Bloggers' summer reading (Part I)

by Stephen Tall on July 12, 2008

Imagine you were going on holiday this summer: which two books would you take with you? One would be a political book – whether you want to re-read it, or try something new you’ve been recommended. The other would be your own choice of summer reading – the book you’re most looking forward to reading (again, could be something new or something old).

That was the scenario I put to some of the Lib Dems’ leading bloggers. Here’s what they said:

Paul Walter – Liberal Burblings

1. Asquith. by Roy Jenkins I have now read Jenkins’ Churchill (wonderful), his Gladstone (brilliant) and his Roosevelt (a bit of a shorty by Jenkins’ standards). I feel he is like a friend. If he had done nothing else in his life other than write his biographies, Jenkins’ would have been an outstanding life – but of course he had a remarkable political career as well.

2. To Kill a Mocking-Bird by Harper Lee. I read a list of the top 100 novels of all time and found that I had not read many of them. So I bought this book to put that right a bit. I am about half way through it and need a holiday to properly complete it. So far it is wonderful – very folksy, and an authentic insight into the Deep South of the USA in the last century.

Linda Jack – Lindyloo’s Muze

Rather like my knitting……….I have a number of unfinished tomes! So, my political book would be “Blood and Religion” – by Jonathan Cook (ex Guardian), subtitled – The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State. Jonathan lives in Nazareth and has a first hand insight into the way the Arab citizens of Israel are treated.

Re summer reading – it is seven years since I have been on “proper” holiday, where I would take a novel, trashy or otherwise! But I love Barbara Pym – a heady mix of nostalgia, humour, romance and anthropologists (! – a bit like my life….) – so I would either reread Excellent Women or venture into pastures new with Quartet in Autumn.

Helen Duffett – Paint The Town Orange

If I was going on holiday this summer, I wouldn’t want to go cold turkey after several months of elections, so this one’s a classic:

“Winning Your Local By-Election” by Shaun Roberts (an ALDC publication!)

And the other one’s a tough choice but I have recommended this to lots of people: “Big Babies, or: Why can’t we just grow up?” by Michael Bywater. His is a very entertaining style and he strikes a profound chord in a humorous way.

James Graham – Quaequam Blog

My political book is The Possibility of Progress by Mark Braund, a book I have been picking up and putting down again for the best part of a year. This is unfair to the book as it is quite readable and makes a compelling moral case for both enlightenment values and land value taxation. I like people who aren’t afraid to talk about morality. We need more, particularly in light of attempts by nasty people such as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans to monopolise it for themselves.

My “other” book is Human Nature by Paul Cornell (your lucky readers can download this for free off the BBC website – I on the other hand paid for my copy). It is the Doctor Who “New Adventure” novel that was adapted into two episodes in last year’s TV season. Despite my geekiness, this is actually my first ever Doctor Who novel and I am less than excited by the prospect of spending more time with the “Sylvester McCoy” Doctor, even if it is just in my imagination (actually that sounds worse…). But I like Paul Cornell’s comic work and loved the TV adaptation. What’s more, the novel features future archaeologist Prof. Bernice Summerfield, a character who may or may not have been ripped off by Steven Moffat’s future archeologist Prof. River Song.

Gavin Whenman – Gavin’s Gaily Gigest

My political book would be the heavy tome I’m reading at the moment: Alastair Campbell’s Diaries. Whilst it doesn’t give a full picture of Blair’s time in office (and he admits this in the introduction), they certainly provide an insight into the New Labour inner circle and its personalities.

As for non-political book, I’m going to choose Stephen Fry’s The Stars’ Tennis Balls, as I’ve just finished The Hippopotamus and loved every ridiculous page of it.

Part II, with another five bloggers’ holiday reading choices, follows tomorrow…

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I know you won’t ask me as I’m a rubbish blogger at the moment so my choices would be:

1. Paddy Ashdown’s diaries as they give an excellent insight into the mind of a leader – and it’s interesting to note all the characters that were young in the early nineties who are now very prominent – including a local journalist in the South West who, it turns out, was a very close friend of the Ashdowns! Fascinating.

