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James Purnell's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books James Purnell recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of James Purnell's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Attack, And Other Papers

Recommended by James Purnell, and 1 others.

James PurnellThe Attack is worth reading just because Tawney is such an amazing writer and uses words better than anyone in British politics that I know of. But I also love this book because it makes the case that an important part of the Labour tradition doesn’t start with the state, but with individuals and communities and the way we build our lives together. Tawney is a good complement to Sen, actually.... (Source)

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Paris 1919

Six Months that Changed the World

'Without question, Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 is the most honest and engaging history ever written about those fateful months after World War I when the maps of Europe were redrawn. Brimming with lucid analysis, elegant character sketches, and geopolitical pathos, it is essential reading.'

Between January and July 1919, after "the war to end all wars," men and women from around the world converged on Paris to shape the peace. Center stage, for the first time in history, was an American president, Woodrow Wilson, who with his Fourteen Points seemed to promise to so many people...
Recommended by James Purnell, Mike Maclay, and 2 others.

James PurnellShe focuses on the meeting between Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson that decided what the new boundaries would be for the world at Versailles in 1919. (Source)

Mike MaclayThe beautiful story she tells is how men of goodwill did try to make the Second World War impossible. (Source)

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They have a dream—a dream of a world where everything and everybody can be bought and sold, a world run efficiently by managers, a world where “freedom” means the free market. Maurice Glasman argues that this dream is an unrealizable utopia—or a nightmare if put into practice. He takes the tired old clichés of management-speak of the New Right and New Left alike and turns them on their heads: managers are not efficient, they are barriers to work and production. “Liberal democracy”—which now means the free market and the strong state—should be turned upside down, with democracy at the level of... more
Recommended by James Purnell, and 1 others.

James PurnellGlasman is the perfect person for Sen to be having a conversation with. Maurice would argue that liberalism, as expressed by people like Rawls, has a huge amount to teach us, but starts from the wrong place – from individuals rather than from relationships. He would argue that almost all of what matters in life is about relationships – family, love, culture, community, place. Written in 1996, the... (Source)

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The Idea of Justice

Social justice: an ideal, forever beyond our grasp; or one of many practical possibilities? More than a matter of intellectual discourse, the idea of justice plays a real role in how--and how well--people live. And in this book the distinguished scholar Amartya Sen offers a powerful critique of the theory of social justice that, in its grip on social and political thinking, has long left practical realities far behind.

The transcendental theory of justice, the subject of Sen's analysis, flourished in the Enlightenment and has proponents among some of the most distinguished...
Recommended by James Purnell, and 1 others.

James PurnellThe unifying theme is the balance between power and ideas. You need both. If you have power without ideas you can hollow yourself out, be self-erasing, and if you’ve got ideas without power then the ideas become irrelevant. It is a betrayal really of the ideas themselves. You need a balance between the two. (Source)

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Master of the Senate

The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson’s brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority... more

Robert GreeneMy favorite bio I've read for my upcoming book. (Source)

James PurnellYes. Perhaps it’s only for the true believers. It is quite an enterprise to read, but compelling partly because Lyndon Johnson was such a beautifully unattractive character. He was a horrible bully who humiliated his staff and who found a way of endearing himself to the oil barons of Texas by launching a McCarthyite campaign, before McCarthy, against the electricity regulator. He ruined this... (Source)

Julian E. ZelizerI always tell people that this is one of the first books you should read if you’re really interested in congressional history. It’s a wonderful book, the third part of Caro’s multi-volume biography of President Lyndon Johnson that focuses on his time as Senate Majority Leader. It’s also a splendid history of the Senate itself. (Source)

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