What We're Reading

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Neil

Utopia For Realists, by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury 2017)

Utopia For Realists is a visionary book, about how we can make our lives and our society better. He questions why none of our political parties, either left or right, have the answers to solving the problems of homelessness, poverty, inequality, long working weeks etc. As the title suggests, he is realistic, and describes case studies where significant achievements have been made in these areas. Of particular interest is his advocacy for a Universal Basic Income, which I have come to believe is one answer to many of the issues plaguing Western society right now.

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Neil

How To Stop Time, by Matt Haig (Canongate, August 2017)

Matt Haig is a very versatile and highly imaginative writer. He writes for children and adults, and has written an essential memoir about depression. How To Stop Time is a novel. It's about Tom Hazard, who appears to be in his early 40s, but because he has a rare condition, he has been alive for centuries. He's in the habit of changing his identity and moving on every 8 years or so, before people become suspicious. That means not falling in love. Haig uses this set up to explore what life and love really mean, what it's like to lose and find yourself, how to learn how to live.

Neil's picture
Neil

One Of The Boys, by Daniel Magariel (Granta 2017)

This book immediately appealed to me because of its cover - an American landscape of desert and mountains, reflected in a car mirror, slightly blurred with movement. It's a short novel, gritty, real and tough. It's told in the first person, narrated by a teenage boy, whose father has won a bitter custody battle for him and his brother. They move from Kansas to Albuquerque. Their violent, addicted father runs the household with menace and regular absences, the boys struggle to manage, but survive. This is a powerful portrait of American masculinity, violence and resilience.

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Neil

Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor (4th Estate, 2017)

Jon McGregor is an unconventional novelist. There is no one else that I know of who can do what McGregor does in a novel. He has written 3 previous novels and a collection of linked short stories, and he's pushing the bounds of what can be done with the novel form, while always being readable. Reservoir 13 opens with a teenage girl going missing in a small English village. It's winter, in the early years of the 21st Century.

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Neil

The Forensic Records Society, by Magnus Mills (Bloomsbury 2017)

Magnus Mills is unique. There is nobody else quite like him. In this quirkily packaged novel - it's the size of a 45 rpm record, with the cutaway in the paper in the centre revealing the label - two men who are passionate about vinyl records form a society to meet weekly at a local pub to listen to and appreciate a selection of records. There are certain strictly observed rules: members are required to listen forensically but without commentary or opinions being expressed. However, this uncompromising dogma leads to a schism, and a breakaway society is formed.

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Neil

Universal Harvester, by John Darnielle (Scribe 2017)

John Darnielle is the man behind The Mountain Goats, a quite brilliant but under-the-radar American alternative rock band, and the author of the acclaimed novel Wolf in White Van. His second novel is similarly unusual and original, although quite different to the previous novel. In the 1990s, in Iowa, Jeremy is working at the local video store (remember them?), and notices that tapes are being returned with short but eerie black and white sections seemingly recorded over or spliced in to the tape, which cumulatively seem to show an extremely disturbing and violent incident.