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In 2021 our writers considered technology, meritocracy and the trans debate

Athens: City of Wisdom. By Bruce Clark. Pegasus; 512 pages; $ 35. Head of Zeus; £ 25

A regular contribution to culture and ideas documents the history of one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, from its legendary origins to the bustling modern metropolitan area where an age-old passion for politics and verbal pyrotechnics is unbroken. The result is a “wonderfully legible story,” she said Literature review.

Framers. By Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Francis de Véricourt. Dutton; 272 pages; $ 28. WH Allen; £ 20

Our by-invitation editor and his co-authors are exploring what people can do about it TO THE can’t: use mental models to see the world in a new way. TO THE depends on data, but human perception applies counter-facts to see what is not there. A plea for pluralism that is “different and better than the usual recipes for wise thinking,” she said Financial Times.

We see everything. By Jon Fasman. Public Affairs; 288 pages; $ 28. Clerk; € 16.99

Our US digital editor examines the moral, political and legal implications of surveillance technologies used by the police and reports from Ecuador, Israel, Sweden and all of America. It shows how surveillance affects everyone and what affected citizens can do. An “illuminating account” said Publishers weeklythat “gives a critical warning”.

Trans. From Helen Joyce. One World; 320 pages; $ 25.95 and £ 18.99

Our UK editor analyzes the exclusion of biological sex in favor of a self-declared “gender identity” in situations from rape crisis centers to sports. A “searing and sometimes devastating analysis,” he said Sunday times. the New York Times called it an “intelligent, thorough response to an idea that has gripped much of the liberal world”.

Dohany Street. Adam LeBor Head of Zeus; 384 pages; £ 18.99

The third volume in a noir trilogy starring Balthazar Kovacs, a detective from the Budapest Murder Squad. An Israeli historian goes missing after investigating the lost wealth of Hungarian Jews murdered in the Holocaust. “A sure-footed piece,” said he Financial Times, is set in “an effusively realized Budapest”. From our former Hungary correspondent.

A brief history of the movement. From Tom Standage. Bloomsbury; 272 pages; $ 28 and £ 20

One of our assistant editors looks at the rise of the car and the history and future of city traffic on a 5,500-year-old road trip that breaks myths and imagines unused roads. “A lot of fun – and absolutely contemporary,” he said Sunday times. “Standage writes with masterful clarity,” he said New York Times.

Two hundred years of muddling through. By Duncan Weldon. Little, brown; 339 pages; £ 20

A former British business correspondent reflects on 200 years of the country’s economic history and shows the interplay between politics and business since the Industrial Revolution. “Impressively researched, concisely written and very legible,” he said Times.

The aristocracy of talent. By Adrian Wooldridge. Sky horse; 504 pages; $ 24.99. Allen Lane; £ 25

A story of the rise of the meritocratic idea, its tendency to harden into aristocracy and the current revolt against it, by our outgoing Bagehot columnist. the Times Literary Supplementst called it “extraordinary and irresistible … infallibly entertaining, effortlessly drawing on a plethora of anecdotes and statistics”.

This article appeared in the Books & Art section of the print edition under the heading “Absence Policy”