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A book per week for a year. Yeah maybe I’ll give that a go some time, when I have some time maybe. I had a whole bundle of excuses at the start of 2010, most of them still valid, but none of them any longer convincing. So four months into the year I’m still just about on track. Here’s the listing.
- News from Nowehere, William Morris (1890). What if instead of turning right during the first half of the 20th century, the UK turned left. Rid itself of the monarchy and all forms of government and ascended into a communitarian utopia. Morris puts down the scissors and safety glue and answers just that question.
- The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien (1940). Alice in Wonderland with whiskey, porter and bicycles. Genius.
- The European Union as a Leader in International Climate Change Politics, R. K. W. Wurzel and James Connelly (2011). Okay, back to reality with a bang. If the EU can be described as reality. This is a book I have wanted for the past year, the ultimate primer on what the governance institutions of the EU are doing about climate change, along with chapters on major nation state players such as Germany, the UK and France.
- Mao II, Don De Lillo (1991). If you’ve read nothing by De Lillo read Underworld. If you’ve read Underworld go get Mao II. Typically “Great American” in its vantage point, De Lillo takes two of that continent’s most enigmatic artists, J.D. Salinger and Andy Warhol, and uses them as inspiration for a contemplation on individualisation and the crowd at the end of the 20th century.
- The Story of a Hedgeschool Master. Eugene Watters (1971). Educating catholic children was illegal in 17th century Ireland. This didn’t stop the emergence an estimated 8,000 hedgeschools, which are exactly what they sound like. This is the story of such a school and its European trained teacher.
- How to Win Campaigns, 2nd ed, Chris Rose (2010). Chris did a lot of work with us at 10:10. You can take or leave his approach to value based campaigning, but there’s lots here of value to campaigners or indeed anyone working with public opinion.
- Chasing the Flame, Sergio Vieira de Mello, Samantha Power (2008). Speaking of change, Sergio was a guy who made a difference in a big way. Total hero who one suspects was not your typical UN aid worker.
- Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. David McKay (2009). Solid numbers on where the UK’s energy demand is and where that demand could be met if we were to go all renewable.
- State of Fear, Michael Crichton (2004). A slightly less believable thriller than Jurassic Park.
- White Shroud. Poems 1980 – 1985. Allen Ginsberg (1986).
- Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (1913) James Joyce. “If only we knew”, the refrain repeated across Ireland as Catholic abuses were uncovered throughout the Eighties and Nineties. Seems like Joyce was well aware of the huge amount of power
- Poke the Box. Seth Godin (2011). Godin sold this e-book for $1 if you bought before the release date. Great model, great value and one important lesson; your idea is nothing until it ships.
- The Net Delusion. How not to Liberate the World. Evgeny Morozov (2010). Morozov urges his readers away from a reductionist viewpoint that would give Twitter and Facebook credit for Arab revolutions this Spring. But in doing so he’s guilty of employing plenty of technocratic reductionist arguments himself. Which is a shame, because this is one of those books that could truly be labeled “important”.
- Communication Power. Castells (2009). A great follow-up to Morozov and one which illustrates just how important a role our communications systems play in shaping and aggregating power in society. To change society we need to understand it, this book’s going to help.
- Memoirs of a Minor Public Figure. Des Wilson (2011). Three reasons to read: 1) Wilson was one of the originators of the single issue campaign in the mid-sixties. 2) Wilson created and saw success on a huge number of campaigns over four decades. 3) Oh, and he was also a key protagonist in the SDP, Liberal Party merger. He doesn’t often admit fault but provides interesting background nevertheless.
- The Golden Notebook. Doris Lessing (1962) currently reading…
I’ll update this as I go through the year. And I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on the books themselves. So if you have an opinion, or a suggested book, let me know.