Review: ‘Chavs: The demonization of the working class’ by Owen Jones

Politics is one giant, complex beast which is hard to pin down and comprehend – let alone write a book about. An article focussing on one aspect of UK politics could soon become outdated within days. However, Owen Jones’ books always manage to paint a complete and honest picture of key political issues which are still relevant five years after the book was originally published in 2011.

At the heart of Jones’ publications is a political commentary which doesn’t surprise us. Most of the points that the Guardian columnist makes are things we hear all the time and the evidence is already out there. But, what is impressive is how all of these points connect to form a cohesive summary of the state our politics is in.

In Chavs, Owen Jones explores the otherness and demonisation which is placed on Britain’s working class, and their struggle over the years. Throughout the book, topics such as the housing crisis, Thatcherism and the media portrayals are discussed in a way which is so seamless and connected that it forms a very persuasive argument and a fitting call for action.

Admittedly, I didn’t find this book as engaging as The Establishment, but that is not to say that I do not care about the issues mentioned in the book. Much like Jones’ second book, there are moments of enlightenment, shock and anger as government policies are explained by Owen in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.

However, once again, I must talk about how relevant the book is in our current political climate. In particular, the final chapters rung true with the dilemma that the Labour Party faces at the moment. As the party is accused of being out of touch with the working class, we’re once again seeing a rise in far-right politics (in the book, it was the BNP and now it’s UKIP). Finally, in the conclusion, I noticed similar points made in The Establishment which encapsulates the present argument of the left. Both Chavs and The Establishment are different in the issues they cover, but they are united in their calls for left-wing changes.

On the whole, Chavs is a book which explores an otherness which is yet to be properly exposed and is still going unnoticed. As Labour continues to undergo an identity crisis, now may just be the time that we see a new type of class politics that Owen Jones calls for.

Have you read Chavs? Or have you read The Establishment? What are your thoughts on the demonisation of the working class? Comment below!

Liam

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Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ by J. K. Rowling (NO SPOILERS)

Last weekend, a fan base returned to a time of excitement. People could be found waiting outside bookstores and attending midnight parties, waiting for the next insight into the magical wizarding world of Harry Potter. On Sunday, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released to the world.

 In a rush to avoid the spoilers which would inevitably make their way online, I started reading the book on the Sunday afternoon. Before I had started reading, I was curious as to how there could possibly be an eighth story. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows provided a sense of closure, sub-plots were resolved and characters were fully developed. However, after I finished reading the book the very same day, I realised that there was so much more to uncover.

 The key themes from the first seven novels also run through The Cursed Child. As well as this, we see some more questions answered, and some new secrets revealed. The eighth instalment sees a return to a fictional universe complete with magic, mystery and humour. Even when you’re only reading a script, which is, of course, different to a novel, I still imagined ways in which certain plot points could be recreated on stage. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a wonderful return to the wizarding world and the life of Harry Potter, when we thought there was no more stories left to tell. Throughout the book, I became increasingly curious to see how such magic can be translated onto the stage.

Now, to try and get tickets to see the play itself…

Have you read Harry Potter and The Cursed Child yet? Or have you seen the play? What did you think? Comment your thoughts below – but please, no spoilers!

Liam

Review: ‘On the Other Side’ by Carrie Hope Fletcher

After months of reading nothing but non-fiction books or academic textbooks, On the Other Side was the book which restarted my imagination. Creative, magical and uplifting, Carrie’s first fiction book is a tale of romance which fans of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven will love.


Carrie Hope Fletcher has already made a huge impact in the book industry. All I Know Now – her non-fiction book sharing her advice on romance, friendship and more – became a Sunday Times bestseller when it was published last year. Much like how All I Know Now built upon Carrie’s advice blog on Tumblr, On the Other Side also contains some references to her online persona – which will no doubt delight fans of her YouTube channel, ItsWayPastMyBedtime.

Imagination when reading a good book is magic in itself, and something I only experience when reading certain works of fiction. However, that’s not to say that I have no imagination altogether – far from it. Instead, this rare phenomenon only comes with a novel complete with a gripping narrative and believable characters. I mean, after reading On the Other Side, how could you not love Evie Snow?

Admittedly. I’ve never really been a fan of romance novels, but this is more than just a simple love story. In amongst the creative plot lies some important life lessons. Not only is On the Other Side a heart-warming and beautiful novel, but it ends on a high note and with a message every reader can take away.

Rating: 4/5

Do you watch Carrie Hope Fletcher’s YouTube videos? Have you read All I Know Now? Comment below! 

Liam

I would like to thank Little Brown for sending me an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of this book – I really appreciate it. Whilst I was sent this ARC for free, the opinions within this post are my own and this post is not sponsored by anyone.

Why Tim Farron should lead the fight against the Conservatives’ plans for tuition fees | The Friday Article

Past mistakes are affecting parties on the political spectrum. Labour are worrying about the upcoming report from the Chilcot enquiry, whilst a flawed mayoral campaign by the Conservatives exposed hatred and racism in the party. Now, the Tories’ plans to further increase university tuition fees have reminded us all of a ghost which still haunts the Liberal Democrats Party, but this may be the chance for them to finally move on.

Tim Farron
Tim Farron should fight against the Tories’ plans for tuition fees, and rid the party of the mistrust caused by Nick Clegg. Photo: Liberal Democrats on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

After all, it was something the Lib Dems hoped would go with Nick Clegg following his resignation as leader of the party. For previous leaders involved in government, their broken promises and radical policies have always been assigned to them more than the political group they represent – take Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, for example. However, this didn’t happen for The Liberal Democrats. They lost 49 seats in last year’s general election, mistrust still lingers around them and the media – presuming the party is ‘non-existent’ – has focussed on Labour and the Conservatives’ internal affairs instead.

