Books from the young and old

Additions to the 2020 Book List.

No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference (2019) by Greta Thunberg

COVER1This is barely a book; it is a short collection of Thunberg’s various speeches. They are all very similar and at times have whole sections repeated nearly verbatim. But that is to be expected when you are trying to give the same message to different audiences. But they are worth reading to get a sense of the desperation and urgency of the climate crisis; something which is not conveyed by most politicians.

I have a huge amount of respect for Greta Thunberg and I think it is terrible the way she has been treated and attacked by various people. She actually has the courage and conviction to stand up for her beliefs. This is in stark contrast to most politicians who are careful not to say anything too controversial with the public that will lose them support. And in contrast with many businessmen whose only interest seems to be how the economy is doing in the present. We need people like Thunberg who are not only focussed on the present but considering how our actions here today will affect the future. And, for those that would dismiss her just because she is a child, she is merely repeating what climate scientists are saying and have been saying for a while now. If we would listen to the scientists in the first place, we wouldn’t need a child to come and tell us what needs to be done.

Having finished this book just recently, I couldn’t help but comparing the way two different crises are being covered. Thunberg says how strange it was first learning about climate change because “if it was really happening we wouldn’t be talking about anything else. As soon as you turn on the TV everything would be about that. Headlines, radio, newspapers, you would never read or hear about anything else.” That’s how the corona virus is being covered! It’s strange that this one virus is getting all this attention while climate change is hardly covered in comparison. Is it just the speed? Frankly the media needs to drastically step up how it covers climate change if we are going to make the required progress.

Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide (2019) by Richard Dawkins

COVER2Outgrowing God is divided into two sections, the first of which directly addresses religion and The Bible. It’s the same arguments that always come up but in a simplified form. Although I knew most of what was discussed, there were a few interesting surprises, particularly the section on the non-canonical gospels and the stories they told about Jesus’ (alleged) early life.

The second section of the book is devoted to evolution and how it removes the need for a god in explaining the apparent design and diversity of life. From time to time, I found some new and interesting information but I felt the section was let down by being oversimplified and labouring each point to death.

Aside from one book (which has been sitting on my shelf for the past two or three years), I have read every single one of Dawkins’ books. This is not one of my favourites. Nearly everything has been covered before, and much better, in his previous books. The two sections also feel quite disjointed and could’ve been better integrated. While I really enjoyed the pacing and crescendo of the final chapter, the book as a whole felt lacking. That said, I am not the target audience and perhaps those that are less familiar with the topics will benefit from it more.

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2020 Book List

This is the fourth year I’m doing this (2019, 2018, 2017) and I’m hoping to read two books per month. It’s a challenge but certainly not impossible; I just need to make the time and do it. I think making these lists has already helped me keep reading.

10/03/2020 Added No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference and Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide.

29/05/2020 Added The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper and Black Angel.

4/07/2020 Added The Unexpected Truth about Animals and Areopagitica.

15/08/2020 Added Ecotopia and The Hippopotamus.

38/12/2020 Added Darwin’s Ghosts, Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde And Other Stories and Furries Among Us 2.

Permanent Record (2019) by Edward Snowden

This was a Christmas gift and something I’d been eager to read. Edward Snowden was the one who leaked the existence of PRISM and that the democratic societies in the world were willing to trample on the rights of their citizens just as much as the dictatorships and autocracies they ostensibly opposed. Since then we’ve heard time and time again how both nation states and large corporations have disregarded the rights and interests of people for their own benefit.

The book itself is fascinating, both as an autobiography of one of the heroes of our generation and also to get a glimpse into the secretive world of government espionage. It’s interesting to see how Snowden grew up and what events influenced him. I do wonder how much of it really transpired that way and how much has changed in the process of looking back with new insights. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s entertaining, informative, inspiring and worth reading for everyone.

Ultimately, saying that you don’t care abut privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. Or that you don’t care about freedom of the press because you don’t like to read. Or that you don’t care about freedom of religion because you don’t believe in God. Or that you don’t care about the freedom to peaceably assemble because you’re a lazy, antisocial agoraphobe. Just because this or that freedom might not have meaning to you today doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or won’t have meaning tomorrow, to you, or to your neighbour—or to the crowds of principled dissident I was following on my phone who were protesting halfway across the planet, hoping to gain just a fraction of the freedoms that my country was busily dismantling.

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