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Eyewitness to History
John Carey (editor)
(Harvard University Press, 1988)
This is a wonderful book, spanning the centuries and jumping from Roman times through to the 1970s, taking in such events as the Peasant’s Revolt, the beheading of Mary Queen Of Scots and the first world war. However, its not just the big events that are covered. If you want to read about a group of pissed medieval women turning up at jousts and behaving badly, this is the book you need. It’s a perfect book to install in your toilet and will ensure your guests stay in there even longer than is imaginably possible. So, not only fascinating, but invaluable for those annoying guests you want to see the back of for half an hour.
In the Springtime of the Year
(Hamish Hamilton 1973; Long Barn Books, May 2006)
This is a completely miserable yet brilliant book with more poetry in it than most poetry books. Ruth loses her husband in a forestry accident at the beginning of the novel and there then follows a superb description of her attempts to cope with the loss. Along the way there are lots of setbacks and dark times and although her situation is not resolved in a tidy way, there is some hope at the end of the book. Don’t read it if you are depressed unless you have a masochistic element to your personality.
Neil Astley, Editor
(Bloodaxe Books, 2004)
This is a poetry anthology divided into sections such as nature, life, death and so on. It has some fantastic new poets in it that I hadn’t come across before as well as some old favourites. I like poetry because sometimes it is the only thing that will do when certain things happen in your life that you struggle with – like losing a loved one or being elbowed by your partner. It’s cheery, too, for the good times and for those of us who have blunted emotions and don’t necessarily want to read about the death of a hedgehog while we’re having our tea.
Moments of Reprieve
(Penguin, 1986; 2002)
By now, I expect you think I am a miserable old bag who only reads sad things – and this book also fits into that category with ease. Primo Levi was a prisoner in Auschwitz during the second world war and this collection of short essays relates his experiences. However, Moments of Reprieve attempts to pull together experiences of people he met that made his life bearable or gave him some hope, from guards who smuggled in food or other prisoners who entertained him. It’s a lovely book about one of the darkest times in our history.
A Christmas Carol
(Chapman and Hall 1843; Penguin Classics 2003)
Good old Charlie. He’s written so many brilliant books, but this epitomises his positive nature and makes me believe that even right wing, grumpy old sods can change their colours and become generous human beings. It also gives an insight into the dreadful conditions and the gap between rich and poor that existed in Victorian times; and the wonderful character of Bob Cratchit, the humble, sweet-tempered, hard-working, put-upon hero is a counter-template for all those horrible bastards whose bitterness at their lot in life is turned into a bad temper and misanthropic philosophy.
Each Peach Pear Plum
Janet and Alan Ahlberg
(Kestrel Books 1978; Viking Children’s Books 1999)
This is a glorious book for children, taking in fairy tales and puzzles, which moves effortlessly from page to page, has fantastic illustrations and can be read over and over again. Robin Hood, Cinderella and the Three Bears are all in there and I’m sure if more kids forced their parents to buy this they wouldn’t be quite so keen on all that Barbie cack that is forced down girls’ throats these days.
The Rough Guide to England
(Rough Guides; 6th revised edition, 2004)
This is an invaluable book when I’m on tour, which gives you a flavour of pretty much every town in England you are likely to visit. Witty and informative it gives you such gems as: ‘Bedford … the town need not detain you.’ (Sorry, Bedford.) Whether you want information about restaurants, things to do, or which beaches have the most dog poo on them, you will find the Rough Guide covers them all. And as I often used to inform the residents of slightly down-at-heel areas: ‘Sorry, you’re not in the Rough Guide to England you’re in the Fucking Rough Guide.’
Joyce Brand’s Common Place Book
(Joyce Brand, self-published)
Due to lack of telly and decent nightclubs, the Victorians used to spend their time gathering their favourite poems and pithy sayings together in a book to give some flavour of the way they wanted people to see them. My mum, Joyce, has continued the tradition. She had it vanity published as she thought it wouldn’t be a massive seller and now has several hundred of the buggers sitting in her attic, as she isn’t actually allowed to sell it. It’s lovely for me, though, to have something personal to keep and I often use it when I am on Countdown as there’s a lot of humour – and, thank god, not much of me in it.
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.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun