5 books you ought to have read this year

Posted by on Dec 18, 2008 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments


Pic c/o helen lang

It's just about final deadline times for Amazon Christmas Delivery so I thought it might be worth just offering this up to your nearest and dearest…


1. Bad Science
Somewhere between Euston and Mornington Crescent on my journey home tonight, it occured to me that if you're reading a blog about this social stuff, then you must have read or at least heard of Clay's stuff, or know about it directly or indirectly. Far more interesting (particularly for those of you outside the UK), for you is going to be Ben Goldacre's Bad Science book which punctures the baloon of scientism (things that look and sound like scientific things but aren't at all). Marvel at the slaughtering of the "Poo Lady" and the whole 'nutritional science' schtick; cheer at the debunking of the anti-MMR vaccination campaign. But most of all learn to be wary of folk who want to exploit (y)our shared scientific illiteracy. And how to ask them they difficult questions they don't want you to ask…

1. Here Comes Everybody
Clay's articulation of the mass collaboration theme is probably the best of the crop (narrowly pipping We-think, for my money). If you haven't read this, you've not been paying attention, bloggersphere…

2. On Guerilla Gardening
The manual of one of the great collaborations in the 3rd Space (neither Public nor Private Sector but sort of in between) AKA how to build a community through practice. And the fella's a planner, too…

3. The Big Sort Bill Bishop's fantastic analysis of why US society is becoming more and more polarised (or should that be "polariZed"?). Copying, belonging and other social stuff play a huge role here

4. Inner Fish Neil Shubin's extraordinarily well-argued case for seeing the genetic history we share with the whole of the animal kingdom in both our genes and the structure of our bodies. I like a book that changes the way you see and experience things irrevocably: this is one of those. One of the best cases for evolutionary thinking of recent years and a really good counter for those who want to insist that we humans are a special case in the world

5. Everything's an Offer Better than any self-help book: at once a really good primer on how playfulness can help you to enjoy your life more and at the same time a great manual for living your life as a Super Social Ape. Well done, Rob!

Of course, Tribes was great (though I think Seth's got it back to front), as were a number of other books (like this great collection of essays around evolutionary themes that Alex edited) but these were my personal faves of the year

What would you recommend?


  1. Kyle Mathews
    December 19, 2008

    Why’d you kill “Here Comes Everyone?”

  2. Mark
    December 19, 2008

    Thanks, Kyle. As I note under the Bad Science item, I’m guessing most readers will at least have read a review or seen a talk from Clay. Bad Science probably less well known but just as good (albeit on a different subject entirely)

  3. Kyle Mathews
    December 19, 2008

    Whoops. Guess I skipped that bit. Bad Science /does/ look like a good book too. I’ll probably buy it once they actually start selling it here in the US.

  4. Glen
    December 20, 2008

    Hi Mark, what do you mean when you say Seth got Tribes “back to front” ? thanks, Glen Crsoier

  5. Tom
    December 22, 2008

    If you like Bad Science, check out http://www.nhs.uk/news
    Daily debunkings of healthcare news stories.

  6. Mark Earls
    December 22, 2008

    Thanks, for stopping by, all.
    Saw Ben “Bad Science” again last night. If you haven’t read the book, you really must!
    Meanwhile, pondering how to answer Glen’s question neatly…

  7. Glen Crosier
    December 28, 2008

    Hi Mark, talking of “back to front” read Herd couple months back and then had to read the first book…I requested “Welcome to the Creative Age” from Santa so been reading over the holidays…
    can’t quite decide what exactly Seth is saying in Tribes – anyway hope you had a good Christmas and all the best for 2009…
    Glen Crosier, Brighton