Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round-up the new books you should, and shouldn’t, be reading. This week features Youthquake: Why African Demography Should Matter to the World by Edward Paice, The New Heretics: Understanding the Conspiracy Theories Polarizing the World by Andy Thomas and The Greek Ring by Richard Pim.

For more books take a look through our Books Digest Archive.

Youthquake: Why African Demography Should Matter to the World by Edward Paice (Head of Zeus), £25.

Tim Marshall

Nuance runs through Youthquake like a word through a stick of rock. Edward Paice cautions against the “Sky is falling” predictions of population growth in Africa, but is also far from starry-eyed about a future in which around 60 per cent of the continent’s population will be under 25. He shows how different countries have different rates of demographic growth and details their differing attitudes and policies.

The research in Youthquake is meticulous – there are more than 70 graphs and hundreds of facts. It doesn’t make for a flowing read, but it would be hard to present the depth of evidence for Paice’s conclusions without them.

The “Youthquake” is real, the growth huge, the problems myriad. For example, Nigeria’s population is expected to double to 401 million by 2050; in DRC it will go from 67 million to 194 million. That means a lot of schools, hospitals, universities, homes, and roads will need building. He argues that these types of figures are why Africa’s centrality in global affairs this century “is now certain” and that this alone justifies why there should be more interest in the continent’s current affairs.

The New Heretics: Understanding the Conspiracy Theories Polarizing the World by Andy Thomas (Watkins Media), £14.99.

Saffron Swire

We are living in an age of polarity. We see with left vs right, east vs west, fake vs real news, gammon vs snowflake, and in more recent years, mainstream vs conspiracy. The New Heretics: Understanding the Conspiracy Theories Polarising the World by Andy Thomas investigates how conspiracy theorists are a victim of this polarisation, one that is currently slicing the world up into ideologically opposing battlegrounds. Thomas dives down the rabbit hole and makes a laudable attempt to understand it from the perspective of a conspiracist or “truther” and why it is that they are overlooked, feel as vehemently as they do, and what part centuries of public misinformation, government obfuscation, cronyism and corruption have played in fanning the flames of those who dare to think outside the box.

Through three key sections, Thomas adopts a nuanced and non-judgemental approach in trying to understand theories and theorists. He stresses the importance – individually and societally – of espousing a kaleidoscope of opinion. Part One, “Polarity”, scrutinises the specific issues that have led to a standoff between “normal” and “conspiracy” views, Part Two, “Imbalance” identifies the clear inequalities in the mainstream representation of alternative viewpoints, and Part Three, “Convergence”, delves into the wider context in which conspiracies have grown and shares some interesting thoughts on strategies that could snap the trap between “the new orthodoxy and what it claims is heresy.”

Thomas is one of the world’s leading researchers into conspiracy theories and unexplained mysteries. For years, he has written for alternative and mainstream audiences and attempted to provide valuable insight that strikes a balance. The New Heretics is Thomas’ latest juggling act as he tries to understand what freedom of speech means in an age of stifled opinion whilst delving into contemporary debates – from vaccine passports and 5G to crop circles – that breed divergence.

Thomas serves up a banquet of ideas on the profound impact of digitalisation, the death of debate, censorship, and the nature of scientific inquiry, asking questions that leave you stumped: “Where do we draw a line between what can be expressed and what cannot? How do we tell genuine from fake when the same authorities, which tell us to look away, lie and distort truth themselves as a matter of routine? Are we being corralled into strongly polarised groups because our allegiances and predilections can be more easily identified, targeted and controlled?”

The Greek Ring by Richard Pim (Grosvenor House Publishing), £11.99.

Bill Bowkett

The Mediterranean never falters as a backdrop for a tale of enigma. It brings out the daring spirit in authors, albeit to various degrees of success. The Greek Ring by Richard Pim – republished thirteen years after it was first written – is a captivating “treasure hunt” full of twists and surprises.

The story’s centres around Sebastian North, a “dark stranger” with an eye for espionage, who during a visit to the Rivera encounters Countess Octavia Delmonte being chased to death by her betrayed fiancé. 

After helping the “damsel in distress” escape, North discovers an ancient ring she wears holds the “key to great wealth”. Her father is found to have initiated in dirty business involving the Mafia, with associates of the Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu looking for retribution.

Although its setting is tranquil (the sea being a “millpond of tranquillity”), The Greek Ring is a fiery thriller of hypnotic mystery. The pace is hypnotic, if not enervating.

The moments where Pim allows the classical European characters and romantic backdrops to thrive are where The Greek Ring is at its best. Pim claims to have conducted hours of research into the location, and you can tell. The scene of the flamenco dancers performing, despite the “dark shadows” masking their “transfixed” emotions, captures the essence of the novel. It was as if I was there in the Sicilian and Sardinian climate.

There are plenty of dynamics on show (the theme of Octavia being trapped between two men being the most prevalent). Nevertheless, The Greek Ring feels authentic and daring, with the reader never losing sight of the main storyline. Impressive and colourful, The Greek Ring is a valiant book that does the locale justice.