Newest Politics and Society Reviews

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

Yuval Noah HarariIf gave us Sapiens, which told the history of mankind and then Homo Deus which looked at mankind's future. Now we have 21 Lessons for the 21st Century which looks at the challenges we currently face and it's enlightening, thought-provoking and occasionally just a little bit frightening. It's unlikely that mankind will face what - eighty years ago - would have been thought of as a traditional war, with armies, navies and air forces fighting it out hand to hand. It's much more likely that the threats we'll face will be relatively new. Harari looks at them in some depth. Full Review

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Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism by Ian Bremmer

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

It wasn't supposed to be like this, was it? Every day seems to bring yet more news of doom and gloom. The spectre of terrorism hangs over most of the world, fuelling refugee crises and worries about national security. People keep saying that robots are coming to take all our jobs. Anti-establishment political parties are making huge gains in countries all around the world. And inequality is as much of a problem as it ever was – if not more so. Full Review

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

As I began listening to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of the President of the United States taking to Twitter to establish that he was a stable genius, as opposed, we must conclude to being an unstable... Well, let's not go there. It's a little too frightening: this is the most powerful man in the world. So what made me listen to this book? Well, Donald Trump didn't want me to read it: US presidents don't often go down that road and rarely to a good destination (I'm thinking of Richard Nixon here) and that made me really want to know what was between the covers. But how did the book stack up? Full Review

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Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews History, Politics and Society

Fantasyland covers the history of America from 1517 to 2017 in awesome detail. Covering five centuries of tempestuous history, Andersen paints the conjuring of America in vivid relief. Discussing everything from pilgrims to politicians, the exhilarating gold rush to alternative facts, seminal episodes are explored in forensic detail with razor sharp wit. Full Review

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Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class by Nathan Connolly

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

Simple summary: Know Your Place is an anthology of essays on the working class by the working class. There are twenty-three disparate pieces talking about everything you can imagine: day trips to the seaside, access to the arts, food poverty, pub culture, glass ceilings, housing estates, vulgarity-as-class-marker, and much more.

And a full disclosure: Know Your Place was brought to fruition by crowdfunding and I was a contributor. I read the proposed spec and just knew I would love the book, should it reach its fundraising target, and that's why I stumped up some cash. I think class is both an under- and mis-discussed topic with working class people defined externally and talked about rather than listened to or allowed to define themselves. And I really did love the book just as I thought I would. So you know - there's a possible reviewer bias here that you should know about. I like to think I would have criticised Know Your Place had it fallen short of my hopes for it but just in case, I'm letting you know. Full Review

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Don't Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms by Harry Leslie Smith

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society, Autobiography


Don't Let My Past Be Your Future: A Call to Arms is part autobiography and part rallying call for society to tackle the systemic, endemic and debilitating inequality faced by the people of the United Kingdom, particularly in the North. Through reflecting on his own experiences during his childhood, Harry Leslie Smith has painted a frank and uncompromising picture of the grim, appallingly miserable childhood he had to endure due to the poverty faced by his family contrasted with the, shamefully still, grim and miserable lives many people endure today in a country ravaged by cuts, austerity and political turmoil. Full Review

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China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography Politics and Society, Travel

Having worked for nine years in Bejing as a journalist for the BBC, author Michael Bristow decided to write about Chinese history. Having been learning the local language for several years, Bristow asked his language teacher for guidance - the language teacher, born in the early fifties, offered Bristow a compelling picture of life in Communist China - but added to that, Bristow was greatly surprised to find that his language teacher also enjoyed spending his spare time in ladies clothing. It soon becomes clear that the tale told here is immensely personal - yet also paints a fascinating portrait of one of the world's most intriguing nations. Full Review

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Swell by Jenny Landreth

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society, Sport, Biography

I love Jenny's own description of her book as a waterbiography and I love her encouragement that we should each write our own. This is more than just (I say just!) a recollection of the author's own encounters with water; it's also a history of women's fight for the right to swim. That sounds absurd until you start reading about it, then it becomes serious. Not too serious though – because Jenny Landreth is clearly a lover of the absurd. Not a lover of book blurbs myself, I do always seek to give a shout-out to those who get it dead right: in this case I'm definitely with Alexandra Heminsley's giggles-on-the-commute funny. Full Review

