Books

Russia in Revolution

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Steve Smith has provided a useful overview of Russian history from the end of the 19th century to the 1920s centred, of course, on the dramatic events of 1917 and their aftermath.

He presents a panoramic view and yet includes a considerable amount of detail for a relatively short book.

Smith argues that the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were rooted in the clash between the growing pressure for modernisation of Russia society and the barrier represented by the Tsarist regime.

On Antisemitism

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“The truth is that everyone who organises for justice in Palestine must wrestle with antisemitism, either because a false accusation is being lobbed at them, or because of a need to be vigilant to ensure that the critique of the Jewish state does not become a blanket criticism of the Jewish people”, explains Rabbi Alissa Wise, one of the contributors in this collection of essays curated by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Students in San Francisco set up JVP in 1996. It grew rapidly in response to the war on Gaza in 2014. Today JVP has over 10,000 members across the US.

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.

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