reading list

Time to take stock of my reading for the past three months or so. Not an exhaustive list, but some of the notables, in no particular order:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended to me by another church planter, this is a book about the conditions that cause a social movement to reach the “tipping point” and explode into a social phenomenon. It’s full of fascinating psychological experiments, including research done on why Sesame St. works so well, why New York’s crime wave suddenly took a dive in the early 90s, and why Hush Puppies had a sudden resurgence in popularity.

The Chequebook and the Cruise Missile by Arundhati Roy
This book consists of a series of conversations with social activist and commentator Arundhati Roy (most famously the Booker Prize-winning author of “The God of Small Things”). I originally became interested in her when Andrew Denton interviewed her on Enough Rope – her story was fascinating and compelling. That interview is still available online here and is well worth checking out. Just a small exerpt:

I think where there is a fear, there will… I mean, where there is fear, there’ll always be hope. Where there is oppression, it will always be challenged by those of us who will challenge it with greater intensity, you know? So that’s why I don’t believe that there can ever be peace without justice, you know? The two go together…always there will be people who demand dignity, who demand justice, who demand their rights. And, you know, that is as much physics as the physics of people who want power and who try to usurp it – it is the physics of those of us who will challenge it, and we’ll always be around.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
If you read no other book this year, etc. etc….I know a lot of people say that, but wow, this book is a corker. John Perkins is a self-confessed former Economic Hit Man (or EHM for short), who on behalf of US interests blackmailed, cajoled and tricked developing countries into debt and ultimately expanding the US empire. This is an expose on the US belief that they are chosen by God to police the world according to their own values and beliefs, and their methods of ensuring that it is done.

No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein
The anti-consumerist’s bible. It details the very eclectic and disparate anti-consumerism movement, the reasons behind it and the tactics they employ. Marketing itself is a large part of the book’s focus, looking at the methods companies use to create community where there is none, and to brand us all in their image. It also details the horrific human rights abuses behind global corporations such as Nike and Shell, and the media spins they use to ignore or combat these events. A little long-winded for me, but certainly comprehensive.

Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz
Let me begin this by saying that the word ‘economics’ makes me run a mile – which is good for my fitness, yes, but my point is that I have no clue when it comes to economics. Or should I say ‘had’, since I have learnt a lot since reading this book. Stiglitz is a former economist in the Clinton government, and Chief Economist at the World Bank. This book is a scathing assessment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the way their policies have continued and in some cases worsened widespread poverty in developing countries, counter to its imprimatur. The IMF is there, basically, to ensure that countries have stable and healthy economies in order for development to happen and poverty not to happen. Essentially, he argues that it is both incompetance and protecting first world interests (particularly in the form of repaid debt) that maintain the problems, and there is need for significant change.

The Promethius Deception by Robert Ludlum
Not so much significant for its own sake as for the fact that it was my last Robert Ludlum book. I went on a Robert Ludlum rampage for the last 2 and a half years, and read every one of his 32 or so books…I’m really not sure why, considering they are all basically the same, only with the character names changed. It’s the old one-skilled-but-alone-man-against-a-global-conspiracy-with-no-one-he-can-trust story, but it’s really fun stuff you can switch your brain off and enjoy. Maybe for me too it has that element of encouragement – that one person can make a difference, etc. (even if that one person is a highly trained covert ops assassin…)

How to be Good by Nick Hornby
Thus began my Nick Hornby binge – and what a beginning. The blurb explains it best:

Katie Carr, doctor (and self-declared ‘good person’) has just had an affair. It’s really not her fault – she is, after all, married to David: angry, cynical, negative (though undeniably funny) and a real pain to live with. But then David meets DJ Goodnews, astonishingly effective faith healer and do-gooder of the unbearably smug kind. And now David is good. Too good, actually – ‘a liberal’s worst nightmare’, he starts to put theory into practice, giving away their kids’ toys, reaching out to the hopeless and homeless in a very personal and, for Katie, disturbing way. It seems to her that if charity begins at home, it may be time to move…

A fascinating study of what it would be like if we were actually prepared to risk living what we believe.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is a magnificent story about male and female relationshjps. There was a movie made of it with John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones a while back, but in an Americanized way. If there’s not a dozen or so “I can totally relate to that!” moments as you read this book, I’d be surprised.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Another book that was adapted well for screen, although the book has a slightly different slant on the characters. Basically about two boys, one a grown man who needs to grow up and the other a young boy who needs to learn to be a kid.

Currently: The End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our lifetime by Jeffrey Sachs
I’ll let you know how it goes when I finish, but basically, it’s an explanation of the arguments behind the MakePovertyHistory campaign and the requests being made of the G8 leaders this July to forgive debt, make trade fair, and increase aid.

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