Highlights of reading in 2012

I read books, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, journals, and of course a lot of work related reports and so on.

2012 saw some extra reading because of a long recovery from an operation. On the book front there were several highlights.

in fiction, I really enjoyed Tom Kenneally’s The Peoples Train, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. However, the highlight for me was Anna Funder’s All That I Am.

I bought Eric Hobsbawm’s How to Change the World just before he died, but did not work my way through this important and usually beautifully written work until a couple of weeks after that. It is a major work and a very significant challenge to the opponents of the Marxist view, and also to those who treat that world view in a doctrinaire and sloganistic way.

Right now I am finishing off the collection of essays on American unionism and social movements – Wisconsin Uprising, Labor Fights Back, edited by Michael Yates.

However, the outstanding book for the year, for me, was Mary Gabriel’s new “biography” of Karl and Jenny Marx, Love and Capital – Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution. The strongly referenced story brings to life the dynamic and powerful relationship between Karl and Jenny, and their extended family of Engels, their children, and other political activists of the Victorian era, including the refugee and émigré communities in London. This is no hagiography of Marx as we see at close quarters that Marx’ master work, Das Kapital, and much of his other writing in collaboration with Engels, was also a product of Jenny and their relationship. How very heroic and human they all were.

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I am a retired left wing and labour movement activist. Before that I worked for a long time in the Australian union movement in union education, Australian and international solidarity and organising. I am also active in Cuban solidarity, the SEARCH FOUNDATION, and promoting discussion, debate and action about green socialism based on workers control and social ownership.

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