I write fiction, non-fiction and children’s books.
You can find out about my publications below. Clicking on the covers will take you to pages associated with the individual books.
I also write academically (see the ‘Research’ tab below for a relatively concise list of my publications and conferences and so on).
Stealing with the Eyes. 2018. Published by Haus Publishing / The Armchair Traveller. A memoir of anthropology, sickness, witchcraft and unpaid debts, set in the Tanimbar Islands of Indonesia.
Levinas, Storytelling and Anti-Storytelling is a reading of Levinas in the light of the stories that he tells, and of storytelling in the light of Levinas’s thought. It was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2013.
Finding Our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories. 2009. Published by Kingston University Press. A book about ethics and stories.
A Practical Guide to Happiness: Think Deeply and Flourish. Published by Icon / Totem Books in 2012 as Introducing Happiness, and reissued in a new (and far less yellow) edition in 2018. A brief and breezy introduction to various philosophies of happiness.
Snapshots of Museum Experience. By Elee Kirk & Will Buckingham 2018. Published by Routledge. By my former partner, the late Elee Kirk. After Elee’s death, I worked on revising and bringing to publication her book-length study of young children’s experiences in natural history museums.
The Philosophy Book. 2010. Published by Dorling Kindersley. I wrote everything in this book from Nietzsche to Žižek, via Husserl, Quine and Kristeva, amongst others. The book has been translated into pretty much every language you could imagine.
Goat Music. 2015. Roman Books. A re-invention of the tale of Apollo and Marsyas, a contemporary satyr play, and a fable about art, violence and political power.
Sixty-Four Chance Pieces. 2015. Earnshaw Books. A re-imagining of the enigmatic Chinese Book of Changes or Yijing (易經) through sixty-four stories that combine fiction, non-fiction, travel-writing and wayward philosophical speculation.
The Descent of the Lyre. 2012. Published by Roman Books. A novel about music and myth, following in the footsteps of Orpheus, set in 19th Century Bulgaria and Paris.
Cargo Fever. 2007. Published by Tindal Street Press. A novel set in Indonesia about gods, human beings and monsters.
Cultivation in Early China and Ancient Greece.
I have a chapter in this fabulous collection edited by Karyn Lai, Hyun Jin Kim and Rick Benitez. The chapter is on the 5th and 6th century writer Liu Xie 劉勰 and writing as a way of nourishing life.
Wonder in Contemporary Artistic Practice.
I had a lot of fun writing this wildly speculative chapter on the imperative to wonder, drawing on the ancient Chinese scholar and collector of strange tales, Guo Pu郭璞. The chapter is called “Wonders Without Wonder: Divining the Donkey-Rat”, and the book is edited by Irene Brown and Christian Mieves.
In Fiction we Trust.
My debut in Romanian language! My chapter in this book, “Levinas, filozofie si fictiune” is about Levinas and narrative. The original title was “Lies in Which Not Everything is False”, which I quite liked, although it apparently caused all kind of translation problems.
Overheard: Stories for Reading Aloud. I’m delighted to have a story in this collection edited by my good friend, novelist, poet and memoir-writer Jonathan Taylor. This is a collection of stories written to be read aloud. The story I have included in this collection is called “The Lake”, and involves an enthusiastic nude bather. It was later included as a part of my Yijing-based collection, Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: A Book of Changes
Utopia. This volume on Utopia was the second annual collection of essays from Five Leaves Press, edited by Ross Bradshaw. I’ve a not-quite-utopian essay in this one called “The Trouble with Happiness”
The Lowestoft Chronicle.
I have a short (true) story in this one about a meeting with an alien in the city of Baoji 寶雞 in China. This is another story that found its way into my Sixty-Four Chance Pieces.
My PhD is in philosophy (Staffordshire) and my MA is in anthropology (Durham). I started my life in research as an anthropologist, travelling to the University of Pattimura in Ambon, Indonesia, in 1994 on a research project under the auspices of LIPI, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. I was in Indonesia to study the work of contemporary sculptors. My book Stealing With the Eyes: Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia is a portrait of three of these sculptors, a travel memoir, and a reflection on the uneasy enterprise that is anthropology.
My PhD thesis (“Naive Phenomenology: Thinking Ethics Through Stories”, Staffordshire University 2007) was an attempt to think about storytelling as a kind of phenomenology, using the spinning of tales as a philosophical method that might provide a way of thinking through ethics without thinking in terms of foundations. This led eventually to two books. The first, Finding Our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories (Kingston University Press, 2009) developed the storytelling strand. It is a curious kind of philosophy book, crammed full of talking fish, woodpeckers, drunken Indonesian gods and other such unphilosophical beings. The second book, Levinas, Storytelling and Anti-Storytelling was more respectable, and used storytelling as a method for deconstructing the work of Emmanuel Levinas, whilst also holding this same method to account in terms of Levinas’s ethics.
