Books for an Autumn of Inspiration

Looking out across the terrain of mainstream politics, here are some books to provide dreams of a better tomorrow.

Looking out across the terrain of mainstream politics, here are some books to provide dreams of a better tomorrow.

The Village against the World by Dan Hancox is a primer for any vision of hope. Utopian? No, rather it is rooted in the lived experience of communists with a social base in their community, the Spanish village of Marinaleda. Red Love by Maxim Leo is set in the grim reality of the former East Germany. By recounting his childhood and adolescence in the GDR Maxim brilliantly depicts the complexities of this experiment in state socialism.

Usefully collected into a single volume Modern Politics by CLR James provides a insight into the makings of one of the great dissident thinkers. Revolutionary History, Chaplin, Camus and Trotsky , the range is expansive, the writing incisive. Katherine Connelly has written a richly revealing biography of another political outsider Sylvia Pankhurst. A suffragette who struggled to contain her desire for change within one single-issue movement.

Sylvia Pankurst and CLR James represented dissident positions within the movement of ideas they are supposed to represent. There are countless examples of the unfulfilled that offer sparks of inspiration long after 1989 and the apparent End of History. Michael Rustin has written a new introduction to one such effort , the 1968 Mayday Manifesto available as a free download. Ranging over every conceivable aspect of any strategy for change this remains as fresh now as ever. Within five years of that most hopeful of years, 1968, the most brutal crushing of all those dreams had taken place, in Chile. Oscar Guardiola-Rivera's Story of a Death Foretold provides a detailed account of the full horror of the US-backed military coup.

Chile in 1973 was the crushing of hope on a grand scale. Such efforts to effect change should not be disconnected from those movements which sought change on a scale that might at first glance appear localised yet shared these grand ambitions too. One such example were Britain's Asian Youth Movements of the 1970s and 1980s, their history uncovered by Anandi Ramamurthy in his pioneering book Black Star.

Chronicling the 1980s has become almost a fixation amongst writers of a certain age .The Eighties One Day, One Decade by Dylan Jones takes Live Aid and all things 1985 as its starting point for a read of pop-culture as analysis. Alwyn Turner has written a modern social history across three decades, 1970-2000, in a trio of volumes, the latest A Classless Society brings his account up to the 1990s.

A politics of hope is are missing something if it fails to tap into the achievements of the European Left outside Britain. Crucible of Resistance details the creative resistance and leadership provided by Syriza as Greece's opposition party. That isn't to say resistance here doesn't exist, but Badger Resistance isn't probably quite the vision most Leftists have in their imagination of what this might look like. Patrick Barkham's wonderfully written Badgerlands helps to explain why the cull has sparked such resistance, broad, respectable, lawbreaking, by any means necessary.

Perhaps part of the problem with our political imaginations is the narrowness of our 'resources of hope' . Adding a hefty supply of box-sets might just do the trick. From The Wire to Breaking Bad this is gritty social realism given a Hollywood make-over, all adding up to unmissable TV drama. Brett Martin's Difficult Men is the essential read to uncover the writing that has helped make such great drama.

Any serious accounting of hopes for a better future must begin with taking childhood seriously as a social subject. Colour Me In! by Okido is aimed specifically at catering for the under 5's artistic inclinations. For the teenager Lydia Syson's That Burning Summer provides a very different World War Two story to the usual 'adventures for boys' variety. The history of the role of Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain provides a tale of loyalty and love.

The revival of the European Far Right is one of the most frightening outcomes of the era of austerity. The historical novel is a fine way of understanding the hideous appeal of fascism. CJ Sansom's Winter in Madrid is set in wartime Spain and engages with the bloody and hateful aftermath of the country's Civil War. The same author's Dominionprovides a powerfully written insight into the nature of appeasement. Laurent Binet's HhhH appears to deal with a very specific episode of WW2, the assassination of Himmler's number two in the Nazi SS, Reinhard Heydrich, like Dominion in many ways unpicks the meaning of appeasement.

Two writers have conjured up a style of resistance writing. Roddy Doyle has returned to his first writing love to revisit whatever happened to The Commitments in his long-awaited sequel The Guts. Scotland's Christopher Brookmyre mixes the socially conscious with an acute understanding of Scottishness and a plotline drenched in the gravest, and most imaginative, instances of violence. His latest book is Flesh Wounds.

And the pick of the autumn quarter? A book that combines hope and vision with a brilliant historical account intimately connected to the realities of the present. Gary Younge's superb The Speech : The Story Behind Martin Luther King's Dream. A pocket sized book to be read in one sitting and then light the fuse of social change.

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