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Book recommendations thread

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    Closed Accounts Posts: 27,900 Dave!

    Mod Note:

    Book Recommendations, Petitions, Surveys, New Party announcements and International politics primers stickies merged.

    Note in this thread you don't need to add your own opinions if you are leaving a useful link to a book or primer recommendation etc.


    Hey folks,

    I think it would be a good idea to have a thread in this forum for those seeking and offering recommendations for political books.

    Maybe it could go in the Literature forum, but we'll probably find that most people who post here have read a good amount of specifically political books, whereas in the Literature forum it would vary greatly and we're not likely to find many people who have read specifically political books.

    If it's out of place then it can be deleted or whatever, but I would think that it would do this forum plenty of good!

    Anyways, I'll start off by asking if anybody is able to recommend a few general, unbiased books on the history of the Middle East, and how it has come to be the way it is. Obviously they're all seperate countries, but from what I understand their histories are somewhat intertwined! I'd like to have a clearer understanding of how they came to form allegiances (Iran, Syria, Lebanon).
    Specifically though, I'd like to learn more about Israel and Palestine, how it came to its present state, the motivation behind the various groups involved.

    With the recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon, I feel it would be helpful to have a better understanding of Middle Eastern history. I understand what's going on at the moment, but it has so much history behind it that I can't really form an educated opinion on who's in the right, etc.

    So yeh, any recommendations? And post away if you have any requests! :) (not that I'd be any help, but someone else will :p)



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    Good idea, thread stickied. Use this thread for recommendations only. If you want to discuss the politics check if there is a thread on the topic or start a new one.

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    Its very hard to name one unbiased source during a war, I suppose. Everybody comes from somewhere, and everybody has their own inevitable political views. So maybe read both sides - East and West - and consider the author, and see whom you believe.

    I think youre a student in UCD right? These books are quite good and are all ones I have used from the main library. They should be pretty easy to get in the real world too:)

    "Being Modern in Iran" by a woman called Fariba Adelkhah

    Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia:
    by a Pakistani author called Ahmed Rashid is an excellent book. Ahmed Rashid comes from a Muslim background and is opposed to the extremism and presents an excellent picture of the history of the Taliban in Afghanistan and although its getting old its story has a lesson in it for politics in 2006. I believe Rashid has more books but I havent read them yet.

    The Cambridge history of Iran. - there are several volumes in this series, the one from Nadir Shah to the Islamic republic of Iran is good.

    "The Birth of Israel" by Simha Flapan (an Israeli)

    The many essays, books and other writings by Gore Vidal

    The Qur'an. (The Pickthall Edition) I'm not sure if its in the library, it should be! I think if everybody read (and understood) the Quran it would completely change their feelings not only towards common political prejudices but towards Islam. Free in the Dublin Mosque SCR.

    Thats all I can think of worth saying. Im sure other people will think of good suggestions.

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    I've just finished reading Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast the pulitzer award winning author of 'The best democracy money can buy' and a journalist for BBC and the Guardian.
    It's an excellent piece of investigative journalism that looks at curroption in Political and Corporate America.


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    Akrasia wrote:
    I've just finished reading Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast
    Excellent book. I'd definitely recommend it.

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    I've already mentioned it in a couple of threads, I think: The Right Nation - Why America is Different by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.

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    To give an Irish perspective to the current crisis.

    In the Service of Peace: Memories of Lebanon - Comdt Brendan O'Shea

    A collection of memories about the 23 years Irish Troops spent taking part in peacekeeping operations in the Lebanon up to their withdrawal in 2001.

    On General Themes

    I have found John Pilger's Hidden Agenda's to be a good read as well http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0099741512/sr=8-1/qid=1154975685/ref=sr_1_1/026-8727810-8166818?ie=UTF8&s=gateway

    Along with Noam Chomsky's Rogue States http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0745317081/sr=8-1/qid=1154975791/ref=sr_1_1/026-8727810-8166818?ie=UTF8&s=gateway

    And I am currently reading

    Diet for a Dead Planet by Christopher D. Cook http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1565848640/sr=8-1/qid=1154975832/ref=sr_1_1/026-8727810-8166818?ie=UTF8&s=gateway

    It's about how current trends towards mass farming is effecting the quality of the food we eat and is putting our health at risk. Eventhough its about the US system it is relevant to us in Europe as well (Con you should check this one out!).

