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Timely Titles that Capture the Zeitgeist

Posted on 19th June 2019 by Mark Skinner

It can be tough these days to make sense of a world which is so rapidly changing. The rise of Trump, disruption of Putin’s Russia and resurgence of the Chinese super-state are bewildering and often frustrating phenomena, whilst the routine evasions and obfuscations of statesmen and women have us shouting at the television and threatening to throw the radio at the wall. 

And, of course, there is always Brexit…

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In the midst of the chaos and corruption we can always rely on great literature, either fiction or fact, to make some sense of it all. The books below all have important things to say about the modern condition. Some are strident and provocative, others more nuanced and reflective. But they are all invaluable guides to navigating the fake news, false promises and faltering institutions of the post-truth era.

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The definitive account of the global financial crisis and its far-reaching implications and consequences. An award winning historian with a masterly grasp of economics, Tooze dissects the past, present and future of the crash to create a fully rounded picture of the defining political event of the last 15 years.
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A tender and humane dissection of what happens to a relationship when unforeseen events conspire to sabotage it, Tayari Jones’s story subtly probes issues of race and justice with a piercing emotional intelligence and colossal heart.
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A real-life fusion of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, Strittmatter’s chilling volume details how China is constructing the perfect surveillance state through a pernicious mixture of coercion and consumerism. A timely warning for the West about the growing threat of the Asian superpower.
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Defiantly of-the-moment without feeling forced or opportunistic, In Our Mad and Furious City documents the lives of three youths on a North London council estate during a summer of increasing personal and social turbulence. Gunaratne paints an electrifying picture of inner city frustration sound-tracked by the pulsating beats of Grime.
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A former Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month, Oliver Bullough’s scorching polemic against the endemic culture of money laundering and tax evasion shines a much needed light into the dark ethical chasm of the super-rich. With righteous fervour and a mounting sense of outrage, Moneyland asks just what has to happen and what needs to be done to end the venal practices of amoral millionaires.
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Big tech, internet trolls, the rise of the far right; Sam Byers throws everything into the mix in his savage state-of-the-nation satire, to wonderful comic and intellectual effect. Breathtakingly clever, meticulously plotted and hilariously funny, Perfidious Albion is one of the first great post-Brexit dystopias.
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Tech expert and activist Jamie Bartlett rigorously picks apart the threats to political transparency, collective free will and personal freedom that emanate from the relentless rise and rise of big tech. Urgent and passionate yet focused and informed, The People vs. Tech is an essential diatribe against the erosion of democracy by Silicon Valley demagogues.
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Deliciously mordant and with its misanthropic finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist, The New Me channels millennial angst and the madness of modern society to blackly comic effect. Taking in issues of gender, race and the comforting evils of consumer culture, Butler’s book is a scathing satire of the twenty-first century condition.
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An explosive, interactive call to arms from the phenomenally successful climate change protest organisation, This is Not a Drill teaches the reader how to become an informed and determined activist in the front line of the most urgent and important cause of our times.
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An intimate, immersive study of identity and parenthood, Ordinary People tackles themes of sex and grief, friendship and aging, and the fragile architecture of love in twenty-first century South London.
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An incendiary account of how Russia is stealthily undermining Western democracy, The Road to Unfreedom makes for highly disturbing but vital reading. Stating his case with typical clarity and precision, Snyder exposes a ruthlessly effective process of infiltration and control that is rapidly changing the dynamics of world politics.
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When Kate is inveigled into the wealthy Rippon family she trades her natural shyness for a life of high society and old world glamour. But everything changes when she is raped at a lavish party at the family home. A devastating, and devastatingly authentic, book about sexual assault and the taboos and presumptions that still surround it, What Red Was is raw, powerful fiction at its very best.
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By utilising reportage and personal testimony, George Packer reveals the human cost of America’s sad decline over the past three decades. Tracing the troubled histories of institutions and communities that are now fatally compromised, The Unwinding devastatingly exposes the lies and broken promises of a succession of administrations that have brought this once great nation to the brink.
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Caught between the Jamaican British family who don’t seem to understand her, a job that’s not all it promised and a man she just can’t get over, Queenie Jenkins’ life seems to be steadily spiralling out of control in Candice Carty-Williams luminous debut. By turns hilariously funny, dramatic and tender, with a heroine to root for, Queenie is undoubtedly one of the year’s most exciting debuts.

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An eye-opening travelogue across European communities that fly under the radar of the mainstream media, Pitts’ evocative book inhabits Afro-European ghettoes, universities and communes, presenting a rounded view of blackness on a continent that increasingly struggles with racial and cultural identity.

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Mayya, Asma and Khawla; three sisters, each a villager of al-Awafi in Oman and each harbouring very different hopes and commitments. Jokha Alharthi takes us through three generations of Omani culture to describe a society experiencing extraordinary change. Celestial Bodies is an extraordinary cultural kaleidoscope, translated with great nuance by Marilyn Booth.
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Packed with real-life stories and interviews with dozens of iconic black women, this is an essential volume designed to inspire a generation of women of colour to succeed in everything, from work to internet dating. Adegoke and Uviebinene are the perfect guides to a world of unlimited aspiration and ambition.
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Both blackly hilarious and bleakly probable, Ma Jian’s scathing indictment of modern China documents the travails of lecherous party officials, technological plans for totalitarian control and the madness and delusion of national ideologues in a slim, whip-smart gem of a novel.
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Michael Wolff rocked the White House with his first Presidential expose Fire and Fury. Now he returns with another incendiary salvo aimed at President Trump’s second year in office and its provocations, recriminations and, chiefly, investigations.

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An expressly polemical novel about the social and emotional pressures on women to surrender themselves completely to the concept of motherhood, Heti’s fiercely intelligent book challenges assumptions and orthodoxy about women’s bodies and desires in a radical yet eminently readable format.
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