For World Book Day: What’s your favourite political book?

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 09.39.28Today is World Book Day. I thought it might be fun to have a discussion about our favourite books. We should probably try to stick to books which are vaguely linked to politics, but I’m not going to complain too much if you don’t.

My all-time favourite, after 21 years, remains “All’s Fair: Love, war and running for President” by Mary Matalin and James Carville. The two authors are now married and got together just before both of them took jobs on opposing sides of the 1992 presidential election campaign. Carville was Clinton’s main strategist, Matalin was the Bush campaign’s head of communications.  It is a story of a relationship which crosses campaign boundaries, of late night wine fuelled campaign errors told in hilarious style. It gives an insight into the way US campaigns work and it combines the political and personal in a massively enjoyable and entertaining way. Everyone should read it.

So, what’s your favourite book, and why?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Ursula K LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” – explores capitalism and anarchism in a science fiction context.

  • Alexander Herzen:My Past and Thoughts. He’s a hero of mine.

  • Liberalism: The Life of an Idea by Edmund Fawcett, is excellent.
    However, as I’m currently reading more kids books than my usual fare of sci-fi, history or politics, I’ll give my daughters choice also – The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp.

  • Stephen Donnelly 5th Mar '15 - 5:46pm

    I guess that To Kill a Mockingbird is common ground, so I will go for Cry The Beloved a Country by Alan Paton, the story of life under apartheid written by a South African Liberal.

  • Roy Jenkins’ “Gladstone” is wonderfully inspiring, especially if you are as old as I am and worry about your time to change things running out.

  • Ruth Bright 5th Mar '15 - 8:36pm

    My children have dared me to nominate our family favourite: “Vote for SpongeBob” which is basically a guide to pork barrel politics for the under tens!

    “SpongeBob spent the next week campaigning across town, making promises to everybody:
    I will have all stores open twenty-four hours a day.
    I will babysit your children.
    I will install more stop signs.
    SpongeBob told people whatever he thought they wanted to hear…”

  • Philip Thomas 5th Mar '15 - 8:47pm

    Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: I’ll leave it to others to draw political lessons…

  • ‘The Establishment – And how they get away with it’ by Owen Jones.

    It ought to be compulsory reading for all Liberal Democrats in 2015.

    It is the book I am reading at the moment so it is my favourite today.

  • John Rawls – A Theory of Justice

    Was a liberal before, but it was the book that made me a Liberal. That we have no choice over the circumstances into which we are born is the most important reason why a) both socialism and conservatism are absolute, useless cul-de-sacs and that b) Liberalism is the only true way forward is expertly explained.

    Very much the step forward that On Liberty pointed towards.

  • Galen Milne 5th Mar '15 - 9:41pm

    my favourites to dat are
    1) Penhaligon by Nanette Penhaligon
    2) Jo Grimonds Memoirs
    3) The young Lloyd George by John Grigg
    and maybe one I have still to read that I picked up recently in a book sale –
    Great Parliamentary Scandals by Matthew Parris

  • Jack Davies 5th Mar '15 - 9:53pm

    The blunders of our governments is simply fantastic 🙂

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Mar '15 - 11:15pm

    Rural Rides by William Cobbett.

  • I wouldn’t say its my favorite book but Denise Chong signed a copy
    of her book Egg on Mao for me the other day. She wrote,”for the nobility of protest”.

  • Rita Giannini 6th Mar '15 - 9:39am

    “Liberal Revolution” by Piero Gobetti. And I am amazed that somebody could have managed to read Gramsci and not cried him/herself to sleep! Maybe the English translation is a shortened version?

  • Anders Hanson 6th Mar '15 - 10:59am

    I agree with two biographies already mentioned here – Gladstone by Roy Jenkins and Penhaligon by Annette Penhaligon. I’d also include Clement Davies by Alun Wyburn-Powell. Not biographical but I loved David Plouffe’s The Audacity to Win about the mechanics of the first Obama campaign.

    Not a political book but I think very relevant is NUTS by Kevin & Jackie Freiberg. It’s the story of SouthWest Airlines in the USA looking at how they broke through a system that had restricted new entrants to the market, about their quirky way of marketing themselves and how they involve their staff. Although not perfect, it felt like a very Lib Dem way of running a business and I found it quite inspiring.

