Newest Politics and Society Reviews

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Review of

The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams

5star.jpg Politics and Society

The done thing is to read a book all the way through before you sit down to review it. I’m making an exception here, because I don’t want to lose any of the experience of reading this amazing book, I want to capture it as it hits me. And it is hitting me. This beautiful book has me in tears. Full Review

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Review of

Artivism: The Battle for Museums in the Era of Postmodernism by Alexander Adams

2star.jpg Politics and Society

Can art ever be apolitical? All art is political because art is not made in a vacuum. It is made by people. Antonio Gramsci stated that ‘’Every man… contributes to modifying the social environment in which he develops’’. Therefore, all art must be political, even implicitly. Alexander Adams in his new book ‘Artivism: The Battle for Museum in the Era of Postmodernism’ is adamant that art is freer when it is art for art’s sake. The recent trend of so-called artivism has caused artists to become more overtly political (read: left wing). Their seemingly grass roots movements have been astroturfed by large “left-wing” donors and media elites hoping to create a more globalist and progressive regime. Or at least that’s what Alexander Adams believes. Full Review

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Review of

The Wilderness Cure by Mo Wilde

5star.jpg Lifestyle

It had been on the cards for a while but it was the week-long consumer binge which pushed Mo Wilde into beginning her year of eating only wild food. The end of November, particularly in Central Scotland was perhaps not the best time to start, in a world where the normal sores had been exacerbated by climate change, Brexit and a pandemic. Wilde had a few advantages: the area around her was a known habitat with a variety of terrains. She had electricity which allowed her to run a fridge, freezer and dehydrator. She had a car - and fuel. Most importantly, she had shelter: this was not a plan to live wild just to live off its produce. Full Review

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Review of

Things You Can Do: How to Fight Climate Change and Reduce Waste by Eduardo Garcia and Sara Boccaccini Meadows

4star.jpg Home and Family

We begin with a telling story. All the birds and animals fled when the forest fire took hold and most of them stood and watched, unable to think of anything they could do. The tiny hummingbird flew to the river and began taking tiny amounts of water and flying back to drop them into the fire. The animals laughed: what good was that doing. I'm doing the best I can, said the hummingbird. And that, really, is the only way that we will solve the problem of climate change – by each of us doing what we can, however small that might be. Full Review

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Review of

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man's Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement by Frederick Reynolds

5star.jpg Autobiography

Corruption is not department, gender or race specific. It has everything to do with character. Period.

One more body just wouldn't matter.

The murder of George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old black man, on 25 May 2020 by Derek Chauvin, a forty-four-year-old police officer, in the US city of Minneapolis sent shock waves around the world. We rarely see pictures of a murder taking place but Floyd's death was an exception. The image of Chauvin kneeling on George's neck is not one which I'll ever forget and the protests which followed cannot have been unexpected. There was a backlash against the police - and not just in Minneapolis: whatever their colour or creed they were all tarred by the Chauvin brush. Full Review

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Review of

The Naked Don't Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

It's easy to forget at times that The Naked Don't Fear the Water isn't actually fiction, because it reads very much like a well-paced thriller at times. This is not by any means a criticism, but rather a testament to how well Matthieu Aikins – a Canadian citizen who decided to accompany his friend as a refugee from Afghanistan through Europe – recounts a vast and at times painful journey. There are tense moments and gripping accounts of border crossings which had me on edge the whole way through. But it's written with a haunting and almost lyrical quality that allows the reader to perfectly envisage the environments and people described. Full Review

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Review of

Staggering Hubris by Josh Berry

4.5star.jpg Humour

Members of Parliament like us to believe that the country is run by politicians, headed by the Prime minister - the primus inter pares (that's for those of you who are Eton and Oxbridge educated) but the reality is that the prime movers are the special advisers - the SPADS - who are the driving force behind the government. We are in the privileged position of having access to the memoirs of Rafe Hubris, the man who was behind the skilful control of the Covid crisis which was completely contained by the end of 2020. You might not know the name now but he will certainly be the man to watch. Full Review

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Review of

The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds by Jessica Nordell

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Anyone who is not an able, white man understands bias in that they may no longer even recognise the extent to which they suffer from it: it's simply a part of everyday life. White men will always come first. The able will come before the disabled. Jobs, promotions, higher salaries are the preserve of the white man. Even when those who wouldn't pass the medical become a part of an organisation it's rare that their views are heard, that their concerns are acknowledged. It's personally appalling and degrading for the individuals on the receiving end of the bias but it's not just the individuals who are negatively impacted. Full Review

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Review of

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel

5star.jpg Politics and Society

How am I able to be so transparent on paper about rape, malpractice and poverty, yet still compartmentalise? It's as though I were telling the truth whilst simultaneously running away from it.

