21 Lessons for the 21st Century By Yuval Noah Harari


A not so nice book review.

So it continues, great swathes of padding followed by dinner-party observations of crushing banality. The chapters cover some big subjects – war, terrorism, nationalism, God – but since most average about fifteen pages, they fall almost comically short of providing the ‘dazzling’ insights promised on the book’s cover. One sentence literally reads, ‘Humans have bodies.’ Amazing. ‘European civilisation is anything Europeans make of it.’ Profound. Where terrorism is concerned, ‘we just cannot prepare for every eventuality’. Dazzling.

On and on it goes. ‘With a single exception, all flags are rectangular pieces of cloth.’ Well I never. ‘A robot army would probably have strangled the French Revolution in its cradle in 1789.’ There’s a good Doctor Who story in that. ‘If the USA had had killer robots in the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre might have been prevented.’ Is this Yuval Noah Harari or Alan Partridge?

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Dominic Sandbrook — Literary Review

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The Invention of Celebrity


Everyday, how many news or videos do you watch related to a celebrity? Today’s needull is review of the book – The Invention of Celebrity, 1750–1850 By Antoine Lilti (Translated by Lynn Jeffress).

The publicity that surrounds famous people, Lilti writes, ‘is the non-critical face of the public’. It is one of the strengths of his book to show that this face has been part of modern public politics and public opinion since their origins. To those who would conceive the public sphere as a ‘place for rational, dispassionate argumentation’, somewhat like a philosophy seminar, Lilti answers that it was never so. ‘In reality, the modern public sphere in capitalist, mediatized societies is, by its nature, full of passion and desire’, emotionally charged by the fleeting and affective longings of fans and the celebrities they love – and love to hate.

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Darrin McMahon — Literary Review

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Charlotte Brontë: A Life


Today’s needull is a book review of “Charlotte Brontë: A Life”. The year 2016 was her bicentenary year. She lived all of 38 years but her works are considered classics in English literature.

In the end, I’m not sure who Harman’s Brontë really is. She’s not Gaskell’s sad, sweet martyr, she’s not the caustic, love-hungry heroine of Lyndall Gordon’s 1994 biography and she’s not the neurotic, hypocritical woman who stalks the pages of Juliet Barker’s group biography, The Brontës (published in 1994 and updated in 2010). Harman unforgettably conjures up Lucy Snowe, the protagonist of Villette, as ‘a disturbing, hyper-sensitive alter-ego, a ticking bomb of emotions’, but she never uses such language when describing Brontë directly. So, although this book is clear and shrewd, plainly and crisply written, it makes me wish for more of the expression of the powerful feelings Claire Harman admires in Brontë’s writing.

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Samantha Ellis — Literary Review

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