Sunday, 22 December 2013

How We Invented Freedom, Daniel Hannan

This book was marketed as Inventing Freedom in the USA.

This is a book by Daniel Hannan MEP, a well-known exponent of right-wing libertarian politics.  In it, he seeks to give historical colour to his political views.  He advances the thesis that democracy, freedom and capitalism form a specific inheritance of the English-speaking world, which he refers to as the "Anglosphere".

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt

This has been described as a self-help book for people who don't read self-help books.  It might also be described as a popular science book for humanities graduates.  It is a readable but carefully documented discussion of ideas and insights in the field of positive psychology - the branch of psychology which seeks to promote human flourishing rather than merely to treat mental disorders.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt

Why do we hold the moral and political beliefs that we do?  Why are we frequently so certain of them, and why are others so certain that we are wrong?  These are the questions that psychologist Jonathan Haidt attempts to answer in this fascinating book.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore

This long-awaited and heavy tome was finally published in April, following the death of its subject.  Impressively detailed and meticulously researched, it is destined to become the standard Thatcher biography for a long time to come.  It recounts the story of the Iron Lady's life from her childhood to Britain's 1982 victory in the Falklands War.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Alexandra Kollontai - the lady in red

Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) was a Russian revolutionary and radical feminist.  After 1917, she became the People's Commissar for Social Welfare, but she fell out with Lenin and spent most of the rest of her career working in Stalin's diplomatic corps.  Despite a revival of interest in her work in the 1970s, she is a largely forgotten figure today.


Friday, 24 May 2013

On the Jewish Question, Karl Marx

This is an article written by Karl Marx and published in 1843, when Marx was in his mid-20s.  The prose style is somewhat opaque, and lacks the more fluent and acerbic touch of some of his more mature works.  The ideas, too, are not yet fully formed.  This is proto-Marxism rather than the whole enchilada.

Hitler's Second Book

This is another dull, wordy and over-long book by the most evil man of the twentieth century.

Margaret Thatcher's religion

Interesting article at the Thatcher Foundation on "The Religious Mind of Margaret Thatcher" by the writer and historian Antonio Weiss.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Nuremberg Diary, Gustave Gilbert

This is a fascinating and unique book.  It is an account of the Nuremberg war crimes trials written by the US Army psychologist who was assigned to watch over the defendants.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Karl Marx

"Hegel says somewhere that great historic facts and personages recur twice.  He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

"Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand."

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
This is one of the foundational texts of the modern political left, first published in England in 1848.

Von Papen at Nuremberg

This is an abridged version of the testimony given by Franz von Papen to the international war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg.  Papen is one of history's great unknowns, and his testimony is interesting for a number of reasons.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The myth of the British religious right

Modern Britain is a secular country in which religious doctrines have little influence on public policy.  In the last few years, however, some parts of the media have begun talking about the existence of a British "religious right".  A new report from the think-tank Theos examines this alleged threat of theocratic extremism in British society and concludes that it is largely bollocks.  It seems to have been created mostly by journalists in search of sensationalist copy.

The Believing Brain, Michael Shermer

This is the latest book by Michael Shermer, a well-known American science writer and debunker of conspiracy theories and supernatural beliefs.  I don't share Shermer's rationalistic perspective, but I liked the book.