Books

Redesigning Life

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John Parrington’s engaging and thoughtful book explains the science behind recent rapid advances in genetic engineering that mean it is increasingly possible to enact precise changes at a molecular level.

Genetic engineering tends to evoke images of glow in the dark bunnies, super tomatoes, or for me, the vast, rectangular football player in the novel Red Dwarf who has been engineered to be the exact size of the goal. But genetic engineering has been responsible for medical treatments that are now commonplace.

Lenin on the Train

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There can be few more important journeys than the one Vladimir Lenin took when he embarked from his exile in Zurich on the “sealed” train that took him and an assortment of fellow comrades to revolutionary Russia in March 1917.

Catherine Merridale provides an exhilarating account not just of the journey itself, across war-torn Germany, through Sweden and Finland and on to Petrograd, but of the machinations that led to it, and the fantastic events of the February revolution that instigated it.

The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia

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This graphic novel tells the story of a remarkable woman, Louise Michel, one of the key figures of the Paris Commune, the world’s first working class revolution. Beautiful ink and watercolour drawings bring the events and characters vividly to life.

In 1905 American feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman arrives in Montmartre, Paris. Gilman is met by Monique, a young woman whose mother had been educated by Louise Michel in a school for the poor. Monique relays the story of Louise’s life.

Spain in Our Hearts

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Eighty years ago Spain was in the first months of a desperate struggle. The army, backed by every reactionary element in Spanish society, had rebelled against the elected Republican government. The Spanish working class rose, both to defend the Republic and to create a new and better society. It was the start of a bitter civil war, described by many as the first confrontation of the Second World War.

Moonstone

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This short, beautiful novel tells the story of Máni Steinn Karlsson, a movie-obsessed teenager living with his one ancient relative in an attic in the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1918. Máni Steinn, translated as Moonstone, roams the small town looking for the odd jobs available to a boy who struggles to read and planning which film he will see next in either of the two cinemas.

The Politics of Everybody

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There is a surge of interest in the politics of gender and sexuality among a new generation of activists. Sympathetic characters that challenge gender stereotypes are emerging in popular culture. The passing of equal marriage legislation signifies a more progressive approach towards homo- and bi-sexuality, yet many LGBT+ teenagers continue to fear being outed at school. Pride parades here and in the US pull huge crowds, but are dominated by commercial outfits.

Over the Rainbow

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A crowdfunding campaign has allowed Nicola Field to republish her 1995 book with a new introductory chapter. The book makes a welcome reappearance.

Field, an original member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), decided the book deserved a new airing following the huge success of the film Pride (2014) which tells the story of the group.

The author explains in a new introduction that the account in Over the Rainbow (OTR) is the first in-print version of the story of LGSM.

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