Five Books That Can Help You to Understand the World in the Coronavirus Era
It's a crazy and confusing time in the world right now and many people are, understandably, looking for answers. Yet, while some of these can be addressed quickly, this era has prompted deeper questions about that require longer and more detailed reflection.
What the world needs now is a good reading list - so that's what we're providing. All of these five books explore a topic or theme that should help you to gain a more informed perspective on the world around you at this confusing time.
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, by Laura Spinney
The Spanish Flu has suddenly become a much more pertinent historical moment thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, but how many of us really understand what caused it and the impact it had? Laura Spinney's excellent book looks at the impact of the 1918 outbreak, as well as the context of other pandemics in history. Somewhat presciently, it also demonstrated how the conditions needed for a pandemic were present - making this essential reading if you want to understand how the coronavirus could happen today.
Investment Biker, by Jim Rogers
The coronavirus has shone a light on just how globalised we've become - and also just how differently nations approach a crisis. It's not always easy to see the world from the perspective of other countries, so you need a good writer to do that for you. Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers is perfect for this. It's the tale of a Wall Street legend - the 'Indiana Jones of finance' according to Time magazine - and his 52-country tour. It's a healthy mix of travelogue and investment advice that offers a great insight into the state of the global economy and, as a result, was picked as one of IG's top ten trading books.
The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis
Like it or not, government matters right now. But, how does the Trump administration really work? Forget the tweets, press conferences and talk show squabbles, what's going on behind the scenes. That's what Michael Lewis's The Fifth Risk explores - it's an analysis of the US Government and how it manages risk - and how the Trump administration approaches this. As he explained to Vox, Lewis feels the current situation is going to cause more people to want to peep behind the curtain and see how things are really running. He argued: "What I think might happen because of the pandemic is that voters are going to start asking: Is this someone I would trust to manage this situation? Just like we ask, is this someone I trust to manage my money? Or, is this someone I would trust to drive the car? Maybe we'll start treating the president as someone who is going to handle a risk that, if handled badly, could kill. I think that we've gotten away from that, largely because we've forgotten what government does."
The Plague, by Albert Camus
This might be a work of fiction, but it has gained a newfound relevance in the coronavirus era. Set in 1940, this is loosely based on the events surrounding a cholera epidemic in Algeria in the mid-19th century and serves as an exploration of the way human beings react when forced to stay at home - and the way they cope in a time of suffering and death. It can also be read as an allegory to Nazism and the French Resistance during the Second World War. Publishers are having to hastily order reprints to keep up with demand - with more than ten times as many sales in the UK in March as in the whole of 2019. Of the current surge in interest, Camus's daughter wrote: "It is wonderful that a new generation is discovering Camus, and I hope that in the silence of the confinement his words will have an echo."
No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference, by Greta Thunberg
Reckon the coronavirus will be the crisis that defines this generation? There are plenty of people who feel this will pale into insignificance when compared to the battle to control climate change. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has been at the forefront of the movement to force action on this front - and this compilation of her speeches offers a useful primer to those wanting to understand her message and explore a key debate that will need to be returned to once all of this has blown over. Speaking recently to the New Scientist, Thunberg has urged the world to tackle climate change alongside the coronavirus - and warned against people using the current situation to sideline efforts to cut emissions. She also believes that the reaction to the crisis has shown how countries can quickly act to change their behaviour. Maybe history will judge this crisis as an early warning shot?