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Ed Crompton

Joined 5 months ago

Technology, politics, nature and the odd children's book.

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Ed Crompton's books

Cal Newport: Digital Minimalism (2019, Portfolio) 4 stars

The key to living well in a high tech world is to spend much less …

Review of 'Digital Minimalism' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A lot of what I've read about the attention economy revolves around tweaks to existing technology, employing more technology to counteract perceived problems of technology and social media, or wish lists saying how nice it would be if things were designed differently.

I found this book refreshingly different. Although it's written by a technologist, it concentrates much more on healthy and productive use of existing technology rather than messing about with tweaks (turn off your notifications ect). I especially like how its arguments are given historical context with reference to people such as Abraham Lincoln and David Thoreau and what they teach us about concentration and distraction.

Martin Andrew: Night Trains (2017) 4 stars

Review of 'Night Trains' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A book for train geeks by an unashamed train geek. No, nothing happens in any of the narratives, yes there are long descriptions of the changing colours and interior decor of European trains over the 20th century. However, anyone lucky enough to have travelled on one of the fast disappearing European night trains will find themselves with a better understanding of the place of these routes in history and a realisation of their own place amongst the generations of train travellers.

My only disappointment was that the author was so quick to fly back from all his adventures having got me so stoked about overland travel!

Michael J. Sandel, Michael Sandel: What money can't buy (Hardcover, 2012, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 4 stars

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow …

Review of "What money can't buy" on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A great arsenal of reason against the push against the free market ideology and why some things shouldn't be monetised. Exposes the contradictions in the defences of the free market that you might hear in a plain and straightforward way. Like all excellent explanations, once you've read it, it seems as though it was always obvious.

However, I couldn't help comparing it slightly to Justice, the only other book of Sandel's I've read. This seems to lack some of the strong narrative and build-up of an argument that Justice has. In both books, what stands out for me about Sandel is his ability to be plain and strong in his convictions whilst never seeming opinionated or dismissive of alternative arguments.

Lars Mytting: Norwegian wood (2015) 5 stars

Building a fire to warm your home is incredibly satisfying. Splitting logs, stacking and seasoning …

Review of 'Norwegian wood' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

The hipster lumberjack lifestyle guide for aspiring wood geeks. Lovely pictures, evocative and well written. However, it's a sales pitch for a certain lifestyle and masculinity, complete with associated stove and chainsaw brands. Chopping and stacking your own wood might seem anti consumerist, but this will probably make you want to buy stuff anyway.

Akala: Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire 5 stars

Review of 'Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Opened my eyes to how the British history I have been taught is so white-biased. It opened questions for me about alternative narratives: That Cuba was so instrumental in fighting apartheid and that Britain's abolition of the slave trade was not a result of the white moral enlightenment I'd been led to believe.

This is also at least half auto biographical. It describes an upbringing and experiences of violence, racism and oppression that are easy to remain ignorant to as a white middle class person. For anyone who knows the posh coffee shops and gastro pubs of the London streets on which Akala witnesses stabbings and is subject to constant police harassment, this will make you aware of another world, very close to you.

Nicholas Carr: The Shallows (2011, W. W. Norton & Company) 4 stars

Review of 'The Shallows' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Many books I've ready about the Internet and society seem outdated and naive very shortly after they're published. A large part of this book is not about the Internet at all, but rather takes a historical perspective of advancements that have come before it - writing, mass literacy, the printing press and typewriters - and the hopes and fears that people had for them when they emerged. Creating and consuming information in ways which have deep effects on the ways our minds work is nothing new, but the level of distraction that the Internet now presents us with is perhaps unprecedented. Don't be put off by the fact that this book was published in 2011 when smart phones were in their infancy and before presidents governed via Twitter, if you have a mobile, read a news website or use social media, read this.

Afua Hirsch: Brit(ish) (2018, Penguin Random House) 4 stars

The Sunday Times bestseller that reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain …

Review of 'Brit(ish)' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Afua Hirsh's search for people, place and belonging is something that I think you can relate to in some way without being mixed race or having a recent family history of migration. I found this book very helpful in empathising with people of racial minorities and recognising my own privilege as a white person. However, there were points where the thread of the argument Afua was making or the point of an interview she was conducting seemed to peter out and I missed any conclusion drawn.

Peter Pomerantsev: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia 4 stars

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia is …

Review of 'Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A fascinating and gripping trip into a dark, surreal and often terrifying world. But I don't trust Peter Pomerantsev. His portrait of Putin's Russia chimes too well with western hegemony. His fleeting description of George Galway, a "far-left supporter of Saddam Hussein" is just one example of a chink from which a whiff of lazy bigotry leaks.