• The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov

    How do you tell the story of a remote injustice to a jaded world? You could make a documentary, or interview the survivors and write a 15,000-word magazine exposé. You could petition the authorities to commission an official enquiry, and ...

A Chinese Garden of Serenity by Hung Tzu-ch’eng

My friend Vishy gave me A Chinese Garden of Serenity for Christmas. It was such a nice surprise to open the package from India and see this book, because it showed so much thought. Vishy had seen my posts on the Tao Te Ching and the meditation retreat, and thought I’d like this book. He was […]

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Halcyon Days

The phrase “halcyon days” has always meant nothing more to me than general nostalgia. Since moving to Crete, and more particularly since spending winter here, I’ve learned its original, much more specific meaning. Winters here are very mild compared to what I’m used to from London and New York. It’s around 15°C most days, although […]

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A Story in Two Pictures

Look what my landlord brought home this morning… And then I saw this…

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“Rogue” sociology?: Floating City by Sudhir Venkatesh

What a difference a title makes, or even a subtitle. The version I read, the US edition which I received as a review copy, had the subtitle “A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy.” This irritated me throughout the book, because I kept expecting Sudhir Venkatesh to “go rogue”, and he […]

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Paul Robeson: A Watched Man by Jordan Goodman

If you’ve ever wondered just how far government agencies will go to keep us safe from ideas that they find dangerous, this account of the US government’s sustained attack on the singer Paul Robeson will make fascinating reading. Robeson never participated in or advocated violence or crime, and yet he was placed under continuous surveillance […]

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2013 reading highlights

I’m always a bit suspicious of those “Best books of 2013″ articles. I read lots of them anyway, and carefully note down all the recommendations, but still I can’t help wondering how people can pronounce judgement when they can’t have read more than a tiny fraction of the thousands of books on offer. So these […]

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