A round-up of the books that I read last month:-
(1) The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
Non-fiction / Social Sciences / Economics / Politics: "Why do we mistrust people more in the UK than in Japan? Why do Americans have higher rates of teenage pregnancy than the French? What makes the Swedish thinner than the Australians? The answer: inequality."
The title of this book is pretty self-explanatory, as two academics present their case for why equality benefits the whole of society. Their chapters look at a range of common subjects (mental health, obesity and health issues, drug abuse, education, unemployment, prisons, crime, teenage pregnancies etc) and have found that inequality is one of the key (if not the main) determining factors as to why these problems are so prevalent in our modern societies. The evidence for their findings are outlined in chapters with lots of corresponding scatter graphs which show the direct correlations and they have cross-referenced a lot of different countries to show how inequality is causing these problems around the world for often the same reasons.
Reading this wasn't a surprise as it's easy to see the links if one wants to see them (they're not hard to find), but I found it interesting and informative all the same. It does come across as an academic study so it's a little dry in places, though with a book like this, it's to be expected. If you want to find out more about this pressing issue, definitely give it a read. [4/5]
(2) Nocturnes by John Connolly
Short Stories / Horror / Fantasy: "A dark, daring, utterly haunting anthology of lost lovers and missing children, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts."
I've been enjoying reading short stories lately so I picked up Nocturnes on the recommendation of a friend. I haven't read anything by John Connolly before as I don't really read a lot of mystery/crime fiction, but Nocturnes showcases Connolly's writing in a more macabre/horror style which instantly appealed to me a lot more.
This collection features 17 short stories, with 3 extra short ones included at the back for good measure as it's the updated edition. All of the stories were brilliant; some were more fantasy or supernatural based, whilst others were pure horror and had me hooked on the edge of my seat, turning the pages as fast I could read them. My favourites were 'Mr Pettinger's Daemon', 'The Shifting Of The Sands', 'The Wakeford Abyss', and I also loved the two novellas, 'The Cancer Cowboy Rides Again' and 'The Reflecting Eye', although all of stories were solid throughout. I'll definitely be reading more by John Connolly in the future! [4/5]
(3) Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson
Non-Fiction / Humour: "A wide variety of extremist groups -- Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis -- share the oddly similar belief that a tiny shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room. Jon Ronson tracks them down to find out more."
Jon Ronson is a bit like Hunter S. Thompson if only HST didn't do any drugs, ever. Actually, Ronson doesn't share many similarities with the late, great Thompson other than a love for gonzo journalism so he's really much more like Louis Theroux (but not as cute).
I digress. Them is a mostly hilarious account of Ronson's encounters with a range of extremists such as the now exiled Islamic hate preacher, Omar Bakri, members of the Klu Klux Klan and people like the lizard-obsessive David Icke to name but a few - all entwined with an ambition to find out who the secret rulers of the world are, or rather if the infamous Bilderberg group exists or not. Some of his stories with these people are more funny and outrageous than others, so the chapters are a little hit and miss depending on what you find interesting. In a time when everyone's terrified of IS, I think it's important to have some humour in your life, though I can appreciate that this book won't be everyone's cup of tea. [3/5]