Writer and political activist Owen Jones shares his standout reads of 2017, from feminism and global politics to the role of Artificial Intelligence in the not-so-distant future
Shami Chakrabarti has faced the full force of a vicious, unrelenting, often misogynistic press, and she has proved a courageous, inspiring, resilient voice. Of Women is a brilliant feminist work at a time when – from austerity which disproportionately hits women to the #MeToo movement against endemic sexual harassment, abuse and rape – women's voices are more needed than ever. From introducing quotas to tackling women's continued chronic underrepresentation in society to degendering toys to break down the rigid and damaging gender stereotypes that are drummed into children from the earliest age, this eloquent book offers practical solutions, too.
Naomi Klein had a profound influence on me in my youth, and her book No Is Not Enough underlines why she is a towering figure in the global movement for social justice. Here is an epic exploration of what the Trump phenomenon really represents. But critically, this book is a wake-up call: to shift from a defensive posture to going on the offensive against the reactionary movements of the populist right. Essential reading for those committed to building a new world.
I was in Athens in January 2015 when Syriza swept to power, promising to defeat an austerity project which had doubled poverty, left most young people out of work, and ravaged public services. Within months, EU leaders crushed the government's ambitions. Yanis Varoufakis was finance minister during negotiations, and his Adults In The Room is a riveting account of what happened. His definitive account exposes how real power does not rest in the hands of elected politicians, but with international financiers, multinational corporations, and unaccountable bureaucrats. This book showed us what we're up against.
1997: The Future That Never Happened
Richard Power Sayeed
After 18 years of wretched Tory government, New Labour's 1997 landslide was a moment of exuberance for many. But what did it really represent? Richard Power Sayeed's superb and illuminating new book, 1997: The Future That Never Happened, exposes the failure of the New Labour project to transform Britain. Indeed, it explains how the Britain of today – chronically polarised, riddled with injustice, convulsed by crisis – partly emerged out of the failures of Blairism. Critical to understanding the Britain of 2017.
Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
For many years, Britain's left ranked amongst the most marginalised in the Western world. After the Tories' triumph in the 2015 election, an even more bitter political winter for the left seemed to beckon. Instead, a left-wing backbencher – Jeremy Corbyn – who was unknown to most led a successful insurgency to claim the mantle of the Labour party leadership. Richard Seymour's Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics is a superbly written and deeply insightful look at how socialism became a mass political force in Britain again. Want to understand Labour's dramatic electoral surge this year? This book is essential.
Pussy Riot were the art group who became internationally celebrated for their courageous stand against Putin's autocratic regime. Riot Days, by Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, is a fascinating insight into the group's direct action stroke performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, their arrest, trial, incarceration, and hunger strikes. This book is a powerful reminder of the need to stand up against injustice – and of the tragic sacrifices that it can entail.
Are we on the brink of a technological revolution which will transform our lives in ways we are yet to understand? Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark writes about the challenges and opportunities posed by Artificial Intelligence in a style that is accessible to those who, like myself, are not very tech-savvy. This isn't a story of an impending Terminator-style apocalypse triggered by malevolent robots, but about ensuring that AI can be harnessed for the full benefit of humanity – and even looks at a possible expansion of our robotic creations beyond Earth's frontiers. Here is an essential book about how technology will transform the human experience.
Playing with Fire
This is the year where the bigoted demagogue Donald Trump – to the horror of much of the world's population – became the most powerful man on earth. Playing With Fire by Lawrence O'Donnell is the fascinating account of the 1968 presidential election, without which modern US politics is impossible to understand. The 'whitelash' against the civil rights movement, and the deployment of racist tropes for political gain; the movement against the calamitous and increasingly humiliating Vietnam War; the assassinations and riots. The current state of American politics did not fall randomly out of the sky: this book is critical to understanding it.
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THE PHENOMENAL BESTSELLER
'Fantastic, timely, eye-opening' Armando Iannucci, New Statesman, Books of the Year
'Captures a collective sense of anger and awakening' Matt Haig, Observer, Books of the Year
Behind our democracy lurks a powerful but unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process. In exposing this shadowy and complex system that dominates our lives, Owen Jones sets out on a journey into the heart of our Establishment, from the lobbies of Westminster to the newsrooms, boardrooms and trading rooms of Fleet Street and the City. Exposing the revolving doors that link these worlds, and the vested interests that bind them together, Jones shows how, in claiming to work on our behalf, the people at the top are doing precisely the opposite. In fact, they represent the biggest threat to our democracy today - and it is time they were challenged.
'A book of revelations ... The Establishment have stitched it up - stitched you up - and they know it' Danny Dorling, Times Higher Education Supplement
'A dissection of the profoundly and sickeningly corrupt state that is present-day Britain. He is a fine writer, and this is a truly necessary book' Philip Pullman
'Owen Jones is a phenomenon of our times' David Kynaston, The Times Literary Supplement
'You will be enlightened and angry' Irvine Welsh
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