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June 07, 2017


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Recent reading

  • Thomas Forrest Kelly: Early Music: A Very Short Introduction

    Thomas Forrest Kelly: Early Music: A Very Short Introduction
    Snappy, informative and surprisingly funny, Kelly's book not only gives an overview of medieval, renaissance and baroque music, but also discusses the often rather political nature of the early music revival of the 50s and 60s - and how it's developed since.

  • Ted Hughes: Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow

    Ted Hughes: Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow
    Ok, again, I'm late to the party, but this early 70s collection of poems by Hughes - often apparently considered his masterpiece - is breathtaking. Depicting the character of Crow - for whom the epithet "Trickster" would be too light-hearted - these poems are dark, visceral, cynical and at times very, very funny. The best black metal lyrics never put to actual music.

  • Douglas Murray: The Strange Death of Europe

    Douglas Murray: The Strange Death of Europe
    Despite his misrepresentation on the regressive fringes of the left, Murray is an unusually clear thinker in areas where others are muddled at best. Here he turns his eye to what changing demographics in Europe are doing - and will continue to do - to its liberal values and institutions. A bracing, deeply unsettling and - in no small part due to the lucidity of its language - often exhilarating read.

  • Susan Neiman: Why Grow Up?

    Susan Neiman: Why Grow Up?
    Subtitled "Subversive Thoughts in an Infantile Age", this little book by philosopher Neiman is a quite brilliant treatise on the importance of maturing as a person and its increasing difficulty in the modern world. The book draws heavily on Rousseau, Arendt and in particular Kant, but for all its heavyweight referencing is eminently readable and superbly (and often funnily) argued.

  • Kate Wakeling: The Rainbow Faults
    A small but stunning set of poems from Wakeling. It's no accident that in her other life she's an ethnomusicologist; these brilliant poems are full of dissonant harmonies, oblique melodies and alien timbres, conjuring up a nocturnal visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum in the company of a sorceress. Or something like it.
  • Nick Cohen: What's Left?: How the Left Lost its Way

    Nick Cohen: What's Left?: How the Left Lost its Way
    Ten years before Trump, Brexit and all the rest of it, sort-of-lapsed leftist Cohen traced how the global left lost its relevance to the working classes, became mired in intellectual obscurantism and apologised for some of the worst regimes and belief systems in the world. Clearly written, expertly argued: essential, if depressing reading.

  • Paolo Bacigalupi: The Water Knife

    Paolo Bacigalupi: The Water Knife
    Set in in the southern states of the US as the water runs out, The Water Knife is an all too believable near-future, noir-ish dystopian thriller. Not as deliriously weird as The Windup Girl, it's nonetheless a compelling read: a powerful evocation of a world gone wrong, by its own devices.

  • Seamus Heaney: Human Chain

    Seamus Heaney: Human Chain
    Dark, beautiful and at time profoundly moving, this was Heaney's last published work and it's difficult not to read some intimations of death into it. These are brief poems, but extraordinarily dense and rich, if often quite opaque - not for anyone looking for easily-mined meaning.

  • Oliver W. Sacks: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

    Oliver W. Sacks: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
    Sacks, the neurologist who probably did more to educate general readers about the wonders of the mind, was also a lifelong musician and music fan. In this book he combines his own experiences with multiple case studies to examine how the mind is affected by music and how - and why - humans bring music into the world.

  • Robert Greene: Mastery

    Robert Greene: Mastery
    As I said about Waitkzin's book on learning, the target market here might be those attempting to become elite, but there's plenty in here for those of us "merely" aspiring to excellence. With numerous examplars drawn from sport, the arts, business, the military and beyond, Greene builds a case for the mastery in any sphere being the outcome of years of immersion and commitment rather than a divine gift.