Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Reading Round-Up 4

I have invited some bloggers to nominate a couple of books they have enjoyed recently and write a few sentences about each. 

You are welcome to send me your own choices. I suggest you nominate one political and one non-political book, but I don’t insist on that.

You can read Round-up 1Round-up 2 and Round-up 3 on this blog.

Mary Reid

People Power: A User’s Guide to Democracy by Dan Jellinek (Bantam)

A few weeks ago Dan Jellinek sent me a proof copy of his book. I intend to review it for Lib Dem Voice, but real democracy, in the form of a challenging by-election, has erupted in my patch, so I need to finish reading it very soon.

Dan is one of the movers and shakers in online democracy, although he carefully treads a non-partisan path in all his activities. His book is an ambitious everyman’s guide to democratic systems in the UK, comprehensively researched and written in an engaging style. He did interview me about policy making in the Lib Dems, but if you doze for a moment while reading the book you will probably miss it.

A Small Town Affair by Rosie Wallace (Headline)

I headed up to Orkney for a holiday earlier this year, so it seemed appropriate to take with me the first novel written by the wife of the former MP for Orkney and Shetland. Perhaps not surprisingly, the plot centres on the wife of a new Lib Dem MP, as she becomes the focus of gossip on the town’s grapevine, through a series of beautifully written comic scenes that made me laugh out loud.

This is perfect light holiday reading, especially for Lib Dem activists, who are gently but affectionately caricatured within. I’m sure you all have a Minty Oliver in your local party – an elderly and eccentric activist who manages to untangle all the complicated situations that the rest get themselves into.

The question is: which of these two books is my political choice?

Mary Reid writes a blog.

Andrew Hickey

My political choice is Conrad Russell's An Intelligent Person's Guide To Liberalism, which I recently read at the prodding of Alex Wilcock, and wished I'd read years earlier. A wonderful, insightful book, it manages to express in its 122 pages everything that distinguishes Liberalism both as a set of principles and as a specifically historical movement linked to the Liberal and Liberal Democrat parties in the UK. It's absolutely essential for all Liberals, in and out of the party. It's out of print, but second-hand copies can be picked up for ten pounds or so.

Favourite quote: "I can still remember, when I was five, looking at William Lord Russell’s portrait on the wall, and asking my father what he did. My father replied; “Oh, he was a very good man. The King cut his head off." The distrust of unfettered power implicit in that remark is very deep in the Liberal inheritance, and very deep in the current Liberal Democrat concern with constitutional reform."

As for my other choice, I think readers of this blog would be likely to enjoy Shell-Shocked, the autobiography of Howard Kaylan. While it concentrates too much on the sex and drugs and not enough on the rock and roll, there are still plenty of wonderful details about recording music in the 1960s and 70s. Kaylan started out as the lead singer of The Turtles, but has performed in some capacity or other with almost every great musical figure of the 60s and 70s, whether by having Ray Davies produce a Turtles album, being lead singer for Frank Zappa for three years, backing John Lennon at an impromptu appearance, singing backing vocals on all T-Rex's hits or singing on Springsteen's Hungry Heart.

And where else are you going to find out Tom Jones' pet name for his penis?

Andrew Hickey blogs at Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! Follow him on Twitter.

Paul Walter

A Swim-on Part in the Goldfish Bowl by Carol Thatcher

A very absorbing book. It didn't make me feel all that enamoured of Carol Thatcher but I enjoyed reading all the little anecdotes. The book appears to be largely (and rather outrageously) the basis for the Oscar winning film The Iron Lady. So it is worth reading for that reason alone.

Crying with Laughter: My life story by Bob Monkhouse

A bit of an old one, but a fascinating story of an extraordinary man. Worth reading alone for the amusing story of the early days of The Golden Shot. Little known trivia fact: Bob Monkhouse bequeathed the largest known collection of Butlin's whisky glasses. He did shedloads of stand-up for Butlin's in the 70s and 80s. Before each performance they would give him a glass of whisky. Once drunk he put the glass in his brief case and took it home. Then he kept them all along with his vast collection of (annotated) TV Times and TV programmes recorded on video. He owned the UK's first privately owned video recorder. It cost him almost as much as house cost at the time.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings. Follow him on Twitter.

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