2023 A Year of Reading Dangerously


 Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman has found the books to give 2023 some sparks


2022 a year of politics living dangerously?  With three different Prime Ministers - one lasting all of 44 days the Conservative Party has written the book on it. But what reads in 2023 might help us to understand how a mix of ideas, culture and football can turn the dangerous into the hopeful? 











For a very original reminder of the 18 years 1979-1997 The Fascist GrooveThing : A History of Thatcher's Britain in 21 Mixtapes (for those put off by the title, don't be, Heaven 17!) if Sunak wins in 2024 he'll conceivably beat by a year, 19 years. Or, as seems more likely Labour wins Lisa Nandy would be one of the key figures in any 2024 Labour government, All In serves as her personal manifesto for office, and doesn't disappoint with the scale of radical ambition. Nathan Yeowell's edited collection of essays Rethinking Labour's Past  which while heavily loaded to a Blairite / old Labour right narrative does allow for a pluralism Keir and his henchpersons have done their worst to stamp out in Labour. The urgent necessity for pluralism is proved by Maurice Glasman's  Blue Labour: The Politics of the Common Good no need to sign up to the entire 'Blue Labour' manifesto of faith, family and patriotism to recognise there might be something in this worth engaging with. The Death of the Left : Why We Must Begin from The Beginning Again co-authored by Simon Winlow and Steve Hall doesn't make any such engagement easy. The 'Broad Church' anybody?   

One version of a radical left thriving within a broad progressive party is found in the US Democrats. Symbolised by Bernie Sanders or for a new generation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Rise of a New Left : How Young Radicals are Shaping the Future of American Politics from Raina Lipsitz serves to illustrate the scale of loss when radicalism is extinguished. Luke Savage's The Dead Center declares being better than Trump isn't enough, true, but isn't even a marginal gain better than none at all, or worse? 









Chantal Mouffe's latest book Towards a Green Democratic Revolution: Left Populism and the Power of Affects   showcases the ability of the best radical thinking to renew and reinvent  without losing the core of what made them radical in the first place.  A similar claim can be made of the anarcho-intellectual John Holloway who continues his treatise on horizontalism with Hope in Hopeless Times.  The collection Between Catastrophe and Revolution: Essays in Honor of Mike Davis sadly now serves as a radical obituary to a great thinker and writer we lost in 2022. Read to celebrate, or discover, Mike's truly unique expanse of thinking and insight. Eco-socialism has ambitions to fuse both these key elements with a pre-existing anti- capitalism. Allan Todd's Ecosocialism not Extinction goes in search of such a fusion.  Social Ecology and the Rojava Revolution   is an edited collection from The Internationalist Community of Rojava. An extraordinary effort to be resist and rebuild a practical ecology whilst being besieged by Jihadists, Assad and Erdo?an. David Camfield maps out a quasi-manifesto in Future on Fire:  Capitalism and the Politics of Change.










In the face of the scale of danger the Climate Emergency poses it would be easy to forget the divisions that criss-cross society every bit as dangerous. Sociologists Laura Harvey and Sarah Leaney's inspired collaboration with illustrator Danny Noble has produced Class : A Graphic Guide.  Kojo Koram's  Uncommon Wealth: Britain and the Aftermath of Empire absolutely locates race and racism within the framework  of the colonial and imperial legacies  which continue to shape modern (sic) Britain. 











What might an alternative framework of ideas to live dangerously by look like? The new edition of Mark Fisher's classic short book Capitalism Realism : Is There No Alternative? with the addition of a brilliant introduction by Alex Niven, short enough to be read in one sitting, the ideas big enough to make 2023 truly dangerous. China Miéville makes the case for The Communist Manifesto in his stirring commentary on the original text  A Spectre, Haunting.  Noam Chomsky has been a towering figure of radical thought for decades, pairing him with Scottish novelist James Kelman has produced Between Thought and Expression Lies a Lifetime: Why Ideas Matter









How to connect radical ideas with transforming institutions? David Renton's  Against The Law: Why Justice Requires Fewer Laws and a Smaller State is a book that manages to both provide the means to transform our not-fit-for-purpose legal system and appeal to the non-specialist reader. The BBC : A People's History by David Hendy  is a magnificent biography of one hundred years of the 'Beeb' an institution that more than any other serves to shape British politics, society  and culture. Arguably Palestine , and as a result Israel's treatment of, is the single institution that defines, and divides, what it means to be radical today. For an admirably humanist account wrapped in the personal, Raja Shehadeh's We Could Have Been Friends  My Father and I : A Palestinian Memoir










Two books from leading figures in the brilliant Hope not Hate campaign reveal the extent and dangers of the threat of the Far Right. Tommy : Politics.Drugs.Sex.Money  by Nick Lowles exposes 'Tommy Robinson'  the man behind the English Defence League for the fraudster and much worse besides he is. The Walk In : Fascists, Spies & Lies is Matthew Collins' true story behind the TV series The Walk In starring Stephen Graham as Matthew, featuring infiltration, conviction and the very real threat of Far Right terrorism. Jonathan Freedland's The Escape Artist tells the story of Rudolf Vrba who escaped from Auschwitz to expose the scale of the extermination underway there. Rudolf's story, Jonathan's skilful telling of, will inspire readers to not only remember, but to prevent, such a tale ever having to be told again. 











