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Behind Closed Doors

“Meet the mother whose children were taken away, and the father who fought for his son. Listen to the radical social worker, the judge, the lawyer. See inside the homes of foster carers, adoptive parents and children in care. Because behind closed doors, a scandal is ongoing.

We now remove more children from their parents than ever before, more than any other western country. Not because of a rise in physical or sexual abuse, but because of complex factors that are overlooked and misunderstood.

Children’s Care is a system where fathers are ignored, and mothers are punished for experiencing abuse. Rife with prejudices about race, ableism and class, determined by a postcode lottery. Blind to poverty and its effects on family life. And, at its very worst, an exercise in social engineering that can never replace parental love.

This is not a soft issue. Not a ‘women and children’ problem. It is a prism through which we can understand the deepest issues at play in politics, economics and society today, and it is happening behind closed doors.

Because of legal restrictions against reporting in family courts, the uneasy work of social care and the shame poured on parents, these problems remain out of our sight. They are the subject of horror headlines or stale statistics. But family life is at the heart of who we are as people, and it is they who can help us understand.

From North to South, rich and poor, Black and white, these are the people who know, first-hand, what is going wrong – and how we can fix it.

These are their stories.”

The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination

Richard Evans’ comprehensive investigations into the most powerful and persistent conspiracy theories surrounding the Third Reich have striking resonance in the twenty-first century. His book serves as a reminder of how alert we must be for those who seek to cherry-pick historical details to suit their ideologies, particularly on the right, but also on the left.”

Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country

Journalist John Kampfner offers an illuminating and gripping personal take on Germany since the first world war. Its struggle to transform itself from a pariah state has turned it into a nation that represents the best hope in contemporary Europe for the future of liberal democracy. Described by one reader as “a love letter to Angela Merkel,” this is an engagingly pacey and reflective analysis that highlights where Germany excels – and where others might take heed – while also recognising areas where the country falls short of its own high ideals.”

Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women

In 1919, rape was declared an international war crime, yet since then the International Criminal Court has prosecuted no-one. In a harrowing but clear-eyed account, journalist Christina Lamb reveals the extent to which women and girls have been, and continue to be, raped as a deliberate tactic of war. From the killing fields of Rwanda and Kosovo, to war-time Berlin and Southeast Asia, to 1970s Argentina and present-day Nigeria, Lamb speaks to survivors, witnesses, and those who hold the memory of unspeakable atrocities. These crimes have never before been recorded and compiled in this way, making this a landmark work.”

African Europeans: An Untold Story

A detailed, surprising and moving account of the long history of Africans in Europe. Olivette Otele carefully charts the multiple interlinkages between two worlds often seen as separate, and in the process casts a light on contemporary debates about race and identity.”

How Spies Think: 10 Lessons in Intelligence

In this book, the former director of GCHQ reflects on how to think clearly, drawing on his long experience in the intelligence services to explain how we should order our thoughts, check our reasoning and make intelligent use of intelligence.  Historically informed and engagingly written, How Spies Think is brimming with insights, including into how to avoid misleading oneself, how to build and maintain lasting partnerships, and how to address digital subversion.”

History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America

This compelling book offers a new, unsettling perspective on American history and especially its future.  Taking aim at assumptions about decline, and aiming to supplant de Tocqueville’s influential study, this book is a dazzling intellectual tour of the United States, developing a radical new thesis about the emerging American civilisation and its unrivalled capacity for invention and reinvention.”

Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care

A fascinating, deeply compassionate book that, while telling the stories of those charged with caring in its myriad forms, serves too as a pungent critique of the consumerism and policies of austerity that have heled engender our current crisis of care.”

Recollections of My Non-Existence

A portrait of the American writer as a young woman, Rebecca Solnit’s memoir of coming of age is a  powerful indictment of an all-pervasive and unchallenged culture of misogyny. In this environment, women of her generation –and today’s – have feared for their safety almost every day. Detailing disturbing  personal experiences of harassment and abuse, she also highlights the almost unthinking silencing by men, who believed women should be kept in the wings. A plangent call for women to discover their voices and make themselves heard, this is an uncompromising and invigorating addition to the feminist and #MeToo conversation.”

Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition and Compromise in Putin’s Russia

“A magnificent and moving account of everyday life in Putin’s Russia, this book explores the moral psychology of compromise and the difficulties of pursuing one’s ambitions, while living with integrity, or not, in the face of demands from an overmighty state.  Beautiful and haunting, the book illuminates the challenges of moral life and the ways in which authoritarian rule is maintained.”

The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery

The Interest is exactly the kind of history book Britain needs now, putting into sober context the back-slapping idea Britain did everything it could to wipe out slavery in the nineteenth century. Exhaustive and unflinching, Taylor’s book shows that, in reality, many British institutions and individuals desperately tried to keep it alive, motivated by greed.”

English Pastoral: An Inheritance

Cumbrian shepherd James Rebanks’s memoir recalls his family’s farming days, from his grandfather and father, to his own young children, who are already learning his trade. Vividly and movingly written, with sometimes painful honesty, this is part tribute to his forebears and a declaration of love for the English countryside. Equally, it is an impassioned plea for a return to more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of farming, that allow livestock, the land and all its wildlife to thrive even as they support us.”


Robert Macfarlane is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Lost Words, co-created with Jackie Morris. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. The Lost Words won the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book Award and the Hay Festival Book of the Year. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times.

The Windrush Betrayal

Amelia Gentleman is a reporter and author of The Windrush Betrayal, Exposing the Hostile Environment. She won the Paul Foot award, Cudlipp award, an Amnesty award, journalist of the year British journalism awards and London press club print journalist of the year for Windrush investigations. She has also won the Orwell prize, feature and specialist writer of the year.

The judges say:

The Ministry of Truth: A Biography of George Orwell’s 1984

Dorian Lynskey writes about music, film, books and politics for publications including the Guardian, the Observer, the New Statesman, GQ, Billboard, Empire, and Mojo. His first book, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, was published in 2011. A study of 33 pivotal songs with a political message, it was NME’s Book of the Year and a ‘Music Book of the Year’ in the Daily Telegraph. He hosts the Remainiacs podcast.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Shoshana Zuboff has been called ‘the true prophet of the information age’ by the Financial Times for her ground-breaking book, In the Age of the Smart Machine. She is now the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School as well as Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. In 2006, strategy+business magazine named her one of the eleven most original business thinkers in the world.

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