The Surprising Richness of Animals’ Inner Lives. Plus: the Link Between Kinky Sex and Creativity, the Future of the Book and Pessimistic Pigs


And so the final month of what has been a tumultuous year, both politically and personally, hoves into view.

If you can’t wait to see the back of 2016 you may enjoy this very sweary take [about as NSFW as it gets, so be warned]. My take on this year, though, is a little different. For a start, it was my first as a freelancer, which has been an eye-opening experience. In addition, I finished writing and then published ‘The Secret Lives of Colour‘, got engaged and got a puppy (that’s her in the photo above). I’ve also begun working on two new projects — a second book and a podcast about writers and writing, since you ask. It has, in short, been quite a year.

So, for the last time in 2016: here is a roundup of all the brilliant things I’ve read this month. See you in the new year.

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Getting a puppy has inevitably led to to wonder about the limits of animal intelligence and communication. Apparently it wasn’t just on my mind though: The Economist produced a brilliant essay on what science can tell us about animals’ inner lives (mini spoiler: they are far richer than was once thought). Aeon, meanwhile, has this offering about the effects of domestication on animals and, more unexpectedly, on humans also

The sound of solitary confinement? It is not silence.

Everyone knows that the pen is mightier than the sword, now it turns out that a plastic fork can be too

A small but significant number of elephants are being born without tusks

A thoughtful piece by a staff photographer for the New York Times on his year capturing Trump’s campaign

A brilliant interactive story by a mother whose son ran away to join IS

“It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.” So says Steve Bannon, of Breitbart News and now Trump’s chief strategist. He also says: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

Sindr: very much like Tinder, only for confession rather than dates

Silicon Valley has entered the slippery and contested battle for truth. Fake news, while not a uniquely 21st-century problem, is made much worse in the age of rapid-fire social communication that is predisposed by algorithms to show us only what we will agree with. Rumours and even downright lies can spread like wildfire and Google and Facebook have only belatedly taken up arms

Digital or printed: what is the future of the book?

Kinky sex and creativity. There’s a link, apparently

Someone found the world’s largest earthworm in a Cheshire vegetable patch, called it Dave, and then killed it in the name of science

Marina Abramovic, the performance artist, was accused by Republicans of instructing Democrats in the art of black magic. And after Trump’s win people turned to Lord of the Rings for comfort

Pigs can be pessimists

And from me:

Colin Murray invited me onto his show on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss the history and symbolism of colour in sport. If you missed it you can listen here [from 01.06.30]

The Design Museum has reopened in an ambitiously renovated site in West London. I wrote about it for The Economist

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