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In Search of the Gamma Wolf - A Gentleman's Pocket Guide to Pack Hierarchy
In Search of the Gamma Wolf - A Gentleman's Pocket Guide to Pack Hierarchy
by Nigel Modern
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfed this down in one sitting. A provocative read ..., 23 Feb. 2016
Wolfed this down in one sitting. A provocative read with a light touch that made me laugh out loud at times. And then had me worrying about which wolf I might be.


Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better
Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better
by Peter H. Schuck
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book undermined by a dismal premise, 2 July 2014
In tone, ‘Why Government fails so often’ feels more accessible for the academic than the general reader (it is long on ‘normative assumptions’ and short on pithy anecdotes) which is a shame as much of the content is useful for practitioners. Despite this it is well worth a read even if many of his American examples cover unfamiliar terrain for the British reader.

But the assumption at the heart of it – that Government fails frequently – is troubling. It reinforces the damaging stereotype of the incompetent public sector and does not stand up to the academic rigour espoused in the rest of the book.

What is Schuck’s evidence for the frequent failure of Government? That the public has lost faith in it. This assertion is supported by a series of opinion polls showing a rapidly declining level of public support for federal government. Shuck gives us five reasons why the public might have reached such a conclusion. These five reasons* are an interesting and fairly rum bunch but in no way definitive. I would add at least two more reasons – first that the public is ill-informed on many of the issues dealt with by Government (for example levels of immigration, crime and teenage pregnancy) and secondly that the public has no means of fairly assessing how well or badly the government performs tasks which are far more complicated that those completed by the private sector. Both these reasons suggest that we should treat public opinion of how well Government is doing with caution rather than use it as a basis for a full scale assault.

Schuck does briefly discuss the successes of Government – in short, that by most measures the United States is one of the most successful countries in the history of the world – but rather than explore and champion these remarkable successes he goes on to focus on the large scale programmes which have not succeeded.

As a British reader I also found it striking that Schuck – a self-professed Democrat – puts the market at the centre of his narrative. ‘Even a relatively well-crafted policy is vulnerable to powerful market forces’, he argues. ‘Policy makers cannot readily bend these forces to their will without introducing new distortions which nimbler more incentivised better-resourced market actors can often exploit to their advantage.’ Similarly in a long section on cost benefit analysis Shuck puts enormous faith in the ability of policy makers to be able to put numerical values on what they plan to do and what they have done: ‘a program should maximise net benefits and also be cost effective’ he advises without really offering any advice on how to do so when the outcomes (a word he rarely uses) are inherently nebulous.

When it comes to answering the second challenge – how Government can do it better – the solutions are vague and, as he acknowledges, difficult to implement. His first proposed remedy is cultural change, his second is constitutional reform, and for his third category he lists a number of aspirational goals. Some of these goals are worth serious consideration – for example requiring policy makers who propose expenditures to identify offsetting reductions in other areas – but I found others less helpful, for example asserting that Government should avoid moral hazard without suggesting how it might do so in practice.

Perhaps the self-acknowledged difficulties in implementing many of these remedies provide the most eloquent answer to the book’s challenge: there are failures in Government because it is just so darn difficult to do well. Unfortunately the title of the book and the thrust of the analysis risk leaving the impression that the Government is wilfully and consistently incompetent and should just buck its ideas up.

*Shuck’s five reasons are:

1. The federal government does in fact perform poorly in a vast range of domestic projects

2. Our legislative process is highly dysfunctional by almost any standard

3. Americans perceive a gap between ‘the democracy of everyday life’ and democracy as practised in Washington

4. Prosperity may have raised public expectations and demands

5. Americans harbour the conceit that we the people are not responsible for the government’s failures, which are instead caused by alien forces in Washington


Children of the Sun
Children of the Sun
by Max Schaefer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 24 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Children of the Sun (Paperback)
This is one of the best books I've read in a while. It's absurdly ambitious but, so quickly did I race through it, I only realised how ambitious when I thought about it after I'd finished it.