Since finishing my PhD, I have worked increasingly at the borderlands of philosophies, stories and cultures. The research for my experimental novel-of-sorts, Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: A Book of Changes – a collection of linked stories based on the hexagrams of the Yijing 易經 – led me on a long detour into Chinese philosophy. As well as the book, I’ve written on Chinese and Western comparative philosophy and literature (with a particular interest in the Yijing and the Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍, The Carving of Dragons and the Literary Mind, a sixth century writing manual).
As well as academic research work, I have also been involved in more on-the-ground research and consultancy projects, working in everything from public art to education and development in Myanmar.
- In the summer of 2010, I was awarded a British Academy small research grant to travel to China, where I visited a number of universities (Shandong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou), as well as historical sites, temples and out-of-the-way towns, scouting out stories my novel based on the Yijing 易經. The book was published in 2015 as Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: A Book of Changes (Earnshaw Books).
- In 2007, I was awarded an Arts Council grant for research towards my novel The Descent of the Lyre in Bulgaria, Vienna and Paris. The novel was published by Roman Books in 2012, and the year after shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award
- I was also awarded an Arts Council Grant in 2005 for the development of the online literary community and publishing project, Birmingham Words.
Books, Articles, Academic Essays
The following list is of some of my books and articles.
- Hello Stranger, philosophy / creative nonfiction, due out from Granta in 2020.
- Snapshots of Museum Experience: Understanding Child Visitors Through Photography (Elee Kirk, and Will Buckingham), monograph, Routledge 2018.
- Stealing with the Eyes, travel writing / ethnography, Haus Publishing, 2018.
- Lucy and the Rocket Dog: philosophical novel for children, Knopf / Penguin Random (USA), 2017. Also published in Turkish.
- A Book of Changes: Sixty-Four Chance Pieces:novel / philosophy, Earnshaw Books, 2015.
- Goat Music: novel, Roman Books, 2015.
- Complete Write a Novel Course: Teach Yourself: textbook, Hodder and Stoughton / John Murray. 2014.
- Levinas, Storytelling and Anti-Storytelling: philosophy, Bloomsbury Academic. 2013.
- The Descent of the Lyre: novel, Roman Books. 2012. (Bulgarian edition published in 2014).
- Introducing Happiness: A Practical Guide: philosophy textbook, Icon Books 2012, with co-edition published by Totem Books in the USA. Reissued in 2018 as Think Deeply and Flourish: A Practical Guide to Happiness.
- The Snorgh and the Sailor: children’s book, Scholastic. 2012. With translations into German, Finnish, Turkish, Chinese and Afrikaans. Chinese edition published as 长鼻子冒险家和长耳朵冒险家.
- Finding Our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories: philosophy, Kingston University Press, 2009.
- Cargo Fever: novel, Tindal Street Press, 2008.
- Philosophers, Their Lives and Works. I was content consultant for Dorling Kindersley on their forthcoming philosophy book, as well as writing several chapters.
- ‘Nourishing Vitality: Writing in the Service of Life’ in Cultivation in Early China and Ancient Greece: Perspectives and Reverberations, ed. Karyn Lai & Jeffrey Ridel, Bloomsbury 2019
- ‘Lies in Which Not Everything is False: Levinas, Philosophy and Fiction’* (in Romanian), in In Fiction We Trust, ed. Catalin Partenie, Polirom 2016.
- ‘Wonders without Wonder: Divining the Donkey-Rat’ in Wonder in Contemporary Artistic Practice, ed. Irene Brown and Christian Mieves, Routledge, 2016.
- ‘The Trouble with Happiness’*: Five Leaves Anthology, ed. Ross Bradshaw. Five Leaves Books. 2012.
- ‘The Modern World 1900-1950’ and ‘Contemporary Philosophy 1950-Present’: author of two chapters in the globally bestselling The Philosophy Book. Also translated into German, French, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese, as well as numerous other languages. ISBN 9781405353298. Chinese edition published as 哲学百科. Dorling Kindersley, 2012.
- ‘Three Cups: The Anatomy of a Wasted Afternoon’: book chapter, Coffee Philosophy: Grounds for Debate. Blackwell/Wiley, 2011.
- ‘Elee Kirk: Snapshots of a Life in Museums’, Museum and Society special issue, 2018.
- ‘Telling Tales About the Yijing’, JOMEC Journal 2014.
- ‘Communicating Not-Knowing: Education, Daoism and Epistemological Chaos’, China Media Research special issue on Chinese philosophy and education. 2014.
