Books of the year
From SF to politics, cartoons to history, Guardian readers choose their favourite reads of 2011
|John Madeley, Let Live: A Bike Ride, Climate Change and the CIA|
Jeff Alderson, Oxford
Kate Anderson Sheffield
Let Live: A Bike Ride, Climate Change and the CIA by John Madeley (Longstone Books). John Madeley is a well-known author and broadcaster on issues relating to development and social justice. This his second novel focuses on climate change as it has affected small farmers and others in Africa. He bases it on the experiences of a British journalist who sets out to bicycle through six countries. It is truly a thriller, with so much relevant to what is already having severe, indeed crippling, consequences for millions in rural Africa. The interplay with the powers-that-be, often of a dastardly nature, adds to the drama. It deserves to be read by those who remain unmoved and cynical about the reality of climate change, and too by those committed to mitigating its effects.
Kate Anderson Sheffield
Penelope Lively's How It All Began (Fig Tree) is honest but not mawkish about being elderly, and the frustrations of being physically more dependent. One expects the supreme prose, but this book has depth with a lightness of touch. In hardback it has one of the loveliest covers, epitomising for me an ideal retirement.
Kenneth Baker, Lord Baker of Dorking, House of Lords
Death in Florence: the Medici, Savonarola and the Battle for the Soul of the Renaissance City by Paul Strathern (Jonathan Cape). This is a brilliant history of how the wealth and power of Florence was challenged by a radical monk so successfully with the Bonfire of the Vanities that they had to burn him at the stake – Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Ludovico Sforza, and Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, are in the premier league of Italian politics and make Berlusconi seem a mere pot boy. My second book is The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford (Penguin). This bestseller in America is the bible for those who work with their hands. Crawford, a philosophy don, also runs his own motorcycle workshop in Richmond, Virginia, and that is his inspiration and his satisfaction. Practical, technical, hands-on learning is behind the new University Technical Colleges.