Impress your friends! Check out our politics book list

The politics bookElection Day is drawing ever closer. If you’re interested in finding out more about political science, the party leaders or how the British political system works, these 10 books offer a great place to start.

Books on how it all works:

The Politics Book by Paul Kelly. Covering everything from the dawn of political thinking to modern day spin this is a brilliant choice for those who really want to dive head first into the subject. Brimming with over 100 ground-breaking ideas and masses of graphs and step by step summaries to help you get to grips with them. You’ll have facts at your fingertips after this read.

British Politics for Dummies by Julian Knight. Packed with bite sized facts and easy to follow information this is the perfect place to start if you are new to politics or simply want to brush up your knowledge in an easy to digest and entertaining way.

An introduction to the party leaders:

The Establishment and how they get away with itCameron: The Rise of the New Conservative by Francis Elliott and James Hanning. Just how did the relatively unknown Cameron rise through the Tory ranks to lead his party to government via coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010? This well researched and informative biography sets out to answer that question and give an insight into the man behind the politician.

Ed: The Millibands and the Making of a New Labour by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre. Surely no recent party leadership battle has been as personal as that between the Milliband brothers. How Ed came to pursue the same path into politics as his older brother David and ultimately defeat him to become the next Labour Party leader is charted in this enlightening biography.

Nick Clegg: The Biography by Chris Bowers. Riding a tidal wave of popular opinion in 2010 Clegg lead his party into an unexpected coalition government with the Conservative Party. Since then he has come under widespread criticism over U-turns and broken manifesto promises. This biography charts his epic rise to become the second most powerful politician in Britain and equally epic fall from the public’s grace.

Fighting Bull by Nigel Farage. As UKIP take up more and more space on the centre stage of politics it is impossible to overlook this larger than life new fixture of the political right. This book offers a chance to find out what Farage thinks of Farage and his place in British politics today.

British politics today:

Sex Lies and the Ballot Box: 50 Things You Need to Know About British Elections by Philip Cowley and Sex, lies & the ballot box: 50 things you need to know about British electionsRobert Ford. 51 essays on how we vote and why. Examining everything from the effects of a candidate’s sex appeal on their electoral success to why so many of us lie about who we voted for. This is a thought provoking read and timely conversation starter.

Understanding British Party Politics by Stephen Driver. As the idea of a single party leadership, which for so many years dominated British Politics, seems to be drifting into a bygone age and with the country poised for another coalition government this book takes a closer look at recent events which have led to such a significant shift in voting habits and changed the political landscape as we knew it.

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition by Matthew d’Ancona. Have you ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes of the current coalition government? This book pulls back the curtain to reveal the struggles behind the smiles.

The Establishment and How They Got Away With It by Owen Jones. Just how democratic is our democracy? That’s the question Jones asks as he explores the often shadowy influence of the upper class establishment on all areas of British life from Parliament to press to banks.

Thanks to Gemma Alexander from the Information and Research Library


The Paddy Power Political book awards winners

Revolt on the right: explaining support for the radical right in BritainThe results of the Paddy Power Political Book awards are now out!

Political book of the year is Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, who receive £10,000

The story of the rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)  Drawing on a wealth of new data – from surveys of UKIP voters to extensive interviews with party insiders – in this book  prominent political scientists Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin put UKIP’s revolt under the microscope and show how many conventional wisdoms about the party and the radical right are wrong.

Women of the world: the rise of the female diplomat by Helen McCarthy. Throughout the 2othC and before, determined British women defied the social conventions of Women of the world: the rise of the female diplomattheir day to seek adventure and influence on the world stage- as travellers,  explorers, business-owners or buyers or working for worthy international causes, from anti-slavery and women’s suffrage to the League of Nations and world peace. Yet until 1946, no British woman could officially represent her nation abroad. It was only after decades of campaigning and the heroic labours performed by women during WW2 that diplomatic careers were finally opened to both sexes.

Political history book of the year: Modernity Britain: A Shake of the Dice 1959–62 by David Kynaston Politics and government between 1945-1964

Political Biography of the Year: Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life by John Campbell Best Prime Minister we never had?

Debut political book of the year: City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai – Far removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, there is another, hidden city, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. It is also the home of our eight protagonists, drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society.These are ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives

Political fiction book of the year: Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny  – In 1998 the gilt is starting to come off a new era. Mark Lucas, the recently appointed foreign minister, is in a dilemma. A disk containing the names of British informants to the Stasi has ended up in the hands of the government. Elected on a platform of transparency, he faces resistance from the diplomatic service who don’t want him to return it to the Germans, despite their entreaties. Alex Rutherford, a young man working for the intelligence services, wakes up one morning with a hangover and a dawning realisation that his computer is lost and, with it, the only copy of that disk. When the disk is delivered to the newspaper where journalist Anna Travers works, she finds herself unravelling not just a mystery, but many people’s lives

Practical politics book of the year: The ‘Too Difficult’ Box by Charles Clarke – Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke brings together a cast of heavy hitters from the worlds of politics, academia and public service to write expansively and persuasively on important topics too often kicked into the long grass because of their insolubility, such as immigration, welfare reform, drug regulation, public sector pensions, nuclear disarmament, social care in old age and gender discrimination in the work place

  • Polemic of the year: An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? by Geoffrey Robertson
  • World war one book of the year: The World’s War by David Olusoga
  • Political humour and satire book of the year: The Coalition Book by Martin Rowson

Paddy Power Political Book Awards – the best political writing 2014

Parliament: the biography. Volume 1, Ancestral voices

Now in their third year, the Paddy Power Political Book Awards, founded by Biteback publisher and political commentator Iain Dale, are sponsored  by Paddy Power and Lord Ashcroft. The winner of the political book of the year receives £10,000, shortlist below.

A further £3,000 prize goes to the winner of the debut political book of the year award and there are other awards for biography of the year, polemic of the year, political history book of the year, and political fiction book of the year, while others cover practical politics, satire and humour, and international affairs. A new prize created this year will cover publishing on the First World War and a lifetime achievement award for political writing will be awarded at the ceremony on 28th January. Here’s ALL the shortlists

Dale said: “The Paddy Power Political Book Awards have become a permanent fixture in the book awards calendar. The calibre of the shortlisted authors is once again outstanding and the awards celebrate the breadth and diversity in political writing.”Margot at war: love and betrayal in Downing Street, 1912-16

Who’s in the running for political book of the year?

Chris Bryant, Shadow culture minister is up against Alan Johnson, former home secretary.

Parliament: The Biography by Chris Bryant is a two volume work. The first volume is a 400-year journey from Parliament’s very earliest days in the 14thC through the turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses and horrors of the English Civil War up to the end of 18thC, when Parliament first truly began to take on its modern form. The second covers the extraordinary transformations of the last two hundred years, when politics took on its current form. The vote is extended to include the working classes and, eventually, women. The Labour Party is born. The world is torn apart by two extraordinarily bloody World Wars. And the political scandal is invented.

Alan Johnson’s Please, Mister Postman is a sequel to the bestselling ‘This Boy’ – Born in condemned housing in West London in 1950, with no heating, no electricity and no running water, Alan Johnson did not have the easiest start in life. By 18, he was married, a father and working as a postman in Slough. ‘Please, Mr Postman’ paints a vivid picture of Britain in the 1970s – a very different country to the one we know today – and reveals another fascinating chapter in his life.

Revolt on the right: explaining support for the radical right in BritainAnne de Courcy’s Margot at War An unconventional view of the First World War from inside the glittering social salon of Downing Street: a story of unrequited love, loss, sacrifice, scandal and the Prime Minister’s wife, Margot Asquith

Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain by Robert Ford & Matthew Goodwin. UKIP is the most significant new party in British politics for a generation. Both the party and the roots of its support remain poorly understood. Where has this political revolt come from? Who is supporting them, and why? How are UKIP attempting to win over voters? And how far can their insurgency against the main parties go? The book draws on a wealth of data to answer these questions.

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding. Edward Snowden, a young computer genius working for America’s National Security Agency, blew the whistle on the way this powerful organisation uses new technology to spy on the entire planet. The spies call it ‘mastering the internet’. Others call it the death of individual privacy. This is the inside story of Snowden’s deeds and the journalists who faced down the pressure from US and British governments to break a remarkable scoop

Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith by Simon Danczuk and Matthew Barker. Danczuk, the current MP for Rochdale, outed Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith in the House of Commons as a serial child abuser. This book tells how Smith rose from poor beginnings to become a dominating political figure in the Northwest and nationally, and used his extraordinary profile to conceal a spectacular abuse of power.

Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts. It has become all too common for Napoleon Bonaparte’s biographers to approach him as a figure to be reviled, bent on world domination, practically a proto-Hitler. Here, after years of study extending even to visits paid to St Helena and 53 of Napoleon’s 56 battlefields, Andrew Roberts has created a true portrait of the mind, the life, the military, and above all political genius of a fundamentally constructive ruler.

Judges for this year’s awards include Charles Clarke, Caroline Michel and Damian McBride.

Last year’s winner of the political book of the year award was Charles Moore’s first volume of his authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher..

The Orwell Prize 2014

The annual Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. The award is made for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. There are two awards, one given to a book, the other to a journalist. The longlist of books was chosen from 235 entries, the journalists from 167 entries. The winners in both categories win £3000 each.

