Here it is, the May reading list. It was a little bit impacted by COVID-19 as I did, just ever so slightly, lose my focus and I was finding it harder to concentrate. Some of these are, as a result, more varied and rather less academic.

  • Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
  • The Lost Decade by Polly Toynbee and David Walker
  • Stolen by Grace Blakely
  • Draft No.4 by John McPhee
  • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
  • Hypersanity by Neel Burton
  • The Secret Barrister by Anon
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  • Detectives in the Shadows by Susanna Lee
  • Good Cop. Bad War by Neil Woods

Recommendation of the Month

I was looking foward to Proust and the Squid and I was disappointed. The second half of the book is heavily weighted towards people with a specific interest in autism and I was crushed by the level of detail. It didn’t work for me at all. The Lost Decade was good but a bit of a grind. It was also almost impossible not to read everything as if it was asterisked — any talk of economic and social impact now being looked through the COVID lens. Stolen was good, more strident and militant than I was expecting. Draft No.4 started slow but had some great advice about writing longer form work. Bad Blood was gripping, a page turner, and an astonishing indictment of the Silicon Valley startup culture.

A well-resourced criminal justice system is the absolute bedrock of a fair society and it is failing.

I liked Hypersanity but it was a little patchy. The Secret Barrister takes us through the abject running down of the criminal justice system in the past decade. I’m not quite sure why I picked up the Steve Jobs biography, possibly as a consequence of reading Bad Blood and the hero worship of Jobs by the main player, Elizabeth Holmes. Neither of them come out particularly well.

Jon Ronson’s book was diverting enough and it certainly encouraged me to stay off Twitter. Detectives in the Shadows is an academic discussion of the hard-boiled hero but very much has an American sensibility. And Good Cop, Bad War details Neil Woods’ experiences as an undercover cop.

As I write this, I realise that it wasn’t a superb month. Ultimately, if I had to pick a book to recommend then I think The Secret Barrister edges it over Stolen. You may never be involved with it, woe betide you if you are, because a well-resourced criminal justice system is the absolute bedrock of a fair society and it is failing. We spend a pitiful amount on it and the relentless drive for more savings is a deep wound in our democracy. Legal aid has been slashed and we’ve been suckered with the PR about the undeserving. Median income of barristers in 2012-13 was £27,000 — though, some do of course, earn large sums at the upper end, most don’t. Read the book, but if that’s too much for you then check out The Secret Barrister FAQs.°