Newest Politics and Society Reviews

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Man Up by Rebecca Asher

5star.jpg Politics and Society

When a couple of years ago my university introduced compulsory consent workshops along with an option of 'good lad' sessions for boys, all debate broke loose. Shouldn't consent be self-evident for everyone? Would the workshops reinforce the stereotype of 'laddish' boys? Would it all be about pointing fingers at boys and victimizing girls? What about non-binary people? In short, how could these workshops be anything else than a mission doomed to failure? Full review...

Outskirts by John Grindrod

4star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

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...

Radical Hope by Carolina de Robertis

4star.jpg Politics and Society

On 8th November 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the 46th President of the United States. Since then many Americans have been overcome with fear, worrying about what will become of American society during Trump's administration. Carolina de Robertis was no exception to this fear and in response to the newly elected President and his policies she put out a call for action. Radical Hope is the outcome to this call. De Robertis reached out to fellow writers and activists asking for letters, predominantly letters of love, addressed to the citizens of today and those of past and future generations in order to help spread hope during times of uncertainty. Full review...

Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew d'Ancona

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Our own post-truth era is what happens when society relaxes its defence of values that underpin cohesion, namely veracity, honesty and accountability.

I'm old enough or perhaps naive enough to believe that when making a decision about political voting, you should be able to rely absolutely on what the candidate tells you. I've been suspicious for a decade or more, but it's become difficult to ignore the change in political attitudes since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. With regard to the latter, when Trump was challenged on a statement he'd made which was subsequently found to be incorrect, his response was Who cares if I got it wrong? He was able to tap to the fading concept of 'the American Dream' - those Americans who were used to waiting patiently in line and who had found themselves overtaken by women, immigrants and public sector workers. Full review...

Wild Kingdom: Bringing Back Britain's Wildlife by Stephen Moss

4star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

Wildlife has been declining in Britain over the last few decades; it is an unfortunate by-product of human population growth, which in the modern world has increased significantly. Through this book Moss suggests a few ways in which we can start to bring back some of Britain's wildlife without compromising the human way of life: we can co-exist with nature. Full review...

Politics: Between the Extremes by Nick Clegg

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

The political landscape is changing rapidly at the moment. A little more than two years ago we were facing the end of the UK's first coalition government since World War II and fully expecting that we would see another. Instead we saw a Conservative government elected with a workable majority. Brexit saw the end of one Prime Minister and another elected by a few members of parliament. As I write we're facing another general election, with a Conservative landslide predicted. In two years we've seen the Liberal Democrats collapse from being part of the ruling coalition to a party whose MPs could hold a meeting in a decent-sized car. Full review...

Everywoman: One Woman's Truth About Speaking the Truth by Jess Phillips

3.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Everywoman announces itself proudly, with a chapter named The Truth about Speaking up. Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, tells us many times that she is gobby and that she has a loud voice. Her voice does come through, clear and urgent. Using her journey to Westminster and her experiences in Parliament, Phillips teaches the reader the truths she's learned on her journey. Full review...

Ethics for a Full World or, Can Animal-Lovers Save the World? by Tormod V Burkey

4star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

Burkey argues that man's current practices are outside the realms of nature. He is no longer part of the ecosystem, but instead exists above it through his dominating ways. He is himself distanced even further by advancement in technologies, industry, money and all the pollution that comes with them. The natural world, Burkey argues, no longer exists for man because he has altered it by such things. Indeed, global warming has caused climate change, which, if it continues, will make the world unrecognisable. For the world to become fuller, for it to be a world that seeks to provide for the needs of every living thing, then it needs to change. Full review...

The Future of Violence - Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones: Confronting the New Age of Threat by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum

4star.jpg Politics and Society

Looking back over this month, April 2017, the news has been full of terrorist attacks perpetrated by lone individuals. A suicide bombing on the St Petersburg Metro killed 15 people and injured 64 more. In Stockholm, Sweden, a hijacked truck steered into a pedestrian shopping area and department store. Most recently, a shooting in Paris just two days ago, claimed the life of a police officer and injured several others. Whilst it is true that governments have access to impressive, cutting-edge technology to combat terrorism, it is also a fact that these resources are becoming increasingly available to individuals. At what cost? Full review...

The Button Box by Lynn Knight

4star.jpg History

Buttons are the underdogs of the clothing world: dismissed as functional elements of clothing, falling into the same dustbin category with zips and shoe laces, they tend to be seen as necessary for keeping clothes on, rather than contributors to style. But Lynn Knight is set to prove that the opposite is true. We think nothing of lacing discussions about clothing and feminism with headscarves, bikinis, and underweight models – and buttons deserve a place on the pedestal of gender discussion, too. Full review...

Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn

5star.jpg History

The last 30 years have seen a tidal wave of change sweep the country with regards to how gay people are perceived and accepted. In 1984, the pulsing electronic beats of Smalltown Boy became an anthem to unite Gay Men, but just a month later, a virus called HIV would be identified, spreading a climate of panic and fear across the nation, and marginalising a community who were already ostracised. 30 years later though, the long road to gay equality would reach a climax with the legalistion of gay marriage. Journalist Paul Flynn charts this remarkable journey via the cultural milestones that affected this change - with interviews with such protagonists as Kylie, Russell T Davies, Will Young, Holly Johnson and Lord Chris Smith. This is the story of Britain's brothers, sons, cousins, fathers and husbands. Of public outrage and personal loss, the (not always legal) highs and desperate lows, and the final collective victory as Gay Men were finally recognised to be as Good As You. Full review...

Blades of Grass by Mark Aylwin Thomas

4.5star.jpg Biography

Any book that has me in tears at the end has been worth my time. Any book that has me hoping it will end differently to the way I know it must is worth the reading. Any book that convinces me that maybe there is still hope in the world – that for all the mistakes made thus far, still being made right now, there is a common humanity which ultimately, eventually, must do some good – that is worth the writing and the reading and the time. Blades of Grass is one such book. It's a forgotten story, an unknown story to most people. It is one that should be told – and reflected upon. Full review...

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston

5star.jpg True Crime

Jeremy Thorpe was the sort of person who was generally liked by others. He was flamboyant and gregarious but could give the impression that meeting someone had made his day. He never seemed to forget a name and he was witty, charismatic and very charming. He appeared to be a decent man, with views with which I would have agreed on race, capital punishment and membership of the Common Market, as the European Union was then known. For this was the nineteen sixties and Thorpe had entered Parliament at the age of thirty and by 1967 he would be party leader. On the surface he was a man who had everything going for him. Full review...

At The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

4star.jpg Politics and Society

You know that old saying about judging books by their cover? Ignore it! I have found that by judging a book by its cover and getting it completely wrong is a great way to find yourself committed to reading a book that you'd never have picked in a million years and yet, somehow, being amazingly glad you did. Full review...

The Benn Diaries: The Definitive Collection by Tony Benn and Ruth Winstone (editor)

5star.jpg Biography

Tony Benn must be one of the most famous diarists of the modern age. He kept a diary from his schooldays in the nineteen forties until he made his last entry in 2009, five years before his death. Benn was also a particularly charismatic politician: since my teens I've found myself listening to him believing that I disagreed with what he was saying and then realising that perhaps we weren't so far apart after all. Whatever he spoke about always gave food for thought. Of course the ideal way to enjoy the diaries would be to read the individual volumes, beginning with Years Of Hope: Diaries,Letters and Papers 1940-1962, but that's a lengthy undertaking and The Benn Diaries: The Definitive Collection edited by Ruth Winstone gives you the opportunity to sample the best of the diaries in a mere seven hundred or so pages. Be warned though: there has been a previous composite volume, also called The Benn Diaries and published in 1996. The current volume goes to 2009. Full review...

Quicksand by Henning Mankell

5star.jpg Autobiography

How do you judge a book? Not by its cover, we're told. In my case, often by the number of turned down corners or post-it-note-marked pages by the time I've finished reading it. Sometimes, by whether I worry about leaving its characters to fend for themselves while I take a break…or by how much of it stays with me afterwards or for how long. In this case, it doesn't matter. However, I judge Quicksand the judgement comes up the same. This collection of vignettes from an ageing, possibly dying, writer looking back on his own life is as powerful as it is simple, as easy to read as it is impossible to forget. Full review...

Morse Code Wrens of Station X by Anne Glyn-Jones

4.5star.jpg History

Bletchley Park is probably now the least secret of all the secret ops that went on during World War II. I for one am pleased about that: technology has moved on so far that there can't be anything that happened back then on the communications front that is worth continuing to shroud in mystery. With most of the participants either departed or at least in the departure lounge, the more recollections we can still gather the better. What remained secret far longer however, is the work of the telegraphers that served Station X: those posted to the Y-stations. There are few of them left to tell their tales, so I applaud those who finally saw fit (a) to release them from their life-long bonds of secrecy and (b) encourage them to write it down, tell us what it was really like. Full review...

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

5star.jpg Politics and Society

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

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

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...