Granted, the Liberal Democrats talking about tuition fees would only be seen as prying open a wound which was doing its best to heal. Yet, that is precisely the point. The mistrust generated comes from broken promises on tuition fees, so why not start the process of winning the trust back by fighting against that exact policy?

At the moment, Labour’s petition has had over 195,000 signatures, but as the party who introduced university tuition fees in 1998, their impact with the petition could crumble should the Conservatives decide to bring up that fact. Meanwhile, the issue with the Liberal Democrats is slightly different and more understandable. Unlike Labour’s conscious decision to implement the fees, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had to accept David Cameron’s plans to raise tuition fees, despite it not being their intention. It’s a small contrast, but it’s something the general public are accepting, slowly and reluctantly.

With Tim Farron as their new leader and success in this year’s local elections, the Liberal Democrats are on the rise with renewed passion and motivation, but they still have a way to go in winning back the public’s trust. Whilst the controversy over tuition fees has always somewhat restrained the Lib Dems since 2010, now, it may in fact set them free.

Liam

Review: ‘TED Talks’ by Chris Anderson

Ideas fascinate everyone. For me, thought-provoking talks and television programmes create this new sense of excitement. An initial notion shared with so many others can have unlimited potential – it can spark a chain reaction of new ideas, creativity and inspiration. It’s a fascinating and mesmerising idea, and is one explored in-depth in Chris Anderson’s guide to public speaking, TED Talks.


Everyone finds at least one concept of public speaking terrifying, whether it’s remembering the whole talk, or this sense of judgement that comes from talking to a large audience. Thankfully, Chris’ experience with many TED talks has helped him to understand what works in a talk, and what doesn’t. Written in a clear path from preparation to the talk itself, the book breaks down the complex idea of public speaking into something everyone can understand. Funnily enough, accessible ideas is something mentioned towards the end of the book, and something which can only inspire a reader to share their knowledge with others.

I was only halfway through the book when I was asked to do a talk in Leeds (which I mentioned here). Whilst I hadn’t read all of TED Talks, Anderson’s passion and conversational tone in the book definitely helped when it came to the presentation itself. As well as sharing skills and advice, it’s the book’s focus on ideas which is really exciting.

In particular, the fact that we regularly share opinions and ideas with others also goes to show that this book isn’t just beneficial from a public speaking perspective (a point which is raised by Adam Grant on the back of the hardback edition). If you love sharing perspectives – be it offstage or onstage – then TED Talks is the book which can excite you, inspire you and give you the confidence to do so.

Rating: 5/5

What are your thoughts on public speaking? Have you ever seen a TED Talk? Comment below!

Liam

Review: ‘The Psychopath Test’ by Jon Ronson

There’s always something fascinating about psychopaths. Whether it’s the flamboyant portrayals on TV and film or the general mystery around the condition, we seem to take comfort in observing and classifying the insane.
In The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson explores psychopathy, psychiatry and flaws in diagnosis. Over time, the media has picked up on the ‘good’ psychopaths, where confidence and a dedicated mindset has benefitted business and the economy. In Ronson’s book, we see Jon – armed with Bob Hare’s checklist for psychopathy – rooting out examples of such people at the top of society.

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Aside from these case studies, the book seems to pick at the wider question of labels in our society. Of course, we already see this with social class and different beliefs, but there’s something concerning about labels when it comes to insanity.

Throughout the story, we hear about a man – given the name Tony – who is imprisoned in Broadmoor after faking insanity. Throughout his time in the facility, we hear about his struggle to prove his sanity when others think he is insane.

In Tony’s case, any signs of sanity would seem faked according to psychiatrists in Broadmoor, suggesting that Tony was being manipulative. It’s almost like any positive characteristics outside the condition are swept aside, and society continues to bound individuals to their condition.

Of course, nowadays with any mental health condition, we hear about people achieving remarkable things despite having Tourette’s or autism, for example. Whilst individuals can choose whether or not to let their mental health define them, society still favours labels because it aids marginalisation.

Much like when I read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson does leave some questions unanswered. In this case, why is society fascinated by mental health conditions and why is it so keen to limit individuals to this?

But then again, I think I’ve already answered this question. As we watch TV psychopaths, we relish in the dichotomy created between ‘us’ and ‘them’. These binary oppositions fuel society just as much as these apparent ‘good’ psychopaths do.

Rating: 4/5

Have you read The Psychopath Test? What do you think of it? Comment below!

Liam 

Review: ‘Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All’ by Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson, author of The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is back with his winning formula.

 

In Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – out today – three unlikely companions are once again placed in a bizarre scenario with a peculiar problem to deal with. In this case, a moaning receptionist named Per Person (a slight dig at the author’s own name) and an unreligious priest cross paths with an alcoholic hitman. What’s more, is that they are soon in a spot of bother after Hitman Anders decides he doesn’t want to kill anymore, and a criminal mob start coming after them.

It’s this wacky scenario, the occasional fourth-wall break and light-hearted writing style which makes this book a successful third novel from Jonas Jonasson. Very much like how The One Hundred Year Old Man… taught us a little about world politics, Jonasson has another underlying message in this book about love and compassion.

That being said, I couldn’t help but feel like the humour was toned down in this book. Whether this was because it’s difficult to make jokes about philosophical matters, or because my sense of humour needs working on, I am not sure. Despite this, Hitman Anders is another weird and wonderful tale from Jonas Jonasson.

Have you read The One Hundred Year Old Man or The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden? Do you think this is a book that you’ll enjoy? Comment below!

Liam

Please note: an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) was sent to me by the publisher for free, for me to review. Many thanks to 4th Estate Books for sending me a copy!