I was glad to have found Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness in Beijing. In Praise of Idleness is a collection of essays on social and political issues; I was surprised at how relevant many of them are today, 80 years after they were written. The essays are thought-provoking, clear and well-written. Many oversimplifications and unjustified statements are made, so it is hard to agree with everything he says. However, the book is well worth reading as it offers some good ideas and a fresh and alternative viewpoint on many issues. The main message underlying the essays is a very good and important one: the necessity of reason in a dogmatic world.
One of the essays I particularly liked was “Architecture and Social Questions”, in which he links architecture to various social problems. This topic is especially relevant today with the growth of suburbia and decrease of social capital (this reminds me of another recommended book: Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, which discusses the decrease of social capital in the United States). It seems clear that the physical structure of communities necessarily affects their social structure.