Tom Hodgkinson rounds up his top reads of the year
IIt’s been a strange old year but we have at least had plenty of time for reading, and reading is, according to Claudia Hammond in her book The Art of Rest, our number one restful activity, trumping more stressful pursuits like mindfulness and watching TV.
All the authors mentioned have been guests on our weekly online event, “A Drink with the Idler”, and a link to the video of the event can be found following each brief notice below. The books are available through our shop on bookshop.org, which you can find here. We’re encouraging our readers to buy their books from bookshop.org rather than Amazon, for obvious reasons: the money stays in the UK; some of it is redistributed to indie bookshops and in general the author will get a larger cut of the retail price because bookshop.org does not engage in unfair and savage undercutting. Not only that, but Idler gets a cut of each sale. So it’s a win-win-win!
The Art of Rest by Claudia Hammond (Canongate)
A briskly sensible and scientific write-up of the world’s favourite ways to chill (“doing nothing in particular” comes in at number 5). Watch video here.
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (Vintage)
Enthralling investigation into the hidden underground life of fungi – and why they’re so important to our everyday life. Watch video here.
The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes (Bloomsbury)
This is a jolly caper; an account of Hayes’s trespasses on the private estates and rivers of England. The author (also a brilliant illustrator) relates his encounters with bailiffs with good humour and insight, and addresses the ancient right to roam. Watch video here.
In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson (Octopus)
Fascinating and sometimes Dickensian account of life as a young criminal barrister. The author is mixed race and is often mistaken for a defendant. She also trains a cool and amused eye on the tricks of the trade of the minor criminal classes. Watch video here.
Ramble Book by Adam Buxton (HarperCollins)
A lovely memoir from our favourite comedian and podcaster. Adam will make you laugh and make you cry.
The Philosopher Queens, edited by Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting (Unbound)
A collection of essays on female philosophers through the ages, from Diotima – the great influence on Socrates – to Hypatia and Hannah Arendt. Watch video here.
There Are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important than Kindness by Carlo Rovelli (Penguin)
Learned and thoughtful essays from one of the world’s great writers on physics and philosophy, originally published in Italian newspapers. Watch video here.
The Wizard in my Shed by Simon Farnaby (Hachette)
Daft comedy from the actor (Horrible Histories, Ghosts) and screenwriter (Paddington 2). Watch video here.
Plunder of the Commons: A Manifesto for Wealth Sharing by Guy Standing (Pelican)
A rousing manifesto from the leading proponent of basic income. Watch video here.
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (Melville House)
OK, this book was not actually published in 2020. But its author, a great friend to the Idler, tragically died this year, and what better way to serve his memory and educate yourself than by getting his great work for yourself? Trust me, it’s a real treat – brilliantly written, ingenious and often quite thrilling. Watch video here.