Monday, March 24, 2008

Recommended Reading: Top Political Books

Iain Dale has a list of his top 75 political books. They include a lot of novels by Conservative politicians, and works by the likes of Simon Heffer and Maggie Thatcher.

I haven't got 75, but here's eight for 2008 which I've read, re-read, and recommended to friends (in no particular order, links to either amazon or abebooks) :

The Political Brain - Drew Westen. This is the book which explains how the Barack Obama campaign has been so successful. Thing is, it was published in June 2007. There are lots of books which explain why past campaigns have or haven't been successful, not so many which predict future successful election strategies.

Things Can Only Get Better - John O'Farrell. It's slightly scary to think that young people these days probably won't understand the idea behind Things Can Only Get Better - Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Activist, because all they've known is Labour being in power. Anyway, I read it before I was a Labour activist and thought it was hilarious, now I get all the jokes about branch meetings and think it is even funnier.

Means of Ascent - Robert Caro. This is vol 2 of Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. You should read all three but this is the best. He tells the gripping tale of the campaign for the Texas Senate in 1948, raw Good Old Boy politics at its grubbiest.

Hammer of the Left - John Golding. In 1980, John Golding was the standard bearer of the Right Wing of the Labour Party. In 2007, his editor and acolyte Paul Farrelly was trying unsuccessfully to get the government to do more for agency workers. The tale of a bygone age, Golding's book tells the story of his confrontations with 'Wedgie' Benn and is entertainingly honest in boasting about how he stitched up the Left in meetings, committees and so on.

Rules for Radicals - Saul Alinksy. Saul Alinsky invented modern community organising in America. Published in the early 1970's, Rules for Radicals explains how to be a 'real radical', rather than a 'rhetorical radical', and much besides (Alinsky's top tip - if you find that you're having to spend all your time on day to day concerns, get arrested and spend a few months in prison, this will give you time to think ahead about what needs doing).

Aneurin Bevan - Michael Foot. Michael Foot was and is a great writer, and combines that with the knowledge which came from being a front-line left-wing politician for more than a quarter of a century. His biography of Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS, was informed by having worked with him, and Bevan's is an inspirational story.

Locked in the Cabinet - Robert Reich. Reich was Clinton's Secretary of Labor. Witty and self-depricating, he tells the stories of his successes and failures, and gives a real feel for the difficulties facing lefties in positions of power.

The Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein. I enjoyed 'No Logo', but this is a much better book. Some of the facts are a bit sketchy, but the argument is a powerful one and I wish more leftie activists could write as well as Klein.

Any other recommendations and favourites, please share in the comments. To all my new libertarian friends, I am familiar with 'Atlas Shrugged' and it is not as good as you think it is.


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