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Us lot at Comma have picked our favourite books that we’ve read this year, along with ones we would like for Christmas (although we also accept presents at all times of the year). We haven’t stuck to releases from 2015, instead just picking our favourite read and sharing them with you.

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Jim Hinks, Digital Editor

Glenn Greenwald – No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Metropolitan Books, 2014)blog 1

This work of non-fiction is both a vivid autobiographical account of Greenwald breaking the Edward Snowden leaks in The Guardian, and a detailed examination of the overreach of surveillance by the NSA and our own GCGQ. It documents the indiscriminate and warrantless collection of the metadata and content of our emails, phone calls, texts, internet searches and social media posts. A sobering and timely read, as Theresa May attempts to push through the Investigatory Powers Bill, which seeks to retroactively legalise these activities in the UK, compelling tech companies to store, decrypt and share with GCHQ all internet communications and search data, without a warrant, and making it a criminal offence for anyone working for a tech company to publicly reveal that data has been requested by GCHQ – essentially criminalising whistle-blowing.

What I’d like this Christmas

I’ve been reading M John Harrison’s ‘Things That Never Happen’ (selected stories), and loving them. I like his more recent stories, too, which seem to me to evolve into a looser and even more elliptical style. So a big collection of M John Harrison’s stories from the year 2000 onwards, please.

 

Sarah Hunt, Engagement Manager

R.F. Foster- Vivid Faces: The revolutionary generation in Ireland 1890-1923 (Allen Lane, 2015) 9781846144639

I blazed through this book. Foster examines the lives, loves, childhoods, politics, and radicalisation of a host of revolutionaries who shaped pro-republican Irish political activity in the run up to the Easter Rising of 1916 and on through the Anglo-Irish War and Civil War that followed. From Constance Markiewicz to James Connolly, Roger Casement to Rosamond Jacob, Foster uses newly-emerged and well-worn sources cleverly, and his thematic approach to the revolutionary protagonists sets a brisk pace (chapters are named ‘Fighting’, ‘Arming’ , ‘Loving’ etc). It’s not a 360 degree view of the period- it’s concerned largely with the intelligentsia and military organisers of Dublin and Cork; the average 1916 foot soldier doesn’t feature here, but for me the limitations didn’t spoil the in-depth, but never mawkish or hagiographic, investigations in to the motivations of a fascinating cast of revolutionaries.

What I’d like this Christmas

I would love it if someone bought me An Unnescessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, or Microcosms by Claudio Magris (trans. Iain Halliday) or Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz (trans. Celina Wieniewska), please!

 

 

Daisy Kidd, Projects Manager

Leonora Carrington – The Hearing Trumpet (Penguin Modern Classics, 2005) 680370

This book is about an old deaf woman who acquires a hearing trumpet so that she can hear her family planning to send her off to an old people’s home. Set within the old home, with 90% of the characters over 80, this is a superb, and utterly surreal introduction to the wonderful writing of Leonora Carrington.

What I’d like this Christmas

Virginia Woolf – To the Lighthouse (OUP, 2008)
I’m almost ashamed to say that I haven’t yet read this as it’s been on my wishlist for a long, long time.
Samantha Clark, Translation Editor

Eileen Chang – Love in a Fallen City (trans. by Eileen Chang and Karen S. Kingbury, Penguin Modern Classics, 2007) 51QcbwsFRpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I got this book of short stories and novellas from the Manchester Central Library, and was pleased to see plenty of lending stamps in the front (before the days of technology and whatnot). Chang’s portrayal of 1940’s Shanghai and Hong Kong is wonderful. There is an overwhelming sense of place and tradition, which, when coming into contact with modernity and colonisation, throws up all sort of interesting conflicts for Chang’s characters and the relationships they hold, whether that be in love, within the family, or within society as a whole.

What I’d like this Christmas

James Rebanks – A Shepherd’s Life (Allan Lane, 2015)
I grew up on a farm in the Lake District, so it would be a great read while sat in rainy old Manchester. Plus, I love that my dad and brother can tell me the price Rebanks got for his sheep in the market/auction. It’s definitely not as much as he will have got from this book, there has been so much hype surrounding it this year! (I am informed by family they are good sheep though). I would also like Dorothy Tse’s short stories – Snow and Shadow (East Slope Publishing, 2014) and Ali Smith’s Public Library and Other Stories (Hamish Hamilton, 2015).

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