Before you start reading Misfits you need to be in a certain frame of mind. You're not going to read a book of essays or a self-help book. You're going to read writing which was inspired by Michaela Coel's 2018 MacTaggart Lecture to professionals within the television industry at the Edinburgh TV Festival. You might be reading the book but you need to listen to the words as though you're in the lecture theatre. The disjointedness will fade away and you'll be carried on a cloud of exquisite writing. Full Review

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Review of

We Need to Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba

5star.jpg Politics and Society

To be a dark-skinned Black woman is to be seen as less desirable, less hireable, less intelligent and ultimately less valuable than my light-skinned counterparts... We Need to Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba

0.7% of English Literature GCSE students in England study a book by a writer of colour while only 7% study a book by a woman. The Bookseller 29 June 2021

Otegha Uwagba came to the UK from Kenya when she was five years old. Her sisters were seven and nine. It was her mother who came first, with her father joining them later. The family was hard-working, principled and determined that their children would have the best education possible. There was always a painful awareness of money although this did not translate into a shortage of anything: it was simply carefully harvested. When Otegha was ten the family acquired a car. For Otegha, education meant a scholarship to a private school in London and then a place at New College, Oxford. Full Review

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Review of

Understanding Human Nature: A User's Guide to Life by Richard Brook

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I am a firm believer that sometimes we choose books, and sometimes books choose us. In my case, this is one of the latter. Not so very long ago, if I had come across this book I'd have skimmed it, found some of it interesting, but it would not have 'hit home' in the way that it does now. I believe it came to me not just because I was likely to give it a favourable review [ full disclosure The Bookbag's u.s.p. is that people chose their own books rather than getting them randomly, so there is a predisposition towards expecting to like the book, even if it doesn't always turn out that way ] – but also because it is a book I needed to read, right now. Full Review

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Review of

How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance

5star.jpg Politics and Society

When we do think about animals, we break them down into species and groups: cows, dogs, foxes, elephants and so on. And we assign them places in society: cows go on plates, dogs on sofas, foxes in rubbish bins, elephants in zoos, and millions of wild animals stay out there, somewhere, hopefully on the next David Attenborough series.

I was going to argue. I mean, cows are for cheese (I couldn't consider eating red meat...) and I much prefer my elephants in the wild but then I realised that I was quibbling for the sake of it. Essentially that quote sums up my attitude to animals - and I consider myself an animal lover. If I had to choose between the company of humans and the company of animals, I would probably choose the animals. I insisted that I read this book: no one was trying to stop me but I was initially reluctant. I eat cheese, eggs, chicken and fish and I needed to either do so without guilt or change my choices. I suspected that making the decision would not be comfortable. Full Review

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Review of

A Women's Guide to Claiming Space by Eliza Van Cort

5star.jpg Politics and Society

She brings a hug-kick-thunderclap that every woman needs in her life. Again and again and again. (Alma Derricks, former CMO, Cirque du Soleil RSD)

To claim space is to live the life of choosing unapologetically and bravely. It is to live the life you've always wanted.

Sometimes the reviewing gods are generous: at a time when violence against women is much in the news, A Women's Guide to Claiming Space by Eliza Van Cort dropped onto my desk. Now - to be clear - this book is not a 'how to disable your attacker with two simple jabs' manual: it's something far more effective, but discussion at the moment seems to be about how women can be protected. I've always thought that women need to rise above this, to be people who don't need protection, people who claim their own space. If all women did this, those few men who are violent to women would realise that we are not just an easy target to be used to prove that they are big men. Full Review

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Review of

Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Where do I start? I could start with where Barton herself starts, with the question Why Japan? Japan has been on my radar for a while and if the world hadn't gone into melt-down I would have visited by now. I may get there later this year, but I am not hopeful. And like Barton, I don't know the answer to the question why Japan? She explains her feelings in respect of the question in the first essay, which is on the sound giro' – which she describes as being, among other things, the sound of every party where you have to introduce yourself. Full Review

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Review of

Signs of Life by Stephen Fabes

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I was brought up on maps and first-person narratives of tales of far away places. I was birth-righted wanderlust and curiosity. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit what Dr. Stephen Fabes clearly had which was the guts to simply go out and do it. I also didn't inherit the kind of steady nerve, ability to talk to strangers and basic practicality that would have meant that I would have survived if I had been gifted with the requisite 'bottle'. In order words I'm not the sort of person who will get on a bike outside a London hospital and not come home for six years. Fabes did precisely that. Full Review

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Review of

Single, Again, and Again, and Again by Louisa Pateman

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

You can't be happy and fulfilled on your own. You are not complete until you find a man.

