I reviewed George Packer's new book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America for the Guardian:
The Unwinding is the right title for George Packer's epic, sad and unsettling history of the last four decades in the US. His topic is the coming apart of something in the national fabric: the unravelling of unspoken agreements about the limits to Wall Street's greed; about what a congressman would or wouldn't do for the right price; about what a company owes its workers, or what the wealthy should contribute in tax.
You can read the whole review here.
It's the season of "beach reads" and Best Summer Books lists – and thus, also, the season for the re-emergence of the perennial question of when, if ever, it's OK to give up on a book halfway through. "This is surely a strange advice," scoffed Dr Johnson in response to the notion that you should finish every book you start. "You may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep them for life." A good analogy, since many people treat abandoning a novel like a milder version of abandoning a lover or friend.
The jury is out on the nutritional benefits of the enormously popular Fast Diet, which involves radically reducing your calorie consumption, but only for two non-consecutive days per week, then eating what you want the rest of the time. But could that basic principle – the 5:2 ratio – be an effective way of developing other habits, or ridding yourself of bad ones? Writers for the Guardian's Weekend magazine decided to find out. I wrote an introduction to the project here; links to the pieces are in the right-hand sidebar.
I'm writing this at 7.45am on a chilly Tuesday, because that's the slot I designated for it in my schedule – and because I have become, it would appear, one of those slightly suspect people who tries to organise their workdays, and to some extent their whole life, by making and following a schedule. This wasn't always the case. No piece of time-management advice is more ubiquitous, yet none seems more calculated to trigger panicky, hostile reactions, and I'd been through versions of them all: "My life is just too unpredictable to follow a schedule!", "The constant interruptions from my boss/kids/dog would make it impossible!" And the most tormented cry of all: "It would feel too constraining: I want to live spontaneously!" But all of that, I've come to realise, is cobblers. I've seen the light on schedules, and now, with the obnoxious zeal of the convert, I want to make you see it, too.