Libraries full of human ‘books’ are spreading across the country.

What would happen if you sat down and had an open and honest conversation with someone with completely opposing views?

Could it bring you closer together?

The Human Library Organization is counting on it.

In this day and age, it may seem like getting two people with different views together to discuss them is a recipe for disaster. Just read the comment section on any online post on a heated topic and you’re bound to wish you hadn’t. Political division and the ability to hide behind a screen and shout your thoughts through your fingertips has encouraged an “I’m right, you’re wrong” discourse that seldom opens doors for productive dialogue.

Human Libraries where actual people are on loan to readers instead of books are a way to highlight the common ground.

At a Human Library, people volunteer to become “books” and make their experiences open and available. “Readers” are encouraged to ask them questions freely, and they’ll get honest answers in return. There’s no judgment, and no questions are off-limits.

You won’t find people talking over each other. You won’t find nasty comments or political agendas, and you won’t lose faith in humanity. At the Human Library, you might actually feel better about the world you live in. You might even make a new friend!

The human “books” consist of people who have been marginalized or discriminated by society.

“Certain communities are being pinpointed as the ‘bad people’ because they believe different, or live different, or eat different, or look different, or have a different color, or ethnic or religious background,” said Ronni Abergel, the Human Library Organization’s founder.

Abergel has set out to counter that by building a space for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

Some of the “books” readers may find at a Human Library include a Muslim, a Jew, a cancer survivor, a recovering alcoholic, a police officer, a refugee, someone living with Alzheimer’s, a veteran, a teacher, and the list goes on.

From Michigan to Connecticut to Texas to Arkansas, Human Library events are growing with 30 new U.S. partners having joined in the past month alone.

Abergel knows the rise in interest isn’t a coincidence. There’s a consistent theme he sees in the applications he receives daily: the negative and fearful tone of the election.

“The tone of the election has made it important for many to set up a Human Library to counter and to show that this is not who we are,” he said.

In a world that seems to focus on controversy instead of compassion, it can be difficult to identify our shared humanity.

Human Libraries help to remind us there really is more that unites us than divides us. And as events now spread throughout 82 countries, with Human Libraries even set to launch soon in Pakistan and Jordan, you can tell that is a shared feeling.

“We can spend billions and billions on trying to build up homeland security and our safety, but real safety comes from having positive relations to other groups in your community,” said Abergel.

“Real safety is not going to come from building walls. Its going to come from reaching out and getting to know each other.”

Read more:

Study links behavior in kindergarten to adult success

(CNN)In our household, we’re still talking about the critically acclaimed box office smash “Inside Out,” Pixar’s animated look at the emotions inside a child’s brain. It came up most recently when we watched Serena Williams cruise to another victory at this year’s Wimbledon, and my youngest daughter, age 7, remarked that her “Joy” (the character who controls happiness in the movie) must be going wild. During the match, Serena’s “Angry” must have been at her brain’s control panel, we all agreed.

I thought of the movie recently as I learned about a new study that showcases just how critical it can be for a child to be able to understand emotions and relate to the world.
    Every parent intuitively knows it’s a good thing to teach their child how to share and play well with others and how to deal with emotions like anger and sadness, but do most of us have any sense of just how important these so-called social and emotional skills can be to our child’s long-term success?



      Is it OK to discipline someone else’s child?


    Dickens said parents can play games like “Red light, green light” and “Freeze tag,” which help kids learn how to control their bodies, and can help them learn how to control their thoughts and emotions.
    Another way to practice building “grit and resilience and empathy” in kids is spending time reading with them, she said.
    “The only way to accelerate the life experience process, since they’re just kids and don’t have a lot of life experiences, is to go on a journey learning from other people’s life experiences,” she said.
    “So when you read a book with your children, ask them questions about how the main character might be feeling or what motivates the main character or what you would do if you were in their shoes.”

