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.
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.
Father And I
By Carlo Gebler
The story spans nearly a hundred years. In Carlo Gebler's early childhood, his relationship with his father, Ernest, was a disaster. A man of the left, Ernest's politics had been 'hammered out in the nineteen thirties'. His early life as the son of a Jewish immigrant was spent working as a rat catcher in a cinema, snatching moments alone to educate himself, but the one with the literary talent was his second wife, Edna O'Brien - Gebler's mother - who left after Ernest claimed authorship of her work. As his father saw it, Carlo and his brother Sasha were over-fed members of the bourgeoisie, and toys and sweets were banned from their lonely childhood, filled with memories of abuse and neglect. Years later, on hearing his estranged father was now senile, Gebler made the journey to southern Ireland and through his past, through diaries that confirmed Ernest's hatred for his sons, yet also revealed the abuse Ernest in turn suffered as a young man, a life of extreme poverty and the abandonment of his first wife. This not a story that ends in hate; by the time Carlo Gebler reached their final years together, he no longer felt the anger that had dogged their relationship.