Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy
By Tim Harford
Based on the series produced for the BBC World ServiceWho thought up paper money? How did the contraceptive pill change the face of the legal profession? Why was the horse collar as important for human progress as the steam engine? How did the humble spreadsheet turn the world of finance upside-down?The world economy defies comprehension. A continuously-changing system of immense complexity, it offers over ten billion distinct products and services, doubles in size every fifteen years, and links almost every one of the planet's seven billion people. It delivers astonishing luxury to hundreds of millions. It also leaves hundreds of millions behind, puts tremendous strains on the ecosystem, and has an alarming habit of stalling. Nobody is in charge of it. Indeed, no individual understands more than a fraction of what's going on. How can we make sense of this bewildering system on which our lives depend?From the tally-stick to Bitcoin, the canal lock to the jumbo jet, each invention in Tim Harford's fascinating new book has its own curious, surprising and memorable story, a vignette against a grand backdrop. Step by step, readers will start to understand where we are, how we got here, and where we might be going next.Hidden connections will be laid bare: how the barcode undermined family corner shops; why the gramophone widened inequality; how barbed wire shaped America. We'll meet the characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them, or were ruined by them. We'll trace the economic principles that help to explain their transformative effects. And we'll ask what lessons we can learn to make wise use of future inventions, in a world where the pace of innovation will only accelerate.
Force of Nature
By Jane Harper
By Nina Willner
In Forty Autumns, Nina Willner recounts the history of three generations of her family - mothers, sisters, daughters and cousins - separated by forty years of Soviet rule, and reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall.Shortly after the end of the Second World War, as the Soviets took control of the eastern part of Germany, Hanna, a schoolteacher's daughter, escaped with nothing more than a small suitcase and the clothes on her back. As Hanna built a new life in the West, her relatives (her mother, father and eight siblings) remained in the East. The construction of the Berlin Wall severed all hope of any future reunion. Hanna fell in love and moved to America. She made many attempts to establish contact with her family, but most were unsuccessful. Her father was under close observation; her mother, younger sister Heidi and the others struggled to adjust to life under a bizarre and brutal regime that kept its citizens cut off from the outside world. A few years later, Hanna had a daughter - Nina - who grew up to become the first female US Army intelligence officer to lead sensitive intelligence collection operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. At the same time, Heidi's daughter, Cordula, was training to become a member of the East German Olympic cycling team. Though separated by only a few miles, Nina and her relatives led entirely different lives. Once the Berlin Wall came down, and the families were reunited, Nina Willner discovered an extraordinary story. In Forty Autumns she vividly brings to life many accounts of courage and survival, set against the backdrop of four decades that divided a nation and the world.
The Faithful Couple
By A. D. Miller
Turn a betrayal inside out and you found its opposite, a secret and a bond. Perhaps that was what friendship came down to: a lifelong, affectionate mutual blackmail. Neil and Adam, two young men on the cusp of adulthood, meet one golden summer in California and, despite their different backgrounds, soon become best friends. Buton a camping trip in Yosemite they lead each other into wrongdoing that, years later, both will desperately regret. Their connection holds through love affairs, fatherhood, the wild successes and unforeseen failures of booming London, as power and guilt ebb between them.Then the truth of that long-ago night emerges. What happens when you discover that the friendship you can't live without was always built on a lie?
The Forever Girl
By Alexander McCall Smith
Clover has loved James for as long as she can remember, since before she knew what what love was. But fate seems determined to keep them apart. As children, Clover and James played beside a turquoise sea under cloudless skies, their Caribbean island home a place of pleasure and privilege, of lush lawns and tennis parties. In such a paradise nothing should obstruct the kind of happiness Clover dreams of, except that, as she discovers, true love is often harder than paradise allows for. And when Clover's mother falls out of love with her husband, a web of complications is woven that may take Clover a lifetime to unravel. If she ever can . . . Tender and true, The Forever Girl traces love's unpredictable path to maturity with style, wit and feeling.
