Roula Khalaf, Stephen Bush and other FT journalists pick their favourite book of 2024 so far

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Roula Khalaf

FT editor

Robert Kagan’s Rebellion: How Antiliberalism Is Tearing America Apart — Again is a must-read if you are fretting (as you should be) about a second Donald Trump presidency and perplexed by the Maga phenomenon. Kagan’s central argument is that Trump is but the vessel through which an anti-liberal tradition in American politics is staging a revolution. This may provide only a part of the explanation for Trumpism but it is an essential historic context to understanding today’s America.

Janine Gibson

FT Weekend editor

For reasons too complicated to explain I spent a lot of last year living just behind the Cally Road, sandwiched between garden squares of rich liberal Islington and sprawling expansion of googlopolis at King’s Cross. I am perhaps then uniquely placed to appreciate its position at the centre of everything. Andrew O’Hagan’s Caledonian Road takes the distinct societies of our age and jams them together breezily, sometimes poignantly, sometimes crudely. He dismembers the London laundromat like the fine journalist he is, cleverly laying out a series of criminal processes without attaching them in a defamatory way to any real life oligarchs. A new set of stock characters for the way we live now, like a Jilly Cooper for Times Literary Supplement readers. I can offer no higher compliment.

Frederick Studemann

FT literary editor

The savage attack two years ago on Salman Rushdie by a knife-wielding assailant left the author blinded in one eye and fighting for his life. It did not rob him of his literary prowess — as demonstrated in Knife. This remarkable book of “meditations” combines several strands: a calm, factual account of the attack and its aftermath expands to take in love, family and a life in literature as well as the powers of fiction — an imagined “interview” with his attacker — to deliver a reckoning, or as Rushdie puts it: “taking ownership of what happened, making it mine”. Elegantly and poignantly executed, it also brings a wry and witty touch to a horrific story. A testament to the power of literature.

Rana Foroohar

FT global business correspondent

Jonathan Haidt is one of the most astute social scientists of our time, having been early to take on the topics of American political polarisation and campus culture wars. In The Anxious Generation, he looks at how 24-7 digital culture has wrecked our children’s mental health, and what we can do about it.

Nilanjana Roy

FT columnist

Kaliane Bradley’s The Ministry of Time, a thoughtful dive into colonialism via time-travelling expats, is the perfect beach read with some literary heft. Romance simmers when a minor bureaucrat in near-future London is assigned to be the “bridge” for a Victorian Arctic explorer brought back from the past, but Bradley’s debut is also acute on what refuge means in a swiftly changing world.

Tim Harford

FT’s Undercover Economist columnist

Matt Parker is a real nerd’s nerd, and the choice of subject of his new book, Love Triangle: The Life-Changing Magic of Trigonometry, may seem intimidating, but we’re in safe hands here as we range from those curvy walls of glass that architects seem to love, to why everyone sees a different rainbow. A funny and often surprising guide to the history of triangles — and the applications (both practical and highly impractical) of trigonometry.

Stephen Bush

FT columnist

The Only Woman In The Room by Pnina Lahav, a retelling of the life of Golda Meir, Israel’s first and thus far only female prime minister, is a compelling account of Meir’s life, thought and politics. Lahav, an eminent and acclaimed historian, has written a book that both provides new insights to those familiar with Meir’s story and to those coming to it fresh.

Claer Barrett

FT consumer editor

Hedge fund managers are in for a tough summer. Tax bills are set to spiral if Labour gets its way with carried interest rules, and now one of their number has been deliciously cast as an egregious villain in Close to Death, Anthony Horowitz’s latest murder mystery. It is set in a gated community in Richmond, where every single one of Giles Kenworthy’s posh, eccentric neighbours wanted him dead, but which of them shot a crossbow bolt through his neck?

Henry Mance

FT chief features writer

Cal Newport, writer and computer science professor, argues that knowledge workers need to escape from the modern cult of busyness, which amounts only to “pseudo-productivity”. His new book Slow Productivity has various ideas for how to do your job smarter and better (until, perhaps, AI comes and does it for you).

Soumaya Keynes

FT columnist and ‘The Economics Show’ podcast host

While many politicians promise more growth and some environmentalists argue for less, in Growth: A History and a Reckoning, Daniel Susskind offers a nuanced take on what they’re all getting wrong. One mistake is an overemphasis of physical stuff. We should all better appreciate the power of ideas, fund their discovery and help them to flow more freely. 

Anjana Ahuja

FT science commentator

In The Weight of Nature, Clayton Page Aldern comes closer than anyone in a long time to articulating why so many of us feel queasy about climate change: it is altering not just the landscape but also us. Rising temperatures are subtly changing our brains and bodies: shortening tempers, lowering productivity and skewing decision-making. Beautifully written, this heatwave reading will give you the chills.

Jemima Kelly

FT columnist

The first 100 pages or so of The Sleepwalkers by Scarlett Thomas have a familiar feel to them: here is a well-told tale of a honeymoon gone wrong. But as the novel unfolds in highly original fashion — including via a 17-page AI-generated audio transcript — it becomes clear that all is much darker and more disturbing that it seems. Reminiscent of a Ruben Östlund movie, this is a shocking, wickedly funny, totally unpredictable and unputdownable summer holiday read.

Tell us what you think

Will you be taking any of these books on your summer holiday this year? Which ones? And what titles have we missed? Let us know in the comments below

Rebecca Watson

Assistant Arts & Books Editor

I read Alba Arikha’s novel Two Hours earlier this year and it left a great impression on me. Told in diaristic and poetic first-person, the novel is charged with a sense of alternative. The memory of a brief, romantic encounter as a teenager clings to the protagonist’s life over two decades. The intimate voice — and sensory observation — is reminiscent of Arikha’s memoir Major/Minor and is a heady portrait of a life half lived in the imagination.

Rebecca Watson’s new novel ‘I Will Crash’ (Faber) is published in July

Cheryl Brumley

FT’s global head of audio

What first drew me to Jo Hamya’s The Hypocrite was its cover of crystalline blue sky and sea. So I was surprised to find the majority of it takes place in a more familiar setting: a crowded theatre in London’s West End, where a father watches his daughter’s play about a summer they spent together in Sicily. To his shock, she eviscerates him. “You’ve Me Too’d me” he tells her later. But this isn’t just a book about a young woman examining the mores of her father’s generation. The playwright is also annoyed at her dour contemporaries who see trauma as a worthier thing to share than a laugh. This is a surprisingly funny book where no one character’s polemic goes unexamined.

Gillian Tett

FT columnist

Joseph E Stiglitz’s latest book The Road to Freedom is a must read in my view: provocative and punchy, it challenges the rightwing’s use of the word “freedom”, and points out that since one person’s freedom is often another’s constraint, we should always ask “freedom for whom?”

Antonia Cundy

FT special investigations reporter

In Samantha Harvey’s Orbital, six astronauts circle the world 16 times. Gliding through Harvey’s technicolour prose is an equally frictionless experience: it shifts effortlessly between the lives of those in orbit and those they think of on land, from whirling global weather patterns to the inner workings of the space station. Orbital necessarily comes to an end but feels like it could go on forever.

Coming up in Summer Books 2024 . . . 

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday:
Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday:
Environment by Pilita Clark
Thursday: Fiction by Laura Battle and Andrew Dickson
Friday: History by Tony Barber
Saturday: FT journalists pick their favourite book of 2024 so far
Sunday: Politics by Gideon Rachman

Join our online book group on Facebook at FT Books Café



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