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September 20, 2019

Autumn reads: Four of the best books out now

By Spear's

Spear’s writers presents four books that are worth picking up this autumn

The Meritocracy Trap By Daniel Markovits (Allen Lane, £25)

‘Merit is a sham,’ Yale law professor Daniel Markovits proclaims in the opening to his passionate argument against ‘the ideological conceit’ of meritocracy. The promise of equal opportunities, he argues, has morphed into what it was designed to combat. Meritocracy stands accused of creating a new aristocracy. ‘Whatever its original purposes and early triumphs, meritocracy now concentrates advantage and sustains toxic inequalities,’ he writes. Markovits uses data to shatter the myths of a system that ‘captures the imagination and distracts analytical attention’. Arun Kakar

Restoration Heart By William Cash (Constable, £20)

We British love nothing more than a project, and if that project involves bats in the chimney and medieval paintings hidden under layers of Laura Ashley wallpaper, so much the better. It is with gusto, then, that William Cash, Spear’s founder and editor-at-large, returned from his hard-partying life in LA to restore his 15th-century family home in Shropshire. With its Elizabethan gatehouse and impressive visitor book (Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Hurley Margaret Thatcher and Edward V, no less), Upton Cressett is certainly worthy. However, two divorces down, the house and Cash’s love-life are seemingly unsalvageable. Restoration Heart is a candid story of crisis, ruin, rebirth and rehabilitation. Emelia Hamilton-Russell

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence By James Lovelock (Allen Lane, £14.99)

Can Gaia, James Lovelock’s term for earth’s self-regulating system, survive? The answer to that forms the essence of Novacene, a book that embodies the 100-year-old scientist’s fears and hopes. Lovelock’s narrative is both vivid and lucid. The book is hopeful for the Novacene era and sees a future with mixed intelligences that are interdependent. ‘We shall not descend into the kind of war between humans and machines that is so often described in science fiction because we need each other,’ he writes. ‘Gaia will keep the peace.’ Let’s hope so. Rasika Sittamparam

Rule Britannia By Alec Marsh (Headline Accent, £8.99)

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A League of Their Own

The debut novel from the editor of this magazine is set in 1930s Britain: fascism is on the march, the prospect of the King’s abdication hangs in the air, and one of our heroes is tearing up and down rural Cornwall in a handsome Alvis. Historian Ernest Drabble is on the hunt for an artefact that could decide the fate of his country. Back in London, bibulous journalist Percy Harris is doing whatever he can to help – even if it means resisting smartly dressed fascist agents. Can the blackshirts be thwarted? Is Drabble going to recover the crucial artefact? Will Harris emerge with (most of) his vital body parts intact? Probably – the second book in the series is already set for publication next year. Edwin Smith

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Rana Dasgupta Q&A: How Britain’s JCB launched the ‘Booker Prize for India’

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