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    gandalf wrote:
    It's about how current trends towards mass farming is effecting the quality of the food we eat and is putting our health at risk. Eventhough its about the US system it is relevant to us in Europe as well (Con you should check this one out!).
    I must when I get a chance.I do know that regulations governing food production in Europe are very very strict compared to the USA where theres virtually no restrictions at all.They can use chemicals and hormones(in beef cattle) galore that are banned here.

    Anyway I'm ot now so I'll shut up :p

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    Thumbs up on gandalf's first two as well.

    Its a bit pop political but fear and loathing on the campaign trail '72, by hunter s thompson. Thompson turned his anger rage and focus on the american election in 1972 at the height of the Vietnam war and with the scandal of watergate brewing. Primarily its about the collapse of a democratic anti war campaigner, Mc Govern, who was a decorated WW2 veteran, and how the republicans and his own party's pathetic feuding ripped him to shreds.

    The echo's are obvious, and if you didn't watch the last two seasons of the west wing, I think it's the best primer on the oddities of the american political process, written by a man who had a unique view.

    I'd also recommend his book the great shark hunt, which has some excellent colour essays on Thompson's previous work (including the seminal "the Kentucky Derby is violent and depraved") but also has his essays on the watergate hearing, and his meetings with Jimmy Carter, including the only surviving transcript of an electrifiying speech Carter made in the deep south as governer, which ear marks him as the last true liberal president the united states had.

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    Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk.

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    Gandalfs avatar has just reminded me that the movie V for Vandetta is just out on DVD. I know it's not a book, but if the leaving cert can call films a 'text' then so can I.

    It's a political alegory much like Orwells 1984 (which is another book i strongly recommend), based on a comic book from the 1980's about a dystopian United Kingdom.
    The key figure 'V' is a shakespeare quoting alliterationist who was created like a monster by the evil acts of the government and who is determined lead the masses to overthrow his creator.

    The most important thing to realise while watching this movie, is that While V is a man in the film, he is supposed to represent the spirit of the revolution, and not an actual individual.


  • #2

    the Great War for civilisation by Robert Fisk is worth the effort to read. Its harrowing in places and is not exactly unbiased but it does cover the history of the region in the last century until today pretty well.
    Plus Rogue State by Robert Blum for a look at the US foriegn policy over the last 50 years. It is quite scary tho.
    For an example of how the media distorts a conflict and why military force is not the answer to nationalist type conflicts try A Great and Shining Lie by John Vann.
    If you go to the common dreams.org website they list links to various books and articles by various contributors as does zmag.org then click on znet link.
    For alternative news sites try this lot (tho many are just "off-the-wall")

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    From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman is a decent intro to the current situation between Israel and Lebanon. Obviously many years out of date, but gives a good feel for the different parties involved. Friedman has his opinions and so the book isn't completely unbiased, but it's still a good read.

    I also can't recommend Imperial Hubris enough. It is a critique of US foreign policy from a CIA intelligence analyst.

  • #2

    Another 'not actually a book from me

    the revolution will not be televised also called 'Chavez, Inside the coup, the Irish documentary from the inside of the Attempted CIA coup in Venezuela
    is available on-line here http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13119.htm
    It's a fascinating documentary for anyone interested in the situation over there

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    Akrasia thanks for that, I was kicking myself when I missed it on TV.

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    I can recommend quite a few political books that brush upon the Middle East, nothing direct but "The Cold War" by John Lewis Gaddis, it gives a background to the division of the Middle-East between East and West during the Cold War, of course the book is mainly about The Cold War but the Middle was an important theatre for the cold war, for the same reason it's so important to America now, oil.

    Also Al-Jazeera by Hugh Miles, although technically not political since it deals with the birth of a tv station, it's nonetheless right in the middle, and it's an interesting read.

