Reading list

6 books about truth and freedom of speech

In the wake of the attack on Bookmarks Bookshop in London, we've pulled together a list of 6 books about the importance of free speech from some of our leading writers.

On Tyranny

Timothy Snyder

History does not repeat, but it does instruct. In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised to protect them from global existential threats, and rejected reason in favour of myth. European history shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary people can find themselves in unimaginable circumstances. Timothy argues that today, we need to learn from their experience to resist the advance of tyranny.

 

 

Freedom: VINTAGE Minis

Margaret Atwood

Can we ever be wholly free? In this book of breathtaking imaginary leaps that conjure dystopias and magical islands, Margaret Atwood holds a mirror up to our own world. The reflection we are faced with, of men and women in prisons literal and metaphorical, is frightening, but it is also a call to arms to speak and to act to preserve our freedom while we still can. And in that, there is hope.

Race: VINTAGE Minis

Toni Morrison

Is who we are really only skin deep? In this searing, remonstrative 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.

 

Orwell On Truth

George Orwell

'The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.' This selection of George Orwell's prescient, clear-eyed and stimulating writing on the subjects of truth and lies, is taken from both his novels and non-fiction. It ranges from discussion of personal honesty and morality, to freedom of speech and political propaganda. Orwell’s unique clarity of thought and illuminating scepticism provide the perfect defence against our post-truth world of fake news and confusion.

Reappraisals

Tony Judt

In Reappraisals award-winning historian Tony Judt argues that we have entered an 'age of forgetting', where we have set aside our immediate past before we could even begin to make sense of it. We have lost touch with generations of international policy debate, social thought and public-spirited social activism - and no longer even know how to discuss such concepts - and have forgotten the role once played by intellectuals in debating, transmitting and defending the ideas that shaped their time. Reappraisals is a road map back to the historical sense we urgently need. A masterful collection of essays, it examines the tragedy of twentieth-century Europe by way of thought-provoking pieces on Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, Albert Camus and Henry Kissinger amongst others.

 

 

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power

Stephen Greenblatt

How does a truly disastrous leader – a sociopath, a demagogue, a tyrant – come to power? How, and why, does a tyrant hold on to power? And what goes on in the hidden recesses of the tyrant's soul? For help in understanding our most urgent contemporary dilemmas, William Shakespeare has no peer. In Tyrant, Greenblatt examines the themes of power and tyranny in some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays - from the dominating figures of Richard III, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Coriolanus to the subtle tyranny found in Measure for Measure and The Winter's Tale. Tyrant is a highly relevant exploration of Shakespeare’s work that sheds new light on the workings of power.

 

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