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Verso's Summer Reads 2015

Kieran O'Connor 9 July 2015

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No matter which body of water you'll be sluicing your speedos in this summer, Verso's got your back.  From forty proud years of radical publishing, we've cherry-picked an eclectic mix of fiction, travel, politics, philosophy, feminism, art, graphic novels and more for your delectation this summer.

Whether you're reacquainting yourself with an old classic or taking a chance with one of our latest titles, all books on this list will be 50% off on our website for this week (July 9-July 17), with free worldwide shipping, and free ebook where available.  Just be careful around the pool with your e-reader eh?

A lovely picture of Theodor Adorno in his swimwear, with a copy Narcoland presumably tucked away out of shot.

 Bento's Sketchbook - John Berger
"The more an image is joined with many other things, the more often it flourishes. The more an image is joined with many other things, the more causes there are by which it can be excited." - a quote from Baruch 'Bento' Spinoza, who is the thread that runs right through this exquisite series of vignettes on the practice of drawing.

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being - William Davies
If you're sick to the stomach of manipulative marketing campaigns, or ever endured a test in your workplace measuring your well-being, or wondered at the sheer size of the self-help section in your local bookstore, then The Happiness Industry, which documents that way in which companies have made Happiness-making a commodity, is the book for you.

The New Prophets of Capital - Nicole Aschoff
This comes part of the wonderfully accessible Jacobin series, big ideas in books small enough to fit in your beach bag.  In The New Prophets of Capital, Aschoff pulls apart the myth of a generation of capitalists, namely Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Whole Foods' John Mackey, purporting to a greener, ethical and more socially conscious form of capitalism.

Our sort of beach holiday (The Craft)

The Dialectic of Sex - Shulamith Firestone
The hugely influential classic of radical feminist theory, first published in 1970 and recently republished by Verso, is a ferocious manifesto of how to truly end the patriarchy.  She writes: "the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally." Forty-five years on, the weight of this claim has still to be even partially absorbed.

La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico - John Sack
As a result of the malignant drug cartels and government collusion and incompetence, the violent borderland city of Juárez, in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico, has escalated so much so that it has witnessed more murders than wartorn Afghanistan.  Community leaders like Chihuahua lawyer and organiser Lucha Castro are a testament to the people brave enough to take a stand against such unrelenting brutality.  

Return: A Palestinian Memoir - Ghada Karmi
Following on from her first memoir In Search of Fatima, that detailed her family's forced exile to Britain from Palestine, Return is Karmi's story of leaving her adopted land and returning to the motherland that is, still, in the midst of an intractable conflict. 

Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space - Keller Easterling
Easterling's scholarly of the true function of public space is a revelatory examination of the invisible rules that govern our behaviour through urban architectures.

Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune - Kristin Ross
"In her powerful new book, Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, Ross clear-cuts the accumulated polemics regarding the Commune, which she says have calcified into false polarities: anarchism versus Marxism, peasant versus worker, Jacobin revolutionary terror versus anarcho-syndicalism, and so on" - from the extract of Communal Luxury, published on Jacobin

We'd feel the same if we were sent away to summer holiday camp (Addams Family Values)

The Seasons of Trouble: Life Amid the Ruins of Sri Lanka's Civil War - Rohini Mohan
Despite Sri Lanka's reinvention as a high-end tourist destination, very little of the country's horrendous civil war, which killed up to 100,000 people, manages to seep through the tourist brochures.  Rohini Mohan skillfully broaches this matter by telling the real-life stories of three Tamils caught up in the wreckage; Sarva, who sought asylum in Britain after being tortured by state troops; his mother Indra attempting to protect her son; and Mugli, who joined the Tamil Tigers rebel group when she was only 13 years old.

Radio Benjamin - Walter Benjamin
The fascinating transcripts of over 80 radio broadcasts by Benjamin, showcasing the breadth of Benjamin's thinking, from radio plays for children to book reviews and his own works of fiction.

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City - Bradley L. Garrett
Feast your eyes on a truly unique work that is part urban exploration manifesto, part cultural theory and part photographic exploration, giving incredible detail on the shenanigans that the author participated in while researching the book.  

A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption and American Culture - Alexander Cockburn
A posthumous collection of writings and correspondence from one of the most influential journalists of his generation.  His reportage on the American political behemoth, spanning the Clinton, Bush and first-term Obama administrations.  As biting and perceptive as it as sideways and askance that, as a Brit crossing the Atlantic and thus perceived as the outsider, could only deliver.

Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising - Jonathan Littell
A harrowing account of the devastating conflict in Homs, where from the bestselling author of The Kindly Ones witnessed first-hand innumerable atrocities inflicted by all sides in the ongoing civil war.