  • Daniel Carr 6th Mar '15 - 1:06pm

    I have two:

    On Liberty – JS Mill: already mentioned, but such a powerful argument for letting people live as they choose even if you disagree with how they go about it (and they don’t bring harm to others).

    Profiles in Courage – JF Kennedy: a great book that celebrates going against the grain in office. Very accessible too.

    I read both at the start of each year as Grimmond suggested for at least ‘On Liberty’!

  • Nonfiction: Mr Balfour’s Poodle by Roy Jenkins

    Fiction: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

  • Steve Comer 6th Mar '15 - 6:30pm

    My favourite political book is: For Europe by Guy Verhofstadt and Daniel Cohn-Bendit
    Every Liberal Democrat should read this – it shows how a European future should work – UKIP and the ‘Hannan’ wing of the Tory Party would hate it

    My second favourite has to be Stupid White Men by Michael Moore

  • Paul in Wokingham 6th Mar '15 - 7:07pm

    The Spirit Level. Both Seamus Heaney’s poetry and the critique of inequality.

  • Alex Sabine 6th Mar '15 - 8:41pm

    These are some political books that I’ve enjoyed and learned from:

    Karl Popper, ‘The Open Society and its Enemies’
    John Heilemann & Mark Halperin, ‘Race of a Lifetime’
    Edmund Dell, ‘A Strange Eventful History: Democratic Socialism in Britain’
    ‘Anatomy of Decline: The Political Journalism of Peter Jenkins’
    John Cole, ‘As It Seemed to Me’
    Andrew Neil, ‘Full Disclosure’
    Edmund Fawcett, ‘Liberalism: The Life of an Idea’
    Conrad Russell, ‘An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism’
    Richard Cockett, ‘Thinking the Unthinkable: Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931-1983’
    Martin Gilbert, ‘Churchill’
    Denis Healey, ‘The Time of My Life’
    Roy Jenkins, ‘A Life at the Centre’
    Nigel Lawson, ‘Memoirs of a Tory Radical’
    Ferdinand Mount, ‘Cold Cream: My Early Life and Other Mistakes’
    Edmund Dell, ‘The Chancellors’
    Jonathan Dimbleby, ‘The Last Governor’
    John Rentoul, ‘Tony Blair’ (1995) and ‘Tony Blair, Prime Minister’
    Andrew Gimson, ‘Boris’
    Sir John Nott, ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Recollections of an Errant Politician’
    Sir Robin Day, ‘…But With Respect’
    Philip Stephens, ‘Politics and the Pound’
    Geoffrey Wheatcroft, ‘The Strange Death of Tory England’
    David Willetts, ‘The Pinch’
    Bernard Levin, ‘The Pendulum Years: Britain in the Sixties’
    Francis Wheen, ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World’
    almost any book by Peter Hennessy

  • Dan Falchikov
    Dan, I think to be strictly accurate it was his father who was the Trotsyite.

    Young Owen Jones is an Oxbridge graduate writer for The Guardian and loyal member of the Labour Party.

    He writes a good book despite this. 🙂

  • SIMON BANKS 8th Mar '15 - 4:55pm

    Non-fiction: Charles Perrow, “Normal Accidents”, a brilliant, learned, superbly well-written account of how accidents occur in complex systems (whether complicated machinery or human organisations). Some accounts of accidents or near-accidents in which no-one got killed are hilarious (near-disaster at nuclear power station because cleaner’s shirt got caught on lever, anyone? Or abandonment of state-of-the-art American ship after fire caused when sprinklers were added as a safety measure and the ring round one nozzle was the wrong metal? Or what happened when salt was being mined from beneath a lake and another company was putting down boreholes for oil?) There are big implications for emergency service and disaster management, for our faith in technology and predictions of safety and for the psychology of people in control such as ships’ captains and power station managers.

    Fiction: Albert Camus’ “La Peste” (The Plague) or John le Carre’s “The Constant Gardener”, though the latter is too depressing to be a real favourite – both about credible, flawed people fighting evil.

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Mar '15 - 7:21am

    Any book about Sophie Scholl and the White Rose.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 24th May '15 - 8:07pm

    The Politics by Aristotle
    The Discourses by Machiavelli
    The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione

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