A more hopeful view of humankind

Around the world, the vast majority of people believe things are getting worse. But in Humankind: A Hopeful History, Rutger Bregman shows us that “The reality is exactly the opposite. Over the last several decades, extreme poverty, victims of war, child mortality, crime, famine, child labour, deaths in natural disasters and the number of plane crashes have all plummeted. We’re living in the richest, safest, healthiest era ever. So why don’t we realise this? It’s simple. Because the news is about the exceptional.”

Humankind: A Hopeful History: Rutger Bregman: Bloomsbury ...

I raved about Bregman in episode 42 of James and Ashley Stay at Home, and I’m not done. Here are a few of the passages that resonated most with me, though every chapter was vital and fascinating and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I. “In times when immigration or violence declines, newspapers give them more coverage … There seems to be none, or even a negative, relationship between news and reality.”

II. “When it comes down to it, the presence of bystanders has precisely the opposite effect of what science has long insisted. We’re not alone in the big city, on the subway, on the crowded streets. We have each other.”

III. The 1964 murder of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese became infamous after The New York Times erroneously claimed that none of the 38 witnesses who saw or heard the attack outside their apartment building in Queens called the police or came to her aid. In fact, she died in the arms of a friend. Her story “teaches us three things. One: how out of whack our view of human nature often is. Two: how deftly journalists push those buttons to sell sensational stories. And last but not least: how it’s precisely in emergencies that we can count on one another.”

IV. “A realistic view of human nature can’t help but have major implications for how you interact with other people.”

V. “Cynicism is a theory of everything. The cynic is always right.”

VI. Because Wunsiedel, a town in southern Germany, is home to the grave of Deputy Führer Rudolph Hess, Neo-Nazis gathered every year to march on the anniversary of his death, “hoping to incite riots and violence.” Anti-fascists would come along to clash with the Nazis, which only reinforces their adherents – “it validates them in their worldview, and makes it that much easier to attract new recruits.” So in 2014, the town of Wunsiedel turned the march for Rudolph Hess into a charity walk. “For every metre the Neo-Nazis walked, the townspeople pledged to donate to an NGO that helps people get out of far-right groups.” So the townspeople secretly marked off start and finish lines, and they made banners to say thanks to the marchers. The Neo-Nazis had no idea this was going to happen. They showed up expecting protest and violence, and instead received loud cheers, and they were showered with confetti when they crossed the finish line. The event raised more than 20 thousand euros.”

Wishing you a hopeful week ahead.
xo

2019: The reading year in review

In 2019, for the first time in years, I read more fiction (slightly more) than non-fiction. Perhaps, in this third year of illness, I needed to escape more. ‘Everybody should be reading 20 pages of fiction – from a real book – to open or close each day‘, as a way to  increase our empathy, understanding and compassion. This is according to author Neil Pasricha on The Knowledge Project podcast. But why only fiction? Wouldn’t reading memoir have the same effect?

In 2019, I continued to support Australian authors, women authors and debut authors (being all three of those things myself this year).

I also aimed to read more Indigenous authors, and followed through on that (instead of reading a stack of zombie fiction, like I did in 2018).

2019 reading breakdown
47% nonfiction
70% Australian authors
77% women authors
47% debut authors
7% Indigenous authors

 

2019 reading highlights

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe (NF) 
In this revelatory survey of early European accounts of Australia, Aboriginal author Bruce Pascoe reveals how complex Indigenous agriculture, architecture and society truly was, and so urges us to reconsider our understanding of Aboriginal civilisation. As he concludes, ‘To deny Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agricultural and spiritual achievement is the single greatest impediment to intercultural understanding and, perhaps, to Australian moral wellbeing and economic prosperity.’

In the Clearing by JP Pomare
Pomare’s new psychological thriller is a compelling and startling exploration of family, control and violence. The story takes its inspiration from The Family, an Australian cult. Led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne in the 1970s and 80s, The Family was accused of imprisoning children and brainwashing them through the use of drugs and physical punishment, as well as forcing them to dress alike and dye their hair blond to better resemble its leader. The novel’s triumph is its surprising climax, and the way Pomare turns the tables on the reader, raising the question of what any one of us would do to protect our own families – however we define them. Read the full review here

Check out the complete list of great reads.

Wishing you a new year full of great books,
Ashley
xo

Fighting with a monkey

For the past week I’ve been in an ongoing fight with a monkey. It’s not clear who’s winning.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt author
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

The specific monkey I’m fighting with is Mailchimp, because – surprise! – I’m planning to send out the best author emails you’ve ever received.

Q: Ashley, I already read your website, why would I sign up for your email news?
A: Because you can’t get enough of me? I am very loveable. Actually, aside from the fact that my emails will feature different (and even more exciting!) content, you should sign up because I’ll be doing monthly giveaways of excellent books. You definitely want to get in on that.

Q: How often will you email me?
A: Every hour, on the hour. Or maybe monthly.

Q: Wow, you’ve convinced me! Where do I sign up?
A: If I were winning my ongoing battle with Mailchimp, I’d say you could sign up right here, in this form that I’ve beautifully embedded right into my website. But that monkey knows kung fu or something. So instead, you’ll have to sign up at this link.

Q: What if the monkey ultimately destroys you in battle?
A: I have sworn that, once dead, I will not haunt anyone who’s signed up to my email list. That’s a little added bonus.