Alice Bell, author of Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis recommends an important set of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Alice's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
I'm not the sort of person to have favourites, be it books, colours, film or foods. But some books that I find myself regularly recommending to people include Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway, Falling Upwards by Richard Holmes, Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis and Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I'm judging the 2020-1 Hughes Prize for popular history of science writing at the moment, and we haven't finalised the winner yet, so best to say I'm loving the whole shortlist.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
I was the sort of kid that always had their head in a book, I've always been a fast reader and would get through anything in the school library at a rate of knots. I never really had a fave because I was usually so eager to get on to the next book, though I would go back to read books like Little Women when I was ill, a sort of comfort reading. A kids book I read recently which I thought was great, both for kids and adults, is the new Usborne guide to the climate crisis.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
I'm very much a dead-tree reader. Audiobooks are good when I take myself for a long walk, but I prefer drama or podcasts normally to listen to. And though I use e-books for work sometimes, I like the physical object of a book to absorb myself in.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
Can I pick one that's closed? I have really strong memories of the Kilburn bookshop, where I'd go as a child. I can almost smell it, remembering it. When I heard it was closing, even though I had long-ago moved away, I cycled up there for the last weekend they were trading - bought a copy of Mary Seacole's autobiography which I still have. I worked for Waterstone's for a while in my 20s and it can take the romance out of bookshops a bit - all those jenga-like piles of the latest blockbuster. That said, I have great memories of working there, and one of the things that makes being a bookseller so fun is the excitement some customers come into the shop with. I remember one guy found an old book token he'd won at school over a decade ago and was so pleased when we said we would still accept it, running up to the cookery section to treat himself to a bulky hardback he'd had his eye on.
Many thanks to Alice for recommending an important list of books! Please don't forget to check out Alice's book Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis.
Image Copyrights: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (Our Biggest Experiment, Merchants of Doubt), HarperCollins Publishers (Falling Upwards, Superior), Penguin Books Ltd (Women, Race & Class, The Light Ages), Ridge Books (Imperial Creatures), Icon Books Ltd (Half Lives), The University of Chicago Press (Hearing Happiness), Atlantic Books (A Dominant Character), Usborne Publishing Ltd (Climate Crisi For Beginnners).