(p. 8) The last book that made you furious?
Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” It uses all the tricks of a fire-and-brimstone preacher to sell a message of despair and pessimism based on a really shaky, selective and biased understanding of the science of climate change.
Your favorite antihero or villain?
Harry Potter’s uncle, Vernon Dursley — a much misunderstood man who stands for all the businessmen that novelists have denigrated, while living off the wealth they created. I am being a bit facetious, but I did use to enjoy pointing out to my children that businessmen only ever appear in fiction as foolish or evil or both, when clearly they generally do the world enormous good.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
The prime minister? “The Hockey Stick Illusion,” by Andrew Montford. It’s a great piece of detective work on a key scientific blunder, based around the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, and it forensically dismantles the mistakes that led to people believing they had at last found evidence that current climate change is unprecedented in rate or scale in this millennium. It may yet prove to be so in the future, but it is not so yet.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?
Easy. The Bible. Not even the fine translations of William Tyndale, largely adopted by King James’s committee without sufficient acknowledgment, can conceal the grim tedium of this messy compilation of second-rate tribal legends and outrageous bigotry.
For the full interview, see:
SIMON PARKIN. “By the Book: Matt Ridley.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., OCT. 18, 2015): 8.
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date OCT. 15, 2015, and has the title “Matt Ridley: By the Book.” The online version has added questions and answers, that were left out of the published version. The passages quoted above, were in both versions, except for those on recommended presidential reading, which only appeared in the online version.)
Ridley has a courageous and illuminating discussion of environmental issues, in:
Ridley, Matt. The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. New York: Harper, 2010.