My books of 2017

A week into 2018, and I’m able to find some time to sit down and do some writing again. It feels good. And before I get into anything else, it’s time I reviewed last year’s reading and picked some favourites. In no particular order, here are five book recommendations from what I read in 2017:

Doughnut Economics, by Kate Raworth
To me this felt like the must-read book of the year, the one that was being read and discussed most in the circles I move in. Raworth’s concepts are entering the lexicon and influencing the way we talk about economics, and Doughnut Economics is a creative, counter-cultural and playful re-sketching of economics for the 21st century.

How Change Happens, by Duncan Green
Oxfam’s strategic advisor and fellow blogger Duncan Green explores the all-important topic of how change happens – where does power lie? How is it influenced? Why do campaigns succeed or fail? His book draws on examples from all over the world, and sets out key lessons that should apply to activists everywhere, whatever your cause might be. Since it was made available as a free ebook, there’s no excuse not to read and learn from it.

Empire of Things, by Frank Trentmann
Most critiques of consumerism start in 1950s America. Frank Trentmann expands the frame with this 500-year overview. It’s deep and detailed, and despite having read dozens of books on consumerism, I had no idea how little I knew. As he says: “If we want to be able to protect the future, we need to have a more rounded understanding of the processes by which we reached the present.”

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marçal
Right from the beginning, economics has undervalued women, argues Swedish writer Katrine Marçal. Her book shows the interdependent relationship between the formal economy and the care economy, traditionally the worlds of men and women respectively. It shows how a male dominated economics serves humanity badly, men included. And it does so with wit and flair I didn’t expect from a book on feminist economics.

Inheritors of the Earth, by Chris D Thomas
Thomas is an ecologist who argues that we live in an age of extinction and ecological decline, but that this creates both winners and losers. If we are able to step back and view the grand scheme of evolutionary history, things are not as hopeless as they appear. The book is somewhat controversial, but it challenges how we understand nature and conservation. Well worth a read, even if it makes you angry.

Among the best books I read and didn’t review on the blog were Andrew Smith’s Moondust, in which he seeks out every man to walk on the moon, and investigates the legacy of the Apollo missions. John Wright’s A Natural History of the Hedgerow includes a chapter on the history of ditches, which is the polar opposite of reading about the moon landings. As the Boring Conference demonstrates by selling out every year, the mundane often turns out to be extraordinary if you stare at it long enough.

A predictable choice, but on the fiction front I really liked Andy Weir’s book The Martian. Better than the movie, which is still great. And recommended with a degree of hesitation because it’s bonkers, I met a novelist called Mike French at a conference and really enjoyed his graphic novel An Android Awakes.

If you’re planning to pick any of these up, buying them through these links will net me a small percentage at no cost to you: Hive, which supports local UK bookshops, and Amazon UK or Amazon US, which do not.

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