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Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Travel, Politics and Society

I cancelled my Country Walking magazine subscription about a year ago and the only thing I miss is Stuart Maconie's column. His down-to-earth approach and sharp wit belie an equally sharp intellect and a soul more sensitive than he might be willing to admit. Let's be honest, though, I picked this one up because of someone else's review, in which I spotted names like Ferryhill and Newton Aycliffe. Places I grew up in. Like Maconie I have no connection (that I know of) to the Jarrow Crusade but when he talks about it being a whole matrix of events reducible to one word like Aberfan, Hillsborough, or Orgreave then somehow it does become part of my history too. Tangentially, at least. Full Review

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Outskirts by John Grindrod

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Animals and Wildlife, Autobiography

Outskirts is an interesting take on a phenomenon of the modern age: the introduction of the green belt of countryside surrounding inner city housing estates. John Grindrod grew up on the edge of one such estate in the 1960's and '70's, as he puts it, I grew up on the last road in London. Grindrod explores the introduction of the green belt, and the various fights and developments it has gone through over the subsequent decades, as environmental and political arguments have affected planning decisions. Within this topic, he has somehow managed to wind around his personal memories of childhood, producing a memoir with a lot of heart. Full Review

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Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London by Lauren Elkin

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews History, Autobiography

Lauren Elkin is down on suburbs: they're places where you can't or shouldn't be seen walking; places where, in fiction, women who transgress boundaries are punished (thinking of everything from Madame Bovary to Revolutionary Road). When she imagines to herself what the female version of that well-known historical figure, the carefree flâneur, might be, she thinks about women who freely wandered the world's great cities without having the more insalubrious connotation of the word 'streetwalker' applied to them. Full Review

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Surgery on the Shoulders of Giants: Letters from a doctor abroad by Saqib Noor

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Autobiography, Politics and Society

The letters begin much in the fashion of any young man away from home, perhaps in a quite exciting country, writing back to family and friends to tell them of his experiences, the sights he's seen and the people he's met. It's just a little different in Surgery on the Shoulders of Giants though: Saqib Noor is a junior doctor, training to be an orthopaedic surgeon and over a period of ten years he visited six countries, not as a tourist but to give medical assistance. They're countries which Noor describes as fourth world - third world with added disaster - and their need is desperate. Full Review

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Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia by Francis O'Gorman

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

After a glut of books about mindfulness it came as something of a relief to encounter Forgetfulness, Francis O'Gorman's thinking on why the twenty-first century is losing touch with the past, on why what is likely - or could be made - to happen is so much more important than what has gone before. The book is supremely intelligent, but with the knowledge worn lightly and it's eminently readable, regardless of how you feel about the conclusions he draws. Full Review

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Culture and Society 1780-1950 by Raymond Williams

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

From the last decades of the eighteenth century to the final words of modernism, this book tracks societal changes through exploring five key words: industry, democracy, class, art and culture. The meanings of such things, their essence, changes as per their use and the era in which their implications were considered. Full Review

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Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our times by Patrick West

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

Get Over Yourself considers Nietzsche's imagined perceptions of modern society and uses our society to explain his philosophy. I'm sorry if that sounds vague but it's the best I can do from the blurb on the back. After reading Get Over Yourself from cover to cover, I am still none the wiser about the purpose of this book. It appears to be a series of personal opinions held together with quotes, which don't always appear relevant, from Nietzsche, Chumbawumba and newspaper articles. Full Review

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The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

An account of the fate of Al Qaeda and the Bin Laden family since the events of 9/11, The Exile plunges into the murky waters of international terrorism, espionage and politics. Detailed and meticulous, the book tackles the subject from all angles, providing a panoramic view of the subject and acting to enlighten and inform the reader. Full Review

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Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson

link=Category:{{{rating}}} Star Reviews Politics and Society

Can I Speak to Someone in Charge?, blogger Emily Clarkson's debut book, is a fierce, witty and laugh-out-loud funny ode to feminism. In a series of open letters, she addresses the issues faced by every modern woman, discussing everything from dealing with body hair to being made to feel uncomfortable in the gym, as well as more personal issues, like her experiences of being 'catfished' and sent abuse online. This is a vital read for any girl born in the 1990s, tackling some very serious social injustices beneath its fun exterior. Full Review