Harari, Yuval Noah (2018) 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Spiegel & Grau. Building on the ideas explored in Sapiens and Homo Deus Harari offers, through themed essays, advice on how to prepare for a very different future. He looks at the big questions – political, technological, social and existential issues of the 21st century, and advocates on how to confront our fears and retain freedom of choice in an increasingly complex and disruptive world. Stuff that expands your mind. No solutions here but fascinating. Rating: 9/10.
Galbraith, Robert (2018) Lethal White. Sphere. Billy comes to Cormoran Strike and mutters about a crime he witnessed as a child. Thus begins an epic investigation that will take Cormoran, and his intrepid partner Robin Ellacott, on a twisting trail of blackmail, murder and deception, from the Houses of Parliament to a country manor house, amid the 2012 London Olympics. This fourth instalment in the Strike series is J K Rowling’s storytelling at its best. Wonderfully complex with indelible characters. Loved-it. Rating: 9/10.
Kakutani, Michiko (2018) The Death of Truth. Collins. The mocking and discounting of truth has become a real challenge to Western democratic principles. Kakutani takes an in-depth look at the cultural forces and trends that have elevated subjectivity over facts, science and shared values. Focussing on the rise of Trumpism, and the impact of Russian propaganda, Kakutuni offers a diagnosis of our post-truth era with reference to many critics of authoritarianism. Strength is in her literary narrative, but nothing new here. Rating: 8.5/10.
Newman, Omarosa Manigault (2018) Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House. Gallery Books. With my ongoing fascination with Trumpworld I could not resist Omarosa’s exposé. Omarosa gained early notoriety as a Trump mentee on The Apprentice and fifteen years later she is still loyal to the man, although now fearful for his health and mental competency. She and fellow enablers in Trump’s inner circle present like a rogues’ gallery as she dishes the dirt on a dysfunctional White House. Self-absorbed memoir that is disturbing, exhausting and intriguingly gossipy. Rating: 8.5/10.
Hammer, Chris (2018) Scrublands. Allen & Unwin. A year on from a mass-killing troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend, a drought-ridden Riverina small town, to write a feature on the aftermath of the tragedy. As stories are revealed and the accepted version of events changes the town becomes the biggest story in Australia, with Martin in the spotlight. The investigation into the shootings becomes very personal and the truth is far darker. Set in a landscape evocative of Jane Harper’s The Dry this epic crime mystery is a non-stop rollercoaster. Sweating small town murder and mayhem. Terrific yarn. Rating: 8.5/10.
Witherspoon, Reese (2018) Whiskey in a Teacup: What life in the South taught me about life, love, and baking biscuits. Touchstone. This book wasn’t quite what I expected, not an autobiography but an etiquette book for Southern ladies. It comes complete with recipes, vignettes, lessons, conversation starters, makeup, playlists, monograming, Dolly Parton and many more gems. A self-indulgent glossy that you can only publish when you are at the peak of your success. Sweet, down-home and pretty in pink home-makers guide for fans. Rating: 7.5/10.
Ham, Rosalie (2018) The Year of the Farmer. Picador. This is a rural tale set in a regional New South Wales town in the middle of a drought. The residents are at war with each other and with an unsympathetic and corrupt local Water Board. At the centre of the action is proud farmer Mitch, trapped in an unhappy marriage to ‘Bicycle Mandy’, struggling to save his family farm from ruin. When his popular erstwhile lover returns to town the war is set to escalate. Double-dealing, malice and the politics of water are at the heart of this black comedy about a town on the edge. Quirky, but missing the magic of The Dressmaker. Rating: 8/10.