American Mermaid, Julia Langbein

What an intriguing debut novel! I found this quite slow to read, and often wondered where it was all going. Langbein’s writing, however, is often quite witty: there are some great lines throughout this sometimes meandering, curious novel. 

The Art of Reading, Damon Young

Young writes so well, yet the premise of this book feels quite uncertain: is it about the joy of reading? Is it about novels and stories themselves? Is it a vehicle for the author to explore the thoughts of various other philosophers? I spent a nice time with this book but could not recommend it. 

The Power of Fun, Catherine Price

A book that rightfully reminds us that having fun is, in many respects, the point of life. As the pressures of late-stage capitalism conspire to make us think the only thing that matters is productivity, Price (and others) are leading the vanguard of arguing for a better, more fun life. 

Best Wishes, Richard Glover

I read this in a state of disbelief; it was exactly every Boomer trope you’ve ever heard, one right after the other. The definition of failing upwards is this book. 

Cold People, Tom Rob Smith

The book is very much something you might buy at an airport, and so long as that is what you expect going in, you might have an OK time: I found the book pretty uneven and the ending was unsatisfying. Nonetheless, there are some genuinely interesting ideas about survival and humanity. 

The Book, Alan Watts

Watts is a special mind indeed; writing about philosophy in such a clear, accessible way is a genuine triumph. So much of this book resonated deeply with me, I feel repeated readings will be required to full absorb Watts’ ideas. I think, at its core, this book is an attempt at a cure of our modern pathology of seeing ourselves as lonely, disconnected and minor. 

The End of Reality, Jonathan Taplin

A frightening and clear look at the power and malign influence of Musk, Zuckerberg, Thiel et al, as well as a consideration of the failure of neoliberal economics and the rise of the angry far-right, MAGA types. All in all, this only fuelled my fear as to the grossly irresponsible actions of big tech and the urgent need for strict regulation.  

Number Go Up, Zeke Faux

Number Go Up, Zeke Faux

I wanted a really trenchant and forensic analysis of the odd world of crypto and instead I got more of a journalistic process story/gee, bitcoin bros sure are tacky/awful gossipy thing. There is enough that is genuinely concerning about crypto (which, to his credit, he touches upon, although not nearly enough) that we don’t have to make fun of the individual participants.

The Librarianist, Patrick deWitt

A new book from one of my favourite authors. A lot less witty than his earlier books (intentionally so, I presume, given his command of language), and I liked it a little less.

How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher

one of the most impressive pieces of food writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Fisher writes with such incredible width, humanity and grace. The revised edition is sprinkled with parenthetical comments that make the experience of reading the book almost like a witty conversation with the author. Delightful from tail to top.

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki, Baek Se-hee

I’ve long been interested in how media depicts mental health; and, in particular, fascinated at the differences between its treatment in the East and West (not that these two groups are of course meaningfully homogenous). This book gives you a fly on the wall perspective of someone receiving therapy, which oftentimes paralleled my own mental health journey. While I enjoyed the transcripts, I think the short essays were a little less meaningful for me. The title is really a bit of throwaway, there’s no meaningful discussion of the author’s love of food (or tteokbokki in particular).

Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman

Burkeman is one of those writers who is capable of distilling such weighty and significant philosophical concepts into actionable and practical advice. As brilliant as his earlier book, The Antidote, and required reading for everyone seeking to navigate a finite life.

Authoritarian Century, Azeem Ibrahim

Exceptionally cogent and concise analysis from a rare mind; profoundly frightening in its implications, especially given the increasing possibility of a second Trump Whitehouse. A powerful call to bolster and support liberal democracies by moving away from the death-grip of neoliberal free market thinking; it has failed people, and these people are now turning to radical populist authoritarians. Some useful thinking on China, Russia, social media and conspiracies and the Far Right and Radical Islam, too.

In Praise of Slow, Carl Honoré

A wonderful introduction and exploration of being slow, as explored through categories like work, cities, sex, music, and food. I think of this more of a primer than something that dives deeper into a specific category: which is to say I made very few notes while reading, compared with some other more focussed books. Nonetheless, very well written.

Adulthood Rites, Octavia E Butler

Despite being a little bogged down in middle book syndrome, this book explored the thoroughly bizarre and abhorrent alien race the Oankali, who exist through drugging and manipulating each other chemically. It is hard to escape the book’s bitter conclusion that there is something very dark at the heart of humanity that gives rise to such violence. Incredible writing and world development from Butler.