Culture Vulture: the NS recommends

Have you read our book reviews? Are you hungry for more? Then try these.

The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can't Do Without It
Philip Ball
Bodley Head, 451pp, £20

Combining technical knowledge with an illuminating style, the science writer Philip Ball argues for the centrality of music to human culture, taking in philosophy, mathematics, history and neurology.

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
Mark Fisher
Zero Books, 92pp, £7.99

The 2008 financial crash has failed to reinvigorate progressive politics, although many hoped that it would. The critic and academic (and NS contributor) Mark Fisher explains why this is so. His brief but compelling polemic shows how three decades of Thatcherism have left us unable to imagine a better society -- and saddled with a dysfunctional market state.

Read Hard: Five Years of Great Writing from the Believer
Edited by Ed Park and Heidi Julavits
McSweeney's, 389pp, £16.99

The American literary journal the Believer, part of Dave Eggers's McSweeney's empire, celebrates its fifth birthday with this collection of essays and interviews. An eclectic range of topics (from W G Sebald to Dungeons and Dragons, from urban blight to 1930s crime scandals) is covered by writers including Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, Tom Bissell and Richard Powers.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Karen Bradley as Culture Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.