When I think about teaching my teenage-self economics, I’m sure even Hercules/Heracles would have given up. Luckily, another Greek has stepped up to the challenge, and Varoufakis wrote the book to teach his own daughter about how the economy was created and functions.
Authors, read this book if you need help with writing a nonfiction book that is conversational in style and breaks down complex concepts into bite-sized, digestible chunks. This book is a great example of how to write about difficult topics for an audience that wants to learn but not feel condescended to.
Readers, read this book if you want to better understand economics in general, but I find it very relevant to the current conversation surrounding the issues of easing lockdown measures during the covid-19 pandemic. We all understand people’s livelihoods are at stake, but Varoufakis’s structure demonstrates why it will be so difficult to rebuild. The information is presented in a way that unravels complex, intertwined systems (banks, money, markets, people) into individual threads. Those threads are then rewoven into the recognisable systems we know today. Some of my bafflement at how these systems could have ever come into being was eased, which made me feel much more part of conversation than I previously had.
What I want to tell people about this book is I remember the first day of my high school economics class. My teacher, Mr. Charleston, also my driver’s ed instructor—who, of course, rode a recumbent bike to school, taught us how to make a million dollars by the time we retired. When I was unpacking my boxes in London in 2019, I actually found those notes. I hadn’t realized I’ve been dragging them around the world for decades. I flipped through them but didn’t find anything useful to advance my understanding of what’s happening in the economy today, so I often ask my husband about ‘how things work.’ He gave me this book for Christmas and said he wouldn’t answer any more questions until I read it.
Dutifully, I read it in April 2019 and wished I’d had this book in high school. At the same time, I think high school is too late to teach these concepts, similar to how it’s too late to start teaching languages at that age. I wouldn’t have been interested or had the attention span for this book when I was fifteen.
Only now as an educated adult do I find myself finding my way into these important concepts. Varoufakis’s main message is not to leave the economy to the experts, and he means: don’t let your lack of understanding be part of the problem. If we don’t know the rules, we can’t play the game. And the game is really understanding how the people at the top are manipulating the money supply and how it will affect our daily life.
So if you’re like me and wish you understood it all better, this is the book to pick up. An easy quick (and not depressing!) read!
This book in a word? Bleak.
Yet, also highly relevant and reflective of our world at this precise moment of the pandemic.
Authors, read this if you want to see an example of an example of too much telling instead of showing. The opening chapters are devoted to world building and a how-did-we-get-here? explanation. When I began reading, I felt I was being schooled in economics, not diving into an established world. Once the rules are established, however, Shriver weaves threads of a family saga that reflect a very possible and dire future for the US, maybe even the world.
When I first began telling people about the book, I said, "Imagine if the economic and social collapse in Venezuela between 2010 and 2020 happened in the US. That’s the start of The Mandibles."
Readers, read this if you want to imagine how life in the US could look if we carry on living the way we do. I love dystopian novels, but often the worlds are unrecognizable. In The Mandibles, I could imagine the suffering my friends and family would experience if what Shriver predicts should come to pass. She actually foresaw the madness that would surround toilet paper if the end of the world were near.
Also, despite the title, it isn’t a future dystopia; it’s about the US's current society failing—and let's be honest, it's pretty dystopian already, even if its citizens won't admit it—it's about regular people relying on those in charge and trusting them to know what’s going on, counting on them to set out reliable, fair systems to govern our daily lives, and hoping those people are working for everyone’s benefit.
Anyone reading the political news in 2020 knows that theory is not the case.
What I want to tell readers about this book is that economics matters. Don’t let the government get away with trying to do sneaky things. Invest in the knowledge because it’s in your own interest to do so.
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
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