Newest Politics and Society Reviews

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A Bradford Apprenticeship by Donald Naismith

4star.jpg Politics and Society

with all schools removed from their control and established as freestanding and self-governing academies. In effect this would (and possibly will) mean that what was once a national service, locally administered will become a local service, nationally administered. Donald Naismith is perhaps best known as the former Chief Education Officer of Richmond-upon-Thames, Croydon and then Wandsworth but his education and formative working years took place in his adopted home city of Bradford. In A Bradford Apprenticeship he gives us an affectionate tribute to the city which made him what he is and his thoughts on the education system. Bradford was once one of the country's leading education authorities and he values the opportunities it gave him to fine tune his thinking. Full review...

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt

4star.jpg Politics and Society

I must confess that A Woman Looking spoke to me on a profound, intimate level. This is in part due to the apparent similarities between me and Siri Hustvedt - we are both feminists who love art and also love science in a world which emphasises that these two passions are mutually exclusive. What Hustvedt suggests in A Woman Looking is that it is the similarities between these two areas we should emphasise and that a cohesive, inclusive approach towards art and science could help fill the gaps in both disciplines. Full review...

The Great Brexit Swindle: Why the Mega-Rich and Free Market Fanatics Conspired to Force Britain from the European Union by T J Coles

3.5star.jpg Business and Finance

Have you been mis-sold Brexit by posh men in sharp suits promising you free healthcare? If so, you might be entitled to compensation...

There wasn't much could make me laugh on the morning after the EU referendum but this spoof advert on Twitter managed it. Only, it seems that it wasn't completely a joke - well apart from the bit about compensation. In The Great Brexit Scandal T J Coles looks at the substantial core of free marketeers in the Conservative party who were determined to rid the UK of the Brussels red tape which was putting a brake on their activities. You might also know these views as neoliberalism, an ideology which looks to deregulate markets and maximise profits. On the surface that doesn't sound bad, until you realise that the benefit will go to the people who are already in the group which Coles refers to as the mega-rich and the losers will be working people. Full review...

That's Not English by Erin Moore

5star.jpg Politics and Society

It's not clear who first coined the expression divided by a common language about Brits and Americans, but as this highly entertaining book demonstrates, it isn't our language that divides us. On the contrary the language simply reflects the divisions that exist. We tend to watch a lot of TV at home, but rarely find anything that totally engrosses us. As a result we tend to talk over a lot of TV. We play games with some of what we watch. One of those games is spotting anachronisms. Another is "would she ever have got the job" – particularly fun with crime programmes that think it's ok for lab techs to have long free-flowing locks when doing evidence analysis or have Detective Sergeants who frankly wouldn't have passed their CV submission. A long-running one involves spotting the spread of British English in American TV shows. Erin Moore explains why. Not directly, indeed I'm not sure she even makes the connection – but the fact that there are a lot more Brits in the higher echelons of US TV-making might just explain why CSI, NCIS, Law and Order and a whole host of other shows will slip in words like wallet, handbag, boot (of a car), pavement… Full review...

The World is Elsewhere by Chris McIvor

5star.jpg Autobiography

As a Country Director, Chris McIvor has worked for a number of years at Save the Children. 'The World is Elsewhere' covers his time there and, his journeys across a number of countries. It is a beautiful mix of autobiography and travel. It also captures his philosophical thoughts on international aid. He reflects on both the good and the bad with a very easy, conversational writing style that makes the book truly captivating. I read from cover to cover in a single sitting, unusual for a reviewer. Such was the draw as he laid himself bare. Full review...

The Crime and the Silence by Anna Bikont

4star.jpg History

Where was your father? Where was your brother, your mother, your uncle? These are the questions Anna Bikont struggles to ask during her investigation into a shocking act of violence committed against the Jewish community in Jedwabne during the summer of 1941. The Crime and the Silence weaves together journals, interviews and pictures to share the story of a community torn apart by hatred and intolerance. It is also a moving testament to the dedication of Bikont, who documents her struggle to find the truth with grace and dignity in the face of silence, rationalisation, and even anger, from members of the Polish community who would rather not stir up the crimes of the past. Full review...

Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain by Kate Harrad

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Before reading Kate Harrad's thought provoking insight into bisexuality in Britain I have to confess to being as guilty of the misconceptions surrounding the subject as everyone else. It is only when you read this collection of essays and anecdotes, you realise the prejudice they face on a daily basis. The very nature of bisexuality is widely misunderstood by the heterosexual and gay communities alike. As a result bisexuals find themselves marginalised, or, in the worst-case scenario, completely ostracised. Far from having, the best of both worlds, they are considered to be sitting on the fence, unable to come to terms with their true sexuality. Purple Prose tackles these myths and ill-informed ideas head on, and in the process shows a community that does have many issues, just not the ones that are being laid at their door. Full review...

Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World by Wade Graham

4.5star.jpg History

Between 1950 and 2014 the world's urban population increased from 746 million to 3.9 billion. The urbanising trend is set to continue with the United Nations predicting that by the middle of the century 66% of us will be city dwellers, a massive six billion people. How have city planners and architects tried to cope with the recent surge? How can they avoid repeating mistakes from the past? Both of those questions are considered in Dream Cities – Seven Urban Ideas That Shape The World, Wade Graham's excellent field guide to the modern world. Full review...

Britain's Secret Wars by T J Coles

5star.jpg Politics and Society

Britain's Secret Wars is a chilling and disturbing book to read. With all four corners of the globe hell-bent on conflict, oppression and injustice, our sanitised media portrays Britain, as a nation, responding to harrowing global events. What is chilling, in T J Coles book, is that the political establishment, through the military and intelligence community appear to be complicit in instigating many of them. What is disturbing is that the majority of information he has used to form his analysis and conclusion is freely available and in the public domain. Full review...

An Annoyance of Neighbours: Life is Never Dull When You Have Neighbours! by Angela Lightburn

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You can choose your friends. You can't choose your relatives, but you can - usually - put some physical distance between you and them, but you can't choose your neighbours and once you're there it can be very expensive or even impossible to break the link. Now, I can't give you any advice on this thorny subject as it's more than thirty years since I've been in a position to have anything to complain about, but Angela Lightburn knows all there is to know. She's spent years collating all the different problems which people have with their neighbours and ways of improving the situation which don't involve a lengthy prison sentence. Full review...

Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Here we are, world, in the midst of a new Renaissance. What will it be, to flounder or to flourish?

The central aim of this discourse is to highlight our current position, and the fact that there is a choice to be made. The authors date 1990 as the dawn of a new, and our present, Renaissance. As with the last, this time warrants in a whole host of risks, but it also offers the opportunity to reap the benefits of the changes occurring across the globe. Full review...

Buy Me The Sky by Xinran, Esther Tyldesley and David Dobson

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These single-sprout children are more precious than gold, says a Chinese woman to the author. Buy Me The Sky asks what it's like to grow up as gold through Xinran's conversations with ten adults from the first generation of China's only children. In the highly informative introduction, she tells the story of a 22 year old male student who, in 2010, ran over a female migrant worker in his car, and then was so fearful of the consequences that he brutally murdered her. He was tried and executed in a hugely divisive case with some seeing him as an evil perpetrator and others, a victim. Full review...

Broken Vows: Tony Blair The Tragedy of Power by Tom Bower

4star.jpg Biography

In May 1997 we went to vote gleefully, sure that there was going to be a change from the tired, sleaze-ridden Conservative government we'd been suffering. The Blairs' entry into Downing Street the following day - through crowds of well-wishers - was like a breath of fresh air and (perhaps fortunately) it would be years before I discovered that the 'well wishers' had been bussed in for the event. Looking back now it seems that our hopes for what the 'New Labour' government could achieve were unreasonably high and there's a special place in hell reserved for those who disappoint us in this way. I've often wondered quite how history will see Blair: Afghanistan and Iraq as well as his failure to deal with Gordon Brown would always sour his premiership for me, but to what extent could his achievements such as the Good Friday Agreement, the minimum wage and higher welfare payments be balanced against his failures? Full review...

