31 December 2009

Inaugural “Untrusted, too” Annual Reading Recommendation Round-up

I made a request on Untrusted yesterday for books etc people would recommend as inspiring works on social and political issues they've read recently. I was asking for contemporary George Orwells and Rosa Luxemburgs, because if we spend too much time reading The Guardian, we might think that there's very little worthwhile writing going on.

As it's the end of the year, let's expand the idea for people to suggest writing, contemporary or not, which has inspired them recently. I might even come up with some suggestions of my own if I can think of any.

OK, that's it...


  1. And here’s something to watch/listen to while you’re thinking:

    Read It In Books

  2. I will have to think, but as a quick, flying comment:

    Liberty in the Age of Terror by AC Grayling

    I got it as a Winterval present. It doesn't necessarily say anything you don't know, but it is a good reminder of how far and how easily we have slithered down the slippery slope and, in turning our heads to wave goodbye to our liberties, how likely we are to crash at the bottom of the hill and be unable to trudge back up again, as our tiny little limbs will be stuck and crippled in the wreckage.

    Still, it was not as if we did not know what was happening, was it?

    It was just that we could never quite be bothered to do anything about it.

    No wonder politicians can always safely take us for fools.

    We are.

  3. Andy,

    I havent read anything like a modern day Orwell, sadly, and would be grateful to hear of anyone that has. But:

    I enjoyed Peter Oborne's "The Rise of the Political Class", would recommend that as an excellent insight into our democracy as it stands.


    The Sokal i mentioned (originally recommended by MF) really is quality reading, I think you'd like that.


    I have just started reading Guardians of Power, the Myth of the Liberal Media, by the MediaLens blokes. Looks very interesting so far, from what i can make it they seem to dedicate their lives to taking the Guardian, chiefly among others, to task for failing to adhere to the principles it claims for itself, and being swayed too much by the interests of the firms who advertise with them - looks good reading for any Ciffer/UTer, but as i say i have only read 20 or so pages, Xmas present.


    ON a more general theme of books, the funniest thing i have ever read by 10 country miles is Confederacy of Dunces, hence my moniker. The author who was young at the time killed himself because he couldnt get it published, his mum put a lot of effort it and got it published after his death and it won a posthumous Pulitzer.


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  5. Right, I'll try that again with a proper link:

    The Spirit Level - Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

    Santa brought it for me this year although I haven't started reading it properly yet, but MsChin recommends it too.



  6. "Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better"

    I havent read the book but sounds interesting, the data on this issue is so overwhelming but rarely seems to get analysed in the media.

  7. Hi Andy,

    An obscure book (only 500 copies printed)


  8. Call me shallow, but I tend to avoid books that are just going to remind & further depress me about the state of our civil liberties and political system.

    Here are some nice, escapist literature recommendations:

    Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. Vowell is an unreconstructed lefty and an unashamed patriot who's a bit obsessed with the presidents who've been assassinated. The book is about trips that she took with her sister and small nephew to various sites around the US that are connected with the US presidents who've been assassinated. Fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny.

    The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Also non-fiction, but it reads like a thriller. About a serial killer in Chicago in the late 19th C set against the story of the planning of the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Probably not as obscure to the exceptionally literate crowd around here as it is to the people who surround me IRL, but if you haven't read it -- you absolutely should. It's about as close to perfect as a novel can be. Wish I'd managed to learn Russian well enough to read it in the original. :-(

    And, of course:

    You have absolutely no excuse if you've never read this.

  9. Well, I've just namechecked him over at UT1, so Kenan Malik is essential reading for anyone who gets pissed off with multiculturalism and identity politics. I read "From Fatwa to Jihad" on MF's recc, and it really opened my eyes to how well-intentioned govts and councils sought to improve race relations and the prospects of discriminated-against groups, but only ended up dividing them, and allowing them to become dominated by radical separatists interested in their own influence rather than the wider interests of their community.

    Got his earlier book, "Strange Fruit - Why Both Sides Are wrong In The Race Debate" for Xmas, so will let you know what I think idc.

    Another book I really enjoyed this year was "McMafia" by Misha Glenny, who used to write on Russia and Eastern Europe for the Graun. It's a fascinating book about the new international criminals, not just the gangsters running some of the old Soviet republics but drug barons in Canada, Latin America etc.

    Very readable, illuminating, worrying and, at times, pretty funny.

    I also liked Julie Myerson's latest.

  10. Oh, Confed of Dunces is great. How's the Boethius of this Jay Reilly?

  11. I'm not too au fait with Beothius, i must admit, I am still at the stage of fellating my dog.

  12. Lots of interesting recommends already; thanks to those who’ve contributed.

    Call me shallow, but I tend to avoid books that are just going to remind & further depress me about the state of our civil liberties and political system

    I know what you mean, Montana, which is why I suggested the idea of inspiration.

    Here’s a couple of quotes I’ve found inspiring in the past:

    Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

    Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach 1845

    First of all, we think the world must be changed. We want the most liberating change of the society and life in which we find ourselves confined. We know that such a change is possible through appropriate actions.

    Guy Debord, Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency's Conditions of Organization and Action 1957

  13. Two great books I read this year, on related subjects (to each other):

    Josef Roth, 'What I Saw' and
    Stefan Zweig, 'The World of Yesterday'.