- ‘Wrestling the Goat: the Yijing and Literature’*, Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture(ISSN: 1547-4348) 2013.
- ‘Participation, Pattern and Change: Creativity in Liu Xie and Lucretius’ (文與通、變：論劉勰與盧克萊修的創作觀) National Taiwan University Studies in Language and Literature. June 2013.
- ‘Invisible Museums and Multiple Utopias’ with Elee Kirk, Museological Reviewno. 17, 2013.
- ‘What the Snorgh Taught me about Emmanuel Levinas’, Interdisciplinary Humanities, April 2012.
- ‘Storytelling the Yijing: Tales and Reflections on a Chinese Literature Machine’, New Writing: The International Journal for the Theory and Practice of Creative Writing. Dec. 2011 DOI:10.1080/14790726.2011.630090
The following list gives some of the conferences I have attended over the previous few years.
- The Yijing and the Metaphysics of Absence, paper at the 3rd Annual World Yijing Summit Forum, Wuxi (第二届世界易经高峰论坛), 2018.
- The Yijing as a Creative Tool, at the 2nd Annual World Yijing Summit Forum (第二届世界易经高峰论坛), Wuxi, 2016.
- Against Mindfulness: Slackening Identity, Wandering Amongst the Myriad Things, at the Bath Spa Colloquium for Global Philosophy and Religion, Bath Spa University, April 2016.
- Writing in the Service of Life: Liu Xie and the Practice of Literature. Paper given at the In pursuit of wisdom: Ancient Chinese and Greek perspectives on cultivation conference, University of New South Wales, Australia. January 2016.
- Keynote speaker at Happiness and Subjective Well-Being Conference, University of Chester, Department of Social and Political Science. March 2015
- Keynote panellist at De Montfort University conference on Legacy, Mythology and the Humanities, June 2013.
- Wonders and Weird Tools: Divining the Donkey-Rat. Paper given at Newcastle University conference on Working Wonder, June 2013.
- Telling Tales about the Yijing. Conference paper given at the Bangor University Cultural Translation and East Asia: Film, Literature and Art conference. September 2012.
- Reading from Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: At Woodbrooke Borders and Crossings: Interdisciplinary Conference on Travel and Writing. July 2012.
- Literature as Spirit-Wandering: Advice for Writers and Travellers from 6th Century China. At Woodbrooke Borders and Crossings: Interdisciplinary Conference on Travel and Writing. July 2012.
- The Yijing as Literature Machine, Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs Conference, Toronto. May 2012.
- Invisible Museums: Calvino and the Museum as Private Utopia, Leicester University Museum Utopias conference, with Elee Kirk. March 2012.
- The Snorgh and Levinas: Two Stories about Strangers. Cambridge University conference for The Child and the Book. March 2012.
- Philosophies and Stories: a workshop. Invited workshop at Cambridge University conference for The Child and the Book. March 2012.
- Reading at the Sheffield Hallam University conference, The Singer Not the Song, 2011.
- ‘Love and Friendship at the End of the World.’ The Apocalypse and its Discontents. Westminster University. 2010.
- The Yijing, Storytelling and the Cognitive Unconscious’ at the University of Essex conference on Literature, Myth and the Unconscious. 2010
- ‘Writing in Schools.’ NAWE conference autumn 2008. Manchester University, 2008.
- ‘The Philosophical Troubadour: Michel Serres, Philosophy and Literature.’ Literature and Philosophy/Philosophy and Literature Inaugural Conference. Sussex University, 2008.
- ‘Don DeLillo, Fiction and the Lies of Consciousness.’ British Society for Literature and Science Conference. Keele University, 2008.
- ‘Italo Calvino and Lucretius: Fiction, Science and the Reconciliation with the World.’ British Society for Literature and Science conference. Birmingham, 2007
- ‘Reading the New Media.’ National Association of Writers in Education 2006 Conference, To Infinity and Beyond. Presentation and Workshop with novelist David Fine.
- ‘Otherwise than Levinas: Crossing Over from Transcendence to Traversal.’ Levinas Centenary Conference. Sofia University, Bulgaria, 2006
- ‘Towards a Polytheism of the Image: Levinas, Blanchot and the Dread of Being.’ Staffordshire University Conference on the Image, 2006.
- ‘Beyond the River Sambatyon.’ American Comparative Literature Association Conference. Princeton University, 2006.
- ‘Monobibliomania.’ Future Literature, Future Criticism Conference. Prague, 2005.
- ‘Wisdom, Love and the Task of Philosophy.’ Liverpool University Philosophy as a Way of Life Conference, 2004.
- ‘Learning How to Swim.’ National Association of Writers in Education Conference, 2004.