Wednesday, 22 December 2021 17:18

Twelve Books for the Twelve Days of Christmas

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Twelve Books for the Twelve Days of Christmas

Twelve Books for Twelve Days of Christmas

Preparing for the season of goodwill, Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman selects books to tide us over into the New Year and beyond

Apart from bah-humbug miserabilists, those of all faiths and none manage to find Christmas a time to give, and to receive. With this in mind here are twelve books for the twelve days of Christmas – however to get them all read by the time Twelfth Night is out will most likely leave the reader intellectually exhausted! So a slower pace towards an early Spring is advised for all but the most committed readers.


 1 The Tragedy of the Worker : Towards the Proletarocene The Salvage Collective


An extended pamphlet-cum-manifesto that quotes Marx, Wilde and Blake – for those whom ‘culture matters’ what’s not to like?  In a short space of time the post-Trotskyist journal Salvage has made its mark via a heady mix of high theory, polemical politics and cultural reference points, high and low.  Now this short book turns those ideas into an ideological call to arms, unashamedly intended to inspired and infuriate in equal measure. It does precisely that.    

2 A Rebel’s Guide to George Orwell  John Newsinger


This is the latest in an ever-expanding list of pocket-sized  ‘Rebel’s Guides’, including Malcolm X, Alexandra Kollontai and James Connolly.  John Newsinger’s easy to read book places Orwell firmly within the context of an anti-fascist, anti-Stalinist and libertarian politics that sits uneasily under any one label, despite the author’s best efforts.

3 Such, Such Were the Joys : A Graphic Novel Sean Michael Wilson and Jamie Huxtable


Based on a relatively little known autobiographical essay detailing George Orwell’s unhappy experience as a scholarship boy at Eton the graphic novel treatment brings this episode, and the role it played in forming the young Orwell’s ideas and value, brilliantly to life. So much so it had me itching for an animated version.    

4 Orwell Pierre Christin and Sébastian Vedier


In just a few years Self-Made Hero has established an unrivalled reputation for combining text and graphics to produce books that are an absolute joy to read. Orwell is an example of that combination, a graphic biography detailing his life, times and ideas. The editorial note at the outset

‘George Orwell lived in the first half of the twentieth century, and Orwell contains offensive and racist language which reflects some of the attitudes and prejudices of the period’ is surely not enough to cancel (sic) his entire body of work?      

5 Orwell & 1984 Paul Foot


The combination of George Orwell and Paul Foot is positively inspired.  Campaigning journalists, dissident socialists, brilliant writers – although generations apart, the connections are both obvious and uncanny. Orwell was a broadcaster too, and Foot in his element as a public speaker. Orwell & 1984 is a transcript of one of those talks, turned into a short book by the increasingly impressive socialist publisher, Redwords.   

6 Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution Paul Foot

MP6 slave

I was delighted to find Redwords have also unearthed two talks he gave on the black slave of 1791. Turned into a book by that fine scholar of the history of the Caribbean and revolution Christian Høgsbjerg, this is a book to give hope and substance as the year #BlackLivesMatter erupted.   

7 Diego Rivera Francisco De La Mora and José Luis Pescador


A second graphic biography from Self Made Hero, how appropriate to turn the life and art of Diego Rivera, and inevitably Frida Kahlo too, into an extended cartoon strip, overflowing with artistic quality to inform the reader with an impressionist knowledge of Diego’s art and most crucially, his politics.       

 8  The Art of Activism  Steve Duncombe and Steve Lambert   


Steve Duncombe is the author of one of a book on the very necessary fusion of politics and culture Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. First published in 2007, and recently republished in a new and updated edition. This new book, co-authored with Steve Lambert is a how-to guide to practicing what they describe as ‘artistic activism’. Lavishly illustrated, the text mixes ideas on how to ‘do’ politics with creative application to change the ‘look’ of politics too. Neither have the imprint of a corporate makeover, this is a process from below. Please would the US-based authors come to the UK to run a training event?

9 The Dialectics of Art John Molyneux


Previously better known as one of the Socialist Workers Party’s approved intellectuals, John Molyneux explains in his spirited preface how in retirement how he has come to write about art – “This is a Marxist book about art.” The absolutist certainty of John labeling his work in this way could be a barrier in the hands of some writers and on occasion so it proves here. Yet overall this is a book that sets out to make an argument, recruits Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso, – but not Tracey Emin – to the case and left this reader breathless, enjoying the effort to keep up even when not in entire agreement.      

10. Mixed Forms of Visual Culture Mary Anne Francis 


This book is a very different more nuanced proposition, although Marx and Hegel get name checks.  The focus is on ‘mixed forms’, the everyday in the hands of the artist transformed to achieve, project, provoke an entirely different response to the one utility had intended.  

This apparently complex concept made sense to me as I think of my co-founder Hugh Tisdale's beautifully crafted Philosophy Football designs not as T-shirts, but as using the T-shirt as a platform for ideas. None of this is to suggest reviving the dire cultural reductionism of proletcult, rather art as transformative by means and purpose. These apparently complex yet realistic ideas for a political culture often lacking in an imaginative and engaging visual culture are ready-made for a next generation left for whom culture is an key terrain over which ideologies are contested. 

The book is beautifully produced as well, but priced out of anyone’s bracket for the lucrative library market. And so a different plea on behalf of this truly revelatory book. No criticism of the publisher, that’s their business, but a popular, competitively priced edition is surely deserved. 

11 The Mannningtree Witches A.K.Blakemore

mp11 wirtches

One half of Philosophy Football is based in Harwich (my half is in Lewes, East Sussex). A few stops before Harwich on the train is Manningtree and sometimes it’s necessary to change trains there. Any short pause there will henceforth be given an extra dimension following a read of this novelisation of how in the era of mid seventeenth-century Puritanical England the women of the area were first hunted down by the Witchfinder General, and how they in turn resisted.     

12 2022 Verso Radical Diary and Weekly Planner  


Once it was the Big Red Diary from Pluto Press which was pretty much a must-have for a certain part of the 1980s outside left. In recent years Verso have produced a ready-made 21st century version and this year’s, now with accompanying and very stylish notebook, most certainly doesn’t disappoint. lllustrations and historical timeline spice up each week’s entries with short essays opening each month too. Rush to the keyboard and order one before 2022 is upon us. 

Read 161 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 December 2021 17:40