Change is the one constant when it comes to culture. However, when we wandered naively from 2019 into the new decade, no one was quite prepared for the changes that were to come. So far, 2020 has delivered wildfires, Brexit, Megxit, the loss of Kobe and Gigi Bryant, Donald Trump being impeached, Donald Trump being acquitted, Harvey Weinstein’s trial, economic recession, civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, the cancelling of the Olympics, Kanye West’s run for presidency, the death of Chadwick Boseman and, of course, the chief protagonist of 2020, coronavirus. It’s a year no-one is going to forget in a hurry.
But, with events that normally would have unfolded over a decade packed into 12 short months, it’s no wonder the world is overwhelmed with information. And, while doomscrolling and constant news updates create an overall picture, educating yourself on the full highs and lows of global events requires a little more work. So it’s time to put down that John Grisham and pick up something a little meatier because there’s a trove of books just waiting to fill you in on the minute details of the stories most important to modern life. These are the current affairs books to be reading now.
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason
With the stock market recently dipping to its lowest since the 2008 crash, financial planning has become the pinnacle of everyone’s to do list. And, although it may have been written in 1926, Clason’s economic classic has a veritable treasure trove of advice to offer in this area. A collection of ‘Babylonian parables’ set 4,000 years ago, the book discusses money in an easy to understand manner aimed at helping readers begin their path to personal financial security.
A Warning by Anonymous
Written by a White House insider and published in 2019, A Warning unveils the trials and tribulations faced by President Trump’s staff. From presentations that can be no more than a few slides and must include pictures to the random hiring and firing of staff who happen to be in the president’s proximity, this book gives an eyewitness account of the irrational hot headedness of the American president and the fear from those surrounding him over what he might do next. A must-read for those following the twists and turns of the upcoming presidential election.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
In 2014 Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote an article called Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race in which she discussed her frustrations teaching a white society about racial discrimination. Implored by her readers not to give up, Reni Eddo-Lodge paradoxically turned her article into an award-winning book educating white readers about Britain’s black history, how it has been eradicated and the racial injustices black people face in the UK in the 21st century. With the Black Lives Matter movement rightly taking centre stage this year, the book became a best seller – it’s an important read you won’t regret investing time in.
The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos
At the forefront of scientific discovery, artificial intelligence is rapidly gaining momentum. Society, however, is still severely unaware of the significant impact AI already has on our lives and will continue to have on our futures. Capable of emulating aspects of human cognition, such as recognising patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions and making predictions, if tasks previously performed by people can be done by machines, where then does this leave humanity? Setting out AI’s vast array of pros and cons, The Master Algorithm provides an essential guide for anyone wanting to develop an in-depth understanding of AI and how to use it to their advantage.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates once said, “When we invest in women and girls, we are investing in the people who invest in everyone else.” Her latest book, The Moment of Lift, proves this to be true. Focusing on developing countries in particular, Gates’ book recounts her work with the Gates Foundation and reveals the overwhelming data, both scientific and anecdotal, that suggests, in order to improve society, women must first be empowered. Part memoir, part philanthropy tome, part socio-economic treatise, if you’re interested in practical ways to improve the world this is the book for you.
The Lonely Century by Noreena Hertz
Have you seen docudrama The Social Dilemma yet? No? Okay. Summary: tech experts who were there at the beginning of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and so on, sound the alarm about the dangerous impact of social networking. Published this month, The Lonely Century sets out a very similar story; that social media is leading to increasing loneliness, narrowed experiences and a collective inability to communicate effectively.
Importantly, however, Hertz’s book provides solutions to these issues. By becoming aware of the negative impacts of social media, it is possible for us all, individually and collectively, to jump on the digital detox train and discover the dystopian impacts endless scrolling has on your state of mind.
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
It topped best seller lists for months when it came out back in 2017 so chances are you’ve heard of this one but, with coronavirus throwing a lot of light on the inner workings of the NHS, it feels more prescient than ever. Recounting tales of life within the NHS prior to the pandemic, This Is Going To Hurt is based on the diary entries of former junior doctor Adam Kay. Hilariously funny in parts, unbelievably shocking in others, if there is one book you purchase immediately from this list, let it be this one.
A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough
Having toured every continent on the globe, Attenborough has dedicated his life to educating us about the natural world. From animal kingdom to flora ecosystem, there is no denying he has seen more of the world than most of us can imagine. However, in his 93 years he has also witnessed the dramatic scale of humanity’s impact on nature, a crisis he addresses in his new book (and accompanying Netflix documentary), A Life On Our Planet.
Our maltreatment of planet Earth has led to its inevitable deterioration. We have opened a can of worms and are scrambling to put the lid back on. Or, as the great man himself puts it, “We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we have inherited.” This is one test we can’t afford to fail.
Looking for more reading material? These are the books everyone will be talking about this autumn…
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