The Definitive Summer Reading List for MPs

The comprehensive guide to what MPs (and political enthusiasts) should be taking on holiday with them this summer.

The comprehensive guide to what MPs (and political enthusiasts) should be taking on holiday with them this summer.

Another long summer recess, another long summer reading list for Tory MPs. Keith Simpson, the MP for Broadlands and PPS to William Hague, is waving colleagues off on their holidays with a reading list that is at turns frivolous, light-hearted, educational and enlightening.

Political books broadly fall into two categories: diary and non-diary. Many are unreadable; the cream quickly rises to the top. I haven't read them, but my father says Chris Mullin's diaries are the best since Alan Clark's, so A Walk-On Part might be worth a flick. Alastair Campbell's I have read and they are denser but hugely valuable. Earl Ferrers' memoirs sound interesting. William Rees-Mogg's have been received warmly if unspectacularly in the press, whilst Matthew Parris found the edited Macmillan diaries disappointing. If I were you, I'd read D.R. Thorpe's magisterial Supermac instead.

For the diary intolerant, there is a clutch of stiff, improving books on political and social theory, the best of which is David Willetts' brilliant The Pinch. It has been popping up on these sort of politico lists for a while so is hardly an original pick but there is the added bonus that the new paperback doesn't have a gyrating pig on the jacket. Of the biographies, Ed by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre is the most appealing, not least because of Jerry Hayes' recent waspish review for The Spectator.

There is the habitual roll call of plugs for parliamentary colleagues. He spent the Easter recess avoiding the heat waves skulking around the British Library, and now I know why: Kwasi Kwarteng was writing a history book. His Ghosts of Empire - in which Mr Simpson says he 'addresses the realities of the British Empire from its inception to its demise with unresolved disputes in Iraq, Kashmir, Burma, Sudan, Nigeria and Hong Kong' - is out in August. Julian Lewis - 'with all the skill of a good writer and the tenacity of an experienced researcher' - has written a book about WW1 fighter pilot Samuel Kinhead. A former Royal Navy medical officer and the current PPS to Andrew Lansley, Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) has been reviewing veterans' health for the government so his book Tommy This an' Tommy That, 'a timely historical survey', carries a fair amount of clout.

As for fiction, I've heard very good things about Alan Hollinghurst's The Strangers Child. Yet the novel is evidently something Mr Simpson regards with an indifference verging on contempt. In a list of fifty-two books there are only four works of fiction, 'for those seeking relief from the more challenging recommendations'. Pity those poor MPs on the beach in Cap d'Antibes, Cornwall or Cleethorpes. The most wincing disdain is reserved for one of Simpson's own Tory colleagues, Louise Bagshawe, whose latest novel Destiny must have been 'written between division bells'. The MP for Corby is as 'a reliable authoress', as though female authors need to go by the same sort of performance criteria as a three-door hatchback.

What is certain talking to some MPs, whether they escape for the summer with Kwasi Kwarteng or Louise Bagshawe stuffed into their suitcase, this is a break from Westminster that cannot come soon enough.

The Full List


Alastair Campbell. Diaries Vol. II: Power and the People. Paperback: 320pp. Arrow, 2011.

+ Diaries Vol. III: Power & Responsibility. 752pp. Hutchinson, 2011.

Peter Catterall (editor). The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After, 1957-1966. 592pp. Macmillan, 2011.

Earl Ferrers. Whatever Next? Reminiscences of a journey through life. 272pp. Biteback Publishing, 2011.

Chris Mullin. A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999. 400pp. Profile Books, 2011.

+ A View From The Foothills. 416pp. Profile Books, 2010.

+ Decline & Fall: Diaries 2005-2010. 416pp. Profile Books, 2011.

Jonathan Powell. The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World. Paperback: 320pp. Vintage, 2011.

William Rees-Mogg. Memoirs. 352pp. HarperPress, 2011.

Margaret Rhodes. The Final Curtsey. 160pp. Umbria Press, 2011.


Politics / Ideas

David Brooks. The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens. Paperback: 430pp. Short Books Ltd, 2011.

