We live in an age when the pursuit of authenticity – from living our 'best life' to eating artisan food – matters more and more to us, but where the forces of inauthenticity seem to be taking over. Our world is full of people and products that are not what they seem. We no longer know whether we are talking to a person or a machine. But we can fight back – and this award-winning book shows us how.
Authenticity argues that, although our counterfeit culture is shaped by the most powerful forces of evolution, economics, and technology, we can still come together to reclaim reality.
Along the way, we meet the world's greatest impostor, who finally became what he'd pretended to be; the wartime counterfeiter who fooled a nation; nature's most outrageous deceivers; the artist who encouraged people to forge his pictures; the 'authentic' brand that was anything but. But we also meet people living unexpectedly rewarding lives in virtual worlds, and foot soldiers in the 'armies of truth' who are taking down today's conspiracies and cons.
Provocative, insightful and original, Authenticity is that once-in-a-generation revelation: a work rich in histories but supremely and urgently of our own time. You'll never think about deception and reality in the same way again.
Praise for AUTHENTICITY
'Brilliantly witty, profoundly illuminating, Alice Sherwood is a master storyteller' Simon Schama
‘This wise, quirky, funny, wholly original book is an authentic delight. I loved it.’ Tim Harford, author of How to Make the World Add Up
‘Beautifully written, hugely readable and completely fascinating – a book for smart thinkers everywhere.’ Mary Ann Sieghart, author of The Authority Gap
‘Alice Sherwood places ‘authenticity’ in the dock with a series of brilliantly analysed cases. From soft drinks to malaria tablets, Andy Warhol to Yves Saint Laurent, they are unfailingly compelling and often shocking. I found myself instantly absorbed by a combination of Sherwood’s formidable storytelling powers and her wry and psychologically penetrating commentaries.’ Philip Mould, presenter of Fake or Fortune
‘Perhaps at no point in recent history has ‘the real’ seemed more elusive than it does now when cons, counterfeits and camouflage seem to be everywhere. Deceit is the darker side of intelligence, and this fascinating and hugely entertaining book is a rich guide to the many forms it can take.’ Brian Eno
‘Alice Sherwood is the real deal when it comes to exploring authenticity. Wielding the weapon of story, usually the preserve of telling tales, she takes the reader on a wonderful rollercoaster of a ride to prepare them to recognise what’s real and what’s illusion.’ Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford and author of Thinking Better
‘A fascinating and oh-so-cleverly written book about the complexities of creation and creativity, a journey that shifts from Darwin to Warhol in ways you won’t expect.’ Dylan Jones, author of The Wichita Lineman
‘At a moment of shared perplexity, Alice Sherwood’s very clever new book puts our counterfeit culture on trial. Misinformation and truthiness jostle for our attention, technology multiplies doubt, and cyber-intangibles are more valuable than solid treasure. With wit, elegance and well-groomed intellect, Sherwood explains how we can try to reclaim reality.’ Stephen Bayley, author of Design: Intelligence Made Visible
‘AUTHENTICITY demonstrates that although those who wish to deceive us sometimes seem to have the upper hand, it's down to the individual to fight for authenticity.’ Eliot Higgins, author of We Are Bellingcat
‘Both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, with extraordinary and intriguing anecdotes’ Royal Society of Literature, Giles St Aubyn Awards
‘A persuasive manifesto addressing two very timely issues,... Sherwood’s study takes in an astonishing range of subject matters... This is a profoundly academic book, but ... the research is worn so lightly that it reads as easily as a work of popular science... A witty and wide-ranging call to arms that ... turns out to be a pleasure’ Michael Smith, Literary Review
‘Riveting ... captivating ... AUTHENTICITY is a thoroughly enjoyable debut’ – Financial Times
‘Terrific … extraordinary’ Matthew D’Ancona Tortoisemedia.com