What does a Socialist Party member buy their loved ones at Christmas? Certainly not rolling in money; unlikely to have loads of time to go shopping… Dave Gorton provides a few Xmas gifts suggestions.
Only one real place to start – the well-deserved 2015 Man Booker prize winner. Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings is a phenomenal piece of literature mostly set in Jamaica with the infamous shooting of Bob Marley as its theme.
But the narrative is not about reggae; its backdrop is the intense rivalry between Michael Manley’s People’s National Party, which introduced massive reforms in the 1970s and Edward Seaga’s right-wing Jamaica Labour Party. The violent gang warfare that split on party lines tore Jamaica apart at the time.
Also on the Man Booker shortlist was an excellent debut novel from Chigozie Obioma, The Fishermen. Set in Nigeria, reviewers have linked the style and atmosphere of the novel to Emile Zola, or, more recently, Cormac McCarthy.
The Book People are selling all six novels on the shortlist in hardback version for £30.
In non-fiction form, it’s probably unsurprising that books about the reactionary, right-wing Isis abound. With any number to choose from, Patrick Cockburn’s The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution, is probably the best read.
For something bridging entertainment and politics, Stuart Cosgrove’s Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul is a wordy look at just one year in a momentous decade in US history.
While there is an argument that Detroit music at the time extended further than the boundaries of Motown, this is an unashamedly biased look at the music and its place in the struggles against the Vietnam War and the civil rights movements.
For the teenage reader a copy of Deborah Wiles’ Revolution, set in mid-60s USA at the time of the Freedom Marches and civil rights movements and narrated mostly by a 12-year old, is a must.
There have been some amazing compilation albums issued over the past year. Island’s collection of 22 Reggae Discomixes is a double album set featuring the likes of Steel Pulse, George Faith, Burning Spear and Circle.
Virgin’s own discomixes double album features Prince Far I, dub-poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (famous for his poems on racism and police brutality during the Thatcher years), Big Youth and Gregory Isaacs. Both of these are retailing at around £6. Both labels have also released Roots and Dub compilations.
2015 also saw a three-disc box set of punk poet John Cooper Clarke recordings, “Anthologia” featuring, of course, the still incredibly relevant “Beasley Street”.
There are some fairly obvious choices like This is England 90, or the second series of Arne Dahl and The River but the pick of this year could well be The Detectorists, McKenzie Crook’s intelligently written, subtly funny and beautifully filmed comedy series set in the unlikely world of metal detecting.
Or why not take the opportunity to delve back a few years and (with Jeremy Corbyn’s election) revisit A Very British Coup. It’s based on the book by Chris Mullin in which the ruling class plot to overthrow a left-leaning Labour leader who wants to carry out unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Also very reasonably priced these days is Our Friends In The North (first screened in 1996) which covers, among other important historical events, the 1984-85 Miners’ strike.
There is also Ken Loach at the BBC box set which features, among others, the ground breaking drama on 1960s homelessness, Cathy Come Home.
The expansion of the logo’d t-shirt industry has brought many horrendous, and some incredibly chauvinist, designs in recent years but there are good ones worth hunting out online. Try Comrade Apparel, where among more obvious offerings you can find rather appealing Battleship Potemkin and Factory Records shirts at under a tenner.
Over at Red Molotov, you can become almost certainly the only person down your street with a Tatlin’s Tower shirt, celebrating the designed but never built Constructivist headquarters of the Comintern after the Russian Revolution.
A bit more expensive at Philosophy Football, but your gift of a Bandiera Rossa or a The Band Played Waltzing Matilda shirt will surely be appreciated.
Finally, as a stocking filler, why not the Corbyn Colouring Book?!
- For more gift ideas, visit www.leftbooks.co.uk