Where Is My Flying Car by David J. Storrs Hall

Written 24 June 2022 I heard about this book recently and thought it had a catchy title so read it this week. The book is written by a nanotechnologist and is really a stock take of how human progress and development appear in many ways to have substantially halted over the last half a century and to put forward reasons for why that’s happened. It does this through the story of the flying car. Or rather, it uses the stalling of the development of flying cars to illustrate why we haven’t got the “future we were promised”. It’s a pretty...

Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David J. C. MacKay

Written 05 June 2022 It’s become increasingly clear to me over the years that abundant, reliable and cheap energy is the cornerstone of progress we have enjoyed in the developed world for many years now. It also lies at the heart of environmental questions that are set to be at the centre of our political life for the rest of my life and so I’ve been looking to read more on Energy this year. I started with The Prize by Daniel Yergin which deals with the history of the oil industry (reviewed here), then Helen Thompson’s Disorder (which touches on...

Localism: Manifesto for a Twenty-First Century England by thelocalists.org

Written 27 December 2021 This is the fiftieth and probably the last book for me of 2021, and was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it is one the very few books I have read recently that I have read as a physical book. I got a kindle a few years ago and while I know that many people just prefer physical books I prefer reading on a kindle nowadays and cleared most books out of the house about three years ago. Secondly, I bought the book directly from thelocalists.org via their twitter account @localmattersENG. The book is short,...

The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power by Daniel Yergin

Written 12 December I heard about this book rather in passing while listening to an an episode of Demitry Kafinas’s Hidden Forces podcast. It is a big read and took some time to get through. It covers the history of the oil industry from the second half of the nineteenth century. What a story it is, huge in scale, immense in its impact on humanity and central to any serious reading of economics and politics. Of course everyone professes to know how important oil is, but this book really does convey that its importance is far more foundational than we...

Aid and Other Dirty Business

Written 15 September I finished this a couple of weeks ago and as I found it pretty thought provoking thought I’d set down a few thoughts. The title is somewhat misleading: the book is by no means an anti-Aid screed but does describe well how Aid sometimes comes up short. It also sets out a realistic vision for what a more effective system of International Aid would look like. Giles Bolton is obviously a bright and highly motivated chap and wrote this in the mid-noughties following stints with DfID in Rwanda and Iraq. He comes across very much as an...

The End of the End of History

Written 28 July I enjoy podcasts and have tuned in occasionally to Aufhebunga Bunga, the “global politics podcast at the end of the end of history”, so I thought I’d pick up the book which has just recently been released by its founders. The podcast sets its stall out pretty clearly: it’s on the old-fashioned Left and against the Neoliberal settlement that started in the West in the late 1970s and has since conquered the world, so I wasn’t expecting a balanced take on politics. The book is easy to read (it’s only about 200 pages long) and for someone...

Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver

Written 30 June 2021 Having read, reread and loved her novel The Mandibles I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist this latest one from Lionel Shriver and in fact I downloaded and read it without even waiting for the kindle price drop. It’s the story of a well to do married couple, a doctor and a nurse, who having seen close up what ageing and dying means in modern day Britain decide to enter a suicide pact. They enter this pact in the early nineties at the age of about fifty and expect it to come into effect...

The Remembrance of Earth’s Past

Written 24 June 2021 I thought my next venture into the science fiction genre would be to read The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin and while it’s still on the list I didn’t find myself approaching the prospect with any real relish so looked for something else. These books were recommended to me on Twitter and having read the review of the first book in the series I thought I’d give it a go, or at least read the first book The Three-Body Problem. I have started writing this review despite being just half way through the third and final...

Green Philosophy

Written 17 June 2021 Having read and reviewed his Fools, Frauds and Firebrands just a short time ago I wasn’t expecting to read something else by Roger Scruton for some time.  But sticking to resolutions is something I’ve never been terribly good at, so here I am reviewing another book of his. I think it came up on my kindle at a particularly appealing price, so maybe that is what tipped me into downloading it. Anyway, I found it a much more interesting and engaging book in every sense. It is easier to read, touching on a narrower and more...

The Left Hand of Darkness

Written 23 May 2021 I came upon this book while searching for my next read and it popped up in a number of lists of can’t miss science fiction. Written in 1969 and set on a planet inhabited by “ambisexual” or androgynous humans who mainly live in a state where the male/female distinction is redundant it has also gained real status as it deals with the absence of our conventional notions of gender, so it is pretty topical. The book is part of a series of six novels (the Hainish Cycle). It is not difficult to find reviews eulogising the...