It's book review of the year time, & below are the inaugural & highly prestigious Infinite Futures Books of the Year awards for 2015. Some of these have been read for reviewing purposes & some not, but the thing that unites all of these books is their focus on ideas & the possibilities for creative thinking. Let me know what you think.
FinanceAndrew McNally Debtonator, published by Elliot & Thompson
There has been no shortage of books focussing on inequality, & what to do about it, in the years following the financial crisis. Radical responses from within finance itself have been much scarcer; however, this short essay from an investment & stockbroking veteran provides just that. McNally’s thesis is that debt, & the reliance on cheap credit, concentrates power & wealth within a small elite. The answer, perhaps, is to focus on equity –that is, shareholding, & thus investing in the long term success of ventures, rather than short term gain. The author argues his case for shared risk & opportunity in order to challenge inequality, highlighting existing examples & avoiding the over complicated jargon of many finance books to make a compelling case for the virtues of equity & equality.
Full review here
Simon Parker Taking Power Back, published by Policy Press
Devolution seems to be the only game in town for English local government, & whether you trust the motives behind Whitehall’s embrace of local democracy or not, the reality of city mayors & combined authorities is upon us. Simon Parker views the opportunity for devolution as a launch pad for something much broader & ambitious, namely Commonism: a new kind of society based around self-help, mutualism & community. Far from a utopian dreamland, the examples cited throughout Taking Power Back illustrate the potential for a genuine revolution in localism & how we as a society adapt to the challenges of the future. A must read for anyone with an interest in how devolution might be made to work.Full review here
Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, published by John Murray
The Invention of Nature is a biography on a grand canvas, reflecting the multifaceted career & interests of its subject. Scientist, adventurer, author, data visualisation pioneer & inspiration for Charles Darwin amongst many other things, Humboldt’s contemporary fame & renown in the 19th Century are reflected in the fact that more things – rivers, mountains, ocean currents, cities, penguins – are named after him than anyone else. More than a mere cataloguer of nature, however, Humboldt “was not so much interested in finding new isolated facts but in connecting them.” Andrea Wulf’s vital book reclaims the importance of her subject’s work & its legacy and influence far beyond the confines of the history of science.
I’ll be posting a full review of The Invention of Nature on this blog in due course.
Tom McCarthy Remainder, published by Alma Books (2010)
Ok, so hardly a new book for 2015, as this novel was first published ten years ago. However, McCarthy’s shortlisting for this year’s Man Booker Prize for his latest book Satin Island encouraged me to finally take this book off the “I’ll read it one day” pile & get on with it. I wish I’d not taken so long. Remainder is an unsettling & darkly humorous novel exploring memory, trauma & a search for meaning as seen from the perspective of a narrator obsessed with trying to recreate, at first, seemingly mundane events. Aptly enough, the book is itself echoes & prefigures other works – some of David Foster Wallace’s short stories, Charlie Kaufman’s film Synecdoche, New York – whilst remaining entirely singular. I’m looking forward to getting on with the rest of McCarthy’s back catalogue.
Darran Anderson, Imaginary Cities, published by Influx Press
Described on the back cover as a “work of creative non-fiction”, Imaginary Cities defies straightforward categorisation. I eventually tracked my copy down in the Literary Theory section of a well-known bookshop, but this is hardly the dry & academic text that suggests. Instead, this is a book brimming with ideas, quotations, allusions & illusions – from Conrad to Plato to Le Corbusier to Taxi Driver. If that sounds highfalutin or pretentious, think again. “The idea of cities will exist as long as there is a mind left to imagine them”, Anderson concludes. This is an amalgam of the histories, philosophies & literatures of cities, real & imagined; a guidebook for the future.