Best of 2006

Everybody else seems to be doing it so I thought I’d jot down my favourites from 2006. I’ve chosen three things under each of the categories of ‘media’ I consume most that have stuck in my mind and that I’d definitely recommend. Within each category, I’ve just put them in the order that I came across them during the year.

Books

  • The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler — I think this book marks the beginning of a new academic discipline — the study of social production. Vital reading for anybody interested in the future of the internet.
  • From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner — a great (and thorough) exploration of the journey from the 1960s to the current day through the lens of the life of Stewart Brand. It makes a neat companion to last year’s What the Dormouse Said by John Markoff.
  • The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson — the story of the Broad Street pump told simultaneously as gripping yarn and consilient analysis. Steven’s best book so far.
  • Troublemakers by Malcolm Gladwell — Gladwell at his best, taking academic work and opening it up to a wider audience.
  • Google’s China Problem (and China’s Google Problem) by Clive Thompson — Thompson is one of the best feature writers around but in this one he manages to get across all the nuances of China’s complicated path to a more open society.
  • Gizmondo’s Spectacular Crack-up by Randall Sullivan — Wired at its best. A story I didn’t know about told in such a way as to grip you with every sentence. Everybody I show this to loves it.

Films

  • Enron — one of the best documentary movies I’ve ever seen.
  • Casino Royale — for exceeding expectations. Restored my faith in the franchise.
  • Borat — for pushing comedy to the limits and getting away with it.

Albums

  • Jarvis by Jarvis Cocker — he’s back and sounds entirely comfortable with himself. Wonderful stuff.
  • Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not by the Arctic Monkeys — the sound of the year and there’s such depth in there that I think they’ll be around for a long time to come.
  • Eraser by Thom Yorke — the Radiohead front man’s first solo album got mixed reviews, but I like it.
  • Worldchanging — they’re riding the zeitgeist of new interest in sustainability and doing it with integrity and style.
  • The Long Tail — I’ve read the article and the book and seen the talk a couple of times, and love them all, but I think it’s the blog where Chris Anderson really shines. It’s been fascinating to see the idea morph over time as readers have provided new information and feedback.
  • danah boyd — I don’t know what it is, but I find myself clicking through from my RSS reader to danah’s posts almost every time. Her work on technology and kids is superb and she communicates it with so much passion that the blog has become a must read for me.

Radio programmes

Talks

  • Uffe Elbaek at the RSA — I know Uffe and have heard his talks about education many times before but this one was special. You got the feeling that his ideas were really changing minds in the audience which was mainly made up of the great and the good.
  • Larry Lessig at the Hay Festival — doing a Keyote presentation wearing a suit in a tent was a bit odd but Lessig’s ideas and slick presentation style were superb.
  • Ben Saunders at IDEO’s Big Wednesday — Ben’s talk about walking to the North Pole on his own was inspiring and hilarious.

Brown’s green bit

Ok, so the Pre Budget Report was a bit boring. Generally a steady as she goes kind of speech. But there was a sneaky commitment in there which seems better than most commentators have given Brown credit for.

He said that the Government would make all newly built homes carbon neutral by 2016. Now only 0.8 per cent of the houses in the UK are built each year, but my calculation that means that by 2050 this single little announcement will mean that 31 per cent of the UK housing stock will be completely climate neutral. That’s not bad when you consider it doesn’t include anything we do to improve the existing housing stock too.

Johnson vs Eno

I really enjoyed Monday night’s chat between Steven and Brian. They started off talking about The Ghost Map but the conversation spread its tentacles to include Second Life, neighbourhoods, modern renaissance and slums. Great stuff and Brian got a good chance to talk about Long Now ideas as well.

A podcast is coming soon if you missed it or couldn’t get a ticket — the event sold out completely which isn’t bad for a Monday night.

Some links to follow up:

Matt Jones (he of EnoQuest) has posted his raw notes,

My friend Joe Lee was photographer for the evening and got some great shots (including the one above)

Sebastian Mary asked the best questions on the night and has some thoughts here.

And Steven admits that he and Brian were attempting mind control on the audience.

I’m hoping to do more Long Now London events. If you fancy helping out drop me an email. It’s all unpaid at the moment but I think this event showed the interest is definitely there on this side of the pond.