THE BLOG

A Breath of Fresh Air

06/10/2014 11:18 BST | Updated 03/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Two writers in particular serve to symbolise a brightness of purpose outside the mainstream. Laurie Penny's Unspeakable Things is the latest collection of her writing.This is feminism with no apologies given, no compromises surrendered and a sharp-edged radicalism all the better for both.

The Establishment by Owen Jones is every bit as much a reason for igniting readers' optimism. Owen is described on the book's cover by Russell Brand no less as ' Our generation's Orwell' a bold yet fitting accolade.

Luciana Castellina's Discovery of the World recounts the experience of the post war anti-fascist Italian Left, dominated at first by the Italian Communist Party. Paul Preston's

The Last Stalinist is a superbly researched account of the life, times and misdeeds of former Spanish Communist Party General Secretary Santiago Carrillo and uniquely helps us to understand Stalinism in a west European context. Neil Davidson's

Holding Fast to an Image of the Past is a wide-ranging chronicle of alternatives to Stalinism that remain in, and of, the Left.

Unfinished Leninism by Paul Le Blanc is perhaps less eclectic in its coverage, the focus more specific, to recover Lenin from Leninism.

Chris Bambery's A People's History of Scotland deserves to become the primer of a post 18.09.2014 Scots Left.

A Collection of Ranter Writing edited by Nigel Smith is part of the process of uncovering our radical English past. Edited by Robert Collis and Philip Dodd

Englishness, Politics and Culture which with timely precision has recently been republished in a new edition. Dan Hind's short book The Magic Kingdom dissects the contradictions of a non-existent British constitution. Or for a masterclass of insights into the contradictions of the Union a most welcome collection of Tom Nairn's essays Old Nations, Auld Enemies, New Times.

Dave Sherry's

Empire and Revolution is a pocket-sized introduction to an alternative reading of World War One.

The Darkest Days by Douglas Newton recovers the causes behind Britain's entry into this most devastating of wars in 1914. 1914 Goodbye to All That edited by Lavinia Greenlaw addresses 1914-18 trom an impressively wide range of sources including Turkey , India and Belgium.

Localised spaces of resistance, linked together globally.. David Graeber's

The Democracy Project is the definitive record of the significance of this multi-faceted movement. They Can't Represent Us by Marina Sitrin and Dario Azzezellini links its account of the irresistible spread of direct action to a clear-sighted analysis of the mounting crisis of representative democracy. The furthest expression of such rejectionism is examined in Who's Afraid of the Black Blocs? by Francois Dupuis-Deri. .We Make Our Own History by Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen makes a spirited case for the enduring relevance of Marxism to understand protest movements. Occupy Media! by Christian Fuchs is in part a recognition of how deep the change that is needed in the theories and practice of traditional oppositional politics. Michael L. Sifry's

The Big Disconnect is a brilliant critique of wilful enthusiasm in blissful ignorance of how big business retains the capacity to dominate much of social media. And to drill all this down to the personal, have a read of Graham Allcott's highly original How To Be a Productivity Ninja.

The ABC of Socialism by John Rees neatly sets out the basic case for socialism.

Open Tribe by Sue Goss is an honest response that on the Left none of our forms of organising are exactly thriving.

Women against Fundamentalism edited by Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Nira Yuval-Davis is a book that bristles with hope.

Lewis Minkin carefully catalogues inThe Blair Supremacy how the Blairites first secured control of the party and then Labour's ambitions, such as they were, in government too.

James Meek has written the most devastating critique of the selling off of public utilities in his new book Private Island. The latest, and free, instalment of the After Neoliberalism manifesto is available now to download. Written by Doreen Massey and Michael Rustin, Rethinking the Neoliberal World Order. Harry Leslie Smith"s Harry's Last Stand. Harry is one of the '45 generation, who fought fascism, saw Labour start to build a new society, and now see all this on the verge of destruction matched by a rise in hatred and intolerance.

Patrick Cockburn's The Jihadis Return provides an unrivalled insight into what ISIS represents.

Against the Grain edited by Evan Smith and Matthew Worley is a superb collection cataloguing the whys and wherefores for the Far Left's decline, along with their rare moments of breakthrough.

In the 1970s few offered a more fundamental challenge to traditional masculinity than David Bowie, a musical career described in these and other broader social and cultural terms in Simon Critchley's short book Bowie. Or towards the end of that same decade the challenge by some in Punk to femininity too, most notably from the all-girl band The Slits, their tale superbly retold by Viv Albertine in her autobiographical Clothes, Music, Boys.Sarah Boseley's The Shape We're Inis a convincing case-study in the central importance of food to all our lives.

Hack Attack by Nick Davies is written like a thriller by the journalist more responsible than any other for bringing Murdoch's corrupt empire to its knees. Jimy Savile's posthumous unmasking as quite possibly the biggest sex criminal Britain has ever known is chronicled by Dan Davies in his In Plain Sight.

Roddy Doyle's Two More Pints uses the ingenious device of pub conversational dialogue to record and explore popular disengagement with the mainstream. Joseph O'Connor's The Thrill of It All has an eye, and ear, for music culture that few of even the best rock journalists can match.

The recent National Theatre stage production of the children's book Emil and the Detectives made abundantly clear the anti-fascist context, and commitment, of the book and its author, Erich Kastner. Pushkin Press have reissued two of Erich's lesser known books, a treasure-trove of childhood reading. Or for a more modern treat Roddy Doyle's

Brilliant.

Good Ideas.reveals why the author, Michael Rosen, cares so much about the miseducation of so many children.

My book of the quarter? Hope by Nick Lowles is an uplifting account of the epic, and ultimatelly successful campaign to defeat Nick Griffin's Brtish National Party. Political reportage, superb photography, practical advice framed by experience, this is a book to inspire.

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