The Hath Booker Prize

16 Dec


I started this year determined to read a lot more than 2012.  My reading for pleasure unfortunately didn’t get off to the best start as I spent the first few months undertaking a CIPR Diploma in Crisis Communications.  While that was really enjoyable it did hamper the list of books I wanted to read.  I did however end up reading about 25 PR text books, countless journals and academic papers.  I eventually did get around to reading a few.  Some were great, some forgettable, but here’s the list in no particular order.

  • Devotion of suspect X – Keigo Higashino
  • The hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  • The psychopath test – Jon Ronson
  • Superfreakonomics – Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
  • Call for the dead – John Le Carre
  • The Spy who came in from the cold – John Le Carre
  • A murder of quality – John Le Carre
  • The looking glass war – John Le Carre
  • A small town in Germany – John Le Carre
  • Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  • The prime ministers who never were – Francis Beckett
  • Before I go to sleep – SJ Watson
  • Rush of blood – Mark Bilingham
  • The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
  • Finnish Lessons – Pasi Sahlberg
  • Attachments – Rainbow Powell
  • Education by numbers – Warwick Mansell
  • The Collini Case – Ferdinand von Schirach
  • Long walk to freedom – Nelson Mandela

 Top Three:

A small town in Germany – John Le Carre:

As you’ll see from the above list I developed a slight obsession with John Le Carre this year.  I’ve made it a priority to crack on with the rest of his back catalogue in 2014 and am currently reading ‘Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy.’  I enjoyed all the books by Le Carre I read this year but it was ‘A small town in Germany,’ that I had the most pleasure from.  I have to say it was a close call with ‘The spy who came in from the cold.’  I loved the slow burn of that book and the tension that Le Carre maintained.  I also think Alec Leamas is one of the best literary characters I’ve ever come across.  Still in the end it was a small town that won out.

The plot (without giving away any spoilers) revolves around the investigations of Alan Turner into the disappearance of British Embassy worker Leo Harting.  This book really typifies Le Carre’s style of creating authentic settings and intriguing plots combined with a poetic turn of phrase.  I was immersed in the feel of the book with its fast paced dialogue.  If anyone decided to start reading John Le Carre I would recommend starting from the very beginning but if not you could do a lot worse than jumping in here.

Superfreakonomics – Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

I’m genuinely someone who sticks to fictional novels so it is a tad surprising that both this book, and the below final top three entry, are both non-fiction.  This was given to me as a Christmas present last year by my brother but I only got around to reading it in April.  It is a sequel to the ‘Freakonomics’ book, which I haven’t read, but it isn’t a series you need to read in order.

The book is essentially a series of economic articles that look at various theories applied to everyday scenarios or unusual settings.  These ranged from examining altruism in the context of civic society; the impact of television on crime rates; how the geography or month of your birth impacts on your life chances to microeconomics in the context of developing financial awareness amongst monkeys.

My lack of financial and economic background means that I couldn’t really critique the actual hypothesise that were being put forward.  However, that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the innovative ways in which the chapters were written and was certainly left thinking about these issues long after I finished reading.

The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

I picked this book up in a nice little London bookshop when I had to kill some time before a lecture at the CIPR building.  It generally covers Jon Ronsons experiences of interacting with purported psychopaths and those that treat and identify them.  It takes a broad approach to the realities and misconceptions of what we think when we hear the word psychopath.

The style of the book was a real bonus of the writing.  It was engaging, funny and informative to the point that it read more like a novel in places.  However, the jumping between different case studies and areas of investigation never really gave any in-depth analysis to one specific issue.  This wasn’t a real complaint from me.  I wasn’t really intending to study psychopaths but it could leave people potentially with a somewhat misrepresented view of the condition.  Indeed, the main problem with this book is that in making the compelling case for identifying the traits of psychopaths I was left basically assuming that everyone I knew was a potential case in point.

It does somewhat trivialise the condition and the treatment but then I don’t really think anyone should be reading this book to get a full picture.  It is more an overview of one man’s experiences as an investigative journalist.  Taken in that content it is entertaining and opens up the reader to the idea of studying the details to a greater extent in other forms.

Next year I hope to read far more and so any recommendations very welcome.


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