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What You Need to Know About Economics
What You Need to Know About Economics
by George Buckley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars What it says on the tin, 9 April 2012
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I found this to be an excellent explanation of basic economic principles for the layman. It was clearly set out, with just enough detail.
Chapters cover: money, growth, central banks, inflation, trade, unemployment, property, and public finances.
I can now read the paper without glazing over quite so often.


Europe in the Global Age
Europe in the Global Age
by Anthony Giddens
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Doomed to failure ?, 23 Jan 2012
I found this book - written just before the 2008 crunch - extremely useful as a background to the current financial crisis engulfing Europe. Anthony Giddens, a prominent academic, makes an excellent assessment of the underlying European social and political landscape. He demonstrates thorough knowledge and analysis, as evidenced by his ability to predict some of the problems with which we are now familiar.

Giddens makes a balanced appraisal of the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats facing Europe.
It's particularly sobering that such an enthusiast for Social Democracy catalogues so many problems facing European nations. He describes high healthcare and pensions spending, high labour costs, over-secure employment, poor industrial relations; protectionism, over-regulation; doubts about value for money in education; the conflicts of multiculturalism; residual inefficiencies in the post-Soviet East.

Even more sobering is that he is pessimistic about the necessary social changes being effected, especially outside Germany.

He speaks out with hope. Positive elements include the growth rates of Eastern European countries, and the simulating effects of skilled labour migration. (He emphasises the need for labour market flexibility.)

Nevetheless, I finished the book feeling more eurosceptic than when I started it: when Giddens quotes Niall Ferguson (`the EU is an entity on the brink of decline, or destruction') it's the latter academic who now sounds closer to reality. Europe in the Global Age as a free trade area, possibly; but as a high-minded semi-federal centre-left co-operative, with noble visions and aspirations that now sound just a little naive ....probably no.


The Mighty Walzer
The Mighty Walzer
by Howard Jacobson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, as ever, 28 Nov 2011
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This review is from: The Mighty Walzer (Paperback)
Howard Jacobson shot to fame when he won the 2010 Booker Prize with the Finkler Question. I was put off the winning novel itself by various comments, so was tempted to try out one of his earlier stories instead.

I liked it. He gels an engaging tale around adolescence, Jewish family life , playing table tennis, and working on his dad's market stall. He pokes plenty of fun along the way in his self-confident, slightly dry style.

I find Jacobson's non-fiction scintillating. He is penetrating, original, and has always got something interesting to say. I thought his fiction on the other hand, although witty, was perhaps a shade ordinary.

I enjoyed it but I don't think I'll rush to sample his other novels - I'll read `Whatever it is, I Don't Like it' next.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2013 4:22 PM GMT


50 Economics Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas)
50 Economics Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas)
by Edmund Conway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucky Dip, 11 Nov 2011
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This is a clever series, based on the principle that, with articles only four pages long, no-one is going to get bored. Free to dip in and out of the short chapters, the reader never feels they have `lost the thread' of any complex narrative.

This book briefly looks at such concepts as inflation,unemployment; sovereign debt, budget deficits,exchange rates; bonds, banks, money markets; globalisation,GDP, boom-and-bust; comparative advantage;keynesianism,monetarism.

For my level of understanding, I found that some explanations were perfectly pitched, some redundant, and some beyond me. You may well find a similar pattern . With the daily papers as full as ever of economic riddles, it's good to master at least some of the jargon


Matt Beaumont e: A Novel
Matt Beaumont e: A Novel
by Matt Beaumont
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Great antidote to your inbox, 23 Sep 2011
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Most of us know what it's like to work in offices seething with political undercurrents. It's hilarious relief to be dipped into Millershanks.com, where the egomaniacal scheming and neurotic backbiting utterly destroy any dreams of success.

As much fun is the elegant audacity of the book's construction. Writing purely in narrative - entirely emails - Beaumont comically captures all the posturing and ranting unique to the medium. He thus cleverly satirises both electronic `communication' and working `relationships'.

PC it isn't - but when you put the book down, your own corporate life seems quite tame after all.


Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World
Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World
by J R Mcneill
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something New called `Human Technology', 30 Aug 2011
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'Environmental' information is often somehow wrapped in polemic, so the strength of this book is its calm, knowledgeable, tone.

McNeil works steadily through the catalogue of issues: soil, air and water pollution; over-grazing, over-fishing, over-felling. He reveals the extraordinary environmental impact of human activity in a sober, dispassionate work. Sometimes it feels like an academic documentation of the rise and fall of a now extinct species.

Although it is a thorough, coherent, comprehensive account, he relays the story in a rich, sensitive, sympathetic and conversational style.

