Sunday, 9 October 2011

what I'm reading

THIS was meant to be a blog about what I currently want to read, for National Book Week - if I'd finished writing it before National Book Week ended. Ah well.
I used to be a voracious reader once, but first work - for which I consumed so many newspapers, magazines, and back copies of Hansard that by the end of the day my eyes hurt - and then the particular kind of exhaustion engendered by small children crushed it out of me. When I changed my job, one thing I hoped to have more time for was reading for pleasure: unfortunately I immediately started writing my own book, which meant months of wading through an awful lot of background for that. Duh.
But I've finished now, so pleasure beckons again. This list probably isn't most people's idea of fun but although I normally read fiction, right now for some reason I want mostly books about ideas. Some aren't out yet, some are years old, but this is what I'm coveting this autumn....

1. 'Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour', by Michael Lewis. Of all the endless 'why the global econmy is screwed' books now coming out, this looks to be the most readable and possibly the only one with a sense of humour. Important when you're reading about the end of the world, I think.
2 'Masters of Nothing', Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi. Another book about the crash but concentrating on the human behaviour that led to it: Hancock used to work for the current Chancellor.
3. 'You Talkin To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama', by Sam Leith - because he is an effortlessly clever writer (see here) and I love the subject: why the spoken word holds such power to move us.
4. 'The Canon', by Natalie Angier - This is an a beautifully written book designed to convince scientific illiterates like me of the magic of science (here's the piece that made me want to read it.) I bought it on maternity leave, worried that I'd be bored with nothing to do but look after a small baby all day: I mean, presumably it would just sleep and I'd be sat twiddling my thumbs....Let's just say it was not the book's fault that I only got to chapter three. Four years later, he sleeps for long enough that I could probably finish this.
5. 'The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future', by David Willetts - I got this because I have never been bored talking to David, and am fascinated by the unravelling consequences of an ageing society. I started it but lost the book when we moved house. Being too mean to buy another one, I kept hoping it would turn up but it hasn't. Presumably the removal men now know much more demographic change than they did. Time to buy another copy.
6. 'Franklin & Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage', by Hazel Rowley. OK, it's the story of President Roosevelt and his wife but it's not a political work at all in the conventional sense: it's about the intricate compromises and ebb and flow within a marriage.
7. 'New Selected Stories,' by Alice Munro. Most of the fiction I read this autumn will probably end up being picked by the book group I belong to, but this one's all mine: short stories are perfect for interrupted readers, and she's the master.
8. Matthew D'Ancona's book for Penguin on the coalition, still being written. No idea what it's called or when it'll be out but it's the only book on the Cameron-Clegg years I want to read, because he's one of remarkably few journalists who genuinely understands Cameron yet won't churn out a hagiography. I think he'll be the Andrew Rawnsley of the coalition years.
Tomorrow: the ten children's books we really loved in this house. Also, um, for National Book Week. Give or take....


  1. Really interesting list, thanks for sharing why you are reading / want to read them. Have just added #1, #3 and #4 to my amazon wishlist. Thank you!

    Always fascinating to read an author who writes so well that you're willing to try anything they've written, regardless of subject, just because they write so well... My equivalent is Gretchen Rubin, who writes "The Happiness Project" blog - and now book. While I'm not remotely interested in the life of Winston Churchill, the fact that she's written a biography of him has made me curious...

    Looking forward to your children's book list. Perhaps more of an overlap with our house library than the above, heh...

  2. Interesting list, thanks for sharing. I'm planning to read:

    - Torture Team by Philippe Sands,
    - Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War
    by Cynthia Enloe
    - Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security
    by Stewart Patrick
    - Who Are We? by Gary Younge

    Also just finishing Karama! by Johnny West, which was rather good.