books

Mrs Engels
By Gavin McCrea
Scribe, 2015
352 pp, $29.99

For those hankering to know what Communist Manifesto co-author Frederick Engels’ erect penis looked like, page 37 of this novel is for you.

“In its vigours, it points up and a bit to the side,” says Lizzie Burns, the first-person narrator of the entire story.

Gavin McCrea’s Burns is a brilliant narrative voice, and his writing sparkles. Burns’s rich brogue and incisive humour are wonderful.

R&R: A Novel
By Mark Dapin
Viking, 2015, 287 pp, $32.99

Mark Dapin is a rising star of Australian writing, having first made his mark as a journalist with a string of newspapers. He is a knock-about sort of working-class bloke, who brushed up against the British socialist movement before migrating, a bit of a boxer as well as a writer.

Interviewing the light welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu for the Sydney Morning Herald, Dapin famously persuaded Tszyu to let him spar with him in the ring. Tszyu didn’t muck about, breaking three of Dapin’s ribs.


Wallis Simpson, Edward of Windsor, Adolf Hitler (fourth, fifth and sixth from left).

17 Carnations: The Windsors, The Nazis & The Cover-Up
By Andrew Morton
Michael O’Mara Books, 2015,
327 pages


Marines join protesting German workers in Berlin during the November 1918 revolution.

The German Left & the Weimar Republic
By Ben Fowkes
Haymarket Books, 2015
399 pages, US$28.

Socialist historian Ben Fowkes has given us a unique and vivid text documentary of the German workers’ movement during the tumultuous years of its greatest influence — from November 1918 to its defeat by Nazism 15 years later.

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic
By Margaret Gray
University of California Press, 2014

Over the past few decades there has been a rapid growth of interest in buying food that does not come from large-scale industrial farms. Concerns exist over their use of large amounts of commercial fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, and inhumane treatment of farm animals.


Anti-government protests in Bahrain, 2011.

Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & the Arab Spring That Wasn’t
Toby Matthiesen
Stanford University Press, 2013

In 2011, when a wave of protest and rebellion swept the Arab world, the monarchical states making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were not exempt from the unrest.


Author Carla Gorton at the Cairns launch of the book and associated film project. Photo: Jobsforwomenfilm.com.

Women of Steel: Gender, jobs & justice at BHP
Carla Gorton & Pat Brewer
Resistance Books, Sydney
$10 paperback, 73 pages
www.resistancebooks.com


Migrant workers are employed in slave-like conditions on construction of Qatar's World Cup facilities.

The Ugly games: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup
Heidi Blake & Jonathan Calvert
Simon & Schuster, 2015 472 pages

The only surprising thing about the FIFA corruption scandal is that anyone should be surprised, given the long history of credible allegations of bribery in world football’s governing body.

Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism
Edited by Miranda Kiraly & Meagan Tyler
Published by Connor Court, 2015

With Miley Cyrus declaring herself “one of the biggest feminists in the world”, and Beyonce performing at the 2014 MTV Music Awards in front of a huge illuminated sign that read “Feminist”, it would appear that feminism has gone mainstream.

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary
By Ernest Harsch
Ohio University Press, 2014
163 pages, $18.56.

A popular uprising in 1983 in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), a small and poor land-locked country in western Africa, had led to an obscure, but charismatic army officer becoming head of state.

This was inspiring news for those looking for a new breakthrough against imperialism. It had come after the depressing news that Margaret Thatcher's Britain had defeated Argentina in the Malvinas and Ronald Reagan's United States had crushed Grenada's revolution.

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