Jill Robinson’s booktopia

The eight books she'd take to the ends of the earth with her

January 22, 2009
6 min read

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Jung Chang (Simon and Schuster 1991)

Wild Swans tells the story of life in China for

author Jung Chang, her mother and grand-mother, and describes the horrors and poverty suffered by millions of Chinese in the 20th century. Chang lives through the Cultural Revolution and joins the Red Guards, during which time her parents are accused of being traitors and tortured. From a relatively privileged childhood, Chang’s life was to change when she, like thousands of young people, was taken to the countryside to be ‘re-educated’ into peasant life. Her entire family was sent to different regions of China and her father, once a high-ranking official, died after becoming ill and insane. She finally obtained a scholarship to the UK, one of the first Chinese students to study abroad, where she wrote this disturbing and moving story of her life.

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World\’s Worst Dog

John Grogan (Hodder & Stoughton 2007)

This is a book that people both with and without dogs will love. A simply, but beautifully, written story of newlyweds John and Jenny moving into a house in Palm Beach and deciding that bringing a dog into their family would be a rather nice thing to do. Enter Marley, a 97-pound goof of a yellow Labrador, who crashes into their life and house with all the delicacy of a 10-tonne truck. A complete disgrace to his species, Marley knows no difference between right and wrong, but shows the true meaning of unconditional love and why we are happier and healthier in the company of our four-legged best friends.

The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan (G P Putnam’s Sons 1989)

This book is a harrowing and heart-warming story of four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters. The name of the club originates during the Japanese invasion of China after one of the mothers, Suyuan Wu, decides to start it to divert attention from the war. The club continues when she moves to the USA and sees lives and cultures of mothers and daughters clashing as they play mah-jong and eat dinner together. The daughters try to adapt to American life while attempting to respect their Chinese roots and culture, while the mothers struggle to leave their pasts behind.

The Emotional Lives of Animals

Marc Bekoff (New World Library 2007)

This book explores the complex emotions of animals – and why they matter. After a lifetime of studying animal behaviour, Bekoff shows that it is time to challenge science and give animals the benefit of the doubt. Animals may not share the same joy or sadness as the human species, but Bekoff offers a convincing argument as to why they have their own versions of these emotions – and why we should embrace common sense and look at all species with hearts and minds that seek to understand them.

The Ten Trusts

Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff (HarperCollins 2002)

The Ten Trusts compels us to reflect upon our footprints on this earth and consider how they affect the species that share our lives. It teaches us to respect and love nature, to be tenacious and to think intelligently of the things we do in our everyday lives that can be changed to help heal our suffocating earth. From the simplest advice of turning off the tap while we clean our teeth, to the complexity of helping to save whole species from extinction, The Ten Trusts shows that life is in our hands and there is much we can do to preserve it.

Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

Joy Adamson (Collins and Harvell Press 1960)

Born Free holds special resonance for me as it began my journey into animal welfare. It tells the true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised and released into the wilds of Kenya by Joy and her husband George. The book and film shows the tenacity of people who refuse to give in to bureaucracy and red tape, and also inspired Virginia and Bill to found the successful and effective Born Free Foundation, which exists and flourishes to this day.

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

John Robbins (Conari Press 2001)

This life-changing book was written by the heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream empire who gave it all away. He questions every aspect of the food we eat – where it is produced, how it is produced, how its production affects the environment, who is paid what for the food, how it is transported to our tables and how it affects our health.

Freedom Moon

Jill Robinson and Angela Leary (eds) (Animals Asia Foundation 2008)

I cannot end this list without self-promoting Animals Asia. Freedom Moon celebrates the freedom of bears caged for decades and cruelly milked for their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. With over 50 herbal and synthetic alternatives, there is no need for such a practice today. Freedom Moon is a book of hope, which shows bears bouncing joyously around their forested enclosures and putting their tortuous pasts behind them.

Jill Robinson MBE is the founder and CEO of animal welfare charity [Animals Asia Foundation

->www.animalsasia.org]

Her selections can be purchased here.

A portion of the sales from purchases made through Red Pepper/Eclector’s book store contribute money to Red Pepper. Not all titles are available.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram