With less than six weeks until the ballot boxes open, we’re hearing about the general election everywhere. If, like me, you’ve already made your mind up about which way you’re voting it might mean you’ve spent a lot of time defending and arguing for your position. If you’re not so sure whose box to tick perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant propaganda and are becoming less convinced by this whole “politics thing” by the day. And though I’m not here to shut up about politics, I am going to take a different tack in the form of a reading list. We all know that a good book can open up our minds and so these are my suggestions to get you thinking about the election whilst you’re reading. If you don’t care about politics (though I really think you should) these texts are pretty great anyway.
Disclaimer: Clearly this is not an unbiased list. I’m voting Green and the following books reflect my liberal mindset, but by all means feel free to disagree. Whatever your political persuasion, just remember to vote!
Want to know why we should sort out the laws around drugs? Looking for a bit more of an insight to why the homeless are homeless? Then read this. This novel, which recounts the real life of Stuart Shorter and the author’s own relationship with him, works backwards from Shorter’s death to his childhood, exploring how and why he ended up on the streets. I really don’t think you can leave this novel without realising how flawed our society’s perception of this much maligned group is and its basis in reality only makes its tale more tragic.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I was going to put Orwell’s 1984 on this list but by this point we kind of all know that we should read that. Instead I suggest Huxley’s take on dystopia and one that I think has much more relevance in our increasingly consumer ridden world. The population of the titular ‘Brave New World’ are so absorbed in their constructed media world that they pop their pills and watch ‘the feelies’ without seeing or questioning the corrupt system that underlies it all. Sound familiar at all?
Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
I discovered this essay when I bought a new edition of A Room of One’s Own and having read it I really wish more people knew about it. As Woolf discusses how women can best help to end war she also examines women’s place in society, whether that be in the universities, the work place or the home. It’s also thrilling to see her critique of the way we support causes – in this case pacifism – and how flawed our perceptions of their usefulness can be.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Immigration seems to be the hot topic for this year’s election and Smith’s novel is awash with immigrants in all the best ways. Like her other novels, White Teeth is alive with personalities, and it particularly highlights the struggle to maintain identity whilst integrating oneself into a new community that migrants face. The cultural exchanges between the characters – especially the younger generation – highlights just why we should celebrate the diversity of our communities.