BooksOfTheMoon

Devil’s Advocate

By John Humphrys

Rating: 4 stars

In this book, John Humprys steps down from his usual role as devil’s advocate in the interviewer’s chair to take a look at the course of society over the last forty or so years and look at how it has changed, often, in Humpreys’ view for the worse. The two major trends that he discusses in his book are consumerism and populism, both of which, he argues, have infantilized us and changed us from being active citizens to being passive consumers, avoiding any sense of responsibility, offering examples from responses to Hillsborough and the death of Diana to teenage magazines and the way that rating-chasing has dumbed-down television.

In some ways, parts of the book read like a grumpy old man having a rant at the modern world, but there’s a lot in what he says and it makes for some depressing reading. Populist consumerism has penetrated every area of our lives, from how we raise our children to how we perceive our politics. While Humprys can offer no magic bullet to the problem he can make us aware of them. It’s unfortunate that the people most likely to read this book are the ones who are already most likely to be resistant to (or at least aware of) the populist consumer culture anyway.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099279655
Publisher: Arrow
Year of publication: 1999

Lost For Words

By John Humphrys

Rating: 4 stars

This is a book about language. Subtitled “the mangling and manipulation of the english language”, Humphreys is more interested in manipulation than mangling, although he has a a decent grump at the latter as well. It’s when he starts discussing the (mis)use of language by business, politicians and journalists that you really feel his passion coming through. A very informative read that helped open my eyes to the tricks and abuses that politicians in particular subject the language to, it’s also very entertaining, filled with anecdotes from the Today programme and beyond.

Book details

ISBN: 9780340836590
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Year of publication: 2004

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