The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

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Read 26/01/2020-14/02/2020

Rating 3 stars

Jonathan Haidt wrote The Righteous Mind in 2012, four years before many of us finally became aware that the political world had tilted on its axis and everything we thought we understood about the democratic process had unravelled. Haidt, it’s true, had pinpointed the change as starting in the 1990s, but for many of us, 2016 was Year Zero. Continue reading

Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men

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Read 14/12/2019-04/01/2020

Rating 4 stars

I found Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women a difficult read. It’s essential in its content and the topics Perez shines a light on, but I found its wide ranging subject and the approach Perez takes in evidencing and unpicking the topics she focuses on resulted in a somewhat dense, exhausting book. It relentlessly raises lots of issues across 300+ pages but leaves any possible solutions to the final dozen. It felt at times like one woman railing against injustice rather than a practical call to arms across society.

The book begins with a simple statement. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from Daisy Jones and the Six to Revolutionary Road

Happy New Year! And I’m starting 2020’s book blogging with 6 degrees of separation because I haven’t quite finished the book I started before Xmas.

I don’t do New Year resolutions, so it’s untrue for me to say I’ve resolved to do all of 2020’s 6 degrees of separations. I’m going to try my best to remember to, though.

January’s chain begins with a book I haven’t heard of. Continue reading

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War

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Read 24/11/2019-12/12/2019

Rating 4 stars

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse legacies of the Cold War is a collection of academic essays on the material culture of the Cold War and a multidisciplinary approach to its history. It makes a case for the influence that the Cold War has had on the world, from the domestic lives of those living under its psychological shadow in Europe and the USA, to those living alongside nuclear power stations (also sites of manufacture of weapons grade nuclear material) and nuclear test sites. It takes in archaeology, history, art, architecture and cultural studies in its examination of material culture and what that material culture can tell us about something that has been hidden behind military classification for so long. Continue reading

Escape from Earth: A secret history of the space rocket

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Read 09/11/2019-24/11/2019

Rating 4 stars

Fraser MacDonald’s debut is a fascinating account of the birth of rocket science and space exploration. It’s a hidden history brought to light thanks to MacDonald’s interest in unlocking public records that governments have deemed secret.

This is a history of a group of people who came together in 1930s California, as Fascism was taking hold in Europe. Some were the children of immigrants, others were immigrants themselves, fleeing the persecution building across the Atlantic ocean. At the heart of the group is a scientist called Frank Malina. He was researching at the same time as Robert Oppenheimer, but he isn’t as well known as Oppenheimer, because he has been largely written out of the history of rocket science. Continue reading

Tokyo Ueno Station

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Read 17/10/2019-20/10/2019

Rating 4 stars

Tokyo Ueno Station is a ghost story, an alternative history of Japan and a critique of Japanese society. Beginning among the homeless community who live in and around the busy commuter station near Ueno Park, it reaches back through time to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the post-war economic boom, the migration of workers to Tokyo to help build the Olympic park in 1964, and the devastating tsunami of 2011.

The narrator of the tale is called Kazu. Through him, we see a different Japan to the one portrayed in travel programmes and newspaper articles. It’s a harrowing story of loss and abandonment. Continue reading