From illuminating political observations to dystopian fiction, here is our General Election reading list.
How to Speak Money by John Lanchester
Money is our global language. Yet so few of us can speak it. The language of the economic elites can be complex, jargon-filled and completely baffling. And we need to understand it because if we can’t, then the elites will write their own rules.
Now John Lanchester, bestselling author of Capital and Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay, sets out to decode it for all of us, explaining everything from high-frequency trading and the World Bank to the difference between bullshit and nonsense.
33 Revolutions per Minute by Dorian Lynskey
33 Revolutions Per Minute tracks the turbulent relationship between popular music and politics, through 33 pivotal songs that span seven decades and four continents, from Billie Holiday singing ‘Strange Fruit’ to Green Day raging against the Iraq war. Dorian Lynskey explores the individuals, ideas and events behind each song, showing how protest music has soundtracked and informed social change since the 1930s. Through the work of such artists as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Fela Kuti, The Clash, Public Enemy and Gil Scott Heron, Lynskey examines how music has engaged with racial unrest, nuclear paranoia, apartheid, war, poverty and oppression, offering hope, stirring anger, inciting action and producing songs which continue to resonate years down the line.
The Thick of It: The Missing DoSAC Files
The Thick Of It begins as Malcolm Tucker – bard of spin, Communications Director for Number 10 and tough shoot-first-then-shoot-again-later professional bastard – has collected incriminating, humiliating and potentially career-destroying papers from the DoSAC team and their opposition. These include Ollie Reeder’s poor smear file on Peter Mannion, Nicola Murray’s gargantuanly fanciful policy ideas, Terri Coverley’s pant-wettingly pathetic Waitrose appraisal from and Malcolm’s utterly insightful dos and don’ts for politicians appearing on TV.
Should it go manboobs up at the election, this dossier of private failures, career cul-de-sacs and inept social misfunction is his insurance policy.
So when it goes missing, Malcolm is angry. Apo-pleptically angry.
Bulging with never-seen-before personnel files, policy drafts, letters, emails, transcripts of phone calls and mood boards, The Missing DoSAC Files is a hilarious, profane and all-too-accurate glimpse into public life from the writers of the award-winning The Thick of It, Oscar-nominated In the Loop and Emmy award-winning Veep.
Mad Men & Bad Men: What Happened When British Politics Met Advertising by Sam Delaney
How did a bunch of unelected, unaccountable admen end up running British politics?
What happened when a rag-tag band of scruffs and smart-arses invaded Westminster, sprinkling creative fairy dust over earnest politicians? How much did snappy slogans and simplistic soundbites influence election results and even government policies?
Sam talks to the people at the heart of it: Alistair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, Tim Bell, Maurice Saatchi, Norman Tebbit, Neil Kinnock – and many more. Everything is here - the moment Margaret Thatcher met the Saatchi brothers, the famous ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ poster and the infamous ‘Demon Eyes’ campaign. Here, too, are the stories they didn’t want you to hear: the man who snorted coke in Number 10, the fist-fights in Downing Street, the all-day champagne binges in Westminster.
The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It by Owen Jones
Behind our democracy lurks a powerful but unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process. In exposing this shadowy and complex system that dominates our lives, Owen Jones sets out on a journey into the heart of our Establishment, from the lobbies of Westminster to the newsrooms, boardrooms and trading rooms of Fleet Street and the City. Exposing the revolving doors that link these worlds, and the vested interests that bind them together, Jones shows how, in claiming to work on our behalf, the people at the top are doing precisely the opposite. In fact, they represent the biggest threat to our democracy today – and it is time they were challenged.
On Revolution by Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt’s penetrating observations of the modern world, based on a profound knowledge of the past, have been fundamental to our understanding of the political landscape. On Revolution is her classic exploration of a phenomenon that has reshaped the globe. From the eighteenth-century rebellions in America and France to the explosive changes of the twentieth-century, Arendt traces the changing face of revolution and its relationship to war while underscoring the crucial role such events will play in the future.
Illuminating and prescient, this timeless work will fascinate anyone who seeks to decipher the forces that shape our tumultuous age.
