How not to be Wrong

“How not to be Wrong” is James O’Brien’s latest book following on from “How to be Right”

O’Brien is the Marmite of radio chat show presenters, I am a fan but a critical one. His technique of persistent questioning and focus enables him to ridicule people he doesn’t agree with in a seemingly reasonable way. It’s entertainment but sometimes it feels cruel.

How to be Right was quite a self righteous book using sequences from the chat show to illustrate how questioning can puncture firmly held beliefs that are not backed up by evidence and fact.

How not to be Wrong is much more self reflective, O’Brien writes about his own personal crisis, going through therapy and how that process lead him to re-evaluate some of his own firmly held beliefs and to regret some of his past evisceration of callers to his chat show.

How not to be Wrong is thought provoking for all of us who are equally convinced about the rightness of our views on politics, social issues and life. O’Brien’s key lesson is that if you are convinced that you are right and are trying to persuade others of the folly of their opinions then you have to be able to change your own mind and reconsider your own beliefs as well. Seems like a good message to me and well worth a read.


The Rhino Conspiracy

The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain is set in modern day South Africa, it combines a page turner about the battle against rhino poachers with a scathing critique of the corruption that pervaded South Africa in the post Mandela era.

Hain is well qualified to expose the corruption of the modern state but I was surprised at how good a thriller writer he is. This is really really good, I wonder what he will do next?


To Kill the President

To Kill the President by Sam Bourne (Jonathan Freedland) is an incredibly timely and prescient novel.

There is no mention of the current US President but his persona runs through this novel,  you will recognise the Bannon, Priebus and Ivanka characters as well. This is crazy, scary fiction made more so by the fact that it is so believable in current circumstances.

The plot starts with a late night panic as the President endeavours to launch a nuclear strike against North Korea, well that could never happen in real life or could it?

You can’t put this down, it’s perfect holiday reading. It’s even more delicious if you have been reading Freedland’s columns for the Guardian over the last year



Post-Truth by Matthew d’Ancona is both timely and thought provoking.

In recent months we have been bombarded with allegations of “Fake News”, “the politics of fear”, “alternative facts” and wherever you sit on the political spectrum at the very least some economy in truthfulness (although nearly always from those that you already disagree with).

This is a short tour through the genesis of the phenomena that d’Ancona describes as Post-Truth written in an easily readable academic style. Starting in 2016 it follows both the Trump campaign in the US election and the Leave campaign in the UK’s EU referendum and explores how emotion and identity have replaced truth in political discourse in both countries. d’Ancona highlights the collapse of trust in experts and facts and the way that social media has magnified the impact of misinformation, conspiracy theories and ultimately Fake News.

Post-Truth is a disturbing read, the reader is left shocked at the speed with which our discussion of events has been polluted by lies and misinformation in the last 2 years. Of course the bubble effect means that most who read this book will already agree with it while those who the reader might think ‘ought’ to read it will dismiss it as a crazy liberal conspiracy theory – that may be an indication of the long journey we face to get back to a norm of debate based on fact.


The Torture Trial

The Torture Trial by Joseph Suste is a surprising mix of a political polemic with a gripping court room drama. Imagine George Bush being brought to trial for authorising torture after 911, it could never happen? But it does in the Torture Trial.

Joseph Suste is a campaigning writer who seems to know his stuff about the US legal code, international law on torture and what went on post 911. The novel is extensively footnoted with hundreds of references, I don’t know whether his quotes are in or out of context, but to me at least, he makes a convincing case against Bush and his senior advisers. But, The Torture Trial is not just a well argued case for prosecuting the perpetrators of torture at the highest level of the US administration, it’s a really good court room drama, the characters are engaging, the plot is full of believable skullduggery – I didn’t want to put it down.

Read this, it’s gripping, instructive and most importantly it will make you question your ideas on what is acceptable within our democracies to defend us against those who want to do us harm. Think torture, think intrusive monitoring of our communications, think destabilising regimes that are considered a threat and think supporting some of the most anti democratic fascistic homophobic dictatorships in the world. All in the name of preserving our democratic values.

This was not what I was expecting, read it. 4.5/5