On books.

RDN on books, fiction and non-fiction, old and new. I have often also reviewed at the Social Affairs Unit website.

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Straw’s “Last Man Standing”: the fond politician

Jack Straw's autobiography, Last Man Standing, has been well-recieved, and justly so. At the risk of being patronising or condescending, it's worth saying that it is a touching book. I fancied myself admiring its author. I had to remind myself that it might be - perhaps had to be, was perhaps inevitably - a touch self-serving. Here's a little unpicking of all that.... Read more...

Published

07 February 2013

Update on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, and happiness

In 2009, I reviewed the then-new book, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in the Social Affairs Unit website. I thought the highly-influential and much-quoted work very flawed on just about every level. Until very recently, I hadn't noticed that intelligent, informed voices had continued to attack the book's handling of the inquality data. So I thought I'd now provide some sources which may prove useful.... Read more...

Published

29 January 2013

RDN on Mount’s “The New Few”

I had highish hopes of Ferdinand Mount's book, The New Few. Here, after all, was a famously intelligent, civilised and well-informed conservative voice addressing a concern which is widespread: that Britain is badly run, and controlled by rather few people. Actually, the book made one wonder in what sense Mr Mount still feels he is of the right (if he does), not least since almost everything he says is commonly, and rather boringly, said by the left. The following looks at the book in some detail.... Read more...

Published

08 January 2013

RDN on Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”

RDN ploughs through this celebrated personal and intellectual exploration – and exoneration - of the moral psychology of the right and the righteous, and finds it surprisingly light on moral or any other kind of useful thinking. Read more...

Published

19 December 2012

In praise of Nevil Shute

The great thing is to go forth and get hold of the books of this very great middle to low brow writer of adventure romances, and read them. If this piece delays you in doing so, then ignore it. If it is what may push you into the Shute fan club, then please read on... Read more...

Published

06 May 2012

Is Rosamond Lehmann the star pre-War woman writer?

I would love to pose the question: Is Rosamond Lehmann the best of the mid-20th Century female novelists? I am nowhere near well-enough-read to opine very certainly. I am thinking of the world before Iris Murdoch (my mother's favourite during the 1950s and 1960s) and Muriel Spark (whose books I loved in the 1970s). Lehmann's core competition comes from Stella Gibbons, Betty Miller, Jean Rhys,  Rose Macaulay, Elizabeth Bowen. Viriginia Wolf ought to be in there, but perhaps the point is that Lehmann and the others are middlebrow and Woolf's highbrow competition doesn't count. Read more...

Published

06 May 2012

Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline

Drawing on one aspect of Stewart Brand’s new Whole Earth Discipline, this is a rather dense (mercifully short) note about the weakness of most discussion about the merits of action on climate change. Read more...

Published

12 February 2010

Casting around in “Fishing In Utopia”

Note: If this were a review, it could have been much shorter and just said: “Buy this book. It’s lovely, sharp and beguiling”. I wanted to write something which drew on the experiences Andrew Brown and I shared, not least but not only at the Independent in the late 1980s. I also wanted to touch on the whole business of memoir- and nature-writing. Read more...

Published

01 January 2010

Climate Change (AGW): Let’s take it seriously

Most of the books on global warming science and policy are pretty muddled, hysterical or dreamy by turns. Very few have real quality. Mike Hulme's book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change seems to be in a different class. Read more...

Published

01 December 2009
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