The Lady and the Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Freedom by Peter Popham

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On 13 November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest after spending 15 of the previous 21 years as a prisoner of Burma's military junta. Political reforms soon followed, culminating with Suu (as she prefers to be known) being elected to parliament. The West rejoiced; leaders, business men, and tourists poured in; and Suu entered the pantheon of modern-day political heroes. Burma was a burgeoning democracy, and Suu was a saint. In reality, as Peter Popham argues in 'The Lady and the Generals', the situation was far more complex. Full review...

The New Threat From Islamic Militancy by Jason Burke

4star.jpg Politics and Society

Barely a day passes without Islamic militancy making headlines somewhere in the world, and yet it can be a hard subject to grasp. The sudden rise of Islamic State and their campaign of shocking violence both in the Middle East and further afield has left many confused and fearful, and has provoked a sometimes extreme political response. In "The New Threat From Islamic Militancy", Jason Burke, a journalist with two decades of experience reporting on the Islamic world, attempts to correct the many misconceptions about Islamic extremism to give a true understanding of the threat we now face. Full review...

Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads by Benedict Rogers

3.5star.jpg History

Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and journalist with an expert insight into Burma, gathered first-hand on journeys to regions off the beaten track. Burma is a country under the iron rule of a succession of military regimes, struggling with over half a century of suffering, much unknown to the wider international audience. Full review...

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left by Roger Scruton

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Thinkers of the New Left first came out in 1985, under Thatcher's government. British left-wing intellectuals gave it savage reviews. The publisher was threatened with a boycott and the book was withdrawn from bookshops. Roger Scruton feels this caused his university career to decline. In the introduction, he says he is reluctant to return to the scene of such a disaster. However, this is a subject he is clearly passionate about, having worked with underground networks in communist Europe and seen the destructive reality behind the fashionable leftist ways of thinking. Full review...

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

5star.jpg Autobiography

She's a phenomenon is my OH's response to any mention of Malala. I can't disagree on some level, but what this book proves is that on another she is just a girl. One voice among many. It's just that she decided to speak louder than most. We know about Malala because she got lucky. She got lucky because when she got shot by the Taliban there were people nearby, doctors who got her to a hospital, and then luckier still because when her condition worsened, nearby there were western doctors with access to western facilities and she was flown to the UK for treatment. Full review...

From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generation by Allan Metcalf

3.5star.jpg Trivia

I have to go a roundabout way to introducing this book, so bear with me. It stems partly from dictionaries and the etymology of the language we use, but more so if anything from a different couple of books, and their ideas of generations. The authors of those posited the idea that all those archetypical generations – the Baby Boomers, the Millennials, and those before, in between and since – have their own cyclical pattern, and the history of humanity has been and will be formed by the interplay of just four different kinds, running (with only one exception) in regular order. I don't really hold much store by that, and I certainly didn't know we'd started one since the Millennials – who the heck decides such things, for one? Somebody must have put out an order, as someone here says of something else. But in the same way as generations get defined by collective persons unknown, so do words – and those words are certainly a clue to what was important, predominant and of course spoken in each decade. Full review...

Campaigns that Shook the World: The Evolution of Public Relations by Danny Rogers

5star.jpg Business and Finance

I dithered about how to begin this review. On one hand I thought I should probably start by saying that I have a work related interest in marketing and communications. On the other hand, Danny Rogers has written a book which appealed to me on several levels. Campaigns are about psychology and storytelling – which of course leads us into branding but also feature critical issues around concept delivery. In short, I was looking forward to reading this for many reasons – and it didn’t disappoint. Full review...

