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Restart Radio: Books on our summer reading list

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As part of a summer tradition, Restart staff Janet, Isabel, Neil and Ellie have compiled a summer reading list. We talk about reads which have inspired us and how they relate to our work at Restart. This year we have a real mix of political and economic analysis, and some unique “explainer” books.

First, we talk about the provocative Factfulness, by Hans Rosling. This book shows how many of us have an idea of global development which is more pessimistic than what the data actually tells – ‘many of us’ including people across media and elite institutions like the UN or Davos. Janet reads out a fragment on the arrival of the washing machine to Rosling’s home in Sweden and we reflect about what level of consumption we should have, knowing that many people worldwide still wash their clothes by hand.

“Bending computers” (laptops), “sky boats” (helicopters) and a “big tiny thing hitter” (CERN’s Large Hadron Collider) are all part of the world of Randall Munroe in Thing Explainer. In this entertaining book, complex terms and processes are explained using only the 1000 most used words in English. Neil talks about the importance of communicating knowledge in simple terms, for example when sharing repair skills.

Next is The Value of Everything, by Mariana Mazzucato. Where is value produced, and how is it measured in today’s economy? The book starts with a historical review of how different economic theories have shaped society and our understanding of value – and we discuss how those of us who took Economics classes at university were only given one very partial and ideological view. We highlight the importance of redefining value to include activities of care – for people and for things – and how we shouldn’t underestimate the value of activities without a price tag.

Finally, can anyone build a bike? Yes, indeed! Jenni Gwiazdowski’s How to build a bike is a great manual, technical while charismatic and fun. Recommended by Ellie, this book is brilliant because it portrays how the maker and repair culture is open to everyone. It is unusual to find manuals written by women, and which promote the message that anyone – whatever their gender or race – can learn to hack and tinker with technology.

And last on our reading list: Josh Lepawsky’s ‘Reassembling Rubbish’ and Derek Wall’s ‘Elinor Ostrom’s Rules for Radicals’, both authors who have been previous guests on Restart Radio.

Happy reading!

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