Recommended Reading: Parliamentarians' Top Books for Christmas 2021
From Soviet involvement in the Nuremberg trials to the impact of geography on global politics and the life story of a tennis icon, four parliamentarians share their selections of cracking Christmas books
Saqib Bhatti, Conservative MP for Meriden
With Christmas just around the corner, here are my recommendations for some holiday reading, or even some inspiration if you (like me) are yet to sort your Christmas gifts this year.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall is the perfect book for someone fascinated by global politics and the impact of geography on the evolution of global politics. It provides a practical and thorough insight into some of the contemporary conflicts facing the global community by dissecting them through a geopolitical lens. Interesting and witty, Marshall skilfully considers the role of geography in explaining some of the most fundamental questions the international community faces.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts follows the story of a convicted Australian bank robber who escapes prison and flees to India. Hiding out in a shanty town in Bombay, he becomes a community doctor, appears in a Bollywood film, gets involved in the Bombay world and even ends up in jail. A captivating read follows the trial of a man on a quest for answers to some of life’s bigger questions of love, meaning and purpose and just goes to show you never know what life may throw at you.
Iain Dale’s award winning The Prime Ministers is a must read for political geeks. He brings 55 former political figures to life, and you quickly see why it won the 2020 Parliamentary Book Award for Best Political Book by a Non-Parliamentarian.
Baroness Hayter, Labour peer
As a historian and feminist, my three book choices reflect just that! First is the fascinating story of the Nuremberg trials, centred on the Soviet contribution, Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II, by Francine Hirsch. As the fourth victorious state (beside the US, UK, and France), Russia was to provide one of the judges for this tribunal. But their recent show trials – absent proper evidence, sturdy defence and an independent arbitrator – hardly prepared them for an independent and public court case. Somehow it was made to work – as the book documents with insight and verve.
My second is John Carr’s amazing, almost unbelievable, story – discovered only in his adult life – of his father’s Jewishness and Escape From the Ghetto; as the book’s sub-title says, “The Breathtaking Story of the Jewish Boy Who Ran Away from the Nazis”. A herculean struggle, witness to the human instinct for survival, the story of my colleague Baroness Thornton’s father-in-law, moving from Chaim Herszman to Henryk Karbowski and finally Henry Carr, is as gripping as a le Carré, but happens to be true.
Finally, the gift for all grandchildren, Afua Hirsch and Henny Beaumont’s Equal to Everything: Judge Brenda and the Supreme Court, the story of a little girl who worked hard at school and became extraordinary – our own Spider Lady, Baroness Hale, the inspiration.
Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West
My favourite book this year was All In, Billie Jean King’s inspiring and uplifting autobiography. As well as being a retrospective on her incredible tennis career, this is a very personal memoir in which she reflects on how her decision to come out as a lesbian and to live openly and honestly has had such a profound impact on her happiness. It also chronicles King’s activism over her lifetime and her continuing work for equality, fairness, and justice in sport and beyond.
In a year where gender ideology rocketed to prominence, there were several excellent contributions to a vital if sometimes fraught debate. I found Material Girls by Dr Kathleen Stock made a powerful case for why sex matters when discussing women’s rights and equality. Similarly, Helen Joyce’s Trans was an important study of some of the real-world implications of turning ideology into policy without appropriate scrutiny or safeguarding.
Julie Bindel’s latest book, Feminism for Women, was a stark reminder of how far we still have to go to end male violence and break down class barriers. This book unapologetically centres the ordinary women Bindel has stood with in her long fight against domestic violence, prostitution, and institutional misogyny.
Lord Oates, Liberal Democrat peer
Then a Wind Blew by Kay Powell is a beautiful book which traces the final, tragic year of the Zimbabwe independence war through the eyes of three women with very different perspectives of life and war in pre-independence Zimbabwe. It exposes at a deeply personal level, the toll that war exacts on all involved and it provides real insight into the enduring legacy that Zimbabwe’s war still imposes on its people.
Angela Carter’s Wise Children is a crazy, hilarious, romp of a book, filled with unforgettable characters and brimming with warmth and outrageous exploits. A book to lift the spirits on even the gloomiest of winter days.
Growing up as a gay adolescent in the 1980s, Michael Cashman’s portrayal of Colin in EastEnders, the first gay character in a TV soap, offered me a lifeline – a positive view of a gay man in a world of negatives. One of Them tells Michael’s story, from childhood in the East End, through his career as an actor to a political life spanning the European Parliament and House of Lords. A warm and moving book, sometimes outrageous, often hilarious, and always inspiring.
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