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

There are enough LA rappers around to attest that living as a black man in South Central is no easy task. Dismiss these urban lyricists at your peril, as crude they may be, but Ghettoside will soon inform the disbeliever that life on the streets of LA is hard. With a 40 times higher chance of being murdered than a white person in America, what made the LA of the 80s through to the late 2000s such a dangerous place to live for young black men? Full review...

Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates

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I know Holland in the way everyone does. Pancakes and windmills and Pot, oh my. But it's one of the few European countries I've never lived in for any period of time, and so I was intrigued to know more. Full review...

I Used to Know That: History by Emma Marriott

4star.jpg Politics and Society

I've picked up a few things over the years, most notably from English language text books while TEFLing abroad (there's nothing like an exciting lesson on Guy Fawkes to have a classroom of Mexicans wondering why we so love to celebrate a terrorist attack that didn't happen). But I have gaps, of this I am sure, and I thought to get a basic understanding of, well, the basics that we all should know, a quick read of this book wouldn't hurt. Full review...

I Should Know That - Great Britain by Emma Marriott

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

I am a dreadful Brit. I'm better at the geography of Colombia than the UK (true story, I had to google where Essex was the other day). Despite 17 years of full time education in the UK, I probably wouldn't pass a simple citizenship test. Which is a little embarrassing, really. So when this book came up for review I thought I'd have it, both for interest and as a subtle way to brush up on my Britain. Full review...

Capitalism and Human Values by Tony Wilkinson

4star.jpg Politics and Society

Tony Wilkinson has a first class honours degree in philosophy and has worked in government service and investment management - the ideal background for a consideration of capitalism and the human values which propel it. It's not too long ago - certainly within my lifetime - that religion largely dictated the values held by individuals, but true religious belief now seems to be the exception rather than the rule. In its place we have a society for whom consumerism is the driving force - and a widening gap between those who can afford to consume and those who cannot. As Wilkinson says Getting and spending have come to define who we are. Full review...

Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans by Luke Gittos

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

It is said that we live in a rape culture. Tabloid headlines scream that the number of rapes is on the increase and that the police and the courts are failing to deal with the problem. There's a belief that the rate of conviction is consistently low. It's also said that sexism and misogyny have created a society in which rape is a regular occurrence, frequently not reported to the police and that society at large doesn't really care. Luke Gittos, a solicitor practicing criminal law, argues that these claims are based on myths and misunderstandings of the statistics and that far from improving the way that rape and sexual assaults are dealt with it's actually working against the interests of victims. Full review...

Night Games: A Journey to the Dark Side of Sport by Anna Krien

4.5star.jpg Sport

Mere mortals relax by having a game of footy of a weekend and a couple of drinks, but what does a professional sportsman do to cut loose? What do they do when they go out en masse? Investigative journalist Anna Krien looks at a rape trial of an Australian Rules footballer, just into his twenties and follows the case as it goes to court, interviewing some of those directly or indirectly involved and digressing into related areas. In deference to the fact that the woman had automatic anonymity she's chosen to give the man who was charged the name of 'Justin' in an attempt to level the playing field, so to speak. You could Google the facts and come up with the correct name, but this isn't a book of gossip about particular people. It's an investigation of a culture which has increasingly treated women as sexual commodities. Full review...

Neither Nowt Nor Summat: In search of the meaning of Yorkshire by Ian McMillan

4star.jpg Politics and Society

Ian McMillan, poet, radio presenter, poet in residence at Barnsley Football Club and professional Yorkshireman, is worried. It has crossed his mind that he might not be Yorkshire enough, given that his father was not from God's Own County, but was a Scot by birth. In a series of discursions on the subject of Yorkshire he attempts to distil the essence of the county and to understand what being a Yorkshireman means. To this end we accompany him through towns and cities, the Cudworth Probus Club, Ilkley Moor and elicit contributions from Mad Geoff the barber, a kazoo-playing train guard and four Saddleworth council workers in search of a mattress. Amongst others. All of Yorkshire life is here. Including Yorkshire puddings. Full review...