In a world that seems to be experiencing severe turbulence great writers who challenge us in intelligent, provocative and insightful ways are needed more than ever. In 2018 these brilliant writers are aplenty and come in different shapes and forms, dissecting power, the economy, gender and even our reality.
From Anand Giridharadas’s searing exploration of the elites to Laurence Scott’s playful analysis of technology, however, our favourite book without a doubt of 2018 comes from food writer Michael Pollan and his awe-inspiring manual How To Change Your Mind.
A convincing book that exposes the overwhelming benefits psychedelics has to offer us in treating issues such as depression and alcoholism. Decades after Timothy Leary scorched the earth with his fry-your-brain take-no-prisoners attitude to enlightenment Michael Pollan has somewhat recalibrated the entire discussion for mainstream purposes. Find out what other books we loved in 2018.
A blistering portrait of the plutocratic global ruling class. In this investigative styled expose, Anand a former NY Times columnist delves into the strange world that is the neoliberal philanthrocapitalist circuit. In doing so he profiles a host of strange wealthy characters with well-intentioned conquests to change the world for the better but is ultimately failing. He takes aim at consultants, CEOs and entrepreneurs who frankly seem to live on another planet compared to the rest of us. A timely and refreshing overview of the arrogance and contempt for the 1% and how they operate.
There have always been books floating about on the psychedelic-science movement in one form or another. But it was this incredibly lucid and endearing account by food writer Michael Pollan that propelled it into a whole different sphere. Taking us on a journey behind the history of psychedelics all the way through to its current science and overwhelming benefits, Michael Pollan aims to leave no stone unturned using himself as a guinea pig to detail his own experiences on mushrooms, LSD, DMT and MDMA. This is a book that even without taking these substances will leave you raw, emotional and at times shaking.
Civil liberties lawyer Greg Kukianoff and renowned psychologist Jonathan Haidt charter the alarming rise of violence by anxiety ridden students across campuses in America as well as the deployment of trend terms such as trigger warnings and microaggressions.
It’s an issue not only sweeping the US but with younger people across the world. Both authors explore the cognitive dissonance that has led to a backlash of rationality and centrist discussion. If you want to understand what’s behind the cracks starting to appearing on the left this is a great start.
A meta-existential investigation into what technology is doing to the soul of our society. If reality is our new toy to play with, then Laurence Scott is the perfect author to take us through a journey of its downsides and upsides. Frankly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of this styled philosophical approach towards the tech void. Laurence Scott can weave politics, pop culture, economics and grief with highly nuanced prose. This is as much an investigation of himself as it is the society we live in. Highly recommended.
What is great about this book is that it not only explores China’s rocketing ascent onto the global stage but also its responsibility with its new AI powers. It is a timely portrait of a China untethered written by a superstar tech maverick and an ex-Google chief.
There is a lot in here that would please not just political scientists but also tech philosophers and economists. It also raises a lot of important questions such as what will China look like decades from now? How did China get to where it is? Will AI take our jobs? And how will the US deal with all of this?
An honest, endearing portrait of one man’s journey deep into the world of gender. Thomas Page McBee is a former journalist turned author and amateur boxer, he documents his identity crisis coupled with his gender change through a refreshingly candid approach. His journey culminates in a fight at Madison Square Garden, in which the results will surprise you. A timely look into masculinity.
Well known economist, Mariana Mazzucato explores the lopsided dynamic of our current economic system. She aims to redefine how we value, well value and why we place so much emphasis on extraction rather than the act of creation and real prosperity. After reading this book, you should feel the wool slowly being removed from your eyes.
Honourable fiction mentions:
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neale Hurston, Normal People by Sally Rooney, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith, Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata: Educated by Tara Westover, The Overstory by Richard Powers