With exams finally finished, and the summer holidays upon us, there's no better time to settle down with a good book. Both the editorial team and some of our writers have come together to recommend what you should be reading.
Appeasing Hitler, by Tim Bouverie
I would thoroughly recommend Tim Bouverie’s new book Appeasing Hitler - a compelling new history of the attempt by the British to stop another global conflagration.
Bouverie characterises Neville Chamberlain as both a cynical careerist as well as a man deeply out of his depth, more used to dealing with Birmingham bigwigs than the psychopath now in charge of the most powerful army on the continent. And he gets to the heart of the fatal flaw in Chamberlain’s policy – that although essentially sane and well-intentioned, its success hinged on an insane figure whose intentions were very far from good.
With its themes of political duplicity, disastrous policies, and, of course, our relationship with Europe, Appeasing Hitler is a remarkably contemporary retelling of Britain's lowest, most dishonest, hour.
- Calum Henderson, deputy director
The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction in 2016, with her novel The Vegetarian. The novel follows Yeong-hye, a seemingly unremarkable housewife, and the disturbing decline of her mental health following her decision to become a vegetarian.
The shifting narrative focuses on both Yeong-hye and the immediate people in her life, in a dark exploration of mental health, the female body, and desire. By harnessing the darkest curiosities of her readers, Han Kang has created a novel that you simultaneously cannot bear to read, yet cannot bear to put down, filled with unforgiving exposure to the darkest aspects of human behaviour.
Fans of writers such as Margaret Atwood or Kristen Roupenian, this is your next read!
- Rebecca Baker, writer
People Like Us: Margaret Thatcher and Me, by Caroline Slocock
For anyone who enjoyed the recent BBC documentary series, Thatcher: A Very British Revolution, this book is a must-read.
Published just a year ago, People Like Us offers a fresh take on the Iron Lady’s last year in office. The author, Caroline Slocock began her civil service career at the Treasury, and in 1989 became No.10's first female private secretary. Although Slocock was a young, left-wing feminist, she nevertheless became fascinated by ‘the woman behind the ‘Iron Lady’ façade’, and kept a diary during her time as Thatcher’s private secretary, from which the details in People Like Us are drawn.
Slocock draws the reader into the world behind the Black Door, and shows how there were really two Margaret Thatchers: the warm, friendly Mrs T who cared deeply about her personal staff and civil servants, and the hostile, formidable Prime Minister who frequently clashed with her Cabinet.
Eloquently written and sensitively handled, this is a captivating account of Thatcher’s downfall.
- Beth Fisher, deputy director
The Lies We Were Told, by Simon Wren-Lewis
Oxford Economics Professor Simon Wren-Lewis’s blog Mainly Macro has developed something of a cult following, mostly for his persistent yet eloquent attempts to communicate the opposition of a majority of mainstream academic economists to austerity. Just why the mere fact of their opposition comes to most people as a revelation the first time they hear it is the main mystery Wren-Lewis tries to shed light on in this book - a sort of greatest hits collection of his best blog posts.
He’s on less firm ground when straying away from his area of expertise to discuss politics in general, but there are still plenty of interesting insights and connections drawn between the phenomena of austerity, Brexit, and Trump, particularly the way they are handled by the media. But there’s no mistaking the main message here.
If you still take it for granted that the financial crisis was caused by governments 'maxing out the credit card', and think deficit reduction was rightly the number one political priority during the 2010s, then you need to read this book.
- Dominic Chave-Cox, writer & former editor
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
From the inner city of Chicago to the White House in Washington D.C, Michelle Obama offers a candid and raw reflection on how she went on to become the First Lady of the United States.
Beautifully written, personally accounted for and immediately page-turning, the issues of race, gender, motherhood, and politics come into play as Michelle Obama gives us a glimpse into her life.
This is a must-read for everyone interested in political memoirs. Most importantly, for those who miss the decorum that comes with being a political family, Michelle Obama brings hope to a polarised world with her own, riveting, story.
- Liam Barrett, writer
No Man Is An Island, by Thomas Merton
Spread across sixteen chapters, each reflecting on a different topic, No Man Is An Island is a book that our political landscape demands, regardless of the fact that it was published over sixty years ago.
Beautifully written, Merton’s reflections on spirituality and God shouldn’t put you off. His message is that one that transcends the boundary between religious and non-religious, and one that transcends the dichotomy of remain v leave. In his demand that we don't 'love [our] brother merely in the name of an abstraction’, Merton’s voice travels down the centuries, and serves as a direct rebuke to the toxic atmosphere of the world in the twenty-first century. After all, he writes, ‘love is, itself, the common good.’
I can’t help but think that a number of our politicians should read this, too.
- Daniel Clark, Editor-in-Chief
Post-Truth, by Matthew d'Ancona
Published in 2017, this short book explores the new ‘post-truth’ era in our politics, where lying politicians are the norm, and the public have a new appetite for more emotionally satisfying alternative facts.
d’Ancona’s review of post-modernism and its assault on the very idea of the truth is particularly interesting, providing insight as to why our trust in the experts has been so staggeringly undermined. Although d’Ancona believes that something has fundamentally changed in our politics, he saves the reader from complete despair, providing solutions to the post-truth era, and even giving ‘reasons to be positive’.
This is a fascinating read, and one that won’t leave you feeling too glum this summer.
- Martha McHardy, writer
Chernobyl: The history of a Tragedy, by Serhii Plokhy
In the early hours of Friday 25th April 1986, tragedy struck the town of Pripyat, Ukraine. The power of the Chernobyl reactors surged and caused nuclear radiation to leak, infecting everything around it.
This book is an in-depth account of the tragedy witnessed by those who were around the reactor at the time. On the back of the successful Sky drama about Chernobyl, this book is a great companion to the drama, as it takes a look at facts and accounts that would have otherwise remained unknown.
- Sadie Trent, writer
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
From Romanian dictators to the most likely names that commit crimes, Freakonomics is a timeless introduction into thinking about the wider world in a relevant and meaningful way.
Written by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dunbar, the two combine witty satire and fascinating information in a way that is refreshing on every read. Not only is the book brilliant, it leaves the reader with a thirst for more, and a perspective of the world that cannot be found in any other book like it.
Read this at your own risk, because you’ll never look at the world in the same way ever again!
- Finlay Bosworth, writer
WTF, by Robert Peston
Published in 2017, ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston’s WTF is an intelligent, perceptive, and opinionated view on the current state of modern politics. Primarily, Peston is trying to answer the question of, ‘how have we ended up here?’
‘Here’, for Peston, means a huge division between those living in the Westminster bubble, and everyone else in the country. How have we ended up in a place where nobody on the news, or in politics, predicted that people would vote for Brexit?
WTF aims to answer these questions, and it does it well. Breaking the answer down into multiple sections, from economics to MP scandals, this is well worth a read.
- Lauren White, editor