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Dickens was not involved in the new kindergarten study but said she wanted to shout the findings “from the rooftop.”
    “This study (is) replicating what we already know to be true, which is that (emotional intelligence) has possibly the greatest correlation to school readiness and life success, and that’s why it’s something that we really want to invest in when it comes to raising and growing our kids.”
    What do you think is the best way to teach children strong social and emotional skills? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

    Read more:

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review JK Rowling goes steampunk

    The latest film from Harry Potter author Rowlings wizarding world is a wonderfully enjoyable adventure featuring Eddie Redmayne as a magizoologist who stumbles into a dark magic adventure in New York

    Weve never needed cheering up more; though on the strictly escapist level, this film is maybe compromised by making one of its characters an obnoxious rich New York chump, a charmless lump, or do I mean grump, reliant on his fathers money and nursing political ambitions. Hes been mentioned as a future president, says someone. Surely not…

    That entertainment enchanter JK Rowling has come storming back to the world of magic in a shower of supernatural sparks – and created a glorious fantasy-romance adventure, all about the wizards of prohibition-era America and the diffident wizarding Brit who causes chaos in their midst with a bagful of exotic creatures. Its a lovely performance from Eddie Redmayne who is a pretty fantastic beast himself. Theres a moment when he has to whisper an errant animal into submission and his contortions would put Andy Serkis to shame.

    Read more:

    How to cope with loneliness | Oliver Burkeman

    The new spin on loneliness is that we ought to welcome it, in modest doses

    Loneliness is everywhere in the world of psychology these days the subject of so many studies, articles and talks that you sometimes wish the loneliness researchers would go away, so you could just get some damn time to yourself. Perhaps you knew that loneliness can be lethal: its linked to heart disease, insomnia and depression, and is a better predictor than obesity of an early death.

    But the new spin on loneliness is that we ought to welcome it, in modest doses. As long as we then do what we should do reconnect with people then loneliness is a good thing, the German psychologist Maike Luhmann told the US website Vox. This is a sign from our psychological systems that theres something off. Its a biological warning system that evolved over millennia, alerting us to potentially dangerous levels of isolation. True, isolation isnt so dangerous today: a friendless Londoner is less likely to starve, or be eaten, than a friendless prehistoric hunter-gatherer. But theres a reason the pang of loneliness hurts so much.

    This notion gets greeted with surprise loneliness, a good thing? but the surprising thing is that we ever imagined otherwise. Why would we have developed this response to isolation if it didnt serve some purpose? (As the psychology writer Melissa Dahl points out, the same can be said for boredom, a warning that you need more meaning in your life, and for anxiety, which helps prepare for potential threats.) This becomes obvious if you consider physical pain. A throbbing ache in your abdomen isnt pleasant, but its a good thing if it prompts you to head to the doctors and address whatevers causing it. In programming parlance, pain isnt a bug; its a feature.

    If we tend to resist thinking about emotions in this way as warning bells thats probably because it sounds like dispensing blame. Telling lonely people they ought to get out more seems to imply its their fault theyre lonely. Likewise, some forms of depression are a rational response to a bad situation you need to address: maybe its time to leave a relationship, or confront an inner conflict. But wed rather not hear that; blaming achemical imbalance seems less daunting. We treat depression as the problem, when its often better thought of as a symptom.

    The nasty twist in this is that loneliness, like depression, can turn chronic. A vicious circle begins. You come to see your surroundings as hostile theyre making you feel bad, after all so you respond to others in unfriendly ways, or avoid contact altogether. (Thats your early warning system on the blink: in Paleolithic times, it might have helped a highly isolated person to be hyper-alert to threats, but not any more.) This kind of loneliness demands a skilful response: you need to heed the warning bell, while not heeding the thoughts to which it gives rise, telling you to pull away. Reach out, even if it feels unappealing. Once again, the analogy with physical pain is helpful. Surgerys rarely appealing, either, but sometimes its exactly what you need.

    Read more:

    Leonard Cohen obituary

    Canadian singer, songwriter, novelist and poet revered for works including the song Hallelujah

    It is a remarkable testament to the scope of popular music that Leonard Cohen could ever have been filed under the headings of rock or pop. A poet and novelist as well as a songwriter, Cohen, who has died aged 82, was as much a literary figure as a musical one.

    Read more:

    How Twenty One Pilots charted a course for success – BBC News

    Image copyright Jabari Jacobs
    Image caption Twenty One Pilots: drummer Josh Dun (left) and singer Tyler Joseph

    “I feel like we’ve got the coolest people listening to our music,” says Josh Dun, drummer in Twenty One Pilots.

    “The type of people who would call us out if we did something dumb. They’d know if we just phoned in a show or a song. They keep us on our toes.”