Here’s the longlist for the Book Prize

The Tragedy of Liberation by Frank Dikotter In 1949 Mao Zedong hoisted the red flag over Beijing’s Forbidden City. Instead of liberating the country, the communists destroyed the old order and replaced it with a repressive system that would dominate every aspect of Chinese life. In an epic of revolution and violence which draws on newly opened party archives, interviews and memoirs, the author interweaves the stories of millions of ordinary people with the brutal politics of Mao’s court

The General by Ahmed Errachidi On September 11th 2001, in a café in London, Ahmed Errachidi watched as the twin towers collapsed. In a series of terrible events, Ahmed was sold by the Pakistanis to the Americans and spent 5 years in Guantánamo. Beaten, tortured and humiliated, he did not give in, instead this very ordinary, Moroccan-born London chef became a leader of men. Known by the authorities as The General, he devised protests and resistance by any means possible- and eventually freed, his innocence admitted.

The World’s Most Dangerous Place by James Fergusson Although the war in Afghanistan is now in its endgame, the West’s struggle to eliminate the threat from Al Qaida is far from over. In 2010 Al Qaida operatives were reportedly streaming out of central Asia towards Somalia . What is now happening in Somalia directly threatens the security of the world, how Somalia became the world’s most dangerous place and what we can / should – do about it

The British Dream by David Goodhart One of Britain’s most influential centre-left thinkers examines UK immigration policy and argues that there have been unforeseen consequences which urgently need to be addressed

Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape by Jay Griffiths While travelling the world in order to write her award-winning book ‘Wild’, the author became aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular, captured her imagination: why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy and why is it that children in many traditional cultures seem happier?  ‘Kith’ explores these questions

This Boy by Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary  The story of two incredible women: Alan Johnson’s mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better future for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility to protect her family

The Red Fortress by Catherine Merridale The Kremlin is one of the few buildings in the world which still keeps its original, late medieval function: as a palace, built to intimidate the ruler’s subjects and to frighten foreign emissaries. ‘Red Fortress’ conveys this sense of the Kremlin as a stage set, nearly as potent under Vladimir Putin as it was under earlier, far more baleful inhabitants

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography by Charles Moore ‘Not For Turning’ is the first volume his authorized biography of Maggie.

The Confidence Trap by David Runciman Why do democracies lurch from success to failure? The current financial crises is just one example of how things keep going wrong, just when it looked like they were going right. Wide-ranging, original, compelling, this is the story of modern democracy through the history of moments of crisism from WW1 to 2008 economic crash.

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  Fiction – If your children were forced to testify against you, what terrible secrets would they reveal? Moscow 1945. Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory over Hitler, then shots ring out & on a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead. It’s no ordinary tragedy and they’re no ordinary teenagers, but the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend the most exclusive school in Moscow. Murder? Suicide? Or a conspiracy against the state?

These aren’t in stock, please reserve them if you would like to read them:

  • The XX Factor by Alison Wolf
  • Edmund Burke by Jesse Norman
  • Coolie Woman by Gaiutra Bahadur
  • Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Feki

Season of lists – 2013 star political biographies

image-medium (60)Anyone interested in reading about the lives of our esteemed leaders or would be leaders need look no further than these recommended reads from the Guardian.

First up is ‘Not for Turning’ by Charles Moore, his first volume of Maggie Thatcher’s biography. This one has won prizes – Samuel Fisher, HW Fisher – There is some interesting stuff about her marriage to Dennis not being as blissful as portrayed – he suffered a breakdown in the 60’s possibly due to Margaret’s obsession with her political career, and he escaped to South Africa for a time.

Damian McBride’s book ‘Power Trip’ is a bit of an expose about his time with Gordon Brown and attempts to smear rivals etc.and the Conservatives too when he had time!

Then there’s Tony Benn’s final volume of diaries, A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine which cover his dislike of Blair and what he sees as Brown’s betrayals

Finally Boris Johnson’s The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson‘ – Intelligent, ruthlessly ambitious and prone to gaffes that the press and public take equal delight in, Boris Johnson is the darling of the Tory party. This collection of his wit and wisdom, edited by eminent journalist Harry Mount, covers his education, his journalism, his politics, his time as Mayor of London, the Olympics and his personal life. It begins with a substantial introduction exploring his time in public life, not ignoring his personal indiscretions

2 political autobiographies

image-mediumA bit of a contrast but here’s a couple of political autobiographies that might be worth a read.

First is Ann Widdecombe’s Strictly Ann the autobiography. These are the memoirs of a woman who joined the old Conservative Party in 1964, was politically formed by the 70s and saw Thatcherism in the 80s – then ministerial office and later the Shadow Cabinet. It is also a book for people who struggle with moral dilemmas …. not to mention Strictly Come Dancing (only 10 pages on that) ..Fuller review in the Telegraph

This Boy by Alan Johnson, ex Shadow Chancellor and would be rock star, is the story of two incredible women: Alan Johnson’s mother, Lily, who battled against poor health, poverty, domestic violence and loneliness to try to ensure a better future for her children; and his sister, Linda, who had to assume an enormous amount of responsibility to protect her family.

Read a fuller review from the Guardian