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