By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sarah Churchwell
While F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing the novels we remember him for today, he was also publishing short stories in popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. Although many of Fitzgerald's short stories are celebrated and anthologised today, more remain out of print than would be expected for a writer of his stature. Some of these forgotten stories deserve to be rediscovered by the many readers who love Fitzgerald's work. Sarah Churchwell, author of the acclaimed Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, has selected twelve forgotten stories from throughout Fitzgerald's career that refract, in different ways, his most familiar motifs: the changing meanings of America in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the desire to reconcile rich and poor through a romantic search for glamour, hope and wonder. Each of these stories offers a riff on the theme of America, a world we have lost, but can hear echoes of in Fitzgerald's characteristically rich, vivid prose.
By Chris Brookmyre
One crime brought them together . . .Private investigator Jasmine Sharp should have wanted him dead.Yet somehow, Jasmine bonded with Glen Fallan, the man who killed her father before she was born. Now he has been arrested for the murder of a local gangster, and Jasmine must finally enter his violent domain to seek answers.. . . a second will break them apartDetective Superintendent Catherine McLeod is in fear for her life.When she discovers a symbol daubed on the head of Fallan's alleged victim, it unearths secrets that will threaten everything Catherine holds dear.One murder. Two women. A lifetime of lies revealed.
By Eric Hobsbawm
Born almost a hundred years ago in Vienna - the cultural heart of a bourgeois Mitteleurope - Eric Hobsbawm, who was to become one of the most brilliant and original historians of our age, was uniquely placed to observe an era of titanic social and artistic change. As the century progressed, the forces of Communism and Dadaism, Ibiza and cyberspace, would do battle with the bourgeois high culture fin-de-siècle Vienna represented - the opera, the Burgtheater, the museums of art and science, City Hall. In Fractured Times Hobsbawm unpicks a century of cultural fragmentation and dissolution with characteristic verve and vigour.Hobsbawm examines the conditions that created the great cultural flowering of the belle époque and held the seeds of its disintegration, from paternalistic capitalism to globalisation and the arrival of a mass consumer society. Passionate but never sentimental, Hobsbawm ranges freely across his subject: he records the passing of the golden age of the 'free intellectual' and examines the lives of great, forgotten men; he analyses the relation between art and totalitarianism and dissects cultural phenomena as diverse as surrealism, women's emancipation and the American cowboy myth. Written with consummate imagination and skill, Fractured Times is the last book from one of our greatest modern-day thinkers.
By Kevin Maher
We'd never seen anything like that around our place before. Not right in front of our eyes. You always heard about it, though. Through friends of friends. Or when The Mothers got together for coffee mornings. They'd sit around in a steamy kitchen circle like four mad witches, and dip ginger-snaps into Maxwell House until they went wobbly-warm, and take turns at saying, Jahear about so-and-so, Lord rest his soul, only thirty years old, poor creature?! They were brilliant at it. Scaring the shite out of each other, grinning inside.Jim Finnegan is thirteen years old and life in his world consists of dealing with the helter-skelter intensity of his rumbustious family, taking breakneck bike rides with his best friend, and coveting the local girls from afar - until one day when everything changes.The Fields is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary character: Jim's voice leaps off the page and straight into the reader's heart as he grapples with his unfairly interrupted adolescence.
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
By Alexander McCall Smith
Isabel Dalhousie thinks often of friends, sometimes of lovers, and on occasion of chocolate. As an Edinburgh philosopher she is certain of where she stands. She can review a book called In Praise of Sin with panache and conviction, but real life is . . . well, perhaps a bit more challenging - particularly when it comes to her feelings for Jamie, a younger man who should have married her niece, Cat. Jamie's handsomeness leaves Isabel feeling distinctly uneasy, and ethically disturbed. 'I am a philosopher', she thinks, 'but I am also a woman'. And more disturbance is in store. When Cat takes a break in Italy, Isabel agrees to run her delicatessen. One of the customers, she discovers, has recently had a heart transplant and is now being plagued by memories that cannot be rationally explained and which he feels do not belong to him. Isabel is intrigued. So intrigued that she finds herself rushing headlong into a dangerous investigation. But she still has time to think about the things that possess her - things like love and friendship, and, of course, temptation. The last of these comes in many forms - chocolate, for example, or seductive Italians . . .
