Not done one of these for a while…
AJP Taylor, The course of German History. This began as a handout for the British army in the Second World War – but was rejected, by a government in wartime, as being too anti-German. You can see why: Taylor’s fundamental argument, which he hammers in unrelentingly through the entire book, is that Hitler was an inevitable outcome of German history. So at every moment the German people must be shown as passive, easily manipulated, willing to follow any demagogue, and without the slightest interest in democracy. It’s sometimes convincing, but more often Taylor seems faintly ridiculous in his attempts not to allow any counter-example.
It’s a pretty informative read, despite all that. It’s delightfully concise, although sometimes too dense to take in (as with the chapter on Bismark, on whom Taylor had written a book). Taylor also has a fascinating tic of omitting the definite article at the start of sentences; it works much better than you might expect.
David Eggers, A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. It’s not Eggers’ fault that I’m easily bored by books full of self-analysis. Maybe it’s livejournal’s fault: I can read articulate self-criticism whenever I want, with the added benefit of it involving people I know and love, and the satisfaction of watching them change over time. Anyway, this isn’t all bad. Eggers has a knack for finding common but never-mentioned trains of thought, and convincingly conveys self-dramatisation, and the stupid-but-inescapable feeling that your present emotional state is eternal. Still, I would have been better off not reading this.
Kieran O’Hara, After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative tradition. An attempt to theorise and argue for conservatism in the limited sense of not wanting change. Interesting enough on its own terms, but bears only the slightest relation to the mish-mash of nostalgia, self-interest and prejudice that is the Tory party.