First, as a follow up to Anne Applebaum's book, 'Twilight of Democracy', another American academic, Joel Kotkin, has published a title called 'The Coming of Neo-Feudalism'. His take is that as Western Liberal Democracy declines, along with Liberal Capitalism, a new form of Feudalism is arising, based on a more static society with a new aristocracy using money to obtain and keep power and a new serf underclass. OK, you may not agree with everything he says but it is a challenging, yet easily readable, expression of current concerns as to where our democracy may be heading. I shall be referencing the book in my next One Off Morning for JW3 zoom classes on Thursday 13th August.
Second, and a world away, an offbeat book by a Dutch artist and naturalist, living in The Western Isles, Miek Zwambarn - 'The Seaweed Collector's Handbook'. In the 19th century Victorian ladies collected seaweed and placed them in albums, exactly like the better known pressing of wildflowers. This book isn't really about that activity per se but rather about everything there is to know about seaweed, from natural to nautical history, and all points in between. The final part of the book is given over to describing specific seaweeds. The illustrations in this small book are outstandingly beautiful. I don't know how the publishers have kept the price down to £12.99. A useful book to give as a present when ideas have run dry. A real gem.
Third, a novel, especially for those who enjoy sci-fi as space opera. 'A Memory called Empire' by a new author, Arkady Martine.
Two history books referring to items that are current news:-
'Prisoners of History' by the historian Keith Lowe. Lowe looks at various monuments around the world which remember The Second World War. He poses the question what do they tell us about history and about ourselves. A very timely book on a most unusual topic. The two memorials he selects for Britain are Coventry Cathedral and Bomber Command Memorial. Other sites chosen for study include Berlin's Monument to the murdered Jews of Europe and The Motherland Calls Monument in Volgograd. Lowe groups the monuments under five headings, viz, Heroes, Martyrs, Monsters, Apocalypse, and Rebirth.
'Churchill's Last Stand' by Felix Klos tells the story of Churchill and his developing ideas on Europe post 1945. This is a well researched academic exploration of Churchill's European views from the end of the war through to his death twenty years later. A massive contribution to our understanding of Churchill and of Britain's new position in Europe today.
Finally, an old book I have only recently become aware of, 'Journal 1933-44' by Michael Sebastian. It is a journal describing the decline of Romania into fascism bit by bit. Sebastian was a young Jewish writer in pre-war Bucharest who moved in intellectual circles. He himself survived the war only to die tragically in a road accident in 1945. For those familiar with The Balkan Trilogy of Olivia Manning this is a must read factual contemporary account of the decline of the society she also knew and rendered in fiction.