Opinion
Tom Gatti 12 Dec 2018 02:39pm

The pick of 2019 reads

Tom Gatti, head of books and features at the New Statesman, recommends 10 books for economia readers, including new work by Marlon James and a first by former BBC journalist Carrie Gracie

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Losing Earth: A Recent History

Nathaniel Rich Picador, April

Based on a long read published in the New York Times in August 2018, this book looks at the decade of 1979-89 when the science of climate change was settled and we could have stopped it – but didn’t. Rich, a gifted novelist and ultra-smart journalist, asks what that failure means for us today. See also: The Uninhabitable Earth by David WallaceWells (Allen Lane, April) and Green and Prosperous Land by Dieter Helm (William Collins, March), a 25-year plan to put Britain on a greener path

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James Hamish Hamilton, February

The author of the Man Booker prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings launches his Dark Star trilogy with a novel which draws on a tradition of African mythology for the story of a hunter called Tracker, who is hired to find a lost child. Neil Gaiman says its fantasy world is “as well-realised as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter’s”.

Equal

Carrie Gracie Virago, September

When a group of women challenged the BBC over its gender pay gap, Carrie Gracie went one further and resigned from her post as China editor, triggering a parliamentary inquiry into BBC pay. Her book will tell her story and “explore why it is often so hard for women to assert their value in the workplace”.

Mr Five Per Cent: The Many Lives of Calouste Gulbenkian, the World’s Richest Man

Jonathan Conlin Profile, January

Calouste Gulbenkian created oil giants Shell and Total. By the time he died in 1955 he was the richest man in the world – a world he helped shape through brokering international agreements involving oil. On the 150th anniversary of Gulbenkian’s birth, the historian Jonathan Conlin unpicks the many lives of a “staggeringly powerful recluse”.  

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me

Kate Clanchy Picador, March

Kate Clanchy, a prizewinning poet, draws on 30 years of teaching in state schools to produce a “revelatory picture of school life, and a fascinating look at the role education plays”. Clanchy doesn’t dodge the hard knocks, but what comes through from her personal stories is the transformative power of good teaching.

You Know You Want This

 Kristen Roupenian Jonathan Cape, February

When Kristen Roupenian’s short story Cat Person – an exceptionally sharp, funny and chilling story of a bad dating experience, published in The New Yorker – went viral last year, it was a matter of days before publishers got into bidding wars over the author’s debut collection. Comprising seven stories, it follows “women grappling with desire, punishment, guilt and anger”.

Machines Like Me

Ian McEwan Jonathan Cape, April

McEwan returns with another ambitious, high-concept work, this time tackling artificial intelligence. Set in an alternative 1980s in which Britain lost the Falklands War and science has leapt forward, Machines Like Me sets up a love triangle between a couple and one of the first synthetic humans, allowing McEwan to explore some very timely moral dilemmas.

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

David Epstein Macmillan, June

Good news for jacks-of-alltrades: the fact that you are master-of-none should not hold you back. David Epstein studied the world’s most successful athletes, artists, inventors and scientists and decided that it is the generalists who are “primed to excel”. As computers master more and more specialised skills, Epstein argues that breadth, diverse experience and interdisciplinary thinking should be our watchwords

Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?

Aaron Dignan Penguin Business, February

Aaron Dignan is the founder of The Ready, a New York company that has worked on “organisational design and transformation” at Airbnb, Uber, Citibank and others. His premise is that meetings, emails and bureaucracy are stifling the way we work. This is his manifesto, making use of collective intelligence and dismantling long-held assumptions; transforming your team “from the inside out”.

Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being

Paul Mason Allen Lane, May

The author of the bestseller Postcapitalism, Paul Mason is a journalist for the New Statesman and others, and an influential thinker of the left. Here he tackles a new world order characterised by authoritarian regimes and increasing intolerance, in which the very idea of universal human rights is under threat. Mason, who advocates a “reinvention of humanism”, outlines how and why we must design a better system.