Laurence Scott’s The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World (Heinemann, £20) is the year’s most surprising book. I expected a dour, lumbering tract about the dehumanising influence of new technologies, social media and information overload. Instead, I found a real flirt of a book. It’s full of impish gaiety, elegant and lithe in its language, providing intellectual ambushes and startling connections. It examines our evolving notions of publicity, privacy, time-wasting, frivolity, friendship, allegiances, denial, escapism and squalor in the internet age. The teasing, wary optimism is bewitching as well as informative.
The little volumes of the ‘Penguin Monarchs’ series (£10.99 each) will be a matchless collection when completed. Already they provide a first-rate history of England, its monarchy and the effects of power on character. I’ve relished Anne Curry on Henry V, Stephen Alford on Edward VI, David Womersley on James II and Roger Knight’s William IV — but really there is not a dud among them.