Books 2019 | What I read


Peter Pomerentsev: This is Not Propoganda, Faber and Faber

I’ve met Peter a couple of times through Durham Book Festival, and he is one of the most insightful writers on the current crisis of disinformation, political polarisation and hate speech. He is also Visiting Senior Fellow at the Institute of Global Affairs at the LSE, where he co-directs the Arena programme:

A brilliant set of cases studies of the ways in which authoritarian politicians of all varieties use on line propoganda to achieve power and control populations. His previous book on Putin’s Russia – Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible – is a classic too

David Swift, A Left For Itself, Zer0 Books

More polemic than analysis Swift traces the transformation of left wing thinking from the pragmatic Crossland style of left wing politics rooted in working class communities to modern leftism, heavy on theory and rooted in middle class anxieties. He is particularly harsh on the group of leftist bloggers and twitter personalities who have latched onto the modern Labour Party. The reactions of these “thinkers” to Labour’s defeat vindicates the harshness somewhat

Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House, Simon and Schuster

Yes, that Bob Woodward. From Woodward and Bernstein, the journalists who broke Watergate. A brilliant study of Trump’s character and how he has shaped the White House political functions around him to disastrous effect. If there is a criticism it is that Woodward nails Trump on page one, and Trump is almost too shallow to fill a full length book. He learns nothing, he goes round in the same circles, makes the same mistakes.

John Mills, Left Behind, Civitas

A pamphlet rather than a full length book, available for free download if you don’t want to buy it. Mills is a former major donor to the Labour Party, and he covers the economic decline of left Social Democracy. Stronger on analysis than solutions, but still a great read. Civitas are pretty frustrating- once they were the best right wing think tank going, now they are sucked into the Taxpayers Alliance/Leave Campaign etc. orbit.


Ben Myers, The Offing, Bloomsbury

In a world of anger and snark this is a lovely novel set in the aftermath of WW2. A young man from Durham leaves the coalfield looking for work and lives in a cottage by the sea. His previous novel The Gallows Pole is brilliant too.

Ben is one of the best emerging voices in British writing and a massive talent. He also went to Belmont Comprehensive a couple of years below me, and his mum taught me Maths. I’m not biased.

David Keenan, For the Good Times, Faber

Great novel following a family of IRA members in the Ardoyne area of Belfast in the 1970s. Keenan’s previous novel “This is Memorial Device” a biography of a fictional scottish post punk/indie band is also brilliant

David Lanchester, The Wall, Faber

A dystopian near future where Britain’s coastline is protected by a concrete wall, manned by young conscripts, who protect an ageing, scared population.

Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, the Serial Killer, Penguin Random House

Two sisters growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. One is sensible and works as a matron in the local hospital, the other younger, prettier and a mass murderer. Very witty, with a great portrayal of Lagos, reminiscent of RK Narayan.

And a special mention to the Dark Horse comic adaptation of William Gibson’s Alien 3. Gibson was paid a lot of money to write the 3rd Alien movie, only to have it scrapped at the last minute. A brilliant comic treatment while we wait for the 2nd in the Peripheral series next year

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