One of my last posts back in 2016 was about recent books I’d read. I haven’t read nearly as much since then as I might have hoped, but here are a few I enjoyed last year.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality — Peter Singer
I promise I’m not trying to show off with the charity books, but purely by coincidence this one is very similar in theme to “Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference” from my previous post.
This is a very short book, composed of three articles Singer, a moral philosopher, wrote for lay audiences in the 1970s. The core argument of the main article, from which the book takes its name, can be broadly presented as this: there’s no moral distinction between a child drowning in a pond next to you and a person starving on the other side of the world. Most people would agree that helping the drowning child is not only a good thing to do but an obligation, and consequently it’s also a moral obligation to do what we can to help the more geographically distant.
The Thursday Murder Club — Richard Osman
This one is cheerier, despite the name. This debut novel from TV’s most genial quiz show host is a murder mystery in a retirement community. It’s cosy and pleasant, good natured and optimistic, but also a decent mystery. It’s also the only book I read last year with a proper laugh-out-loud GregWallace joke. This was a perfect book for 2020, and given its performance on the fiction charts it seems quite a lot of people agree with me.
The Last Day — Andrew Hunter Murray
Another debut novel, this one from one of the researchers for QI, and host of the spinoff podcast No Such Thing As a Fish. This is a post apocalyptic sci-fi set after a cosmic disaster leaves Earth tidally locked to the Sun so that one side is always in day, the other side always in night, and only the sliver of surface in permanent twilight remains habitable.
Part mystery, part thriller, part “ooh, I know the bit of London he’s talking about.”
The End of Everything — Katie Mack
A pop science exploration of the many ways the universe might come to an end. Heat death, a big crunch, spontaneous vacuum decay. Not only informative, but also one of the funnier books about the ultimate and inevitable destruction of everything that ever has been.
And on that note, I think it’s time to make a bit more progress on this year’s reading list.