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Post-apocalyptic knowhow

Listeners to the Today programme this week will have heard Lewis Dartnell talking about his new book The Knowledge which is not a book for trainee London Taxi drivers, but about a world post –apocalypse, subtitled How to Rebuild our World from Scratch. How do you grow food, generate power, prepare medicines or get metal out of rocks? There have been some great novels on life after disaster (The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Pest House by Jim Crace to name just two) but this looks like the companion volume for those who want to know a bit more.

Not a good week for those banged up in our prisons with the news that books (other than those from the meagerly supplied prison library) have been banned by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. A Minister reportedly stonewalled an excited literati gang headed by Carol Anne Duffy and Ian McEwan saying that prisoners weren’t sitting there waiting for their next Jane Austen to arrive.

I finished reading Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey which is narrated by a woman with Dementia. As a portrait of the condition it is incredibly convincing but the nature of the book doesn’t lead to narrative tension (despite an interesting back story of a sister missing during the war) and in my opinion could have been 50 pages shorter. I have just started Chris Radmann’s The Crack. This is his second novel after the critically acclaimed Held Up about a car hijack that goes wrong in the townships of South Africa. He returns there this time to Soweto in the build-up to the eruption of violence in the uprising of 1976. A third of the way in and it’s building nicely…