America - Jean Baudrillard
Not, as one might thing, a tribute to his favourite singer Ted Nugent or a thinkpiece on the Five Guys restaurant chain but, in fact, a travel diary, first published in 1986, that snapshots the disparity of America, from the barren plains Utah to the sensory overload of New York, exhibiting the noted French grumpybones' fascination "with an unreal America."

Savage Messiah - Laura Oldfield Ford
“One of the most striking fanzines of recent years is Laura Oldfield Ford’s Savage Messiah, focussing on the politics, psychology and pop- cultural past of a different London postcode. Ford’s prose is scabrous and melancholic, incorporating theoretical shards from Guy Debord and Marc Augé, and mapping the transformations to the capital that the property boom and neoliberalist economics have wrought.” - Sukhdev Sandhu, New Statesman

The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International - McKenzie Wark

Altai - Wu Ming
“Altai is a great historical thriller and the prose has all the surface glitter of the Grand Canal or the Golden Horn… For a city break in Venice, Dubrovnik or Istanbul, this is perfect read as it is.” - Edward Stourton, Financial Times

Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers - Anabel Hernández
Its hard to fathom the contents of this brutal and shocking exposure of drug cartels and government complicity, contained within this meaty book, so it's just as well that Ed Vulliamy wrote this excellent profile and published an extract in the Guardian, around the book's original release date.

The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail - Óscar Martínez
The eponymous 'beast' that Óscar Martínez refers to is not a creature conjured from fantasy.  It is the train on whose roof that migrants from Central America take through Mexico and up to the United States in hope for a better life, and Martínez humanely portraits the stories of those making the incredibly dangerous journey, showing that reportage this beautiful can placed alongside the finest literature.

The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution - Patrick Cockburn
The authoritative voice on the rise of a violent caliphate in the Middle East.  Tracing the roots of IS, Cockburn castigates the West for its neglectful policies that went some way to creating the breeding ground for this powerful new force.

The Lives of Things - José Saramago
Something a little different from the usual Verso canon, here is a collection of six early, experimental short stories from the late Portuguese novelist and Nobel-prize winner José Saramago.  Though small and slender, the stories in this collection, first published in 1978, bear the hallmarks of the magisterial and fantastical teased into every day situations.

The Prophet: The Life of Leon Trotsky - Isaac Deutscher
The colossal three-volume biography of the Russian rapscallion, now published as a single volume set for the first time.

I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet - Edited by Mark Martin
What better way to lament the environmental degradation that, with flight and airport transfer, the land cleared way for your hotel you're staying and your mass market holiday clothes, you are 100% complicit in, by reading this elegiacal collection of a damaged planet, including stories from Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, T. C. Boyle, Helen Simpson, and Kim Stanley Robinson.  

Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century - Sheila Rowbotham
The feminist trailblazers profiled in Dreamers of a New Day may not have statues erected to them in city squares, but Rowbotham goes some way to memorialising some sadly overlooked pioneers where integral in the hard-won freedoms that women enjoy today.

The Earth: From Myths to Knowledge - Hubert Krivine
A popular science book that is both accessible and erudite, delivering a finger to the eye of the obscurantists.  Read the foreword by Tariq Ali on the Verso blog

The Village Against the World - Dan Hancox
In this travelogue-cum-social history, Hancox gets under the skin of the socialist paradise of Marinaleda, where the farmland is collectivised and a mortgage starts at €15 a month.  The small town of some 2,700 villagers nestles in the historically bellicose region of Andalusia, a land brim with stories of banditry, anarchism and deep-seated contempt for the centralised Spanish government and Hancox expertly weaves the tempestuous history and the political machinations of a social utopia. 

A Philosophy of Walking - Frédéric Gros
In this huge bestseller from the highly distinguished French philosopher, Gros teaches us that the finest philosophical minds, from Kant, to Nietzsche, Rousseau to Rimbaud, have all be in thrall to the simple pleasure of putting one foot in front of the other.

The Islam Quintet - Tariq Ali
This new republished set, starting from fifteenth-century Moorish Spain and unfurling right through to twenty-first century London, Lahore, Paris and Beijing, is a masterful five-volume riposte to the commentator that Ali heard during the first Gulf war say that Muslims have no culture.

Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain - Robert Hewison
A satisfying retort to the utter dregs of Britain's 'creative' culture that Tony Blair and the nauseating 'Cool Britannia' phenomenon, the commodfication of 'edgy' street art of Banksy, the 2012 Olympics cermonies and beyond.