The Bookclub Series is back, gathering together an eclectic collection of the best books from the first half of 2022. Curated by my bibliophilic husband R.R.M., this edit is part of an ongoing series sharing recommendations from our library to your’s. Expect an engrossing selection which shines a light on topical subjects from world politics to equality and liberalism.
Not Far From Brideshead, Daisy Dunn
A must-read for all Evelyn Waugh enthusiasts, this fantastic piece of writing presents a contrarian way to approach Evelyn Waught’s finest novel, Brideshead Revisited. It centres on three professors of classics at Oxford between World War I and World War II; and even if readers – such as me – don’t have any prior expertise in the Classics, this book is an enlightening gateway to British history and Oxford during this time.
The Age of the Strongman, Gideon Rachman
Financial Times political writer Rachman has come up with a wonderful book on the “Strongman.” Although occasionally, he falls into the trap of stereotyping world leaders, this book is one of the best current affairs books I’ve read in ages. For one, each essay can be read individually as a character portrait of individual world leaders – Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsanaro, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi… Underlying some global themes that have given rise to these leaders, Rachman does a brilliant job in showing common traits between them and the populace that votes them to power. Drawing on decades of experience of writing at the Economist even before Financial Times, Rachman puts a wide cast of characters in one brilliantly woven book. This is a very timely and topical book given the age we live in, an age that is going to be around for a long while according to the author.
Davos Man, Peter Goodman
A thought provoking book, although angry in tone. Goodman doesn’t like the “Davos Man” but he doesn’t caricature him either. The “Davos Man” epitomises the the global power elite who congregate at the World Economic Forum and pontificate on current world problems. As a journalist, Goodman has attended a few of these forums and speaks from experience. Using Marc Benioff, the founder of SalesForce as a prominent example, he deep-dives into the character (and occasional stereotype) of the Davos Man and blames him for several of the world’s problems. Whether you agree entirely with Goodman or not, he does have one questioning several of the prominent themes such as globalisation, which which were glorified at Davos and have since dominated the past few decades.
Chums: How A Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took over the UK, Simon Kuper
There can be no better book than Chums this summer to describe current British politics! Published a mere month before Boris Johnson resigned, Chums has already getting a lot of press in UK and rightfully so. Oxford during the 1980’s is at the heart of this book which explores how a caste of characters – Boris Johnson, Teresa May, David Cameron, and others – came to define British Politics today. The highlight is that the author, Kuper, was their contemporary at Oxford and the personal experiences and anecdotes that he shares are fascinating.
Elizabeth Finch, Julian Barnes
Prolific British novelist Julian Barnes’ latest work is a slim but elegant novel about lecturer, Elizabeth Finch, who taught adult students “culture and civilization.” This book is well structured through the eyes of the narrator, Neil, who was her student and is bestowed with her writings and papers on her death.
A Brief History of Equality, Thomas Piketty
This is a good primer on Piketty, particularly for those who are familiar with the prominent intellectual but daunted by the volume of his previous tomes – the 800-pager Capital in the Twenty-First Century” published in 2014 and 1100-odd page “Capital and Ideology,” published in 2019. Piketty is an expert on the ever-so-important topic of inequality. His latest title is less quantitative and peppered with more historical references. Whilst more accessible than his previous works, it is admittedly not as impressive however this book nonetheless finds a place on this list, because whenever Piketty publishes, I read what he has to say.
Liberalism and its Discontents, Francis Fukuyama
Fukuyama rose to fame at the end of the Cold War with his essay “The End of History,” which was then expanded into a full book-length. In my opinion, he has never achieved the same heights of intellectual prowess since then. In fact, his previous book “Identity” published just two years ago was disappointing. However, this book shines through, even in Fukuyama’s prolific oeuvre. It starts promisingly, as a political science textbook of sorts, by giving a deep-dive into what the term “liberalism” actually is. This chapter alone debunks many myths around how the term is construed. The title is obviously inspired by Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, which had also inspired economist Joe Stiglitz’s Globalization and its Discontents!”
About The Bookclub Series:
Books have always commanded pride of place (and storage!) in our home, with R.R.M.’s passion for reading manifesting in some of our greatest treasures. This series is an extension of his bibliophilic sensibilities, with curated bucket lists to inspire you the next time you’re looking for a good book to get stuck into.