Books

The President's Gardens

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On the third day of Ramadan 2006, nine decapitated heads are delivered in banana boxes to an Iraqi village. One of the heads belongs to Ibrahim, a quiet, gentle, humble soul. The President’s Gardens unravels through a story involving three generations under the backdrop of the invasion of Kuwait, the first Gulf War and the lead up to the US invasion.

The book intertwines the life-long friendship between Ibrahim the Fated, Abdullah Katfa and Tariq the Befuddle known collectively as the sons of the earth crack.

Bob Crow

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Reading this book is like skiing down a mountain. There’s the grand panoramas and promise of exhilaration ahead. It feels rewarding but as you approach the bottom the going gets tougher as the slope levels out, where the quality and depth of the snow diminish. The completion brings its own final flourish.

Gall’s biography starts by outlining his method and setting out the personal and political context through which Crow came to trade unionism and politics. This made the first few chapters the strongest.

The Invention of Angela Carter

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Since her untimely death in 1992 there has never been a full length biography of the English writer, feminist and socialist Angela Carter. Thankfully this first foray into biography by author Edmund Gordon manifestly rights that wrong.

Carter famously described herself as “a born fabulist”, and Gordon takes that as his cue to deconstruct many of the myths that have sprung up around his subject, delineating Carter’s deliberate reinventions of herself with unprecedented access to her diaries, letters and manuscripts.

The Rules do not Apply

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A decade has passed since Ariel Levy’s ground-breaking book on raunch culture, Female Chauvinist Pigs. Her exploration of women being sold back their own oppression as empowerment preceded a number of other books on this “new sexism”. And this phenomenon has since produced a fightback and a renewed interest in feminist thought and the politics of women’s liberation.

Sound System

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One thing I learnt from this book is that the military are the biggest employers of musicians in Britain.

As someone who expends a fair bit of effort supporting and promoting music, I know the struggle and sacrifice of new and exciting musicians just to get by. As a teacher, I am also well aware of the continuous fight to protect the place of music, and to defend children’s access to it, in schools. It came as a shock, then, to find that in one sector there is more than enough public money for musicians to live on.

Materialism

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The thread linking Thomas Aquinas, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche to Karl Marx may seem tenuous to many, but with typical verve and bravura and not a little waspish humour Eagleton has made these connections in his defence of materialism and critique of the metaphysical. In the preface he nails his colours to the mast of “unabashed universalism” which he hopes will scandalise “only those postmodern dogmatists for whom all universal claims are oppressive”.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

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Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is an exciting new book for kids which is creating a stir. When I was a kid it was hard to find books with inspirational female characters for younger children. Michael Foreman’s All the King’s Horses was one of our favourites, as well as his retellings of classic fairy tales (both criminally out of print for years), but similar offerings were hard to come by.

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