    These days, those toes barely touch the ground.

    Twenty One Pilots have played 128 shows so far this year. On Friday, they begin the first of two sold-out nights at London’s Alexandra Palace.

    Almost by stealth, they’ve become the year’s biggest breakthrough band.

    The momentum began with Stressed Out, a rock-rap ode to the innocence of childhood (“Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing at our face / Saying, ‘Wake up, you need to make money'”).

    Released in January, it reached number two in the US and gave the band their first UK hit. But things really took off when they contributed a song, Heathens, to Warner Bros’ anti-superhero movie Suicide Squad.

    Eerie and atmospheric, it took singer Tyler Joseph’s prevailing concern – the demons faced by people with mental health issues – and applied it to the film’s cast of villains and outcasts.

    Since its debut in June, the song has been streamed more than 368 million times, arguably becoming more successful than the critically-derided film it hails from.

    “I don’t know about that,” laughs Dun. “I enjoyed the film – we went and saw it opening night in Alabama with our crew. It was a cool thing, hearing our song in a movie.”

    Media captionHighlights from Twenty One Pilots’ set at the Reading and Leeds festival 2016.

    Unusually for a soundtrack submission, Heathens wasn’t a cast-off or an after-thought, but a specially-tailored original.

    “It was the first song we did for any sort of soundtrack, so we approached it the exact same way as we would writing a song for our own album,” says Dun.

    “Then, if they didn’t like it or want it, we could use it for our next record.

    “Luckily they loved it. We didn’t have to make any changes or sacrifices, which was a really good feeling.”

    That stubborn refusal to compromise is the key to Twenty One Pilots’ success.

    They turned down record deals until their third album, resisted industry pressure to change their sound and acted as their own roadies long after they started selling out large venues.

    It all stems from a manifesto they dreamt up in their early 20s, when the duo still lived with their parents in the mid-western college town of Columbus, Ohio.

    “When I got out of High School, it was my mission to play music and I figured networking was the best way to do it,” says Dun, filling in the band’s back-story.

    “So I got a job at a music store and became friends with this guy Chris who invited me out to a gig – and I loved everything about it, except I wasn’t playing drums.

    Image caption The band’s name comes from Arthur Millers’ play All My Sons, in which a businessman sells faulty airplane parts during World War 2, resulting in the death of 21 US servicemen

    The band was an early incarnation of Twenty One Pilots. When Dun and Joseph met after the show, they instantly hit it off.

    “We got together three days later and we stayed up all night talking about our visions and dreams,” says Dun. “We were both very vulnerable. but we just opened up to each other.

    “I remember talking about what we believe [they are both committed Christians] but also the concerns and doubts that we had in ourselves and how the industry works. We wanted to switch up the way people formulate a song, or put on a live show.

    “I left that day feeling, ‘This is a guy I want to be friends with for the rest of my life’. The music world seemed so big, but it seemed like something we could tackle, and tackle together.”

    The problem was that Twenty One Pilots still had a drummer, Chris Salih, the very same person who had introduced Dun and Joseph. When he left in 2011 citing financial pressures, Dun was immediately drafted in.

    Soon after, bassist Nick Thomas also quit to attend college, and the band were forced to reshape their sound, with Dun triggering samples and backing tapes to flesh out their live shows.

    The pared down line-up also indulged their eclectic musical tastes, incorporating elements of reggae, rap, rock and piano pop into their songs (the only genre they wouldn’t touch is “southern American country”, Dun says).

    The results don’t fit into any preconceived category – they’re simply listed as “alternative” on iTunes – but it makes perfect sense to a teen fan base who’ve grown up in the anything-goes streaming era.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption The band have earned a reputation for dynamic and dramatic live shows

    Despite that, the band were told to smooth out their sound for mainstream consumption. It’s a topic they address on the single Lane Boy.

    “They say, ‘Stay in your lane, boy’, but we go where we want to,” sings Joseph as he plays, almost defiantly, the ukulele.

    Later, he protests at the “heartless” songs on Top 40 radio, adding: “Don’t trust a song that’s flawless”.

