Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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12 Jul 2007

Five Books On My Bedside Table.

j2I’m sure I am not alone in having a pile of books by the bed that I am somehow all reading at once, dipping in and out of them, and occasionally reading something all the way through. Although not really the most satisfying way of reading books, it is, at the moment, just the way it is, but it does have the advantage of meaning that I am getting the flavour of a few different books, and thought I might take this opportunity to tell you about the 5 best ones that I wake up to in the morning. Most of them are recently published, and given that, with everything else going on at the moment, I seem to have little time for writing book reviews, you can consider these as very brief reviews.

w11. **The World is Flat: the globalised world in the 21st century.** Thomas L. Friedman. 2006. Penguin.

Don’t agree with much of it at all, but as a book which argues that globalisation is a wonderful thing that will only grow and grow, it is a fascinating insight into the delusional thinking which is at the heart of that which is flowing in the opposite direction from Transition.

s12. **The Shock of the Old: technology and global history since 1900.** David Edgerton. 2006. Profile Books.

A very readable and insightful book which presents a history of technology, and revises our understanding of the relationship between technology and society. A radical book which argues that new inventions are not as clever as we think they are, and that actually the technology we really depend on is not necessarily that which gets New Scientist excited.

j23. **Hubbub: filth, noise and stench in England.** Emily Cockayne. 2007. Yale University Press.

‘Hubbub’ is the perfect foil to anyone who proposes that life before oil was any kind of an idyll. Cockayne focuses on the more unsavoury accounts of life before the Industrial Revolution, and reminds us that much that the Age of Easy Oil brought to us was entirely necessary. Florid accounts of bad teeth, streets awash in excrement, atrocious food, appalling music and smelly people weave a picture of a world not too far back in our history, one which paints a vivid picture of those aspects of the past that are best left there.

b14. **Hard Work – Life in Low Pay Britain.** Polly Toynbee. 2003.

A sobering account of the reality of life in the UK, with its ‘liberalised’ employment market, and the poverty trap that is so difficult to escape from for millions of people. Toynbee ‘dropped out’ of her life as a Guardian journalist and writer, and worked for a year in low paid jobs. Her insights into the world of cleaners, hospital porters and other low pay jobs are compelling and incisive, and show that, for all its glitter and hype, the Oil Age has failed to do much for large sections of society, and in fact has further ingrained social inequality.

j55. **Energy and American Society: Thirteen Myths.** Benjamin K. Sovacool & Marilyn A. Brown (Editors) 2007. Springer Press.

Finally, but late as ever, academia is catching up with peak oil and the true scale of the energy challenge. This excellent collection of essays looks at 13 myths about energy in the US worthy of challenging. Some excellent articles which offer a really useful reference, apart from the one that argues that bioethanol has more potential than people think it does. Well worth a read, to see what academics can do on the rare occasion that they actually ask the right questions.