Matt Webb is blogging like its 2005 and has returned to a book baton entry sharing great reads. I couldn’t resist joining in again as I’d been two steps away from the original post after he passed it to Peter Lindberg. Like Matt, I noted the following then returned to look at my choices 17 years ago and was pleased to find both consistency and evolution. If anyone wishes to pick up the baton you’ll see I’ve added a new question…

Books owned:

No idea, but my best guess is perhaps 25 linear metres worth. Current filing system groups by colour, which is deeply inefficient but results in very satisfying unplanned adjacent discoveries when searching based on the vague memory of a spine colour.

Last book you bought:

The Care Manifesto – The Politics of Interdependence is my most recent purchase, via Verso. Discovered via Adam Greenfield, it’s warming up to become the key text for my BArch students next semester to support their final design project. A design brief that explores the possibilities of a society structured around ‘…an expansion of kinship through promiscuous care and the construction of communities strengthened by co-operative and public ownership’ sounds like exactly the sort of compassionate project we all need.

Last book you read:

The Time Machine by HG Wells. A revisit inspired by watching the 60s movie adaptation with my daughter and discussing the terrifying dangers of materialising inside matter when someone moves your time machine, not to mention the fact the planet and galaxy will have shifted under your feet while you were gone. I was struck this time by how the imperial grab bag of robbery from the colonies resulted in Rhododendrons imported into Victorian Britain becoming the dominant landscape 800k years later. Related: Plant sentience in Victorian literature and Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Current audiobook:

I’m sneaking in a new category here. My current audiobook is Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy, discovered via the wonderful Backlisted podcast. In 1963 Dervla cycled from Ireland to India, but only after she’d removed the gears on her bike. Enduring hardships that would make Bear Grylls curl up in a ball and weep, her writing has one vital quality that reminded me of My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-NĂ©el. Despite being centred on a personal trial of extreme scale, they both have the humility to focus predominantly on the stories of others and the landscape.

5 books that mean a lot to you:

What is Architecture? by Paul Shepheard. Never forgotten for the almost literal Eureka experience of reading this in the bath and being elated by the pluralist, expansive reading of how and why we might choose to enclose space.

If on a Winter’s Night by Italo Calvino. Ever missed your stop on public transport because a book is too good? Probably Calvino’s fault. Writing about writing, a book about books, a mode that is always the zenith of the arts for me. Knowing, layered, doubling down on the canon.

Calvin and Hobbes: Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons by Bill Waterson. Or indeed any of the series.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. The intellectual rigour.

Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon. Sentient stars. A book that manages to fold the whole of time and space into it’s pages. Not kidding.

*UPDATE*: while finishing off these notes I have completed the Full Tilt audiobook and moved on to Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Currently in a state of shock and also embarrassed that it took me until my late 40s to pick it up. Probably one of the greatest internal monologues I’ve ever read. Capitalism as space.

Huge thanks to the Backlisted podcast for many recent new discoveries. Everyone should subscribe.