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States – and wins. Sinclair Lewis’s chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip, ‘Professional Common Man’, who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes the country down a far darker path. As the new regime slides into authoritarianism, newspaper editor Doremus Jessop can’t believe it will last – but is he right? This cautionary tale of liberal complacency in the face of populist tyranny shows it really can happen here.
The Knives by Richard T. Kelly
As Home Secretary, David Blaylock oversees the police, border control and the struggle against domestic terrorism.
Some say the job is impossible; Blaylock insists he is tough enough.
Constantly in his mind is the threat of an attack on Britain’s streets. But over the course of one autumn, Blaylock finds that the danger is much more personal . . .
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
Dismembered: How the attack on the state harms us all by Polly Toynbee and David Walker
What is the state? And what’s it ever done for you? More than you think.
The state houses us, educates us, employs us, protects us on the street and in the wider world. It is the country we created together, and a part of our national identity. However, in recent years there has been a systematic and covert attack on the state that has turned us all against it – the government have depleted funding and resources, and mounted an ideological assault on the public sector through the media.
Inequality and the 1% by Danny Dorling
Inequality is more than just economics, it is the culture that divides and makes social mobility almost impossible. Leading geographer Danny Dorling goes in pursuit of the latest research into how the lives and ideas of the 1% impact on the remaining 99%; and the findings are shocking. Inequality in the UK is increasing; more and more people are driven towards the poverty line. Even before birth, being born outside the 1% will have dramatic impact on the rest of your life: it will reduce your life expectancy, educational and work prospects, as well as your mental health. In this book, filled with illustrations and infographics that bring the facts to life, Dorling convincingly proves that the cost of the super rich is just too high for us.
The Absence of War by David Hare
The Absence of War offers a meditation on the classic problems of leadership, and is the third part of a critically acclaimed trilogy of plays (Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges) about British institutions.
Its unsparing portrait of a Labour Party torn between past principles and future prosperity, and of a deeply sympathetic leader doomed to failure, made the play hugely controversial and prophetic when it was first presented at the National Theatre, London, in 1993.
The Absence of War is much more than a piece of skilled reporting. It is actually cast as a classic tragedy.’ Guardian
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever…
Widening Income Inequality by Frederick Seidel
Widening Income Inequality, Seidel’s new collection, is a rhymed magnificence of sexual, historical, and cultural exuberance. Rarely has poetry been this dapper, or this dire, or this true.
1984 by George Orwell
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.
And as an antidode, here are five books to help you escape the General Election:
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746. One rainy evening, a charming and handsome young stranger fresh off the boat from England pitches up to a counting house on Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition — he has an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. But can he be trusted? This is New York in its infancy, a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love, and find a world of trouble . . .
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Dustwalk is Amani’s home. The desert sand is in her bones. But she wants to escape. More than a want. A need.
Then a foreigner with no name turns up to save her life, and with him the chance to run. But to where? The desert plains are full of danger. Sand and blood are swirling, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lacuna is the heartbreaking story of a man’s search for safety of a man torn beween the warm heart of Mexico and the cold embrace of 1950s McCarthyite America. A gripping story of identity, loyalty and the devastating power of accusations to destroy innocent people. The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World.
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
When army officer Chike Ameobi is ordered to kill innocent civilians, he knows that it is time to leave. As he travels towards Lagos, he becomes the leader of a new platoon, a band of runaways who share his desire for a better life.
Their arrival in the city coincides with the eruption of a political scandal. The education minister, Chief Sandayo, has disappeared and is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from government funds.
The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico
Set mostly in lush, heady Colombia but even in a jungle-like New York City, they yoke together the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits, hostages, bourgeois expats, and drug dealers.
Interconnected yet fractured in places, the result is a narrative jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing, or a kaleidoscope where different characters spin into focus as they take turns to come into focus. Her characters’ voices are completely haunting – and Pachico’s playfulness with language and mastery of consciousness create a mesmerising collective atmosphere in this collection.
At once terse and tender, with a manic, crazed energy, these stories will scalpel their way into your memory.