The Meaning of Things — A. C. Grayling

This book of thoughtful mini-essays on life’s big topics is a pleasure to read. But maybe I only think that because I agree with a lot of what Grayling has to say. But maybe I only agree with him because he’s right. You’ll have to read it and decide for yourself.

Most of the essays are only a page or two, so this is a good book to delve into at random. (In fact that’s what Grayling recommends. I always ignore recommendations like that though — I’m a “begin-at-the-beginning” kind of guy.) They are grouped into three categories: Virtues and Attributes (such as Fear, Death, and Blame); Foes and Fallacies (Racism, Christianity, Capitalism); and Amenities and Goods (Education, Reading, Age). The essays originally appeared as newspaper columns, so there is some repetition and a few rough edges — the book could do with a bit of editing.

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Thinking, fast and slow — Daniel Kahneman

Thinking fast and slow

My friend David lent me this book after telling me that it had been blowing his mind. I’m not sure if it has blown my mind, but it definitely helped me to understand it a bit better. Kahneman suggests thinking … Continue reading

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A Technique for Producing Ideas — James Webb Young

A Technique for Producing Ideas

This classic book lays out, as you might expect, a technique for producing ideas. It’s very short and simple. In a nutshell, you must maintain a good supply of general knowledge, steep yourself in specialist knowledge about your problem, and … Continue reading

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The Fall — Albert Camus

The Fall

This short, intense monologue offers an unblinking view of the hypocrisy at the root of all human existence. Its protagonist is perhaps the most genuinely cynical character I have ever come across. The Guardian called The Fall “the most perfect … Continue reading

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Fight Club — Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club

The characters in Fight Club have a cruel self-destructiveness that I would hate to encounter in real life, but seems strangely appealing on the page. It’s the only way they can exert control over their lives, and it grows into … Continue reading

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The Torchlight List — Jim Flynn

The Torchlight List

Some books are so good that you can’t put them down — you have to keep reading them, even if it means reading by torchlight in the middle of the night. Jim Flynn has read a lot of good books … Continue reading

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The Broken Book — Fiona Farrell

I love this book. Fiona Farrell started out writing a travel book about walking in different countries and places, but the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11 imposed themselves on the writing. As she says, “The quake sent a jagged tear right … Continue reading

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Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Mistakes Were Made

I have always found it exasperating the way politicians rarely admit being wrong. They should simply say “sorry, I made a mistake, but I learned from it and won’t make that mistake again.” Instead, they evade, they prevaricate, and they … Continue reading

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The 10pm Question — Kate De Goldi

I don’t know how many books have been written about neurotic 12-year-olds, but I doubt many of them are as good as The 10pm Question. The central character, Frankie, is a portrait of a boy struggling with (he feels) the … Continue reading

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The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life

Your Well-Read Life

I never seem to have enough time to read all the books I want to read. So I grabbed this book, which promises to put more books in your life (including itself, I suppose). The thing I really liked is … Continue reading

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