    “I never want there to be a perception that music hasn’t done anything for us,” says Dun. “Music changed my life, and it changed Tyler’s life. But there’s also music that doesn’t mean anything, and doesn’t provoke any sort of thought or desire to get better – and that’s something we both agreed that we wanted to talk about.”

    Accordingly, the band’s current album is themed around a character called Blurryface, who is essentially the physical manifestation of Joseph’s anxiety and insecurity.

    On stage, he turns into the character by smearing black make-up over his face and neck – representing the suffocating effect of his neuroses.

    Dun, meanwhile, has been known to play his drums from inside the audience, sitting on a platform held aloft by fans.

    Image copyright Jabari Jacobs
    Image caption At the age of 12 “I walked to the music store every day and played drums,” says Dun

    They operate like a rock band, but neither musician plays guitar. Yet they seem to have stumbled onto a way to reinvigorate a genre which has languished in the doldrums for the best part of a decade.

    In the US, where Billboard compiles charts for every conceivable sub-strata of music, Twenty One Pilots have soared in categories like adult contemporary, mainstream rock, pop songs, trendsetters and even dance.

    “It’s been real crazy,” admits Dun.

    “Looking back to when Tyler and I first met and started talking about what we wanted to accomplish, I feel like we’re at a place now where we’ve surpassed even those dreams and visions.

    “It’s really cool… because there wasn’t a second option or a Plan B.”

    Twenty One Pilots’ latest album, Blurryface, is out now on Fuelled By Ramen. They play Alexandra Palace in London on Friday 11 and Sunday 13 November.

    Follow us on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, on Instagram at bbcnewsents, or if you have a story suggestion email

    Related Topics

    Read more:

    Unions Win A Battle On Election Day

    In a bit of good news for labor unions, Virginians voted down a ballot initiative Tuesday that would have enshrined the state’s right-to-work status in the state constitution.

    Unions in Virginia campaigned hard against the proposal, which was supported by business groups and Republican lawmakers. Virginia has had a right-to-work law on the books for decades, but the ballot measure would have effectively made it permanent.

    Right-to-work laws forbid contracts between unions and employers that require all employees in a workplace to pay the union for bargaining on their behalf. Under U.S. labor law, unions have to represent all employees in a particular bargaining unit, even those who want nothing to do with a union. Unions say it’s only fair that everyone chip in to cover the costs of representation.

    In states with right-to-work laws, employees in unionized workplaces aren’t obligated to pay any fees to the union, allowing them to opt out completely. Conservatives refer to this as “workplace freedom,” but unions call it “free riding.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s been the reality in Virginia since 1947, when changes in federal law first allowed states to pursue right-to-work laws. It’s one reason union membership is so low in Virginia when compared with other states.

    But the prevailing state of affairs in Virginia wasn’t sufficient for backers of what was called Constitutional Amendment Question 1 on the ballot. If approved, the measure would have amended the state constitution so that Virginia could never not be a right-to-work state, save for another change to the constitution. Terry McAuliffe, the state’s Democratic governor, would not be able to veto it.

    Those who pushed the amendment claimed it would make Virginia more attractive to employers, who wouldn’t have to worry about the state repealing its right-to-work law (if they ever worried about that in the first place). Typifying this argument, the head of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce claimed that cementing right-to-work in the constitution would make Virginia a more “competitive and attractive place for business and job creation.”

    Backers of the amendment may have feared that, as Virginia creeps bluer and bluer, a Democratic-controlled statehouse could one day repeal its right-to-work status. But that seems unlikely. When he was Virginia’s Democratic governor, even Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, said the state’s right-to-work law was something he “strongly supports.” And once a state goes right-to-work, it tends to stay that way especially when it’s the long-standing tradition in a place like Virginia. Besides, right-to-work laws are now more popular than ever, to the great detriment of unions.

    It used to be that right-to-work laws were confined to the South and parts of the West. But in the past four and a half years, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia have all gone right-to-work. After West Virginia passed its law in February, a majority of states 26 were right-to-work for the first time ever, making it the norm in the U.S.  

    The fight in Virginia says a lot about where organized labor finds itself right now. With the help of state Republicans, business groups around the country have been pushing laws that restrict collective bargaining and deplete the labor movement. A case in point is Wisconsin, where in 2011, Republicans stripped most public sector workers of their bargaining rights. When these conservative groups succeed, unions lose out. When they fail, unions don’t make any gains.

