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The Village Effect

Marrying the findings of the new field of social neuroscience together with gripping human stories, award-winning author and psychologist Susan Pinker explores the impact of face-to-face contact from cradle to grave, from city to Sardinian mountain village, from classroom to workplace, from love to marriage to divorce. Her results are enlightening and enlivening, and they challenge our assumptions.

Most of us have left the literal village behind, and don’t want to give up our new technologies to go back there. But, as Pinker writes so compellingly, we need close social bonds and uninterrupted face-time with our friends and families in order to thrive – even to survive. Creating our own ‘village effect’ can make us happier. It can also save our lives.

The Making of Home

The idea that ‘home’ is a special place, a separate place, a place where we can be our true selves, is so obvious to us today that we barely pause to think about it.

But, as Judith Flanders shows in this revealing book, ‘home’ is a relatively new concept. When in 1900 Dorothy assured the citizens of Oz that ‘There is no place like home’, she was expressing a view that was a culmination of 300 years of economic, physical and emotional change.

In The Making of Home, Flanders traces the evolution of the house across northern Europe and America from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, and paints a striking picture of how the homes we know today differ from homes through history.

The transformation of houses into homes, she argues, was not a private matter, but an essential ingredient in the rise of capitalism and the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Without ‘home’, the modern world as we know it would not exist, and as Flanders charts the development of ordinary household objects – from cutlery, chairs and curtains, to fitted kitchens, plumbing and windows – she also peels back the myths that surround some of our most basic assumptions, including our entire notion of what it is that makes a family.

As full of fascinating detail as her previous bestsellers, The Making of Home is also a book teeming with original and provocative ideas.

Big Ideas

A witty and indispensable guide to modern-day buzzwords.

Big Ideas explains where concepts like ‘the long tail’, ‘urban tribes’ and ‘soft power’ came from, what they mean, and what their critics say about them.

It includes explanations of key terms such as:

Maturialism: the name given to the new trend among middle-aged people of spending their money on expensive ‘youth’ gadgets and services, and the new habit among advertisers of targeting the mid-life market, repositioning their brands as accessories to the distinctive joys of mid-life.

The Tipping Point: the controversial idea that the best way to understand everything from changing fashions to the rise of teenage smoking is to imagine people as viruses and social phenomena as contagious epidemics.

Social Jet Lag: an ailment suffered by up to half the population, social jet lag is said to arise when our body clocks falls out of synch with the demands of our environments, thus putting us at risk of chronic fatigue and an increased susceptibility to disease.

Bright Particular Stars

In Bright Particular Stars, David McKie examines the impact of twenty-six remarkable British eccentrics on twenty-six unremarkable British locations. From Broadway in the Cotswolds, where the Victorian bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps nurtured dreams of possessing every book in the world, to Kilwinning in Scotland, where in 1839 the Earl of Eglinton mounted a tournament that was Renaissance in its extravagance and disastrous in its execution, McKie leads us to places transformed, inspired and sometimes scandalized by the obsessional endeavours of visionary mavericks.

Some of McKie’s eccentrics, such as Mary Macarthur, who helped the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath win the right to a fair wage in 1910, were good to the point of saintliness; others, including the composer Peter Heseltine, who in the 1920s set net curtains twitching by his hard drinking and naked motorbike riding, rather less so. But together their fascinating stories illuminate some of the most secret and most extraordinary byways of our national and local history.

In Bright Particular Stars quiet, unassuming streetscapes become sites of eccentric and uproarious sites of action. The triumphs and failures of the visionaries who thus transformed them – recaptured here by David McKie in vivid and beguiling fashion – have each, in their own way, helped shape our island’s rich and chequered history.

Outlaws

What’s it like to be an outlaw biker? ‘We’re dickhead magnets,’ one of them tells Adam Shand. ‘Drunks in bars like to test themselves against a so-called outlaw.’

Once seen as a free-wheeling, brawling, pleasure-seeking bunch of misfits rolling down the highways, bikers are now cast as social bogeymen. If you believe the dire warnings of the media and politicians, they are an organised crime threat on a global scale.

Adelaide has long been regarded as the biker capital of Australia. Ten years ago South Australian Premier Mike Rann declared himself the nemesis of the biker community and he was committed to putting the clubs out of business with draconian new laws.

Bikers have rarely explained themselves; they have worn their outcast status as a badge of honour. But in 2005, author Adam Shand went inside the world of the outlaws to understand whether such drastic measures were justified or whether this was a fear campaign designed simply to win elections.

For the next six years, Shand mixed with bikers, talking to them about their lives and listening to their stories. He travelled with them on the road, spent time in their clubhouses, attended funerals and other club functions. He wanted to understand why men joined these secretive, arcane organisations which seemed to be at odds with the rest of society. What he found were not crime gangs but brotherhoods battling for their survival against threats from within and without.

By 2011 the bikers had won historic victories in the High Court. As Mike Rann’s premiership imploded, the bikers were still riding high and living free. The hysteria was beginning to ebb. Outlaws explains how all this came to pass.