Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summits : Six Meetings that Shaped the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds

Churchill coined the term "summit" for a face-to-face diplomatic encounter, and it soon caught on. Here are six case studies of what David Reynolds calls "classical summitry" - great human dramas where everything is at stake - rather than the bland "institutionalised summitry" of today (regular meetings of the G8 and the European Council).

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Smoke in the Valley : Austerity Britain 1948-51 by David Kynaston

"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin." In this second instalment of David Kynaston's critically acclaimed history, Britain continues to be a joyless place, although the arrival of Listen with Mother, the first Noddy book, the first Eagle comic (featuring Dan Dare), and the first appearance of Tony Benn on Any Questions? make it a much more recognisable one.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gadfly in Russia + The Himmler Brothers

Gripped by an overwhelming desire to visit the USSR rather than work on a novel, Alan Sillitoe draws up detailed, annotated maps of Russia, kisses his wife and young son goodbye and makes a dash for it in a "boxy dark blue Peugeot Estate". It's 1967, when going abroad still had a certain allure (Sillitoe weaves fantasies around almost every passing female) and travel was exciting - although he has no time for the "bullshit" of customs, border guards and militiamen.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Blair Unbound + Fatal Avenue

"When are you going to F off and give me a date? I want the job now!" shouted Gordon Brown, bursting into No 10 in 2004. Brown was the star of Blair (2004), this book's predecessor, says Anthony Seldon, because he was stronger on policy and dominated New Labour's first term; but in Blair Unbound Brown is a spent force, obsessed with becoming PM.

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