    Why Europe will run the 21st century by Mark Leonard is interesting especially when read alongside Not Quite The Diplomat by Chris Patton, since Mark tends is a tad optimistic and Chris Patton from his time as an MEP points out the failings and weaknesses of European policy.

    And while I'm at it there's a book on Chairman Mao, Mao The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, it's huge but I couldn't put it down and there's also a book on Africa, can't remember the author, but it's got a black brown cover that looks kinda like a parched desert with a tiny read flower on the cover, I'm not ashamed to admit that parts of it made me cry.

    And I found a book recently Speeches that Changed The World, again can't remember th author but it's really interesting to compare the villians of the piece, say Hitler to the heroes, say Churchill. The simpler the language, the more truth they seem to hold. There's also one from Stalin that's just incredible, ploting a new world order around the time of the Nazi-Soviet pact that sliced Eastern-Europe in two. He had a plan no matter who won.

    That's all I can think of at the mo...

  • #2

    You should check out Tariq Ali's, The Clash of Fundamentalisms. It gives as good an overview as you'll get on how we got where we are today, from the birth of Islam to Bush's Jihad. Ali is of Muslim heritage, but is a self-declared Atheist, which makes his an interesting position to read. He understands and exposes well, the fundemantalist leanings within both Islamic and Neo-con dogma.


  • #2

    Thanks for the recommendations! I found this book in my house, The Near East Since the First World War, by M.E.Yapp, and it looks like it's exactly what I was looking for! Going to Spain tomorrow, so I'll give it a read while I'm lying on the beach ;)

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    I thought Six Days: How the 1967 War Shaped the Middle East by Jeremy Bowen gives a good idea of what's going on today. It is specific to the Six Day War but a lot of modern day Palestine is ruled by this event IMHO.

  • #2

    Akrasia wrote:
    Gandalfs avatar has just reminded me that the movie V for Vandetta is just out on DVD. I know it's not a book, but if the leaving cert can call films a 'text' then so can I.
    Surely you should recommend the comic rather than the film. The film is a mess imo. Instead of it being a story about anarchism vs fascism as Alan Moore intended in the comic, the Wachowskis turned it into a clumsy attack on the Bush administration. It's narrow minded democratic party propaganda. And worst of all, it's got Stephen Fry in it.

    My book recommendations:

    1: Arturo Barea's autobiographical trilogy The Forging Of A Rebel. The first book (The Forge) is about his growing up in turn of the century Madrid, the second (The Track) is about early adulthood and experiences in the Spanish army in Morocco, and the third (The Clash) is his account of the Spanish Civil War.

    2: Anarchy's Cossack by Alexandre Skirda. A biography of Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian who set up an all-volunteer anarchist guerrilla movement which against enormous odds fought successfully against austro-german occupying forces, the white russians, and the red army during the russian civil war, until disease and persecution finally destroyed them.

    3: Modern Ireland 1600-1972 by Roy Foster. The definitive Irish history book.

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    Readingy things I like a lot are
    • Multitude by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt - a fascinating theority of globalisation and social change
    • The Decline of American Power by Immanuel Wallerstein - old white dude predicts the decline of the capitalist system as we know it
    • Reinventing Ireland edited by Peadar Kirby, Luke Gibbons and Michael Cronin - Irish boffins critically, and chillingly deconstruct the social and cultural legacy of the Celtic Tiger
    • Models of Democracy by David Held - boring but it'll set you right about democratic theories of the past 2,000 years
    • Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus - amazing 'hidden history of the 20th century' that links politics, culture, world events and music, weaving together the Paris Commune, Dadaist art, Situationism, Punk, McCarthyite America, Thatcher, Reagan and Daniel Johnston.
    • Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and Good Governance in Africa by Rita Abrahamsen - smart woman uncovers the existing linkages between democracy and development in the context of Africa and explains how Africa is still being colonised, but in different ways to the past
    • Contemporary Politics in the Middle East by Beverly Milton Edwards - amazing political account of the recent history of the Middle East
    • We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch - New York jew tells the incredibly sad story of the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of those who lived through it
    • The Globalization of World Politics edited by Baylis and Smith - great introduction to international relations
    • Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument by Chabal and Daloz - amazing historical and theoretical explanation of politics in Sub-Saharan Africa
    • The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly by Jean-François Bayart - see above
    • Modern Movements in European Philosophy by Richard Kearney - best place ever to read summaries of really complex and fascinating stuff
    • The Social Construction of Reality by Berger and Luckmann - interesting account of how people acquire knowledge, acquire identities and roles in modern life

    I dunno, loads more.

