One of the best books of the year is Richard Davenport-Hines’s Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes. These seven lives are: altruist, boy prodigy, official, public man, lover, connoisseur and envoy. The book emphasises Keynes as a man of action, as well as an intellectual. While the economic content of the book is light, it contains fantastic vignettes from the life of Keynes—such as his ride in a motorcycle sidecar from Cambridge to London at the outbreak of the first world war—which make it a fascinating introduction to the huge breadth of the great economist’s life.
It is not as comprehensive as Robert Skidelsky’s incomparable three-volume biography, but the division of the book into chapters on his seven lives is a useful way to collect and emphasise his achievements in the different roles he had. Keynes provided a massive legacy, not just in economic policy, in which he remains influential today, but in the arts, through the establishment of the Arts Council and the revival of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
With references to the vast array of luminaries Keynes knew in his life, such as Churchill and Virginia Woolf, the book is sure to be of wide interest outside economic circles, and I heartily recommend it.