Below are a selection of links to people who I am enjoying reading, watching and/or listening to at the moment. This page will be updated every few months.

Books

Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined - Steven Pinker: By watching the news you'd be forgiven for thinking the world is becoming more violent. Pinker argues it is not and he explains why. The premise is that changing evolutionary circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail over our inner demons. He mixes psychology, history and anthropology with lots of graphs to help the digestion of information. 

Freedom and Organisation, 1814-1914 - Bertrand Russell: Maybe my favourite philosopher, Russell, says, "The purpose of this book is to trace the opposition and interaction of the two main causes of change in the Nineteenth century: the belief in freedom which was common to Liberals and Radicals, and the necessity for organization which arose through industrial and scientific technique." Written in 1934 at a time of nationalism, nativism and heightening international tensions, the book explains how it got to this point. Some salutary lessons for today in the wake of Donald Trump and Brexit. 

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Jared Diamond: Just a book about the last 13,000 years of human civilisation. No biggie... No book has changed the way I view and understand the world more than this one. Geography is the key to unlocking the understanding of why some cultures have have advanced materialistically quicker than others. It's also a stunning repudiation of any racial argument you will ever hear.

Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience - Gitta Sereny: Everyone has at some point wondered why and how the Nazis could have done what they did. No one has explored the humanity behind the Nazi veneer better than Sereny. This book is based on her extensive interviews with Franz Stangl the commandant of Treblinka - one of the largest extermination camps - while he was in prison. An internal angst in Stangl emerges as he tries to rationalise, deflect and deny the significance of his role. It's fascinating to watch play out and reminds me hugely of the main character, Anwar Congo, in my favourite documentary The Act of Killing (see below).  

 

Podcasts

  • Revisionist Historyhttp://revisionisthistory.com/ - Best new podcast of 2016 for me. Malcolm Gladwell in his inimitable style challenges the way we think about things. Why do basketballers throw overarm instead of underarm for free throws? How are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen very different types of genius? The show is really well produced by Panoply Media.
  • Waking Uphttps://www.samharris.org/podcast - Author, neuroscientist and prominent atheist Sam Harris invites one guest on per show for what are generally intellectual conversations. He covers wide range of topics including political Islam, AI and effective altruism to mention but a few. 
  • This American Lifehttps://www.thisamericanlife.org/podcast - Ira Glass and his team always have interesting and topical human interest stories. Each show is themed and they blend the serious with the funny very well.
  • Second Captainshttp://www.irishtimes.com/sport/second-captains - Get your Irish and international sporting fix with Second Captains. Always entertaining and informative.
  • Serialhttps://serialpodcast.org/ - A great spin off from This American Life by Sarah Koenig. They look at one story over a dozen or so episodes. Quality investigative journalism.
  • The Godless Spellcheckerhttps://www.gspellchecker.com/podcasts/ - One of the lesser known podcasts I listen to by Brit Stephen Knight. A voice for secularism who keeps religious zealotry in check.
  • WTFhttp://www.wtfpod.com/ - Marc Maron's sense of humour might not be for everyone but he's good at scratching underneath the surface of personal issues. He likes to share. Check out the episode of him and Louis CK.