  • #2

    DadaKopf wrote:
    [*]We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch - New York jew tells the incredibly sad story of the Rwandan genocide through the eyes of those who lived through it

    Also gets two thumbs up, details the geoncide and it's time line, explores the history that led to the geoncide starting, even argues about the scale (considering it was carried out using machetes, the mass of the population must have been involved) and it looks at the ramifications and fall out of the murders.

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    But doesn't mention that President General Paul Kagame is a war criminal.

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    John Pilgers' book entitled "Freedon Next time"


    Very apt given the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and some very surprising insights into India and South Africa

  • #2

    At the Moment I’m reading;

    George Galloway : I’m not the only one. Its a really fascinating and funny book with a very biased view of the middle east.

    George Stiglitz : Globalisation and its discontents. Former chief economist of the world bank criticises the world bank!

    Fintan O'Toole : After the Ball. Another great book about the Celtic tiger and where it came from and who it benefited but most who it disadvantaged or were left behind.

    These three books are enjoyable to read, I'm stufying politics in trinity and many of the academic books are pretty boring just good for reference etc if anybody want to know them just pm me.

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    'Six days: how the 1967 war shaped the middle east' by Jeremy Bowen. A detailed hour by hour account of events, accurately understood by only a few insiders at the time and mythologised since. Remarkable for the large number of Thucycides-style first person accounts gathered from a wide range of sources. For the english language reader it is a great contribution to what we know.
    'I didn't do it for you' by Michaela Wrong (sic). Sometimes blackly hilarious history of 130 years of foreign tyranny ( relieved by a few years of the home-grown kind) by a variety of powers in a small African country. I hope this book stays in print for a long time as it should be recalled by those who would reinstute colonialism in Africa ('temporarily, for their own good, of course, as stepping stone to democracy'.)

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    DadaKopf wrote:
    But doesn't mention that President General Paul Kagame is a war criminal.

    Well no, but it does allow that neither side has exactly a clear conscience in Rwanda, neither side was the oppressed noble minority behaving honourably it paints a picture of a complex situation accurately and emotively.

    By the way, there are some excellent suggestions on your list Dadakopf, skimming amazon at the moment and trying to get a running order working of what I can afford and want to read first. Keep em coming.

    In a politics junkie late lite summer read I endorse War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres. The London times, new media correspondent, who accidently through incompedence bad luck and a astonishing ability to run terrified into the jaws of danger found himself in the front lines of a US artillary unit in operation Iraqi freedom. With a tent with a giant red "X" on the roof of it (Courtsey of a camping goods store in Beverly Hills).Its a funny light dry and witty look at war reporting from a guy who found himself in the one job in reporting he never wanted. Like I said for people who enjoy reading about the news and media its a light funny very British, kinda Daily Show look at war reporting.

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    The Green Flag: - A History of Irish Nationalism, by Robert Kee. I've just started re-reading it for the third time. It's an interesting, detailed and objective look at how the concept of Irish nationalism evolved from Brian Boru to 1925.

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    If you're looking for something light but interesting try
    Party Animals by Olivia O'Leary. Interesting portraits of the of some of our senior political figures.

    Extract here

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    Anyone familiar with the following books......

    'The State of Africa', by Martin Meredith

    'The New Penguin History of the World', by J.M. Roberts

    What did you think of them?

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    I am currently reading IRISH FREEDOM - A history of nationalism in Ireland by Richard English which so far seems quite a good book. I also like his previous book ARMED STRUGGLE - The history of the IRA which is the best book about the IRA in my opinion.

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