The Blog

Presents Tense

A guide for books to give the Lefty in your life this Christmas:

A superb read therefore over the 12 days of Christmas would be the poetry collection compiled by Carol Ann Duffy 1914 Poetry Remembers, moving and thought-provoking from the War Poets and today's verse-writers too. An equally moving recollection is provided by Nicholas Rankin's Telegram from Guernica. The extraordinary story of war reporter George Steer, and in particular how he smuggled out from Spain in full gruesome detail the horrific impact of the carpet bombing of Guernica. Beverley Naidoo's beautifully written Death of An Idealist. tells in graphic and merciless detail, the tale of the murder by the Apartheid authorities of a young, white, doctor who had dedicated himself to providing medical help in South Africa's Black townships.

Jeremy Gilbert's superb Common Ground : Democracy and Collectivity in a Age of Individualism provides a timely analysis of how to turn me-me-me of rampant Christmas consumerism into something better. A wonderfully philosophical perspective on what it means to resist is provided by Howard Caygill's On Resistance. Or if you can't keep yourself away from the smartphone over the season, justify all that button-pushing with a read of the incisive analysis of all things social media provided by Paolo Gerbaudo's Tweets and the Streets Alternatively take a break from all the present-giving and spoil yourself with a free read. By Beatrix Campbell, free to download, After Neoliberalism : The Need for a Gender Revolution. Just the thing to spice up the conversation round the Christmas dinner table after arguing who is doing the washing-up! A writer and thinker often unfairly as a difficult read is Slavoj Zizek. Yet easy to read while also refreshingly iconoclastic was last year's collection on 2011's twelve months pf protest The Year of Dreaming Dangerously. Slavoj Zizek is as much a cultural phenomenon as simply a political philosopher. His new book Demanding The Impossible is an excellent introduction to both the breadth and depth of Zizek's ideas.

A treat for those of a slightly more traditional politics, you can't go wrong with he final diary collection of the peerless Tony Benn, A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine. The annual collection Socialist Register has a great range and is always bang up-to-date, the latest edition Registering Class is the Register's 50th.

Lesley Riddoch's Blossom is a very well-written exploration of Scotland's past, present and future identity and how the cause of independence is intimately connected to a Scottish political culture which is fundamentally framed by social-democratic values.

How to Be Danish by Patrick Kingsley, is all about the land of Borgen and The Killing. Stefan Zweig's Shooting Stars is a collection of portraits of turning points in history, the perfect stocking-filler for the Europhile in your life. Or Patrick Cockburn's A Colossal Wreck. This is road movie writing, uncovering all that is wrong with modern America while never denying its lasting fascination.

Providing an unrivalled insight into the soundtrack of our lives is Bob Stanley's magisterial story of modern pop Yeah Yeah Yeah. However for the children of the 1980s there will be only one book to explain away their obsession with indie-pop, jangly guitars and a curious love affair with all things kitchen sink and dramatic. Anything but ghosted, the sublime Autobiography by Morrissey.

2013 boasts two of the best political novels of recent years. DJ Taylor's The Windsor Faction is a splendidly disrespectful counterfactual history that questions the perceived patriotism of King Edward VIII and his notoriously pro-HItler views. If he hadn't abdicated what if... David Leavitt's The Two Hotel Francourts is set in a similar period, the wartime 1940s, but in the less familiar surround of supposedly neutral 1940 Lisbon. The personal politics of exile, escape and betrayal are weaved together, absolutely brilliant.

The inestimably good Pushkin Press have recently published the first four titles of a Childrens writing series ' Save the Story.' Perfect for readers. old, young or in-between. The selection includes Jonathan Coe's Story of Gulliver, Ali Smith's The Story of Antigone and from Dave Eggers The Story of Captain Nemo..

An absolute must to add to any leftie-foodie's Christmas list just has to be one of the quirkiest titles of the year. Anya von Bremzen's Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Collectivise the kitchen , more Marx with sparks than Marks and Sparks TV dinners. This book was my most delightful discovery of the year.

But my choice for the perfect Christmas read? What a pleasure it was to read the newly translated A Civil War : A History of the Italian Resistance by Claudio Pavone. This truly deserves to be described as a 'masterwork', the definitive history of one the most committed partisan movements of World War Two, absolutist anti-fascism from the barrel of a gun. And a movement decisively shaped by the divisions and arguments that would produce the most successful Communist Party of post-war Western Europe, the Italian Communist Party. If its not already on your Christmas list there's still time to drop a heavy hint!

A happy Christmas reading, and for those the past year hasn't provided enough of an upturn to lift much seasonal cheer. There's always next year.