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What I’ve been reading this month

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

Ribbet collage

Will Storr is one of my favourite journalists. He writes for outlets like Wired and The Guardian, usually on science stories, and often on health-related stuff. His is a byline that almost guarantees I’ll enjoy the article. This month, I finally got round to reading Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science. This is an illustrated discussion of cognitive bias, backed up by astounding and revealing investigative journalism. Storr takes no prisoners, dissecting the claims of ‘skeptics’ as forensically as those of with outlandish beliefs. Heretics is entertaining, thoughtful, and genuinely insightful. It is one of my favourite books of the year so far. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors. Saturday, which I read this month, ranks among my favourite of his books. Like all the McEwan novels I’ve read, it is heavy on keenly observed description and close examination of human nature. Saturday tells the story of a particularly eventful day in the life of middle-aged neurosurgeon. It is particularly notable for the astonishingly accurate portrayal of the surgical world – I think this book captures surgical patter and medical thought patterns with more authenticity than any other fiction I’ve ever read. (Amazon | Goodreads)

I’ve been having a bit of a Jon Ronson moment lately, having been particularly impressed with some of his newer books. This month, I caught up with Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries – a compendium of articles from periodicals and other relatively short-form bits of investigative journalism – and The Men Who Stare at Goats – the book that really put Ronson on the map. While both of these were perfectly good reads, I didn’t enjoy either of them quite as much as the later books. Reading Lost at Sea through from cover to cover is probably not the best way to treat it, as there are only so many consecutive short stories I can take. The Men Who Stare at Goats felt like a collection of amusing anecdotes of military absurdity that didn’t dive deeply enough into the underlying reasons for that absurdity prevailing. (Lost at Sea: Amazon | Goodreads; The Men Who Stare at Goats: Amazon | Goodreads)

Luke Harding’s extraordinary investigation into the Linvinenko affair, A Very Expensive Poison, is one of the most arresting non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Harding gives a clear, detailed and compelling account of murder by the Russian state – including all of the cack-handed bungling which humanises the story and makes it that much more horrific. He also dives deeply into the investigation of the murder, and the judgement of the subsequent public enquiry. A must read. (Amazon | Goodreads)

I’ve long thought that the premise of the Dexter TV show had promise – an exploration of ‘just’ murder through a serial killer with a conscience – but I couldn’t ever really get into it (not least because Michael C Hall will always be David Fisher to me). I picked up Darkly Dreaming Dexter on a whim to see if Jeff Lindsay’s source material was more engaging, and really enjoyed it. The plot was silly (psychic visions abound), but it was tightly written, and had a dash of dark humour that brought much needed levity. It was a fun read for a couple of hours or so, and I’ll certainly pick up the next in the series. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Nemesis is the fourth book in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, which I started reading in January. It’s a pacey, multi-layered instalment which I raced through. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Redbreast: I thought the historical portions of The Redbreast added something extra, and the series of false revelations at the end of Nemesis was a bit wearing after a while. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it, and look forward to picking up The Devil’s Star some time soon. (Amazon | Goodreads)

This post was filed under: What I've Been Reading.

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