    In the case of Virginia, unions there were able to mobilize and defeat a constitutional amendment that posed a threat to them. But all their victory accomplished was preserving the status quo.

    Read more:

    Fixer-Upper Couple Shares How God Used Billy Graham to Transform Their Faith Life

    This trust brought peace, although my circumstance hadnt yet reflected his promise. His Word doesnt return void, and God was working in my heart to establish deeper levels of trust that I now look back on and am thankful for.

    By Joy Allmond (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

    Editors Note: Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the show, talked with BGEA a few weeks ago about their faith, and Chip explained how Billy Graham had an impact on his familys faith in Christ. This article was originally published Oct. 29, 2015.

    Since it first aired last year, popular home improvement show Fixer Upper has garnered more than 24 million viewers, making it one of the highest-rated shows of its kind.

    As a result, husband-wife duo Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the show, have cultivated quite the following.

    Chips sense of humor and Joannas impeccable eye for design are what attract this following.

    Chip and Joanna discuss a renovation on an episode of Fixer Upper. Photo credit: (Wacoan of the Year).

    But the true foundation beneath each home they build or renovate is their faith.

    Chips faith journey can actually be traced back to a Billy Graham Crusade the year after he was born.

    The impact that man has had on my life is immeasurable, Chip said.

    In 1975, his mother, Gayle, attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Albuquerque. Rededicating her life to the Lord, Gayle was changed that night, and Billy Grahams impact on her would cascade down to the rest of the family.

    His simple sermons brought people from all denominations and churches; whenever they extended an invitation to believe, attendees would swarm to the front, Chip said.

    Even though my mom had been baptized at the age of 8, she decided togo forward to answer the invitation to believe. My parents made attending church a priority, (which) strengthened their marriage, and they involved themselves in a young couplesSundayschool class. In the 1990s my mom worked at Word Publishing, which published books for Billy Graham. She found continued encouragement in his writing.

    While Billy Graham set the spiritual trajectory of Chips life, it was another Graham family member who personally mentored him in living out his faith: Danny Lotz, Billy Grahams late son-in-law.

    As a young man, Chipwho attended Baylor University, as did Lotzs three childrenspent a week in the home of Danny and Anne Graham Lotz.

    He wasnt a pastor,but he was influential in showing me how to live out my faith, even in a secular environment, Chip said. He impacted my life by spurring me to shape my choices with my faith and to walk in my faith regardless of my calling.

    He challenged me to process what God was doing in my life and train my mind with Gods truth. I learned so much from him, and he always spoke so highly of (Billy Graham), who he said talked the talk and walked the walk. So, to this day I think about talking the talk and walking the walk because of Billy Graham and Danny Lotz.

    Faith-Building Obedience

    Some years after his time with Danny Lotz, Chip married Joanna and they were expecting their second child when they sensed God asking them to close Magnolia Marketthe home furnishings store they opened togetherto focus on raising their children.

    Joanna greets a shopper at their reopened Magnolia Market. Photo credit: Magnolia Homes.

    Joanna remembers feeling as though her dream was dying as they closed up shop on the last day.

    But more vividly than her sadness, she remembers the peace she felt when God reminded heron that dayto simply trust Him with her dreams, and with Magnolia Market.

    God taught me to study the Word and believe it, even when it hadnt been fulfilled yet. I really had to cultivate a place of faith that I never had before. I had to trust Him as He would speak His promise to me, she explained.

    This trust brought peace, although my circumstance hadnt yet reflected his promise. His Word doesnt return void, and God was working in my heart to establish deeper levels of trust that I now look back on and am thankful for.

    Some time later, a production company heard about the Gaineses home renovation business and Joannas background in designand the rest is history.

    And most importantly, God taught them to trust Him with everythingand to make Him their everything.

    Our family has made a commitment to put Christ first, a lifestyle our parents modeled for us very well. They showed us how to keep our marriage and family centered around God, Chip said.

    As for Fixer Upper, we have been surprised at the impact of our faith through the show. We havent been overtly evangelical, but the rich feedback we have receivedon family and love all source from our faith.Jesus said the world would know His disciples by their love for one another, and weve glimpsed this in practice and strive for it every day.

