shields' provocation is that fiction is dead, that all reality is subjective, and that all artists copy or steal. To that end, the text comprises some 600 aphorisms composed into an argument about literature, essays, journalism and documentary. Flawed, repetitive and on occasion snide, it's tone makes the author (compiler) hard to like. But when one considers the formulaic nature of much three-act story-telling, the self-referencing of "my-life-as-a-writer" fiction, and the ascendancy of the documentary form in recent cinema, he may well be onto something. Thought-provoking and eclectic.
'Groundhog Day' for amnesiacs; instead of amassing knowledge, the protagonist in BIGTS makes each day anew. A really interesting central premise that's parsed-out well (although the pace drags a little through the middle section). There are tense plot twists along the way, and Watson wrings every ounce of mystery from his set up. *SPOILER ALERT* The disappointment is the end - rather than a Borges or Auster-like denouement, there's a Hollywood happy ending which gives the overall journey a rather pedestrian feel.
I have been vegetarian for some 20 years. My reasoning is a combination of personal health, the ethics of killing to live, and what I thought I knew about factory farming. In truth, I didn't know the half of it. Safran Foer has done the homework for me, and here presents a well-structured, insightful, moving study of the way 99% of meat gets sourced and processed. It's an angry. alarming, unsettling and ultimately horrifying polemic about what globalization and corporatism has done to the majority of our food. For the past two decades, whenever someone has asked my 'why vegetarian?' - and the question is usually asked in a restaurant while we're ordering - I have deferred answering to be polite, not wanting to put anyone off the meal they are about to eat. From now on, I'll give them a different answer: read 'Eating Animals' by Jonathan Safran Foer.
The usual Harris fare: a well-crafted thriller exploring a big central idea - this time, the algorithms that the 'quants' of Wall Street developed, and upon which the hedge funds build their business. Harris follows the implication of automated trades to its logical conclusion, then takes it a little too far, stretching the limits of narrative credibility. A shame, because the reality of the situation is scary enough already. If you're willing to suspect your disbelief, it's an enjoyable one-sitting page-turner.
A secret policeman in Stalinist Russia gets drawn toward a series of killings while the State machinery denies the possibility that such events could occur. A book that lives up to the hype on the covers; a remarkably well-plotted thriller that creates tension through political paranoia and physical peril. Astonishing that it's a first novel - brilliant craft demonstrated throughout. A gripping read that I can't recommend too highly.
An extremely clear narrative that combines economic theory and economic history (please - don't glaze over; this stuff is important just now)to explain how we ended up where we've ended up. At its heart is the unending battle between debtors and creditors, why we all had to come off the gold standard, and the role that government plays in bending the rules of the game. Essential reading.
As with Burkeman's previous book ('Help'), this mixes a deceptively easy-going writing style, some good jokes and a comprehensive review of the territory. He has done his homework, and the first-hand reporting of site visits ans interviews show the skills of a deft journalist. If you don't know the work of the Stoics, Albert Ellis, Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle or (latterly) Steve Shapiro, this is a very entertaining, well-written introduction: if you have read any of their work, then you might be left wanting just a little more insight or originality.
I wanted to like this book a lot - it's 'my sort of book' ; a challenge to conventional wisdom,a spotlight on the spin that invidiously defines the modern world. But ultimately, it under-delivers. Neither "quite brilliant" (Dame Jenni Murray) nor "laid out with precision, grace and urgency" (Zoe Williams) - it's ironic that the dust jacket is an example of the very symptoms that Glaser critiques.She themes each chapter (Politics, Social Mobility, Health, The Web, Media) and sets out to tell the 'truth' behind the ideology we're offered. Then fails to do so. What could have been a passionate call-to-arms is instead a sustained whinge about a lot of things she doesn't like, and a few things she does (but feels guilty about).Glaser has obviously read widely around each of her themes and quotes readily. But her sources have thought and written more deeply , so you're better off reading the original material for a real workout.