Books

Set the Night on Fire

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Set the Night on Fire is a major contribution to our understanding of the struggles taking place in Los Angeles during the 1960s.

It is a movement history, an 800-page chronicle of struggle encompassing everything from anti-nuclear campaigns to the battle for civil rights, emerging feminist and LBGT liberation and so much else besides.

Justice for Some

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Noura Erekat, an American-born Palestinian, human rights attorney and assistant professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University, has produced an accessible and important analysis of what has been and remains a deliberate strategy by the state of Israel to normalise its history of illegality in Palestine.

The Five

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Jack the Ripper’s murder of five “prostitutes” on the streets of London’s East End has spawned thousands of books, TV programmes and vile walking tours of sites where the five women were mutilated. Their question is always the same: who might have been the murderer?

Hallie Rubenhold’s book is an astonishing piece of historical detective work that finally asks, after 130 years, “who were the women?” They were Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.

Seducing and Killing Nazis

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The Nazi occupation of The Netherlands is indelibly linked to reading Ann Frank’s diary; her extraordinary description of surviving in hiding for over two years and her tragic death in Belsen shortly before the end of the war.

However, fewer of us know much about the Nazi occupation and the resistance to it, including the contribution made by women and teenagers.

The colourful life of Alasdair Gray

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Alasdair Gray, the author, illustrator, artist and political commentator, died aged 85 at the turn of the last decade on 29 December 2019. He will be remembered for his polymathic talent, the sheer force of his creativity and his life-long commitment to the notion that a better world is possible.

The child of factory and warehouse workers, and brought up on a council estate in the east end of Glasgow, Gray was raised with a strong socialist sensibility.

The Dressing-Up Box

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“The trouble with you...is that you feel that people’s stories have to make some sort of sense. Whereas in reality it’s all accidents.” So says one of the characters in David Constantine’s collection of gripping, dark and powerful short stories; stories whose unexpected twists seek to bring in some sort of light and meaning.

The Other End of the Line

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This latest Inspector Montalbano story is the one the racists do not like. It is sympathetic towards refugees, who are shown as human beings facing hardship and tragedy, rather than as an alien “threat” to be feared or hated.

Author Andrea Camilleri has often sprinkled his Montalbano books with social comments from his left-leaning perspective — for example, targeting the links between big business, corrupt politicians and the Mafia.

But this time he wears his heart on his sleeve even more explicitly than usual by conveying a strong anti-racist message.

Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined

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This incredibly enjoyable book utterly destroys the myths around masculinity and is a great read for younger men told to “man up”, “stop being such a wimp” and so on. There has been a significant rise of books around the same theme, but JJ Bola directly relates his struggles and understanding to a younger audience, which has largely gone amiss in recent years.

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