No doubt whatsoever is left in the reader's mind. The overall message is that the exponential growth of human population and industrial activity in the 20th century has created a paradigm shift. Homo Sapiens, from 1900 onwards has created `Something New' for the earth, to add to its history of spectacular crises.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2012 5:34 PM BST


The Ancient Guide to Modern Life
The Ancient Guide to Modern Life
by Natalie Haynes
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern take on ancient life, 29 Aug 2011
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Natalie Haynes' entertaining foray through Ancient Cultures is diverting enough. Her objective - to draw wisdom and wit from the comparisons between their lives and ours - is a laudable one.

The main message is that life wasn't that different. Ancient life was in some ways surprisingly good (Athenian democracy, Rome's meticulous laws), in other ways appallingly bad (Spartan infanticide; Hebrews' genocide), but generally predictably ugly (hooliganism, corruption,status obsession, profound racism and sexism; politics and intrigue; futile wars. The relentless tragedies of Greek Culture; the egotistical tempestuousness of the mythical Roman Gods. Socrates' execution for agnosticism).

Overall, it felt like a survey of arbritary similarities and differences, conveyed in a rather airy style - sometimes humorous, sometimes glib - with a few random witticisms. Surprisingly, for a comedian, what it really lacked was a good punchline.


The Hand That First Held Mine
The Hand That First Held Mine
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endearing... startling... powerful, 2 Aug 2011
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From the first paragraph, I was riveted by this novel's prose; right through to the last few misty eyed pages, I was moved by its plot. What is it about ? You only realise when it finishes. It's beautifully done.

In alternate chapters live two seemingly unrelated couples, at contrasting paces, in different locations, times, and circumstances. As she moves through the story, O'Farrell explores their worlds deeply and sensitively, perceptively capturing their subtle, but recognisable, experiences. Each character is distinctly different.

And yet..........


Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)
Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)
by Cindy Meston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Latest from the Buss Evolutionary Psychology Lab, 1 Aug 2011
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David Buss has developed a special interest in the evolutionary psychology of sexuality, and presents us in this volume with some of the latest research, which involves tapping into the experience of hundreds of interviewed women.

Most of it is unsurprising : separation of mating from oestrus serves towards prevention of straying (`mate guarding') ; sex generates oxytocinon and reinforces pairbonding (`coalescing' as one woman described it).

Quite a bit is mundane: women acknowledge the attractiveness of `good gene' signals (eg athleticism; masculinity ) and `reliable partner' signals (eg agreement; `feeling connected' ;not too much masculinity)

Some of it is trivial: olfactory sense is a factor; liaisons can serve to enhance self esteem.

Work like this helps distinguish myth from reality; but overall, there isn't much new here.


The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science)
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science)
by Brian Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best cosmology books, 31 July 2011
Brian Greene makes an extremely creditable attempt at explaining modern physics to a lay audience. He goes slowly, he doesn't over-estimate our intelligence, he uses lots of entertaining analogies, and includes tips on how to assimilate all the astonishing information. I managed to follow a fair amount of it, and learnt many things, albeit imperfectly, such as:

Spacetime is the essential reference point from which events can occur. If you travelled fast enough, your watch would slow down. In that situation, a spectator's watch, having not slowed, would read a valid, but different time. Time synchrony would be profoundly altered by slight relative movements beween an observer and an observed, if they were vastly separated in space.

Matter: Particles are also waves, and really only exist as probability curves. Any experimental focus on a `particle' itself seems to `hide' its waveform. Related but spatially separated `particles' affect each other, in some unimaginable way.

Energy: Two, and quite possibly all three, nongravitational forces are all one at sufficiently high temperatures, being rendered different by the cooled, condensed Higgs field.

Mass is determined by the interaction between different quarks and the Higgs field. Mass distorts spacetime to cause `gravitational force'. Most of galaxies' mass is dark, and thus invisible to us.

Expanding Universe: Maybe our universe is one of many which have `budded' out from another, older, `multiverse'. (Or maybe the big bang was caused by a collision with another universe). Pre-inflation, the universe was about 10 to the -26 cm across and weighed about 10 Kg ! The `big bang' was probably repulsive inflation caused by the Higgs field. Quantum variations, writ large by inflation, are the source of `lumpiness', hence of galaxies. The universe is expanding because space is `stretching'. Gravitational effects are now smaller than the repulsive cosmological constant, hence the universe's expansion is re-accelerating. Despite gaseous clumping (and hence stars, planets, life, etc), the universe's overall entropy is steadily increasing.

String Theory: There are very probably 7 more dimensions -curled up, or invisible to light (which is trapped inside 4D). (Gravity may not be thus trapped). Mass and energy may well be made of (p-)branes (of 1-10 dimensions), vibrating at different frequencies

If any of the above sounds interesting, and you didn't know it already, then you must definitely read this first class exposition of mind-bending cosmological science.


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