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Favourite books

The 15 favourite books I’ve read this year…

1. Conscience of a Liberal. Paul Krugman. Extraordinary manifesto revealing depths of Pres Bush’s failure to deliver growth – and growth that’s fairly shared for America’s middle class. If you want an argument for 4 more years of Labour, just look at how the progress of Clinton-Gore was rapidly turned over.

2. The Next Deal, Andre Cherny. A cult classic in new new Labour circles (at one point several of us were literally passing a dog-eared copy round). Cherny coined the phrase ‘post-bureaucratic age’ long before David Cameron. A manifesto for progressive reform, including a call for the next wave of reinventing government.

3. Malcolm Gladwell. Tipping Point. Best-seller from a couple of years ago. Gladwell examines why trends suddenly go from cult classics to mainstream. Fascinating implicatioms for if you’re interested in behaviour – and community – change and how new movements are formed and catch on.

4. Nudge, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. The best popular version of the new field of behaviourial economics – exploring what public policy can learn by influencing the choices people make in everyday life. Inspired me to launch a commission headed by new Government Communications permanent secretary Matt Tee to review potential in UK. Sunstein is soon to be an Obama administration appointee.

5. Geoff Mulgan, Good and Bad Power Mulgan’s examination of power and the growth of states. Clarifying thoughts on dimensions for new politics and a warning against checking out of public life in the face of complexity; ‘the problem is that if too many decisions are delegated…democracy becomes unstable’ (229), while ‘together social movements and states (which enshrine rights) can make change happen faster.’.

6. From Old Labour to New, Greg Rosen. An incredible tome, few master Greg’s sheer breadth of grasp. Excellent on explaining the differences amongst Labour’s leading politicians of the 1920s and 1930s where ‘big state’ Labour was invented. In fact ‘big state’ was but one of many traditions – and a philosophy that was shared with the Tories – and bigger slices of corporate Britain.

7. Wikinomics. Don Tapsell. My friend Tom Watson pointed me at this. One of best introductions to the new principles of business in Web 2.0 land; truly what President Clinton called a world without walls.

8. We-Think, Charlie Leadbetter. Thought-provoking book illustrating the scope today of mass-collaboration in producing intelligent thought-pieces. Now on line tools – like MixedInk – are bring the same capabilitities within reach of all. Fascinating applications for communities who want to co-create shared agendas – the foundation of community organisation.

9. The Social Entreprenuer, Andrew Mawson. Lord Mawson is the founder of one of new Labour’s favourite social enterprises at Bromley by Bow. He kindly gave me a copy of this book when I took Gordon Brown to Bromley to launch our action plan for helping the third sector. Absolutely inspirational for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and change what’s going on outside their frontdoor.

10. The Rivals, Jeff Nussbaum. Jeff was speechwriter to President Clinton and published this account of Pres Johnson’s and Robert Kennedy’s stormy relationship not long ago. Jeff kindly gave me a copy at breakfast in Washington last month, and I consumed it in days. A must read for anyone fascinated by LBJ (I guess I’d better confess I’ve read the entire Robert Caro series).

11. The Spirit of Community, Amitai Etzioni. I didn’t actually read this until this year. Published in the early 90s, much of Etzioni’s agenda has inspired huge parts of Labour’s agenda but remains a hugely important manifesto for what we need to do next; not least devise new ways of ensuring the new community institutions we’ve built – from Sure Starts to neighbourhood police teams – help communities bond together.

12. The Home We Build Together, Dr Jonathan Sacks. I’ve long followed Dr Sacks work closely since his Milennial lecture in Machester. The Chief Rabbi kindly gave me this book last year. A profoundly important manifesto about the paths ahead of us as we reknit new bonds but that ‘belonging means giving…a responsibility-based culture of respect, not a rights-based culture of complaint’.

13. What Does China Think, Mark Leonard. As China ascent to the world stage reaches its final stages, Mark sets out the vast cauldron of ideas bubbing away in China behind what too many feel is a single, coherent ediface. Understanding the different perspectives is becoming as important as understanding the arguments of Democrats and Republicans.

14. Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Eric Newby. I’m a huge Newby fan, but never read perhaps his best book til this last year. Hilarious, magical and has you reaching for your rucksack.

15. The Reign of Edward III. WM Ormrod. My very slow efforts to write the story of ten great British entreprenuers over the ages begins with the extraordinary William de la Pole, a free-booting wool-trader and war-financier. Ormrod has produced one of the clearest stories yet of the king he served.


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