    **This article originally appeared on God Used Billy Graham to Influence Fixer Upper Family


    Read more:

    China tantalized by mayhem of US election and prospect of ‘thug’ Trump as president

    Experts say that Beijing would prefer Republican over Hillary Clinton who is considered a hardliner on human rights

    His detractors concur that Donald Trump is the most unpalatable candidate for the White House in the history of the United States.

    But almost 8,000km away in Beijing, Chinas authoritarian rulers appear to think he might be just the man for the job.

    Veteran pekingologists suspect the Chinese leadership has been secretly rooting for a Trump victory, wagering his elevation to the Oval Office would strike a body blow to their greatest rival.

    It was Mao Zedong who said: Without destruction there can be no construction. And, if I interpret him correctly, Donald Trump is the suicide bomber of American politics, said Orville Schell, the head of the Centre on US-China Relations at New Yorks Asia Society.

    He wants to just bring the whole house down and start over. And I think there is an element [of that] that is quite tantalizing to China.

    Schell noted how Chinas strongman president, Xi Jinping, had repeatedly declared himself a fan of Chairman Maos teachings.

    And of course the key principle of Maos rule was da nao tian gong – make disorder under heaven. I think Trump has every promise of doing that in America.

    Harvard Universitys Roderick MacFarquhar is another veteran China scholar who suspects the Communist party has been crossing its fingers for a Trump triumph.

    I think they would see him as an enormous opportunity, said MacFarquhar, a former Labour party MP, adding: I dont think theyd see Hillary as any kind of opportunity at all.

    Party newspapers have revelled in this years scandal-tainted race for the White House, spinning each sordid turn as proof of the perks of one-party rule.

    The master of democracy should swallow its super confidence and arrogance, the Communist partys official mouthpiece, the Peoples Daily, smirked in a recent editorial.

    Nick Bisley, an Asia expert from La Trobe University in Melbourne, said the ignominious election battle had handed Beijing an example of the United States debased political culture and further exposed democracy as a vulgar, deeply inefficient and chaotic form of government.

    If you are a propaganda officer in the bureau in Beijing crafting your anti-democratic messaging youve got a lot to work with.

    MacFarquhar, the author of a seminal work on Maos tumultuous 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, said that while Beijing would now regard a Trump White House as unlikely, President Xi would have taken particular delight in watching the Republican candidate upend the political establishment in a way that was redolent of those 10 years of chaos.

    There were parallels, he said, between Trumps attack on the system and the way in which Chairman Mao – to a far more devastating degree – had unleashed his Red Guards on the Communist party in 1966.

    Saying that your opponent should be jailed and, if he became president, she would be jailed, that really is American-style Cultural Revolution stuff, MacFarquhar said.

    Even if he quietly folds his tent and goes back to his reality television [after the election], he has thrown a bomb into the system and the Chinese cant but like that.

    More than merely wallowing in the current mayhem, however, some scholars suspect there are those in Beijing actively hoping for a Trump victory on 8 November, even as the chances of that happening appear to fade.

    Schell said he believed Chinas more-than-flirtations with Putin and embrace of the Philippines hardman president Rodrigo Duterte showed its rulers saw the benefits of making a deal with a good thug, rather than with somebody constrained by principle.

    And surely in Donald Trump we have the ne plus ultra of American thuggery.

    I think they would feel that there were all sorts of opportunities with Trump, agreed MacFarquhar. Some of them might be more dangerous than others. He would be an uncertain commodity, like he is for the Americans But Hillary was a certain commodity – and not one they liked.

    MacFarquhar said part of Beijings attraction to Trump was simply a question of its dislike of Clinton and her support for human rights and Barack Obamas pivot to Asia.

    They think she is a hardliner on China, which Im sure she is compared to Obama. So any rival to Hillary who might win would have been a blessing for them.

    But the Harvard academic said Trumps statements questioning US support for its Nato allies and defence treaty with Japan meant he would be an absolute gift to Beijing as it strove for superpower status.

    Trump – even though he is anti-China, anti-China, anti-China – has always talked about deals. Thats his shtick [and] the Chinese would be only too happy to do a deal with Trump if that was on the cards.

    For all Trumps affection for the word China, few experts dare predict the impact his presidency might have on ties between Washington and Beijing.

