E-books and audiobooks reviews: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 February, 2015, 10:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 February, 2015, 10:48pm

Pressed for Time
by Judy Wajcman
The University of Chicago Press

About 100 years ago, before smartphones and tablets, British economist John Maynard Keynes envisaged a world in which we’d work only three hours a day to meet all our material needs and spend the rest of the time being free spirits. The reality, however, is that most of us are busier than ever. Sociologist Judy Wajcman examines the seeming paradox of technology making us more efficient but people leading increasingly harried lives in the digital age. Her explanations for the incongruity make interesting reading. Wajcman scrutinises not the technology itself, but how it has changed our expectations to show that much the same anxieties arose when cars cut short commutes and washing machines freed women from laundry. She looks too at how it’s not the same for everyone, showing how income inequality affects the outcome. Also examined are changing ways of work and child rearing, the commodification of time, and how slowness came to be seen as a desirable quality when it became a choice. Wajcman’s writing style is academic, but her ideas will give you pause.


If Truth be Told
by Om Swami

In 2011 Om Swami took a vow of truth, from which point, he says, he decides never again to tell lies. Which serves his memoir well because readers will wonder about his account of going from entrepreneur to monk by the age of 30. Om Swami begins his story dramatically: one day he simply walks away from his family and possessions, discarding the labels that define him: CEO, son, brother. Before this takes place, he leads a relatively normal life, leaving India for higher education in Australia. In 2007, he returns to India, founds a multimillion-dollar software company, and snaps. Thus begins a quest for enlightenment. He is initiated in the holy city of Varanasi by "Baba", who starves him and relieves him of his savings. Living as a beggar, Om Swami decides he will not be a burden on society, so leaves for the northern Himalayas. In a cave, despite the rats, meditation comes easy. Readers who find reading about divine experiences tough will remain with the book until he reunites with his family. Those who enjoy Om Swami's book will no doubt be drawn to his blog.


Dirty Chick
by Antonia Murphy
Audible Studios

Dirty Chick should be required reading for urbanites considering leaving the city for the country to start a new life. Artsy dilettante Antonia Murphy left the US for New Zealand when San Francisco became prohibitively expensive and George W. Bush's politics unbearable. Five years later, she and her husband decide a small community called Purua, in Whangarei, is the ideal place to bring up their son, born with a genetic disorder, and later a daughter, who is as talkative as her brother is unable to form words. The newbie farmers soon realise how hard it is to raise livestock and, although gruesome, Murphy's descriptions will have readers smiling. She recalls a "chicken abortion", how the air turns green when calves get the scours (diarrhoea) and many other misadventures, most of them involving the kind of filth that would once have had her gagging. Murphy, who narrates her book, also describes caring for her son, who develops seizures. Homemade wine and cheese are among the luxuries the couple appreciate in their new life, despite its difficulties.