Ian Bone has recently given us his reading list for the beach this summer - here's mine.
Getting physically away from London can at times make you fonder for home. I recently came across CLR James "Letters From London" which comprises seven essays the great West Indian Marxist wrote when visiting London for the first time in 1932. James stayed in Bloomsbury, and he gives a vivid insight of an emerging intellectual in a London that was constrained, but beginning to throw off its restraints. As always with James, real life is never far away - he quickly left London for Nelson, Lancashire, where his great friend Learie Constantine was playing as a professional cricketer. When James relates with glee the story of a strike by cinema goers in Nelson and Burnley, it is clear the direction in which his thoughts are leading.
The economic crisis has had people scurrying through the texts of anyone with even a basic grasp of economics. JK Galbraith's "The Great Crash" is one such example - for a lighter read I would recommend his memoir "A Life In Our Times" which covers so much of American history in the fields of economics, war, politics and international relations, that there really is something for everyone.
For a more controversial read, and something much more contemporary, Ed Husain's "The Islamist" may have been a best seller last year, but its importance continues to resonate. So wounding has its text been that it is noticeable critical fire is concentrated not at the book, or even at the author, but at the think tank he has founded - the Quillam Foundation. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the public money available to the Quillam Foundation, "The Islamist" remains a vital book on race, religion and Britain. Reading it should stimulate a response to the emergence of political currents (British Islamism) we will need to fight - if not now, in the future. Forewarned is forearmed.
Finally, proof that good things can be found even in discount stores - "A Woman Soldier's Own Story" - is the autobiography of Xie Bingying. Few people could be described as a soldier, lover, teacher and writer without it sounding a bit corny, but Xie Bingying carries off all four with aplomb. Reading her life story I feel guilty I only paid £2 for it........