Ben Goldacre. Bad Science. Paperback: 288pp. Harper Perennial, 2009.

R.A.W. Rhodes. Everyday Life in British Government. Oxford University Press, 2011.

David Willetts. The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - and Why They Should Give it Back. Paperback: 336pp. Atlantic Books, 2011.

Tim Wu. The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. 384 pp. Knopf Publishing Group, 2010.


Rodney Bolt. As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson. 320pp. Atlantic Books, 2011.

Mehdi Hasan & James Macintyre. Ed: The Milibands and the making of a Labour leader. 240pp. Biteback, 2011.

Michael Korda. Hero: The Life & Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. 784pp. JR Books Ltd, 2011.

Jonathan Steinberg. Bismarck: A Life. 592pp. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Miles J. Unger. Machiavelli: A Biography. 416pp. Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2011.


David Abulafia, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. 816pp. Allen Lane, 2011.

Robert Bickers. Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai. Paperback: 416pp. Penguin, 2004.

+ The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914. 512pp. Allen Lane, 2011.

Asa Briggs. Secret Days: Codebreaking in Bletchley Park: A Memoir of Hut Six and the Enigma Machine. 256pp. Frontline Books, 2011.

Peter Caddick-Adams. Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives. 640pp. Preface Publishing, 2011.

Max Egremont. Forgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia. 356pp. Picador, 2011.

Amanda Foreman. A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided. Paperback: 1,040pp. Penguin, 2011.

Francis Fukuyama. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. 608pp. Profile Books, 2011.

David Gilmour. The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples. 447pp. Allen Lane, 2011.

Duff Hart-Davis. The War That Never Was. 400pp. Century, 2011.

Robert C. Knapp. Invisible Romans: Prostitutes, Outlaws, Slaves, Gladiators, Ordinary Men and Women...the Romans that History Forgot. 384pp. Profile Books, 2011.

Kwasi Kwarteng. Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World. 480pp. Bloomsbury, 2011.

Julian Lewis. Racing Ace: The Fights and Flights of 'Kink' Kinkead DSO DSC* DFC*. 288pp. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011.

Matthew Parker. The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War. 464pp. Hutchinson, 2011.

Bernard Porter. The Battle of the Styles: George Gilbert Scott and the FCO. 256pp. Continuum Publishing Corporation, 2011.

Mike Rapport. 1848: Year of Revolution. Paperback: 480pp. Abacus, 2009.

Simon Sebag Montefiore. Jerusalem: The Biography. 696pp. W&N, 2011.

Jonathan Sperber. The European Revolutions, 1848-1851. Paperback: 334pp. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

David Stafford. Mission Accomplished: SOE and Italy 1943-1945. 320pp. Bodley Head, 2011.

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. Herculaneum: Past and Future. 352pp. Frances Lincoln, 2011.

Stephanie Williams. Running the Show: Governors of the British Empire 1857-1912. 512pp. Viking, 2011.

Military / Security

Jay Bahadur. Deadly Waters: Inside the hidden world of Somalia's pirates. Paperback: 320pp. Profile Books, 2011.

Rodric Braithwaite. Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89. 417pp. Profile Books, 2011.

Sherard Cowper-Coles. Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign. 352pp. HarperPress, 2011.

Toby Harnden. Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan. 640pp. Quercus, 2011.

Andrew Murrison. Tommy This an' Tommy That. 192pp. Biteback, 2011.

Gordon Weiss. The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers. Paperback: 384pp. Bodley Head, 2011.

Bob Woodward. Obama's Wars: The Inside Story. Paperback: 464pp. Simon & Schuster, 2011.


Louise Bagshawe. Destiny. Paperback: 384pp. Headline Review, 2011.

Charles Cumming. The Trinity Six. Paperback: 416pp. Harper, 2011.

Alan Hollinghurst. The Stranger's Child. 576pp. Picador, 2011.

Stella Tillyard. Tides of War. 384pp. Chatto & Windus, 2011.

Before You Go