Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Reading Round-up 1

I have invited some bloggers to nominate a couple of books they have enjoyed recently and write a few sentences about each. Readers are welcome to send me their own choices. I suggested one political and one non-political book, but (as you will see) I don’t insist on that. Just send me an email with your choices.

Alan Wyburn-Powell

Bringing the House Down by David Profumo (John Murray)

Before I read this book, I thought that it had a lot going against it. The son of a famous politician trying to cash in on a scandal which happened 50 years ago and which has been discussed so many times that everyone thinks they know all about it already.  How wrong I was. David Profumo manages a delicate balancing act and comes across as very fair to his father, Jack Profumo. That David emerged as a rounded individual, able to undertake the task of writing this book, is further testament to Jack Profumo’s character and that of his wife, Valerie Hobson. This book is very engagingly written and really does give new insights into the events around the Profumo scandal and its aftermath. The words of Jack Profumo, who lived into his 90s, ‘You know, I have enjoyed my life’, should give encouragement to us all, if things do not always go according to plan.

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (Vintage Books)

I enjoyed this book from the start, but initially it was difficult to work out what was so good about it. In many ways it is to writing what David Gower was to cricket or Miranda Hart is to comedy – just a very elegantly executed version of something which other practitioners do with much greater fuss. As an historian, I enjoyed the insights into the research process which led to the book. It is well worth reading for the pleasure of the prose and as a painless way of sipping on European and Japanese history and the world of ceramics without really noticing you are imbibing. We can also thank Edmund de Waal for introducing the concept of the flaneur to otherwise-idle British saunterers.

Dr Alun Wyburn-Powell writes a blog on Liberal history. Follow him on Twitter.

Linda Jack

My political book has to be 'The Political Brain' by Drew Western - it is so absorbing it unusually, for a political book, makes great summer reading! In fact, if there was a reading list for Lib Dem activists it would be compulsory for me.

Understanding how we respond to political messaging, the fact that while the electorate say they hate dirty campaigning they actually love it. The advice that we have to respond to attacks immediately and that ignoring an issue is political suicide. Best example is how the NRA in the States progressed because gun regulation became a shield issue for the Democrats and they shied away from talking about it.

My usual summer reading has to be pretty light stuff. Would recommend anything by Barbara Pym if like me you are a bit nostalgic for the 50's and like reading about anthropologists and vicars.... Also anything by Maggie O'Farrell if you love jigsaw puzzles. I am currently reading 'Instructions for a Heatwave' (appropriately enough!) set in London in 1976 about an Irish family whose father suddenly disappears for no apparent reason, as the story unfolds so do the secrets - perhaps leading to the whereabouts of Dad, perhaps not? I can't tell you because I'm still only two-thirds of the way through.

But if you like to laugh while lounging on the beach - Lucy Kellaway's 'Who Moved my Blackberry' is a must, especially if you own, or have ever owned one. The book is a series emails between Martin Lukes, his wife and colleagues - but you really only get to read his emails and the odd one from his life coach get the picture. Not only is it hilarious it also has a nifty sting in the tail.

Linda Jack blogs at Lindylooz Muze. Follow her on Twitter.

Gareth Epps

I have finally almost got around to finishing 'Bread of Heaven' by Jasper Rees.  A story of a Welshman born and bred the wrong side of the border, but brought up supporting that great rugby team of Edwards, Bennett, JPR, the Pontypool Front Row and the rest, it rings uncannily true.  It has also made me consider joining a male voice choir, though I'm not sure about birthing a sheep.

The other book I've been reading is the excellent biography of lost music legend Arthur Lee, 'Forever Changes' by John Einarsson. Phenomenally influential with the band Love in the 1960s and the albums Da Capo and Forever Changes before a long, slow slide, the real story of Lee was never really covered, even after his renaissance after several lost decades culminating in a 1990s jail stint.  This book shows the very human contradictions of a flawed genius.

Next off is an expedition into the writings of 'Rory the Tory' - as one of constituents described him to me recently: Rory Stewart.

Gareth Epps writes a blog. He does not like Twitter.


Jennie Rigg said...

"Gareth Epps writes a blog. He does not like Twitter."


Gareth Epps said...

Played with a very straight bat.