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The Prelude (1805 version)
Oxford University Press
For me, this is the greatest poem in the English language: a long, compelling account of Wordsworth’s own life and growth, charting the development of his mind and soul and their interaction with the natural world and with the tumultuous political events of the time – all told in rolling, lilting poetry that takes your breath away. Wordsworth was the first great environmentalist, who saw clearly how interdependent the worlds of humanity and of nature are. It’s the early 1805 version that has to be read, though: it is full of freshness and vitality, which were lost by the time he revised it all for publication in 1850.
R H Tawney 1931
This book, probably more than any other, made me realise what democratic socialism meant and why it was important. It’s a marvellous account of the intellectual and philosophical underpinning of the European left over the past 80 years. And its central thesis is that the ‘freedom from’ is a necessary precondition for the exercise of the ‘freedom to’: the freedom from want, disease, hunger, poverty, idleness or discrimination having to be secured before the freedom to do things, seize opportunities or achieve successes can be delivered. It’s a book I would prescribe as required reading for anyone aspiring to be a progressive MP.
No Ordinary Time
Doris Kearns Goodwin 1994
Doris Kearns Goodwin has become an indefatigable chronicler of American politics and history, and this is her best book – an account of the life, challenges and decisions of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. It’s a fascinating story of the noble ideals and grubby compromises that combine together in any great political endeavour. It shows us exactly what torments and triumphs Barack Obama is enduring, right now.
Ring of Bright Water
Gavin Maxwell 1960
I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager. I still do. It’s the tale of someone who renovates a tumbledown cottage by the sea on the west coast of Scotland and shares his life there with two otters. Its evocation of the land and seascape, the rhythm of the seasons, its perceptions about the natural world, its empathy with the lives of animals, its hilarious stories of adventure and accident and tragedy, are perfectly done. Maxwell quotes a Louis MacNeice poem at the end that says ‘thank you … for making this life worth living’; and it is indeed a book infused with the spirit of life.
W H Murray 1951
Bill Murray was one of the formidable group of mid-20th century Scottish mountaineers. He wrote his first book, Mountaineering in Scotland, in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany and after it was confiscated had to write it all over again. This is the sequel, and for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime tramping the hills and glens of Scotland, it is a perfect gem. It is passionate about the beauty of the hills and mountains; it captures the sense of the infinite that lies beyond the landscape; it reminds us, deep down, why we love this wild and wonderful country.
William Shakespeare 1608
Methuen (Arden Shakespeare)
Lear is the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The play tears at our hearts, brings rage and pity, exposes the elemental forces of all our natures, renders us baffled and exhausted by folly and cruelty alike, and does it all in words that are unsurpassed. We emerge from the play feeling as if our emotions and understanding have been wrung dry. A critic once wrote that the catharsis at the end of Lear doesn’t come because we know that good has triumphed over evil – it hasn’t – but because we know ‘that it is better to have been Cordelia than to have been her sisters’.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns