NS Recommends: New books from John Browne, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Kate Atkinson

Browne’s Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation, Hughes-Hallet’s Fabulous, and Atkinson’s Big Sky. 

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Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation
John Browne

With each new technological advance comes a stab of apprehension. Algorithms already know what we like to buy and what we browse on the internet; social media is already intrusive; self-driving cars have already caused their first death. Are we perhaps getting to the point where we call for a tech slowdown? John Browne, former CEO of BP and chairman of the Crick Institute, says we shouldn’t. He cogently argues that civilisation was founded on engineering innovation and that the creative urge can also counteract its own negative aspects.
Bloomsbury, 432pp, £25

Fabulous
Lucy Hughes-Hallett

In her first collection of short stories Hughes-Hallett – who won several prizes for her 2013 biography of the Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio – playfully re-imagines ancient myths into contemporary episodes. The birth of Jesus now involves a window-cleaner, while the Pied Piper of Hamelin becomes a sax-yielding pest-controller who lives on a double-decker bus.“There are, as there always are, several ways of understanding the story,” she writes in “Actaeon” – and her own spare summaries of the fables at the back of the book add yet more layers of meaning to these tales of old.
Fourth Estate, 205pp, £12.99

Big Sky
Kate Atkinson

Fans of Jackson Brodie, the Yorkshire-born private detective introduced in Case Histories, will have this novel on pre-order already. As usual, it’s ingeniously structured and told with humour and compassion – but it is darker than previous instalments. In the seaside towns of the north-east, Brodie finds that the case of two local businessmen who were exposed as paedophiles is far from cold. Atkinson reminds us that in real cases of abuse and exploitation, there are always more questions to ask – who knew, and why didn’t they do anything?
Doubleday, 368pp, £20

This article appears in the 14 June 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The closing of the conservative mind