Review: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians – Isabel Hardman (2018)

Isabel Hardman’s Why We Get the Wrong Politicians offers a clear and lively explanation of the parliamentary system’s working in both theory, and in practice. I recommend it for all those with an interest in why our system seems to be mired in crisis, regardless of existing levels of knowledge: she offers clear explanation of the systems workings for those unfamiliar with the detail of our parliament, along with insider knowledge and accounts of how it actually works, and why.

The Peterborough by-election depressed me.  The top two candidates were so patently unfit for public office that it really made inescapable the growing feeling I’ve had that our political system is in crisis. 

I turned to Isabel Hardman’s well received 2018 account of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians.   This had been sitting on my shelf for a few months, seemingly awaiting just such a moment of total loss of confidence in the system from me, so I note here I have the first edition hardback.  It has since been updated and issued as a paperback, with an updated Brexit section and preface on ‘how it’s just got worse’, and I would like to read these further thoughts from Hardman.

Continue reading “Review: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians – Isabel Hardman (2018)”

Forms of Existential Angst (November 2018 Reading Review)

These are belated reviews of books I read across last year.  The delay is due to having read them to answer a feeling in myself.  I no longer feel the way I did last autumn, and as the feeling has passed the coherence of reviewing them together has loosened also.  I have given up trying to tie them together in any meaningful way, but perhaps putting them together here does make some sense.

  • Desert, Anonymous (2011)
  • The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, H.P. Lovecraft (1999 [1917 – 1935])
  • Out of Time, Miranda Sawyer (2016)

Continue reading “Forms of Existential Angst (November 2018 Reading Review)”

Review: 45, Bill Drummond (2001)

4img_07375 is a collection of essays written during Bill Drummond’s 45th year. It’s a mix of autobiographical sketches and anecdotes, and autobiographically inspired musings on a theme.  These range broadly from his early years of managing Echo and the Bunnymen, through to pre-publication of this paperback edition – the last three essays are a foreword to the book, and two on getting the foreword written and accepted for this edition.
At the beginning Drummond thinks of the title as linking his age to a 45rpm record, with the end of his music career and the beginning of his writing career having come at 33 1/3 years old (in fact, he kept making music. Pictured).  However, midway through he recollects asking his dad when the best period of life is, and his dad answering ‘45, son’. Who knows if this is true, but the answer and Drummond’s thinking around it – about the benefits of less hormones, less desperation – clearly informs this work. Drummond seems to battle throughout with what he knows is a childish need for attention and applause, for public approbation.  The lessening of this desperation allows him more space here.   Continue reading “Review: 45, Bill Drummond (2001)”

Undistract Yourself (To Save the World): August Reading Review

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I work in an open plan office and, until about three weeks ago, spent a lot of time checking Facebook and Twitter.  I hate both of these things: spending too long trying to work at my desk makes me irritable, even angry, and the social media scrolling left me miserable and frustrated. The three books I read in August address this fragmented mental environment from different perspectives.

  • Cal Newport, Deep Work (2016)
  • Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018)
  • Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (1908)

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July 2018 Reading Review

IMG_9593Three reviews this month; one very brief.  Despite the brief review it is The Rings of Saturn has had the greatest effect as on me as this prolonged heatwave bears down on us in Brighton, and I start to wonder what the English seasons and landscape will look and feel like as our climate changes (the picture is of an arid Preston Park in Brighton, taken mid-July).

  • W.G. Sebald – The Rings of Saturn (1998)
  • Sven Lindqvist – A History of Bombing (2001)
  • Jarod Lanier – You Are Not A Gadget (2011)

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Review: Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle

kill all normiesKill All Normies
by Angela Nagle
This short book was highly timely when it was published (June 2017), but this seems to have come at some cost.  The book is unfinished – it has none of the referencing apparatus it requires, it doesn’t appear to have been proof read, it is fragmentary and has real problems of cohesion, and has clearly been rushed for publication.   Whether this cost still seems worth it a year on is debatable. Continue reading “Review: Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle”

Review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)

Another one from late February this year…
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Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)
Reading the first section of essays in this collection –  In the World, loosely on politics – made me realise how very, very average is most current political commentary. I’ve been worrying recently over how the evisceration of newspapers has meant the drafting in of academics for opinion and comment pieces, and the undesirability of this.  Continue reading “Review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)”

'Sir Vidia’s Shadow', by Paul Theroux. Reading Notes: Part 1.

Summary: I’m halfway through this book having reached the end of the second of four parts, and so far this is a compelling study of an incredible character, that raises unsettling questions. Theroux’s honesty about himself makes the personal memoir aspect engaging, but it is the well observed portrait of V.S. Naipaul as a powerful, driven and flawed character that is the dark fascinating heart of the book. The animating question for me at this point is how much of the whole is necessary: how separable are Naipaul’s virtues and vices. The earliest part of the book shows the allure, and perhaps the need, for people who hold themself and the world to a higher standard. By the mid-point however this admirable and absolute commitment to the truth and to exposing reality no matter how uncomfortable, is shading definitively into contempt and cruelty towards (most of) the rest of humanity.   A second question, how far is the (post-colonial) insecurity underlying Naipaul’s character responsible for the strengths and excesses. Continue reading “'Sir Vidia’s Shadow', by Paul Theroux. Reading Notes: Part 1.”

Book Review: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt, 2011, Profile Books. Overall, an excellent book on strategy. Its two main contributions are a clear and rigorous approach to good strategy and a vigorous analysis of errors in strategic thinking that gets right to the heart of why there is so much bad strategy out there.

rrGood Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt, 2011, Profile Books.
Summary
This is, overall, an excellent book on strategy. Its two main contributions are a clear and rigorous approach to good strategy, which almost everyone can gain from, and a vigorous analysis of errors in strategic thinking that gets right to the heart of why there is so much bad strategy out there.
The first section is the strongest, setting out Rumelt’s approach to strategy and the concept of, and prevalence of, bad strategy. The remaining two sections, whilst interesting and containing useful ideas, are less vital. The third seems rushed and poorly structured even; there is no conclusion at all, the book abruptly ends. When I’ve recommended this book to friends, I’ve suggested they read the first part and skim the rest picking out what’s of interest. Continue reading “Book Review: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt”