Reading for work and for leisure

This month will launch a summer reading club.


I’ve got quite a few books on the go at any given time as I mix reading for work and for my own interest, although it is often hard to find the time. If I have to go into London for a meeting or something else I cram in as much reading as possible. Often the reading for work blends into the reading for pleasure, providing another perspective.

At the moment I am reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World. It was on my daughter’s bedside before she died. Typically for her, it is a book about philosophy, a novel within a novel within a world of stories. While there is an existentialist mystery story wrapping to it, it is essentially a philosophy course. I’ve got up to Marxism so far. For me it’s like having a dialogue with my daughter about all those huge philosophical questions that surge up when something horrendous happens and makes you interrogate everything you ever thought. She would have a lot to say about it all. But what the book shows is the repetition in questions and approaches to these questions over the course of history, despite scientific progress.

For work, I am reading a combination of books. I’ve just finished Louise Perry’s Against the Sexual Revolution and I’m onto Mary Harrington’s Feminism against progress. I’m not sure I agree with everything in them, but what they do do is make you think. The same is not the case for Caitlin Moran’s new book What about men? I’m not finished it yet and I confess that I am finding it quite hard going, although it is written in her usual very accessible way. The problem I have with it is that a lot of it seems to be off the top of her head kind of stuff, just rambling really based on talking to a handful of men and her own experience which she assumes is what everyone thinks, certainly about girls and women. I just don’t relate to very much of it to be honest and I’m not finding any of it useful as the mother of a boy – at least not so far. Plus I think I’d find it fairly insulting if I was a man.

But it’s a best seller, apparently. It has certainly been well promoted and maybe just that will start conversations and provoke better books, hopefully by men themselves – which is not to say that there haven’t been any good books by men in the past. I’ve certainly interviewed men who have written much more interestingly about it all.

Apart from the fact that I’m forcing myself to get through the last half of the book, it is a much faster read than the Jostein Gaarder book because I want to take time with that one and reflect on the ideas and try to make myself remember them. I can see why my daughter was fascinated by philosophy and ideas and that she would have thrived at university as a result, even if philosophy might not be a ‘high value’ degree in the eyes of the current Government if it doesn’t result in a career in law, medicine or technology, which seems to be all that the Government thinks university is for. Indeed my daughter used to joke that she would never get a high-wage job after a philosophy degree. But philosophy drives ideas and innovation and culture. And it is through thinking about difficult things rather than taking the easy way out that we make some kind of meaning – or not – of why we are here.

*Look out for’s summer book club running through late July and August.

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