Category: Short listsTTTT

John Campbell

The first volume of John Campbell’s biography of Margaret Thatcher was described by Frank Johnson in the Daily Telegraph as ‘much the best book yet written about Lady Thatcher’. That volume, The Grocer’s Daughter, described Mrs Thatcher’s childhood and early career up until the 1979 General Election which carried her into Downing Street.

This second volume covers the whole eleven and a half years of her momentous premiership. Thirteen years after her removal from power, this is the first comprehensive and fully researched study of the Thatcher Government from its hesitant beginning to its dramatic end. Campbell draws on the mass of memoirs and diaries of Mrs Thatcher’s colleagues, aides, advisers and rivals, as well as on original material from the Ronald Reagan archive, shedding fascinating new light on the Reagan-Thatcher ‘special relationship’, and on dozens of interviews.

The Iron Lady will confirm John Campbell’s Margaret Thatcher as one of the greatest political biographies of recent times.

Monica Ali

Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed man who is twenty years older. Away from the mud and heat of her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London’s East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband. But unlike him she is practical and wise, and befriends a fellow Asian girl Razia, who helps her understand the strange ways of her adopted new British home.

Nazneen keeps in touch with her sister Hasina back in the village. But the rebellious Hasina has kicked against cultural tradition and run off in a ‘love marriage’ with the man of her dreams. When he suddenly turns violent, she is forced into the degrading job of garment girl in a cloth factory.

Confined in her flat by tradition and family duty, Nazneen also sews furiously for a living, shut away with her buttons and linings – until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate.

Strikingly imagined, gracious and funny, this novel is at once epic and intimate. Exploring the role of Fate in our lives – those who accept it; those who defy it – it traces the extraordinary transformation of an Asian girl, from cautious and shy to bold and dignified woman.

Andrew Marr

A journalistic memoir from one of the most recognisable TV news correspondents in the UK.

How do you decide what is a ‘story’ and what isn’t? What does a newspaper editor actually do all day? How do hacks get their scoops? How do the TV stations choose their news bulletins? How do you persuade people to say those awful, embarassing things? Who earns what? How do journalists manage to look in the mirror after the way they sometimes behave?

The purpose of this insider’s account is to provide an answer to all these questions and more. Andrew Marr’s brilliant, and brilliantly funny, book is a guide to those of us who read newspapers, or who listen to and watch news bulletins but want to know more. Andrew Marr tells the story of modern journalism through his own experience.

This is an extremely readable and utterly unique modern social history of British journalism, with all its odd glamour, smashed hopes and future possibility.

Helena Kennedy

Acute, questioning, humane and passionately concerned for justice, Helena Kennedy is one of the most powerful voices in legal circles in Britain today. Here she roundly challenges the record of modern governments over the fundamental values of equality, fairness and respect for human dignity. She argues that in the last twenty years we have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties, culminating today in extraordinary legislation, which undermines long established freedoms. Are these moves a crude political response to demands for law and order? Or is the relationship between citizens and the state being covertly reframed and redefined?

  • Helena Kennedy, David Halpern, Cristina Odone and Meg Russell, ‘Has the political class been fatally weakened?’, Orwell Prize Shortlist Debate 2010
  • Helena Kennedy’s website

Timothy Garton Ash

At the start of the 21st century, the world plunged into crisis. What began as an attack on the West by Osama bin Laden soon became a dramatic confrontation between Europe and America. Britain has found itself painfully split, because it stands with one foot across the Atlantic and the other across the Channel. The English, in particular, are hopelessly divided between a Right that argues our place is with America, not Europe, and a Left that claims the opposite. This is today’s English civil war. Both sides tell us we must choose. In this powerful new work Timothy Garton Ash, one of our leading political writers, explains why we cannot, need not and must not choose between Europe and America.

Juliet Gardiner

Juliet Gardiner’s critically acclaimed book – the first in a generation to tell the people’s story of the Second World War – offers a compelling and comprehensive account of the pervasiveness of war on the Home Front. The book has been commended for its inclusion of many under-described aspects of the Home Front, and alongside familiar stories of food shortages, evacuation and the arrival of the GIs, are stories of Conscientious Objectors, persecuted Italians living in Britain and Lumber Jills working in the New Forest. Drawing on a multitude of sources, many previously unpublished, she tells the story of those six gruelling years in voices from the Orkney Islands to Cornwall, from the Houses of Parliament to the Nottinghamshire mines.

Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit

A profound investigation of the history of anti-Westersn stereotypes that traces them back to the West itself.

Twenty -five years ago, Edward Said’s Orientalism described the denigrating mirage of ‘the East’ in the Western colonial mind. But as Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit show in this book, ‘the West’ is the more dangerous mirage of our time, and the idea of us in the minds of our self proclaimed enemies is still largely unexamined and misunderstood. Occidentalism is their groundbreaking investigation of the demonizing fantasies and stereotypes about the Western world that fuel such hatred in others.

