Pandaemonium

A BOOKISH DOZEN FOR THE NEW YEAR

book

A dozen books from 2018 that I’m looking forward to. Not books I have read, so not (yet, anyway) recommendations, but books I would like to read. There are a dozen more I might have included, and many more that I have missed (and there is a decided, and unintended, slant in the list towards non-fiction books), but this is a start.

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Zadie Smith Feel Free

Zadie Smith, Feel Free
Hamish Hamilton, February

I enjoy Zadie Smith’s novels. But she is a better essayist than novelist. Her latest collection of essays ventures over issues from social media to Joni Mitchell, from global warming to rap. Most have already been published. But all are well worth reading again.

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James Bloodworth Hired

James Bloodworth, Hired
Atlantic, March

In an age of increasingly casual labour in the ‘gig economy’, James Bloodworth investigates the reality of low paid work in Britain, spending six months in some of  the country’s worst jobs.

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Carlo Rovelli The Order of Time

Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time
Allen Lane, April

Of the current crop of science writers, there are few more engaging than Carlo Rovelli. His new book is about the strangeness of time – a perfect subject through which to showcase his ability to interweave science, philosophy, history and art.

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Asad Haider Mistaken Identity

Asad Haider, Mistaken Identity
Verso, April

From the co-founder of Viewpoint magazine, a critique of identity politics, and a defence of a universalist perspective of anti-racist struggles. Identity politics, Haider argues, ‘is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralisation of its movements’, marking ‘a retreat from the crucial passage from identity to solidarity, and from individual recognition to collective struggle against an oppressive social structure’.

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Madeline Miller Circe

Madeline Miller, Circe
Bloomsbury, April

Madeline Miller’s 2012 novel, The Song of Achilles, deftly retold the story of the love between Achilles and Patroclus. Her new work tells of Circe, the goddess of magic and sorcery, on whose island, Aiaia, Odyseus lands in Homer’s epic.

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David Olusoga Civilizations

David Olusoga, Civilisations
Profile, April

50 years on from Kenneth Clark’s Civilization, perhaps the most celebrated of all art documentaries, the BBC is remaking that series as Civilizations. The plural is significant – an expression of how understanding of art and civilization has shifted in the past half century. The series will be presented in the plural too, with Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga all involved. I will be discussing some of the issues with Olusoga at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead in March. So I am looking forward to his book, on art and the colonial encounter.

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Nafissa Thompson Spires Heads of the Colored People

Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People
Atria, April

What looks like an intriguing collection of darkly comic short stories about black lives and black identities in contemporary America.

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Katherine Benton Cohen Inventing the immigration problem

Katherine Benton-Cohen, Inventing the Immigration Problem
Harvard University Press, May

In 1907, US Congress set up the Dillingham Commission to investigate what was seen as an unprecedented crisis: the numbers of immigrants entering the USA. Its legacy, argues historian Katherine Benton-Cohen, still shapes contemporary debates about immigration control.

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Daniel Trilling Lghts in the distance

Daniel Trilling, Lights in the Distance
Picador, May

Trilling is a fine journalist, and his reports from refugee camps and the borders of Europe have, over the last few years, thrown light on the fraught debate over immigration. His new book, subtitled Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe, paints a portrait of the migrant crisis as seen through the eyes of the people who have experienced it first-hand.

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Sarah Igo The Known Citizen

Sarah E Igo, The Known Citizen
Harvard University Press, May

A history of the debates about privacy in America through the twentieth century, and of the shifting boundaries between private life and the public sphere.

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Nadine Strossen Hate

Nadine Strossen, Hate
Oxford University Press, May

A past president of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen explores the debates about hate speech, and argues, as the subtitle of the book puts it, ‘Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship’.

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MIT Press

Meredith Broussard, Artificial Unintelligence
MIT Press May

In an age in which commentators seem either uncritically to laud new technology or irrationally to fear it, tech journalist Meredith Broussard hopefully brings a degree of rational scepticism to the debate. If we understand the limits of what we can do with technology, seems to be Broussard’s argument, we can make better choices about what we should do with it.

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