Karl Marx once wrote that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. I’m not sure how far along that spectrum we are, I’m just hoping that we’re not up to the farce stage yet. Non-fiction pop-psychology (I can’t think of a better name it) doesn’t always have to scare us into believing that the sky is falling in (NB: it is, and always has been). It should identify real or perceived problems faced by societies and provide a practical and achievable solutions, or at very least a potential pathway towards a better future.
Steven Pinker – Enlightenment Now
Between fake news, maniacal partisanship and a straight up rejection of science on issues such as climate change and mass migration, it seems as though we have fallen into a deep intellectual crisis. In these uncharted waters of hyper-global society there is an increasing amount of uncertainty regarding how well we can confidently know what we take to be true. Steven Pinker’s most recent book came under heavy criticism for its hyperbolic optimism and its faith in human progress. Which seems fair, every time I turn on the news I’m inundated with scenes of chaos, hatred, greed and stupidity. In Enlightenment Now Pinker explains that if you follow the trendlines rather than headlines you may discover that our lives have actually become longer, healthier, safer, happier and more prosperous.
Edward de Bono – Six Thinking Hats
In high school I was terrible at public debating. I just couldn’t argue a point that I didn’t necessarily believe in with someone on a stage. I then picked up a copy of Six Thinking Hats in which Edward de Bono rallies against the closed mindedness that can be prevalent in adversarial communications and proposes instead that thinking should be divided into six parts (white hat: facts and figures, red hat: emotions and feelings, yellow hat: speculative thinking, green hat: creative thinking, blue hat: controlled thinking). de Bono hopes that people will use this book to open their minds, unleash their creativity and change the way people think about thinking.
Peter Singer – The President of Good & Evil
During a recent COVID lockdown I was sitting with my 3 year old son on a park bench eating a banana. A police officer took my details and warned me that the next time this happened I would be issued with a $5,000 fine. Could you imagine the trouble I could have been in if I was responsible for the illegal and largely pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars? Far from being held accountable for this massive waste of lives and money George W. Bush is now perversely lionised for his early-2000s kitsch value. In The President of Good & Evil Peter Singer unravels and scrutinises the ethics behind the policies and rhetoric of George W. Bush, exposing a deeply flawed morality.
Adam Curtis – Can’t Get You Out of My Head
In his most recent disorientating 6-part documentary series Adam Curtis explores and links together topics such as conspiracy theories, national myths, American imperialism, the history of China and artificial intelligence. Curtis’s uncanny ability to twist together archival footage, amazing music and his unique narrative style is second to none.