Amongst other things it covers the history of Nazism in modern Britain, explores a world of gay sex and relationships, creates evocatively the Britain of the 80s, 90s and today, effortlessly conjures up big set pieces of violence and riots and somehow links the whole thing together.

Most importantly it's just a really good, compelling story with really good compelling and nuanced characters. It races along. And Schaefer's language, fresh imagery and humour don't hurt either.


The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (Anthem Other Canon Economics)
The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (Anthem Other Canon Economics)
by Mariana Mazzucato
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly counterintuitive, 2 Aug. 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Counter-intuitive take on the role the state can and should play in promoting innovation and enterprise. Nicely written, punchy thinking and great research particularly the case study on Apple.


All That Glitters
All That Glitters
by Aita Ighodaro
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great thriller (with glam attached), 1 Nov. 2012
This review is from: All That Glitters (Paperback)
Raced through this book in two sittings. Great, extreme, compelling characters and a good plot - I really wanted to find out how it all turned out. And the glamorous setting added to the lustre. A great read.


The Inside Job
The Inside Job
by Felix Riley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 13 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Inside Job (Paperback)
Just finished reading this and I loved it. It's as good as any thriller on the action/excitement front but what I really liked was the plot. The whole dynamic of Byrne and his colleagues having to defend bankers whom they don't particularly like creates a great tension and without wanting to ruin it for people the cross-over of the banking world and the gangster world is superbly conceived. Best thriller I've read in ages.


The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing by his standards, 11 Sept. 2011
Loved Liar's Poker and Money Ball and really looked forward to Lewis making this complex, important topic readable, interesting and understandable. But I didn't enjoy it for a number of reasons:
1. the 'heroes' are so unsympathetic; it's very hard to get excited about seeing such arrogant, unprepossessing people be proved right

2. it wasn't that easy to understand; there were long tracts where my eyes glazed over. I don't think the technical aspects of this subject lend themselves to being described in narrative even by someone as gifted as Lewis. I hate to say it but some diagrams and bullets might have been helpful. Also, I'd like to have seen a bit more dissection of the behaviour/consequences for the bad guys. We get a little bit in the final chapter and bits emerge throughout the book but I would have liked a bit more clarity about why the other banks behaved so appallingly or were so stupid. It all feels a bit circumstantial - where were the interviews with the bad guys?

3. the story - or at least his angle on it - is too thin to support an entire book; the book describes how some people took a contrarian stance and got proved right. Far too many times Lewis describes the same scenario - our cassandra-like 'heroes' having the insight that sub-prime debt is going to come crashing down with nobody really believing them. It all feels a bit slow and tedious


The Set-up
The Set-up
by Felix Riley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brainy but not too brainy, 3 May 2011
This review is from: The Set-up (Paperback)
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Great, twisty plot with some very compelling characters and imaginative scenes - I was gripped from the end of the first chapter. And all beautifully written with pace and style, as well as the odd laugh out loud line.
Somehow Riley also makes complex financial deals both easy to understand and genuinely interesting. No mean feat. Look forward to th next one


Britannia: One Hundred Documents That Shaped a Nation
Britannia: One Hundred Documents That Shaped a Nation
by Graham Stewart
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect dipper, 7 Dec. 2010
This is a great idea, beautifully executed. It looks great and the content is really interesting. I'm quite a history buff (so don't really need to know mroe about magna carta) but there were some really interesting surprises as well as a chance to remind myself of some old favourites. I say it's a perfect dipper - in the sense of a book to dip into rather than a sauce for chicken nuggets - but actually I read it from start to finish.


Sin Tropez
Sin Tropez
by Aita Ighodaro
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bonkbuster plus, 30 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Sin Tropez (Paperback)
Got all the ingredients of the average bonkbuster - over the top glamour, extraordinary clothers, lots of sex, extreme but compelling characters, and a very good plot which races along. But it's a bit more than your average bonkbuster because it's actually laugh out loud funny at times and you also genuinely care about the characters. Bring on the next one!


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