What We're Reading

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Neil

no one is talking about this, by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury 2021)

Patricia Lockwood is a poet and memoirist, this is her first, remarkably original novel. It is written in a series of short, fragmentary, disconnected parts, which build to a narrative of sorts, and half way through, an unexpected event leads to a shift in the narrative and the focus of the main character. The internet and social media, called the portal in the novel, play a significant part in the first section.

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Neil

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury 2020)

Piranesi is an extraordinary novel, the setting so well conceived and controlled, the story so luminous, the twists and surprises so unsettling and unexpected, it's quite indescribable. To attempt to describe it would be to give too much away, all I can say is that it's an absolute must-read, and that it will take the reader to places they didn't expect at the beginning. I can't recommend this book highly enough, it's an absorbing, immersive mystery, a triumph of storytelling.

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Neil

Bunker, by Bardley Garrett (Allen Lane 2020)

Bradley Garrett is a social geographer, whose previous book was Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, an account of his time with urban explorers, trespassing into ruins, tunnels and high-rise buildings and construction sites. Bunker is a similarly entertaining account of the world of Doomsday preppers and their plans. It's an unsettling look at a growing movement, and an insight into our age of disquiet and dread.

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Neil

The House of Islam: A Global History, by Ed Husain (Bloomsbury 2018)

Ed Husain is a former Islamic extremist who has since rejected radicalism, and now advises governments on managing anti-extremist programmes. He knows Islam intimately, and this book is an essential read in these times of extremism, and the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban etc. He explains the origin of Islam, the structure of sharia, and defines and explains the confusing different strains of Islam - Sufism, Salafism, Wahhabism, the Sunni-Shi'a schism etc. It's an elegant overview of the Islamic world, and deserves to be widely read.

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Neil

Greek To Me, by Mary Norris (Text 2019)

Mary Norris is known as The Comma Queen for her years in the copy department at The New Yorker magazine. This book is an engaging account of her love affair with all things Greek, from the language, both ancient and modern, the wine and food of Greece, Greek gods and mythology, and even Greek men. She writes amusingly of the origins of her obsession with Greek, and of her struggles with the language, and with great joy about her numbers trips to Greece. It's a fabulously intelligent, brilliantly written, and gently amusing book, a fresh take on the conventional travel book.

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Neil

Fridays With Jim, by David Cohen (Massey 2020)

Jim Bolger entered politics in New Zealand in the 1970s as King Country MP, and served as Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997. Now in his 80s, he spent a year reflecting on his life in regular meetings with David Cohen, and this book is presented in the first person as a narrative of Bolger's life in chronological order. Although very National in his politics, he was always somewhat unorthodox in his thinking, and in fact has largely rejected the neoliberalism that was a feature of his premiership.