20 books that obviously don’t come anywhere near explaining Brexit

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My Facebook friends obviously skew a bit metropolitan, a bit Nowhere, but I don’t think I was expecting exactly this level of Euro-melancholy when I asked them to recommend Brexit books. Not books about Brexit, but books that might provide some history, context, back-story— from anywhere on the spectrum really. There are some lovely books here, intriguing choices (and some flippant ones too, obvs). But you’ll notice that pretty much all of them are from the worldly, rootless, Eurostar end of things — and with the emphasis on Europe and not on Britain… Is that interesting? Of does it just restate the hard division that produced the whole sad disagreement in the first place? And, while I’m on, why don’t you recommend a Brexit book? From any perspective, from any genre. Leave a comment here or on Facebook.

Thanks to: John Wilmott, Laura Scarlett, Matt Hall , Richard Leeming, Katie Hudson, Lotti Kierkegaard, Barbara Greenway, Sacha Sedriks, David Cushman, Gill Graham, Tayler Cresswell, Anthony McKale and Geoff McQueen for these really fascinating suggestions. And leave your own on the Facebook post.

Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke. “…a defense of British values against those promulgated by the French revolution, a movement that quickly spread throughout Europe. If it wasn’t for Napoleon’s imperial overreach who knows how the continent might have looked by 1914.”

The Man Who Saved Britain, Simon Winder. “A book about how James Bond provided solace to a country whose position on the world stage was unraveling. Written in 2008 […] Every page makes you go ‘but this is Brexit!’”

Asterix in Britain, Goscinny and Uderzo. “ Seriously, read it the other night as I’d introduced my daughter to Asterix and page two captures British isolation and exceptionalism perfectly.”

Fooled by Randomness: the hidden role of chance in life and in the markets, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. “Challenges to the-market-knows-best.”

Ghosts on the Shore, Paul Scraton.

Postwar: a History of Europe since 1945, Tony Judt. “The definitive history of Post War Europe. A superb and riveting read, especially if you want to understand the birth of the EU.”

Germany: Memories of a Nation, Neil MacGregor. “…very revealing about why Germany is Germany and hence their different approach to the EU.”

Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris. “Lovely travel/history book about the city on the Adriatic that’s almost the definition of cosmopolitan.”

Three Elegies for Kosovo, Ismael Kadare. “A beautiful little book about how the distant past can haunt us indefinitely.”

The Erl King, Michel Tournier. “A huge, dark, haunting novel set in the inferno of Europe in the middle of the 20th Century.”

The Iraqi Christ, Hassan Blasim. “Beautiful and quite shocking stories set in the chaos of contemporary Iraq and in the surreal calm of exile in Finland.”

The Diary of Anne Frank. “A young girl who had to hide to save her life from the Nazi’s under Hitlers regime. It was a diary written in a time when Europe was so divided & at war. It shows how far we’ve come in uniting ourselves with our European friends.”

Chicken Licken, Mandy Ross.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon.

Autumn, Ali Smith. “It touches so many features of our lives, written with a lightness and hopefulness. The main character is over 100 and in a coma through most of it. So well written. Just delicious.”

And the Weak Suffer what they Must? Yanis Varoufakis

The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European, Stefan Zweig

A State of Denmark, Derek Raymond. “A dystopian view of England’s takeover by fascism in the 70s. Grim, but gripping.”

I’m a trustee at the amazing Poppy Academy Trust, a social media editor in radio, a poet and a volunteer at Watford Refugees.

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