Reading Our Times is the podcast that explores the books and the ideas that are shaping us today. It is hosted by Nick Spencer, Senior Fellow at the think tank, Theos.
We’re going to be talking to some of the world’s leading authors about issues like meritocracy, justice, populism, human rights, the brain, liberalism, and religion.
Above all, we'll be exploring what these books have to say about the times we live in and about the people we are.
So listen with us, and we’ll introduce you to authors, books and ideas that illuminate ourselves and our world today.
For more information about the people and ideas behind the podcast, visit https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/about/who-we-are or follow us on Twitter @theosthinktank and @theosnick.
Where does language come from (and where is it going)?
Languages come and languages go – but mostly nowadays they go. According to the Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages, nearly 90% may have died out by the end of the century.
What do we lose when we lose a language? Indeed, what is a language? What does it do? How does it work? And what does it say about human beings and our shared culture?
In this episode of Reading our Times, Nick Spencer talks to Alexandra Aikhenvald, Foundation Director of the Language and Culture Research Centre and Distinguished Professor at James Cook University in Australia, about her book I Saw the Dog: How language works: https://profilebooks.com/work/i-saw-the-dog/#:~:text=In%20I%20Saw%20the%20Dog,be%20human%20%2D%20and%20what%20we
What can cats tell us about the meaning of life?
Lockdown does strange things to people. After 20 years of marriage, Nick and his wife bought two cats for the family. They love them but they are mystifying. What is going on in there?
Luckily for Nick and his family, John Gray, formerly Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, recently published his new book ‘Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life.’ In this episode Nick talks to John about sin, the fall, self–awareness, morality, philosophy, Montaigne, Blaise Pascal… oh, and cats.
You can buy the book here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/feline-philosophy/john-gray/9780241351147
Unfortunately the audio quality for this episode is not up to our normal standard and for this we apologise.
What does science tell us about race?
“Follow the science” we have been told – many times – over the last year.
It makes good sense…and yet, there are times in history when societies have followed the science – or at least the science of the times – and it has led them into some very troubling places. And there are signs we may be doing so again.
In this episode of Reading our Times, Nick Spencer talks to the science writer and broadcaster Angela Saini about her book Superior: The Return of Race Science: https://www.waterstones.com/book/superior/angela-saini/9780008293864.
What is the future for humanity?
“It seems, just now,/ To be happening so very fast.” So wrote Philip Larkin in 1972 of the loss of the English countryside.
Fifty years later, we might say the same thing of the whole world – not only in terms of environmental crisis but of technological progress, with artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and cybernetics promising to change our world – and ourselves – beyond recognition. It just seems to be happening so very fast.
Some are excited about the prospect, some see only doom, and most of us are simply confused.
In this episode of Reading our Times, Nick Spencer talks to cosmologist, BBC Reith lecturer, and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees about his book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity
How has war shaped us?
War seems to be omnipresent in human history and despite the number of people who have argued that the world is getting ever more peaceful, it remains a reality for millions of people today.
Margaret MacMillan is Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford and a world–renowned expert on history and international relations. Nick Spencer speaks to her about her book 'War: How conflict shaped us' which looks at how humans have fought and made peace with one another for millennia, and explores what this says about who we are.
Series two trailer
In the first series of Reading Our Times we looked at meritocracy, secularism, dementia, liberalism and much else besides.
In this series, we’ll be talking to Margaret MacMillan about war, to Angela Saini about race, to Alexandra Aikhenvald about the origins and the end of language, to Rowan Williams about spirituality, Martin Rees about the future of humanity, and John Gray about cats and the meaning of life.
So tune in and join us for the second series of Reading Our Times starting on 25th May.
A helpful introduction to the thinking of our times
Much as I would like to read every important book that is published on the issues of our times, in practice I simply don’t have the time. So it’s great that Nick Spencer can read them for us and then interview the authors and bring out the key themes and ideas for us. All done in a most courteous and non-confrontational style. The idea is to elucidate and illuminate, not to get into pointless arguments. Highly recommended.
Deep thinking on being human
I love the way the presenter clearly understands the interviewees work at a level they are often not used to, and presses ever so gently on the implications for our understanding of human beings. I feel smarter - and richer- for listening
Gets your brain working!
I can’t recommend this series highly enough! Stimulating, fresh insights, courteous conversations....and a great theme tune!