The list below is some of the books I am currently reading, being provoked by, enjoying, being infuriated by, or have just finished.
Andrew Gamble, The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession, Palgrave 2009
Gamble is one of Britain’s finest political writers and analysts explaining contemporary Britain and the global order. His latest book offers a fascinating take on the series of events which led to the global crunch of 2008-9. On the way he addresses the nature of the managed capitalism which sprang out of World War Two, how this unwound, the characteristics of ‘the feast’ which followed the end of the Cold War, and how that imploded in the last year and a bit.
Norman Watson, Dundee: A Short History, B&W 2006
A short, breathtaking tour of Dundee’s fourth city, its rise, fall and renewal (?). Watson covers all the key events: the Tay disaster, McGonagall, Churchill and Edwin Scrymgeour’s historic defeat of him in the 1922 election, the arrival of Timex and NEC, followed by unemployment and its attempts at economic and cultural regeneration.
Vernon Bogdanor, The New British Constitution, Oxford University Press 2009
Bogdanor is in many respects a part and pillar of the British constitution, viewing it from his expert gaze and making pronouncements on reform, while wanting to maintain and sustain the political order through reform. This book has picked up good reviews including from The Economist, and maybe that later fact should be cause enough for worry. The text seems lazily written, with often only a narrow range of references cited, prejudices creep in, and the whole thing reeks of arrogance and a sense of its own self-worth.
Andrew Gamble, Politics and Fate, Polity 2000
An earlier Gamble text and part of Polity’s series of short books on challenges for the 21st century. Gamble addresses the pervading sense of fatalism which now exists across the West questioning our belief that politics as an activity can change things. He questions the logic of ‘endism’ which can be found across large swathes of life: the end of politics, history, the nation-state, authority and the public domain.
John Keane, The Life and Times of Democracy, Verso 2009
A monster book which attempts to deal with one of the biggest issues of mankind: democracy. I have just started tipping my toes in this and found it both fascinating and daunting, while being a bit unsure of Keane’s tone at points, putting himself centrestage.
Carlo d’Este, Warlord: A Life of Churchill at War 1874-1945, Allen Lane 2009
A panoramic history and biography of Churchill’s life seen through his engagement in war, from India, Egypt, Sudan and the Boer War to the two World Wars. d’Este, an American historian who caused controversy with his Americanised version of D-Day tells this story subtly, showing the human side of Churchill, alongside the arch imperialist, and in so doing, provides a backdrop which tells the tale of Britain’s imperial zenith in late Victoriana to its eclipse.
John Campbell, Pistols at Dawn: Two Hundred Years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown, Jonathan Cape 2009
Campbell is a masterful biographer, with acclaimed tomes on Heath and Thatcher, and this book is a much lighter, playful, but no less serious subject: the dynamic of political rivalry. His chapter on Heath and Thatcher is informed by his depth of understanding of the two, while his Blair and Brown essay is equally revealing; a ten year pact by which each obstructed the other.