MARK PERRYMAN runs down his list of political picks
A YEAR ago, as Labour sought to recover from the May general election defeat, halls were starting to fill up for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign rallies. But even as the halls got bigger and the queues round the block longer, few would ever have imagined that this would result in the left for once being on the winning side.
The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs never accepted the vote, they bided their time and chose the moment for their coup and in a fashion to cause maximum damage.
Now, a year on, those halls will be once more filling for up Corbyn all summer long. Richard Seymour’s Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics is to date the best, and the definitive, account of what Corbyn’s victory the first time round meant. One year on, the essential summer 2016 read.
A Better Politics by Danny Dorling is a neat combination of catchy ideas and practical policies towards a more equal society. In her new book Respectable, Lynsey Hanley provides an explanation of modern class relations that effortlessly mixes the personal and the political. George Monbiot’s epic How Did We Get Into This Mess serves to remind us of the scale of the economic and environmental crisis we are up against.
Podemos: In the Name of the People is a highly original set of conversations between theorist Chantal Mouffe and Inigo Errejon, political secretary of the Spanish party, and is introduced by Owen Jones.
Labour’s Identity Crisis: England and the Politics of Patriotism — edited by Tristram Hunt — has much on an issue vital post Brexit. Taking a tour round Britain to portray the state of the nation(s) is fairly familiar territory for writers on Britishness but Island Story by JD Taylor still manages to stand out thanks to the author’s sense of purpose, tenacity and a bicycle.
The Ministry of Nostalgia from Owen Hatherley is more of a demolition than a deconstruction of the rewriting of our history that lies behind this, and all the better for it.
Anglo-populism is mired in the issue of immigration as a mask for its racism. Angry White People by Hsiao-Hung Pai encounters the extremities of this on the far right. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation is a good starting point towards a similar popular anti-racism emerging on this side of the Atlantic sometime soon.
Of course Black Lives Matter didn’t emerge in a political vacuum, it connected movements that date back to the 1950s and ’60s, connections which are expertly made by Angela Davis in her new book Freedom is a Constant Struggle.
Do the deepening fractures around race spell a new era of uprisings?
Quite possibly, though their political trajectory and outcomes remain uncertain. Joshua
Clover comes down firmly on the side of the optimistic reading in Riot. Strike. Riot. A handy companion volume would be Strike Art by Yates McKee, which helpfully explains the protest culture created via the Occupy movement. Shooting Hipsters is an account of, and practical guide to, how acts of dissent can break through into and beyond the mainstream media. And for the dark side? Mara Einstein’s Black Ops Advertising details the many ways in which corporate PR operations have sought to colonise social media.
A Full Life by Tom Keough and Paul Buhle uses a comic strip to illustrate the life, times and ideals of Irish rebel James Connolly. Alternatively enjoy the extraordinary range of writing from the Spanish civil war compiled by Pete Ayrton in ¡No Pasaran!
Owen Hatherley’s carefully crafted The Chaplin Machine provides an insight into the revolutionary aesthetic in the immediate aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution. It is a period that is recorded with considerable skill by the twice-yearly journal Twentieth Century Communism.
Of course there are plenty who would seek to bury all of this. David Aaronovitch comes to the last rites with his brilliantly written if flawed Party Animals, which takes aim with his personal biography at the end of one history. An entirely different perspective is provided by Jodi Dean and her latest book Crowds and Party, an impassioned account of modern protest movements as the enduring case for a mass party of social and political change.
But the here and now of a super soaraway summer perhaps demands more immediate resources of hope than the promise of a better tomorrow. Plenty of these to be found in The Good Life Eatery Cookbook with a mix of good-for-you, temptingly delicious-looking photography.
Highly recommended reading for the sunbather searching for a dash of a thriller for a mental getaway is Chris Brookmyre’s latest Black Widow. And for the children? Tow-Truck Pluck. Pushkin Press do the hard work for parents, tracking down the best in European kids’ books, translating, repackaging and producing such gems as this, a best-selling children’s read from the Netherlands.
And my book of the quarter? Summertime picnics for the fortunate, worrying about what we eat and the effect it has on our health for some, the spread of foodbanks testament to the failure of austerity politics. Few writers could appeal to both the modern obsession with food as well as to consciences concerned with those who don’t have enough of it to get by, never mind baking-off. But Josh Sutton does with his pioneering account Food Worth Fighting For. This is social history that packs a punch while written in a style and with a focus to transform readers into fighting foodies.
• Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled “sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction” Philosophy Football.