Do not complain if you think I'm shoving you left-wing jibber jabber down your throat. If that's what you think, you shouldn't be reading this page in the first place anyway.

  • The conscience of a liberal: Reclaiming America from the right by Paul Krugman
    Paul Krugman makes a compelling case on how government can control the economy without necessarily driving it into the ground, showing at the same time the 'free market' is not as infallible as some of his colleagues and businessmen like to think.

  • The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
    While it might have a bit of a holistic touch, the authors convincingly demonstrate societies actually benefit from being more equal; even (surprisingly) the upper classes. Click for a review by the Guardian.

  • Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
    An intriguing read on how and why rich countries got rich. Unlike the more traditional approaches (see Jared Diamond), it focuses on the inclusive (or exclusive) aspects of economy and society (and therefor distribution of power). Makes you look in a totally different way at the countries Bush Jr. lovingly called 'failed states'.

  • Guns, germs and steel by Jared Diamond
    While this book pales next to Why nations fail, it offers some interesting points of view on why the West is 'in charge' at the moment, and on societies in general.

  • Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilisation by Martin Bernal
    The author convincingly argues Romanticism skewed our view of the classical civisations, in favour of a 'European' classical culture - the Greeks. Modern research indicates the Greeks inherited not just e.g. the alphabet from the Phoenicians, but also other important cultural elements from the African/Asian side of the Meditteranean, notably from the Egyptian culture. An interesting parallel is made with modern-day English, which, while being a Germanic language, has undergone lots of Romance influences, because of the French speaking elite that tagged along with William the Conqueror in 1066. This made modern English end up with a bit of a weird dichotomy - the basic vocabulary being Germanic, while higher culture and more complex social aspects (e.g. jurisdiction) are chock full of words with clear Romance roots. In the same way, classical Greek exhibits a native Indo-European substrate, used for day-to-day conversation, and heavy Egyptian influences in e.g. religious and other cultural or more 'specialised' areas of language. This is the first book in a three-part series. It made some waves in the 80s, but by now has been recognised as a valuable contribution to its field, with many of its views being included in modern history books. A very enlightening read if you have been brought up with the whole artificial cultural East/West divide.

  • The blind watchmaker by Richard Dawkins
    Dawkins will be a name familiar to a lot of people. Despite being an evolutionary biologist, most people will know him as an outspoken atheist. That's how I got to read my first book by him. The blind watchmaker however finds him on his own turf, and it makes for some impressive reading. He tackles evolution theory in all its aspects, discusses potential rival theories (even the scam that creationism is), common misunderstandings and other pitfalls. By using well-known (but pretty complex) biological organs like the eye, he shows how evolution came about, and how even intermediate forms of organs could have its use and aid in the survival of its 'owner'. Certain organisms still possess intermediate forms of those organs, the very fact they're still around proving not only an organ in its final stage of development gives an evolutionary edge. His thought experiments on the very foundations of evolution - replication and variation - are pretty mindboggling, even if they might look a bit farfetched to our human brains built to comprehend timespans in decades, not in centuries or millennia. Ironically (and it seems, unintentionally), this book makes a way more convincing case for atheism than his first book I read - The God delusion. Or how it pays to stick to what you know.

  • Chavs: The demonisation of the working class by Owen Jones
    We're all middle class now - at least, that's what the upper and middle class want you to believe. Owen Jones bursts the bubble surrounding class and the claims that 'class warfare is over' or even better that the lower or middle classes are waging war on the upper class. In the UK, it's the other way around: the upper class is waging war on the lower class, pretending they're outcasts that deserve the situation they're in. From Thatcher to David Cameron, Owen Jones clearly demonstrates how the Tories - with the help of New Labour - deconstructed the welfare state in the UK, actively putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and into poverty, with a rhetoric very similar to what the US ruling class uses, and to what a lot of right wing parties in Europe say. You'll think completely different about middle class after you read this book - and ask yourself whether you are part of it or not, more than before.

  • Greek thought, Arabic culture by Dimitri Gutas
    Much overlooked until recently, this book details the contribution of muslim and Arab scientists to modern science, and how they preserved (and improved upon) the classical Greek science as we know it. Whereas Renaissance princes and European scholars in the 15th and 16th centuries appreciated the technological and scientific progress the muslim world made (and mastered Arabic, it being a language of culture), by the 19th century these facts had become increasingly inconvenient for a colonialist Europe at the height of its power, which went to great lengths to discredit the role played by this non-christian society in preserving and improving upon the heritage of classical Greece, (much in the vein of how 19th century scholars refused to see any link between classical Greece and Egypt, until Martin Bernal's book got some traction). For a more accessible approach to the bait al-hikma (house of wisdom), you can also read The House of Wisdom by Jonathan Lyons, which covers the same subject, but is a bit more directed to the interested layman.

Updated: 2018-01-13