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot. I read this in a bit of a hurry as it’s a 800 page novel but loved every minutes of it. It’s a great political novel. Sadly I was one of the very few English students who turned up to the seminar so felt a bit sad for having read it. I would like to take my time with it and savour every wise word…

by Jo on July 12, 2008 at 11:13 am. Reply #

I suggest that you all re-read your Orwell, who is quite clearly never going to die, & I’ve been hearing good things about someone called Paul Kingsnorth, so I’ve ordered his business online, & you can expect his original insights to apperar in a half-baked, pathetic sort of way in my posts soon 🙂

by asquith on July 12, 2008 at 12:58 pm. Reply #

There really are some rather sad people in this party!
This summer? Throw the books away and spend more time with friends and family – let’s have some good Liberal values.

by Martin Land on July 12, 2008 at 1:15 pm. Reply #

Political; “The Political Brain” by Drew Western, its the book Hilary Clinton forgot to read!!! I keep picking it up reading a bit and think “so easy really why didn’t I think of that”

And John Keegan’s “A History of Warfare” Once read you can see why we are where we are, well nearly………….

by Cllr. Mike Powell on July 12, 2008 at 3:12 pm. Reply #

“Throw the books away and spend more time with friends and family – let’s have some good Liberal values.”

Speaking for myself, I’m so clever & superior I can read reams of books in a short time & have hours to spare.

Don’t know about anyone else…


by asquith on July 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm. Reply #

Don’t forget to nominate yourself for the golden dozen tomorrow Stephen…:@)

by Jo on July 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm. Reply #

Asquith. Where is Lloyd George when you need him?

by Martin Land on July 12, 2008 at 5:54 pm. Reply #

Don’t know about others, but I’m with Linda on this – I’m not having a holiday, so I’m reading about the likelihood that the Alliance will take up the Justice ministry in NIreland and break up the duopolistic sectarian designation which exists there…

by Oranjepan on July 12, 2008 at 6:44 pm. Reply #

I’ve been hearing good things about someone called Paul Kingsnorth

If it’s the same guy, he was a Green party Oxford Uni Student Union exec member in about 1993/4 – but pretty sensible, that nothwithstanding.

by Tiger Tiger on July 13, 2008 at 12:27 pm. Reply #

He is an environmentalist, & all in all someone of fascinating views, none of which can be found anywhere near the mainstream (no, not in the Lib Dems).

He was at Oxford during the times you describe, don’t know whether it’s the same person. It must be interesting to see a contemporary become famous. It’s unlikely ever happen to me, unless you count one of the bloggers I “know” going on to bigger things.

by asquith on July 13, 2008 at 12:35 pm. Reply #

Sounds like the same one then.

Rather more auspicious than some of my other contemporaries eg Euro-ranter Dan Hannan MEP and trashy ‘novellist’ James Twining.

by Tiger Tiger on July 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm. Reply #

Some thought-provoking choices, and I may well pick a couple up. James’ choice is particularly appealing; I know this selection is for relaxing on holidays rather than snatching a moment at by-elections, but in the ’90s I went to an awful lot of by-elections, and the superb New Adventures series of which Human Nature is a part were my travelling companions as I hitched up to each of them. I read Human Nature on the way to and from Perth and Kinross, and it was a lot more inspiring than our result…

But I have to say, whether Martin Land’s a Puritan or a Philistine – it’s not clear whether he’s against books because they’re entertainment, free thought or just not as easy to consume as TV or music – I couldn’t disagree more. Isn’t it possible to read for pleasure or to expand your mind, and spend time with people you love too? Not least when you’re on the train to see them, which might be more sociable than being cut off from the world on headphones…

by Alex Wilcock on July 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm. Reply #

“Throw the books away and spend more time with friends and family – let’s have some good Liberal values.”

It had not occurred to you that a lot of people go on holiday with their friends and family and read books together on the beach etc, then?

by Paul Walter on July 14, 2008 at 12:55 pm. Reply #

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