This was what Louisa Pateman was brought up to believe. It wasn't unkind: it was simply the adults in her life advising her as to what they thought would be best for her. It was reinforced by all those fairy tales where the girl (she's usually fairly young) is rescued by the handsome prince who then marries her so that they can live happily ever after. Few girls are lucky enough to be brought up without the expectation that they will marry and have children. It was a belief and it would be many years before Louisa would conclude that a belief is a choice. Full Review

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Review of

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

The flyleaf to this little collection tells us that it is a work of fiction. That's possibly misleading. I am not sure whether it is "fiction" in the sense that Ahronglong made it all up, or whether it is as the blurb goes on to say recollections, folklore and autobiographical stories. It feels like the latter. It feels like the stories he tells about his experiences as a child, as an adolescent, as an adult are real and true. But memory is a fickle thing, and maybe poetic licence has taken over here and there, and maybe calling it fiction means that its safer and therefore more people will read it. More people should. Full Review

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Review of

A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros

5star.jpg Politics and Society

I confess I picked this one up from the library in my pre-lockdown forage of random stuff. Now I have to go out an buy my own copy so that I can turn down the pages I have marked and return to its varying wisdom when I need to. Some books draw you in slowly. This one had me in the first two pages, wherein Gros explains why walking is not a sport. Full Review

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Review of

Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes by Lun Zhang, Adrien Gombeaud, Ameziane and Edward Gauvin (translator)

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

I never really followed the events of Tiananmen Square with much attention when it was playing out – someone in the second half of their teens has other priorities, you know. I certainly didn't know of the weeks of protests and hunger strikes from the students before the massacre and the birth of the Tank Man image, I didn't know how the area had long been a venue for political protest, and I didn't know more than a spit about the people involved on either side. This book is practically flawless in giving a general browser's context for the whole season of protests back in 1989. Full Review

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Review of

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie

5star.jpg Biography

I normally say that you can tell how much a book means to me by how many pages have corners turned down. Perhaps an even greater measure of impact is setting out to buy my own copy before I've finished reading the one I've borrowed. I want to avoid clichés like 'powerful' 'inspiring' 'life-changing' – although it is definitely the first two and only time will tell about the third – but clichés exist for a reason and I'm not sure I can succinctly put it any better. Full Review

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Review of

The Double X Economy by Linda Scott

5star.jpg Politics and Society

Women are economically disadvantaged in every country in the world. It's a bold statement for an opening chapter, but it's far from hyperbole as the following pages explain. This book shines a light on what is happening in different places, and the impact on the local and world economy. What can be learnt from the great strides in gender-equalising legislation in the west? What can be done about the selling of young women into marriage, and what can chimpanzees and bonobos teach us about mothering? Full Review

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Review of

Slowdown by Danny Dorling

4star.jpg Politics and Society

We are living in a time of rapid change, and we're worried about it. Dorling tells us that the latter is normal, natural and probably good for us. We are designed to worry and with the current state of what we're doing in the world we have much to be worried about. However, over the next three-hundred-and-some pages, if you can follow the arguments, it sets out in scientific detail why either we shouldn't be as worried as we are, or in some cases that we're worrying about the wrong things. Mostly. Because mostly, things are not changing as rapidly as we think they are. In fact, the rate of change in many things is slowing down and the direction of change will in some cases go into reverse. Full Review

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Review of

Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis by Malena Ernman, Greta Thunberg, Beata Thunberg and Svante Thunberg

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The Ernman / Thunberg family seemed perfectly normal. Malena Ernman was an opera singer and Svante Thunberg took on most of the parenting of their two daughters. Then eleven-year-old Greta stopped eating and talking and her sister, Beata, then nine years old, struggled with what was happening. In such circumstances, it's natural to seek a solution close to home, but eventually, it became clear to the family that they were burned-out people on a burned-out planet. If they were to find a way to live happily again their solution would need to be radical. Full Review

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