In the run up to Thursday's general election, check out these books on Britain, politics, and society as you weigh up your voting options
David Van Reybrouck
What have elections ever done for us? Have politics ever been more loaded with fear-mongering, political distrust, and inflammatory rhetoric? Consider this: elections are a relatively new phenomenon. For most of its history, democracy did not involve elections: members of the public were appointed to positions in government through a combination of volunteering and lottery. Based on studies and trials from around the globe, this manifesto presents the practical case for a true democracy. Will the results of this year’s general election highlight democracy’s flaws?
Written in the years following the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave 8.4 million women in the UK the right to vote, this collection asks: Why should one half of the population be free to live, while the other is doomed to watch silently from the sidelines? In these visionary texts, Virginia Woolf leads us on a transformative journey through the liberating powers of the mind: from an exploration of why women were barred from writing and under what conditions they might break free, to the solace derived from haunting London’s streets. These writings present Woolf at her most impassioned, rendering the pursuit of liberty one of life’s most poetic adventures.
Adults in the Room
What really goes on when Europe’s leaders meet behind closed doors? This is Yanis Varoufakis’ account of his attempt to renegotiate Greece’s membership of the EU. It’s an extraordinary tale of brinkmanship, hypocrisy, collusion and betrayal. The results of the General Election will shape the nature of Britain’s departure from the EU: this timely book reminds us of that institution’s role, both in the past, present, and future.
Where, in modern British politics, is the centre-ground? As Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-2015, Nick Clegg was a vital part of the first coalition government to preside over Great Britain since the end of the Second World War. With polls raising the possibility of a hung parliament, there’s never been a better time to read this account of how political diplomacy can bring out the best in democracies, and how compromise, not defiance, is the best hope for the future.
We live in an era of non-stop news: a time in which we are, in theory, better equipped than ever to train a critical eye on the world’s developments. But with populism on the rise, fresh waves of hate crimes, and misinformation becoming harder to separate from fact, what can we, as citizens, do to halt the decline of tolerance, and to prevent the imperilling of democracy? On Tyranny started life as a Facebook post that Snyder wrote just after the 2016 US election. As the Observer put it: "These 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten".
Are societies becoming more inclusive, or are they merely getting better at appearing to be so? In this short but searing book, Toni Morrison unravels race through the stories of those debased and dehumanised because of it. A young black girl longing for the blue eyes of white baby dolls spirals into inferiority and confusion. A friendship falls apart over a disputed memory. An ex-slave is haunted by a lonely, rebukeful ghost, bent on bringing their past home. Strange and unexpected, yet always stirring, Morrison’s writing on race sinks us deep into the heart and mind of our troubled humanity.