The Forgotten Affairs Of Youth
By Alexander McCall Smith
Happy with her husband-to-be and beloved son, Isabel Dalhousie has feelings about parenthood that grow more tender daily. So when Jane, a visiting academic adopted and sent to Australia as a baby, asks for help in tracing her Scottish origins, she cannot refuse.However, habitually upright Isabel finds herself beset by temptation - for instance, to be suspicious of Professor Lettuce's latest subterfuge, and of her niece Cat's weakness for the wrong man. And when the search for Jane's parents turns troubling, she can hardly prevent herself from interfering too forcefully in family secrets. As she steers a course between love and laissez-faire, our philosopher heroine succeeds in resisting all temptations but those which must be answered, and teases a solution from every problem.
Foolish Lessons In Life And Love
By Penny Rudge
Taras clutched her hand and planted kisses all over it. 'Katya, I'll do anything. Anything at all, if you'll just give me another chance.' But can the hapless Taras win Katya's stubborn Russian heart as their love story plays out against the best and worst London can offer? And exactly what is going on between Mami, Taras's wildly eccentric Balkan mother, and the dapper Mr Banerjee? Meanwhile, over at the offices of the atrociously named IBS, the Yanks are threatening to take over; and soon Taras discovers he might just be the only one who actually gives a damn. All in all, it's a lot to ask of a lovable accident-prone klutz, who'd really much prefer to daydream about the gorgeous but resistant Katya . . .
The Forgotten Highlander
By Alistair Urquhart
Alistair Urquhart was a soldier in the Gordon Highlanders captured by the Japanese in Singapore. He not only survived working on the notorious Bridge on the River Kwai , but he was subsequently taken on one of the Japanese 'hellships' which was torpedoed. Nearly everyone else on board died and Urquhart spent 5 days alone on a raft in the South China Sea before being rescued by a whaling ship. He was taken to Japan and then forced to work in a mine near Nagasaki. Two months later a nuclear bomb dropped just ten miles away . . .This is the extraordinary story of a young men, conscripted at nineteen and whose father was a Somme Veteran, survived not just one, but three close encounters with death - encounters which killed nearly all his comrades.
The Final Act Of Mr Shakespeare
By Robert Winder
In the spring of 1613 Mr William Shakespeare, a gentleman farmer in Warwickshire, returns to London. It is a ceremonial visit; he has no further theatrical ambitions. But the city is still reeling from the terrorist panic of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and fate soon forces him to take up his pen again. It was never possible to write about Henry VII while his granddaughter Elizabeth was Queen, but now he must. It is a perilous enterprise: King James I's spies are everywhere.There is no evidence that Shakespeare wrote Henry VII, but in a compelling piece of historical recreation, Robert Winder asks: what if he did? After 400 years, he gives us a unique world première - a brand-new, full-length Shakespeare play.The Final Act of Mr Shakespeare is an exhilarating portrait of England's greatest author - not in love but raging against the dying of the light. It is an outrageous tour de force of theatrical imagination, full of the spirit of the Bard.
By Gillian Tett
In the mid 1990s, at a vast hotel complex on a private Florida beach, dozens of bankers from JP Morgan gathered for what was to become a legendary off-site meeting. It was a wild weekend. But among the drinking, nightclubbing and fist-fights lay a more serious purpose - to assess the possibility of building a business around the new-fangled concepts of credit derivatives.The group at the heart of this revolution was an intense team, made up of individuals with a supreme sense of loyalty to each other and to the bank - for years, nothing could break them apart. But when, finally, the team dispersed, the innovations spread far beyond their original intentions, producing perversions in the mortgage market that ultimately culminated in disaster. Part real-life thriller, part investigation and exposé, this searing narrative takes us deep inside the shadowy world of complex finance - a perfect storm for the credit crunch
By Charlie Higson
Dennis 'The Menace' Pike, former wild man of Tottenham, is going grey and going straight. Anyway, it was hard work being a yob- the birds, the brawls, the endless beers- and he hasn't really got the energy any more for life on the edge. Then two old faces turn up from the past- the Bishop brothers, Chas and Noel. Famously inept, they were bad news then, and they haven't aged well. What's worse, they need Pike's expertise on a scheme wealth distribution really- offloading one of the old gang's ill-gotten millions. Robbing the robbers- now what's criminal about that?Pike, still haunted by what happened one wreckless night all those years ago, refuses to get involved. But old habits die hard, and when he suddenly finds his bank account tampered with, Pike is drawn back into a world he spent ten years escaping. Thug or mug, he is nevertheless forced to confront a man so psychotically unhinged that his own youth seems like mere kids' stuff...A slick, razor-sharp novel, FULL WHACK is packed full of searing wit, scurrilous characters and nefarious knock-about.