‘Radical Islam’ is generally perceived as a purely Islamic phenomenon, but Buruma nad Argalit show that this radicalism owes primary debt to the West. Movement like al-Qaeda are stalked by the same Western bogeymen that have haunted the thoughts of revolutionary groups going back to the early nineteenth century. The same elements of the anti-Western worldview appear again and again: the rootless cosmopolitan living in the Western city; the sterile Western mind, all reason and no soul; the machine society, controlled from the centre by a cabal of insiders – often Jews – pulling the hidden levers of power. The anti-Western virus has found a ready host in the Islamic world for a number of legitimate reasons, but in no way is it exclusively Islamic matter.

A world of extraordinary range and erudition, Occidentalism will permanently enlarge our understanding of the world in which we live.

Michela Wrong

One small East African country embodies the battered history of the continent: patronised by colonialists, riven by civil war, confused by Cold War manoeuvring, proud, colorful, with Africa’s best espresso and worst rail service. Michela Wrong brilliantly reveals the contradictions and comedy, past and present, of Eritrea.

Just as the beat of a butterfly’s wings is said to cause hurricanes on the other side of the world, so the affairs of tiny Eritrea reverberate onto the agenda of superpower strategists. This new book on Africa is from the author of the critically acclaimed In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz. Eritrea is a little-known country scarred by decades of conflict and occupation. It has weathered the world’s longest-running guerrilla war, and the dogged determination that secured victory against Ethiopia, its giant neighbour, is woven into the national psyche. Fascist Italy wanted Eritrea as the springboard for a new, racially-pure Roman empire, Britain sold off its industry for scrap, the US needed headquarters for its state-of-the-art spy station and the Soviet Union used it as a pawn in a proxy war. Michela Wrong reveals the breathtaking abuses this tiny nation has suffered and, with the sharp eye for detail that was the hallmark of her account of Mobutu’s Congo, she tells the story of colonialism itself. Along the way, we meet a formidable Emperor, a guerrilla fighter who taught himself French cuisine in the bush, and a chemist who arranged the heist of his own laboratory. An arresting blend of travelogue and history, I Didn’t Do It For You pierces the dark heart of our colonial history.

  • Michela Wrong, Lord Ashdown, Peter Beaumont and David Loyn, ‘Is journalism failing failing states?’, Orwell Prize Launch Debate 2009
  • Michela Wrong on Journalisted

Richard Webster

In 1991 journalists on broadsheet newspapers began to publish stories claiming that Bryn Estyn, a home for adolescent boys on the outskirts of Wrexham, lay at the centre of a network of evil – a paedophile ring whose members included a senior North Wales police officer. A massive investigation was launched which, over the next ten years, spread to care homes throughout Britain. Thousands were accused, hundreds arrested, and the prisons began to fill up with convicted care workers. Had we at last faced up to a horrifying reality? Or was there another, even more disturbing story that remained to be uncovered? Had leading journalists on quality newspapers themselves helped to set in motion a new kind of witch hunt, one that was unable to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent?

David Loyn

Rory Peck, Peter Jouvenal, Vaughan Smith, and Nicholas Della Casa were the founder members of an exclusive and dangerous club: the Frontline TV News Agency. Between them, this colourful collection of adventurers and ex-army officers captured some of the key images at the end of the Cold War, and the fractured, fissile world which emerged. Two of them are now dead: killed in action. The way they lived and died was an anachronism; they were eccentrics who might have been happier fighting wars in the British Empire a century before. Instead, they brought back pictures from the worst war zones the late twentieth century had to offer. And it suited them.

For the men of Frontline, how things were done was as important as what was done. All four of the founders, and those they recruited, shared the same panache, wit, and disdain for authority, planning the next trip to the Hindu Kush in the bar of the Ritz. Their story reads like a latter-day Rudyard Kipling adventure. But while their lives may have been lived as if they were still playing the Great Game, they also cared passionately about their work and the truth it conveyed. Part Bang Bang Club, part Flashman, Frontline is the gripping story of lives lived to the full in some of the worst places on earth.

Bernard Hare

You’re twelve years old. Your mother’s a junkie and your father might as well be dead. You can’t read or write, and you don’t go to school. An average day means sitting round a bonfire with your mates smoking drugs, or stealing cars.

Welcome to Urban’s world.

Bernard Hare was on society’s margins, living on one of Leeds’ roughest estates and with a liking for drink and drugs. So he knew what life in the underclass was like in ’90s Britain. But even he was shocked when he met Urban, an illiterate, glue-sniffing twelve-year-old. And through Urban he got to know the Shed Crew – an anarchic gang of kids between the ages of ten and fourteen; joy-riding, thieving runaways, who were no strangers to drugs or sex. Nearly all had been in care, but few adults really cared.

Bernard decided to do what he could. He didn’t know what he was letting himself in for.

Ekow Eshun

‘Where are you from?’

‘No, where are you really from?’

