by Stephen Tall on December 11, 2009
If you could choose up to three items for your Christmas stocking, what would they be? That was the question LDV posed to a group of Lib Dem bloggers. All this week we’re revealing what they told us, with all their choices added to the Amazon carousel widget featured on our home-page, referral fees from which will help support Lib Dem Voice: so get clicking and ordering. You can read Part I here and Part II here. In the final part, three more bloggers – Mark Thompson, Mark Valladares, Linda Jack and, erm, me – give us the low-down on their Xmas faves.
1) Paddy Ashdown – A Fortunate Life.
I haven’t got round to getting this yet (shame on me!) but by all accounts it’s a fascinating read which follows Paddy right from his early days as a soldier through to becoming an MP and then party leader and all that entailed as well as his work in Bosnia later. I am particularly looking forward to reading the section on how he won his Yeovil seat having already read an abridged version of this previously in a newspaper. Blood, sweat, tears and utter determination by the sounds of it which will no doubt be familiar to many Lib Dem MPs and PPCs!
2) Gyles Brandreth – Something Sensational to Read in the Train. I still think his Breaking the Code Westminster diaries are the best political memoirs I have ever read, in turns both very amusing but also very informative about how politics works and a good look behind the curtain of the Major years. This latest tome is his diaries from 1950 to the year 2000 and with him having been involved in so many different worlds (politics, theatre, TV, journalism etc.) and given his skills as a raconteur I expect a very high quality anecdote to page count ratio…
3) And a non-political one: Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests with Headphones by Tom Shales. I am a huge fan of comedy in all its forms but “Saturday Night Live” is a big gap in my comedy education. It is a US institution, a comedy and sketch show that has been running since 1975 broadcast live from New York every Saturday and has launched the careers of countless US stars including Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Sarah Silverman, Will Ferrell, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and Tina Fey to name but a very few. I think because it was not broadcast in the UK when I was growing up, it just sort of passed me by but I keep meaning to learn more about it and its place in comedy history and I am reliably informed that this book is the definitive starting point for such a task.
Of course, a bureaucrat, especially one taking on a new role, needs to ensure that he is properly prepared. So here’s my list:
1) Machiavelli’s The Prince.
The set text for Regional Secretaries – who to watch out for, what to do about them, and how to make yourself safe from counter-insurgency.
2) Blood, Iron and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar.
Yes, I’m obsessed, I admit it. However, in an era when complaining about poor service in almost de rigeur, it is easy to forget the impact that the railway had on our freedoms. Besides, it allows me to get to meetings…
3) Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Yes, it’s a bit corny, but it’s a classic. A reminder, if reminder were needed, that politics need not be all about cynicism and opportunism. Call me naïve if you will, but it isn’t just about the winning, is it? Of course, being an apparatchik means having nothing to do with winning…
1) John O’Farrell – An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain.
I can’t get enough of John O’Farrell, he is so funny – and my claim to fame is having my picture taken with him
2) The Thinking Man’s Idiot – The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson.
I may not like his politics, but he is another one who makes me laugh – but I don’t have a picture taken with him – just one I took of him
3) As there wasn’t a funny Lib Dem book (Lembit hasn’t published anything yet) I have gone for the DVD of The Greatest Speeches of All Time – I had a copy but lost it so it would be good to listen to when I need a bit of inspiration
1) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
It’s pretty much compulsory for this to appear on any list in the lead-up to Christmas – both it and the fabulous Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger are the two books I’ve been saving up to enjoy curling up and reading this holiday time.
2) The Clue Bible: The Fully Authorised History of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue”, from Footlights to Mornington Crescent by Jem Roberts
Perhaps my favourite radio comedy show of all time (after I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again), this will be my Christmas afternoon indulgence. I saw it recorded live a number of times, including a classic Christmas special, and though it’s obvs not the same without Chairman Humph, it’s still sublime.
3) Frank Skinner on the Road: Love, Stand-up Comedy and the Queen of the Night
I picked up his eponymous 2004 autobiography by chance and out of curiosity while waiting for a train. I assumed it would be the usual badly/ghost-written showbiz random anecdotage – in fact it was one of the best, funniest, most acute and original autobiographies I’ve ever read. That’s enough to convince me to give his new book a go.