By Tim Tzouliadis
Of all the great movements of population to and from the United States, the least heralded is the migration, in the depths of the Depression of the nineteen-thirties, of thousands of men, women and children to Stalin's Russia. Where capitalism had failed them, Communism promised dignity for the working man, racial equality, and honest labour. What in fact awaited them, however, was the most monstrous betrayal.In a remarkable piece of historical investigation that spans seven decades of political change, Tim Tzouliadis follows these thousands from Pittsburgh and Detroit and Los Angeles, as their numbers dwindle on their epic and terrible journey. Through official records, memoirs, newspaper reports and interviews he searches the most closely guarded archive in modern history to reconstruct their story - one of honesty, vitality and idealism brought up against the brutal machinery of repression. His account exposes the self-serving American diplomats who refused their countrymen sanctuary, it analyses international relations and economic causes but also finds space to retrieve individual acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.
Full Hearts And Empty Bellies
By Winifred Foley
Winifred Foley grew up in the 1920s, a bright, determined miner's daughter - in a world of unspoilt beauty and desperate hardship, in which women were widowed at thirty and children died of starvation. Living hand-to-mouth in a tumbledown cottage in the Forest of Dean, Foley - 'our Poll' - had a loving family and the woods and streams of a forest 'better than heaven' as a playground. But a brother and sister were dead in infancy, bread had to be begged from kindly neighbours and she never had a new pair of shoes or a shop-bought doll. And most terrible of all, like her sister before her, at fourteen little Poll had to leave her beloved forest for the city, bound for a life in service among London's grey terraces.
For King And Country
By Brian MacArthur
Far more than an anthology, FOR KING AND COUNTRY is Brian MacArthur's attempt to write a history of the First World War by drawing on the writings of those who were present at the events they describe. Those writings will be drawn from a broad range of sources: from, most obviously, the officers and men who served on the western front at the Somme and elsewhere, accounts of fear and tedium, horror and occasional joy; also from those were left behind on the home front to wait for news of their loved ones.As well as letters, diary entries and memoir extracts, the book will also include the songs sung in the trenches by the men at the front; there are poems too, the less well known alongside the familiar. The material reproduced will be linked by Brian MacArthur's commentary and notes to create a seamless and movingly immediate narrative of the First World War.
Forest Of Memories
By Donald MacIntosh
As a child, Donald MacIntosh's heroine was Mary Kingsley, a nineteenth century traveller who successfully took on the forbidding forests and swamps of West Africa. It was an adventure he was to follow for much of his adult life, spending thirty years as a forester in the so-called 'white man's grave'. MacIntosh, however, more than lived to tell his tales, which he does so here with characteristic gusto and relish.Here are stories of a somewhat salty nature, both in style and subject matter. In Africa, MacIntosh writes, the sea never sleeps and Forest of Memories is equally vibrant. As always, the tales are rich with characters and humour: Laval, the temperamental but highly successful fishing baboon; Jig-time Charlie, ladies' man and local footballing legend; and the beautiful Titi, who employed both feminine guile and cat droppings to win an international angling competition.As sharp and cutting as the teeth of the tigerfish, this latest collection finds Donald MacIntosh in splendidly wicked form once again.