These questions, which he has been asked since boyhood, drive Ekow Eshun to travel through Ghana in search of his roots, and lead him on an exploration of history and belonging, from slavery in Africa and the West to the present day and what it means to be black.  In search of answers, Ekow unearths yet more questions, some shocking contradictions and some long-forgotten truths about his family past…

Rory Stewart

By September 2003, six months after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the anarchy had begun. Rory Stewart, a young Biritish diplomat, was appointed as the Coalition Provisional Authority’s deputy governor of a province of 850,000 people in the southern marshland region. There, he and his colleagues confronted gangsters, Iranian-linked politicians, tribal vendettas and a full Islamist insurgency. Rory Stewart’s inside account of the attempt to re-build a nation, the errors made, the misunderstandings and insumountable difficulties encountered, reveals an Iraq hidden from most foreign journalists and soldiers. Stewart is an award-winning writer, gifted with extraordinary insight into the comedy, occasional heroism and moral risks of foreign occupation.

The judges said:

A buccaneering and brilliant evocation of life in Iraq. Not the usual bewailing something, far more revealing for an insider to attempt. A book from the heart of the war – not just an observer’s book but with a confident, witty, intellectual mastery. A tremendous read.

Lewis Page

In this irreverent and provocative book, Lewis Page exposes the scandalous state of our armed forces: how British soldiers are sent off to war with some of the worst guns around, how the MOD keeps financing useless toys (at huge expense to taxpayers), and how decisions seem to be made with an eye, above all, for the interests of British Aerospace. He shows how politicians and the top brass are hopelessly entrenched in yesterday’s wars and pouring their talents and energies into making sure that money is wasted right, left and centre.

The judges said:

Both very funny and very appalling – a Catch 22 or Evelyn Waugh account of how the whole system of supply and contract has most importantly let the British Army down. An absurd story written again by an insider with an unparalleled grasp of the lunacies of the situation. An indictment of a process and an almost surreal sense of blunder built on incompetence built on ridiculousness.

Simon Jenkins

The history of Britain in the last thirty years, under both Conservative and Labour governments, has been dominated by one figure – Margaret Thatcher. Her election marked a decisive break with the past and her premiership transformed not just her country, but the nature of democratic leadership.

Simon Jenkins analyses this revolution from its beginnings in the turmoil of the 1970s through the social and economic changes of the 1980s. Was Thatcherism a mere medicine for an ailing economy or a complete political philosophy? And did it eventually fall victim to the dogmatism and control which made it possible?

This is the story of the events, personalities, defeats and victories which will be familiar to all those who lived through them, but seen through a new lens. It is also an argument about how Thatcher’s legacy has continued down to the present. Not just John Major, but Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are her heirs and acolytes. And as the Conservative party reinvents itself as a viable political force once again, is the age of Thatcher finally over?

The judges said:

One of the most elegant, balanced, wise accounts of where our politics has arrived at and come from. Written with great brio and accomplishment but based on such a deep understanding of the forces in Conservative and Labour politics that have forged contemporary Britain – and the terrible errors the heredity has left us open to.

Carmen Callil

Bad Faith tells the story of one of history’s most despicable villains and conmen – Louis Darquier, Nazi collaborator and ‘Commissioner for Jewish Affairs’, who dissembled his way to power in the Vichy government’s and was responsible for sending thousands of children to the gas chambers. After the war he left France, never to be brought to justice. Early on in his career Louis married the alcoholic Myrtle Jones from Tasmania, equally practised in the arts of fantasy and deception, and together they had a child, Anne whom they abandoned in England. Her tragic story is woven through the narrative.

In Carmen Callil’s masterful, elegaic and sometimes darkly comic account, Darquier’s rise during the years leading up to the Second World War mirrors the rise of French anti-Semitism. Epic, haunting, the product of extraordinary research, this is a study in powerlessness, hatred and the role of remembrance.

The judges said:

A painful, painstaking account of terrible people, doing terrible things. But all the more stilling because they were small terrible people – with a both redemptive and a desperate aftermath in the daughter who was a good but damaged person. A very steady measured account, beautifully crafted.

Hugh Brogan

It is now 200 years since the birth of Alexis de Tocqueville, French aristocrat, liberal politician and writer of genius whose great works, Democracy in America and the Ancien Regime, are ever more influential and discussed.

As the son of a noble family which was nearly wiped out in the Revolution and as an ambitious politician during the July Monarchy and the Second Republic, he had a front seat at the revolutionary drama of his time. His writings are hugely valuable for the study of French, British and American society during his life (he visited the US in 1831 to gather material). It is Brogan’s long held ambition to write this biography. No one has yet attempted a biography of de Tocqueville in the English tradition and for that reason he is not fully present to the public imagination rather than an intellectual monument. This superb work will put that right.

The judges said:

A touching vivid portrait of the thought and times and life of one of the most important thinkers about America, whose work is still some of the most powerful and still relevant. A book that really explores the thought in the context of the life – and a careful portrait of de Tocqueville’s important and difficult marriage – a stunner.

Paul Vallely

Paul Vallely writes on social, ethical and religious issues. He is a former executive editor of the Independent on Sunday and of The Sunday Times News Review. He has previously reported from over 30 countries and was the Africa correspondent for The Times. He has written a number of books including Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt and Promised Lands, a study of land reform in the Philippines, Brazil and Eritrea. He is the editor of The New Politics: Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st Century and A Place of Redemption: a Christian approach to punishment and prison.

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