    Schell said he believed Duterte, who recently travelled to China to seek an unexpected rapprochement with its leaders, could be the most revelatory model for what we might get with Trump.

    Following the Filipino presidents lead, Trump might seek some sort of new arrangement with Xi Jinping that would be beneficial to Beijing.

    If that didnt happen, at least they get a blank slate, at least they are dealing with someone else – and they are not bad at making deals with dictators.

    I think Trump is our Mussolini, Schell concluded. And the Chinese have always gotten along fine with people like that.

    Read more:

    Zadie Smith: the smart and spiky recorder of a London state of mind

    The novelist has a new book, Swing Time, and a forthcoming BBC version of her acclaimed NW

    There is a scene in the BBCs adaptation of Zadie Smiths acclaimed novel NW in which a character listens as her old school friend holds court in her tastefully decorated north-west London home. The talk is of children and schools and house prices, and in that moment the gulf between the two is seemingly laid bare, one listening in disbelief at how far the other has travelled from the council estate they once called home.

    Yet behind that confident facade, the other woman is no less unsure about her place in the world, about the increasingly white and upper-middle-class world she moves in, about the part of London she still calls home that is inexorably changing day by day. Its both a painfully acute dissection of how the bonds of old friendship bind us and a sharp commentary on race, class and modern London life. It could only have been imagined by Smith.

    Ever since she burst on to the literary scene in 2000 at the age of only 24 with her first novel, White Teeth, an exuberant coming-of-age tale set in the north-west London community of Willesden, Smith has carved out a reputation as modern Londons finest chronicler. Her fourth novel, NW, a smart, spiky look at whether you can ever truly escape the past that defines you, cemented that reputation. Now this week sees the publication of her eagerly awaited fifth novel, Swing Time, a beautifully written, deeply melancholy meditation on fame and failure.

    All three books depict a world thats recognisably 21st-century London: diverse, vivid, at times cacophonous, stuffed full of dreams and aspirations, of fear and friction, where the houses of the wealthy abut the estates of the poor and tension simmers beneath the humour.

    London feels so real in her books the characters feel like people Ive met and know or talked to or sat next to on the bus, says Nikesh Shukla, novelist and editor of much-praised essay collection, The Good Immigrant. White Teeth felt like the city I grew up in and NW and Swing Time feel like the city I live in now. Theyre very contemporary visions of London that dont ignore the citys tensions.

    They also depict a part of London too often ignored in favour of Sohos seedy glamour, the fine houses of Kensington, Mayfair and Hampstead, or the raffish charm of period Islington and Notting Hill. Smiths books sing of the suburbs that dot the north circular Harlesden, Neasden, Wembley and, in particular, Willesden, that link between the inner city of Kilburn High Road and John Betjemans Metro-Land.

    Smith has described London as a state of mind and her work stands out for the ease with which she pins the capital city to the page. Her books present a working-class view of immigrants and ethnic identity, says Ben Judah, author of This Is London: Life and Death in the World City. Other writers have written about London well, but they do so from an upper-middle and middle-class background. When I read White Teeth I was blown away it was the first time Id read a book that spoke to the London I lived in.

    The adaptation of Smiths fourth novel NW features Cyril Guel and Pheobe Fox. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC/Mammoth Screen

    Shukla agrees. Zadies London is the London I grew up in. Its not just that I recognise the places, its that she writes about a London thats both flawed and vibrant. Shes writing about the city as a person of colour and nothing is at arms length. Everything is real and visceral. You can touch and smell it.

    Where writers from Martin Amis to John Lanchester have covered the capital with a level of remove, as though circling the city from above to record its foibles, Smith writes from the bustling high streets of her youth, moving through the crowds purposefully like the native Londoner she is. In Swing Time the city, the jobs I did, the pubs and places I know so well are all covered with deft accuracy, says author and poet Salena Godden, whose memoir Springfield Road covers similar territory. It resonated because I enjoyed visiting the psycho-geography of this time in my life.