Comrades Come Rally by Michael Crowley reveals the scale of the potential of the 1930's and 1940s Popular Front against fascism via the story of one English city, Manchester and the Communist Party there. The first half of  Organize, Fight, Win edited by  Charisse Burden-Stelly and Jodie Dean covers the same period, this time in the USA, and specifically Black Communist Party women organising against both fascism and racism. With the second half continuing the account into the early days of what was to become the Civil Rights Movement.  For those interested in Communist history a subscription to the journal Twentieth Century Communism would be a fitting New Year treat. The latest edition's biographical essay on the life of Scottish Miners Leader Mick McGahey by Ewan Gibbs will more than suffice to convince, so good it really should be turned into a book, yes please Ewan.  With I Could Be So Good For You : A Portrait of the North London Working Class  John Medhurst takes a very different approach, a portrait of fifty years, 1950s-2000s, and how one community was remade via race, music and politics.  Or for another approach, the graphic novel for history-telling, my top 2022 picks from this genre Polyp's Tom Paine biography Paine and No Surrender  a history of the Suffragettes from two of the best in this field the Rickard sisters.   










The Guardian  described Qatar 2022 as 'a World Cup like no other'  a read of Blood on the Crossbar: The Dictatorship's World Cup by Rhys Richards is more than enough to convince that actually Qatar was a World Cup like most of the rest since 1930, absolutely framed by the political. Few journalists covering the tournament came close to providing the kind of insights into the host country as John McManus achieves with Inside Qatar : Hidden Stories from One of the Richest Nations on Earth a book that combines empathy and  critique. Two academic books further deepen our understanding of what was exceptional about Qatar 2022, and what wasn't.  Paul Michael Brannagan and Danyel Reiche's Qatar and the 2022 World Cup is both  informative on Qatar as a World Cup host nation and analytical of Qatar's 'soft power' ambitions for the tournament. Simon Chadwick is by some distance the best academic writer on sports marketing, his new book edited with others The Business of the World Cup the perfect introduction to the all-pervasive marketisation of this most global of tournaments. When Friday Comes  is a great title for James Montague's book, the single best read to understand Qatar as a distinctly Arabic World Cup, what it meant to the region, its people, in particular Palestine and Morocco.  And after that final, to look forward to the gargantuan monster of 2026, co-hosts Canada, Mexico, USA, 48 teams, 47 of which will go home disappointed, well it has to be How to Win the World Cup by Chris Evans. 


Meantime, league football is back, for fans of lower division and non-league clubs, it never went away.  Ned Boulting is so obviously a fan he feels like 'one of us ', and unusually for a  sports presenter a great sports writer too. Ned's latest book Square Peg, Round Ball revisits his time as a TV football presenter. Gary Neville'The People's Game is 300 pages worth of his most opinionated punditry and doesn't disappoint. For a moving, highly personal, tribute to what football means in the wake of when we almost lost it, the Covid pandemic read Daniel Gray'The Silence of the Stands . From Carlos Viñas  Football in the Land of the Soviets details the revolutionary role of football in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, a tale of inspiration squandered first by the Stalin, today by the murderous Putin.  But perhaps we don't need words to mix football, inspiration and change, the book Football Murals by Andy Brassell provides a worldwide gallery of the game's emerging street art.  But what about the women? England Women's Euro 2022 win has come too soon to spark a wave of publishers investing in books on the women's game, next year's Women's World Cup certainly should. In the meantime we can enjoy two that set the standard, high, A Woman's Game by Suzy Wrack  and from Jean Williams The History of Women's Football  

Away from the football, and politics in search of a novel to brighten up 2023's dark winter evenings or to pack for a summer beach read? Chris Brookmyre never disappoints with his plot-ridden, Scotland-centred thrillers The Cliff House his 2022 latest.

And what to look forward to from the kitchen? Prue Leith provides simple recipes to taste-up the most basic meal, of all, with Bliss on Toast or on a grander scale but still geared towards the easy-to-cook  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Good Comfort.  

How to organise fitting all this reading in? A diary of course, the hippest in style, the most acute politically The Verso Radical Diary and Weekly Planner.  









And my number one pick for dangerous reading in '23? As I have on my Philosopohy Football bookshelf a book with the most curious title I've ever come across Fan Culture in European Football and the Influence of  Left Wing Ideology well, how could I possibly resist  Stewart McGill and Vincent Raison's The Roaring Red Front  and I wasn't disappointed. The most unusual football tourism book readers are ever likely to come across, and all the better for it, exclusively visiting what they describe as 'the world's top left-wing football clubs'. To keep hopes aflame over the next twelve months, a second volume please!  Meanwhile enjoy, explode. 



    Signed by author The BBC : A People's History from Philosophy Football here



Mark Perryman is the co-founder of Philosophy Football