    On one hand there is little new in this. Since Charles Dickens, writers have sought to burrow down into Londons core and expose the citys teeming soul. In the 30s and 40s, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and Gerald Kersh eagerly strode down its hidden back streets. In the 50s and 60s, Colin MacInness London trilogy turned a journalists eye on the dreamers and schemers of Notting Hill and North Kensington, Derek Raymond probed Sohos seamier edges and Sam Selvon wrote The Lonely Londoners, which remains probably the greatest exploration of London and the immigrant dream. In the 80s and early 90s, Alan Hollinghurst and Oscar Moore chronicled gay life in the capital, and Hanif Kureishi made his name with the 70s-set coming-of-age tale The Buddha of Suburbia. More recently, writers from Diran Adebayo, Courttia Newland and Patrick Neate to Linda Grant, Amanda Craig and Cathi Unsworth have adeptly captured the citys chaotic rhythms in books as diverse and fascinating as London itself.

    Yet Smiths novels stand apart for their ability to convince the reader that theyre there, standing on those crowded streets alongside White Teeths self-conscious Irie or NWs focused Natalie, or trudging into ballet class in a rundown church hall with Swing Times unnamed narrator.

    Even though I live in south-east London, I can see my London in the London she writes about, says Rachel Bennette, who adapted NW for the BBC. Theres a very strong flavour of the city that comes through her work and makes it incredibly exciting and cinematic. Shes very good at illuminating the things we dont quite see and capturing a very, very mixed world. NW is an amazing book about social exclusion that is itself highly inclusive. Its heavily populated and diverse and huge, like London itself.

    Interestingly, Smiths eye has become only more acute the further she has moved from the neighbourhood of her birth. She is now a semi-outsider spending half her time living in the States and half in London, says Alex Clark, artistic director of the Bath Literature Festival. But theres no element of tourism in her writing; instead she retains an enormous affinity with the place she grew up in.

    It helps, perhaps, that just as London is both the consummate insiders city and still a place where outsiders can flourish (just about), so Smith, now 41, is an elegant literary insider who retains an outsiders eye. She has talked before of having once had two voices the voice of her childhood and the voice she assumed on going to Cambridge and how she should have kept both alive in my mouth. Instead the voice of her past is constantly re-imagined in her work.

    Shes one of those writers who goes back to the same patch over and over again and that creates a connection, says Clark. The world shes describing, where new generations of different kinds of people came into an area and lived together in a relatively central part of London, is disappearing, and her work reflects that, both her fiction and her non-fiction.

    Perhaps because of that her most recent writing is less optimistic about the city she loves. In a typically acute essay on Brexit for the New York Review of Books, she challenged the notion that London stands fearlessly alone. I kept reading pieces by Londoners speaking proudly of their multicultural, outward-looking city, so different from these narrow xenophobic places up north. It sounded right, and I wanted it to be true, but the evidence of my own eyes offered a counter-narrative, she wrote.

    The painful truth is that fences are being raised everywhere in London. Around school districts, around neighbourhoods, around lives.

    Ultimately, too, the question lingers of whether it is fair to force one writer to carry the torch for a generation. Gooden suggests not. Zadie Smith is the trailblazer for this generation and I look to her with great admiration and respect, she says. However, I think its a lot to ask one woman, one voice, one writer to carry the burden.

    Shukla agrees. Zadie probably doesnt want to be the voice of all people in London and to have that put on her is unfair, but at the same time her work did open a lot of doors.

    Slowly, more people are writing about London and thats a good thing. I dont think anyone does it as well as Zadie right now, but there are so many stories to tell about class and immigration and gentrification in the city. So many conversations still to be had.

    Swing Time is published by Hamish Hamilton, 18.99. NW is on BBC 2, on 14 November at 9pm



    25 October 1975, Willesden, north-west London.

    Educated Hampstead Comprehensive, Cricklewood; Kings College, Cambridge.


    To poet Nick Laird since 2004, with a daughter, Kit and a son, Harvey.

    Best of times Whitbread first novel Award and the Guardian first book award and The James Tait Black Memorial Prizefor White Teeth. Orange prize for Fiction and Man Booker Prize shortlistfor On Beauty.. NW was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Womens Prize for Fiction.Named on Grantas Best of Young British Novelists in both 2003 and 2013

    Worst of times Having to defend herself in 2005 after reportedly calling England vulgar.

    They say

    A joyous, optimistic, angry masterpiece no better English novel will be published this year, or, probably, next.

    Philip Hensher onNW

    She says

    Bad reviews serve many purposes, not least the gift of freedom: they release you from the obligation of having to read the book.

    Read more: