Skip navigation
The Progressive Policy Think Tank

IPPR's festive reading list

In the latest installment in a long series, IPPR staff recommend some of their favourite books from 2015.

This year saw a wave of books on how technology will – and won’t – transform society. We particularly liked Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots and invited him to IPPR to discuss it. The increasingly ubiquitous Paul Mason has become required reading – even, indeed especially, for those who disagree with him – but we also enjoyed some less celebrated manifestos for ‘postcapitalism’, such as Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams (who also wrote for our journal, Juncture).

As happens every year, especially since the financial crisis, a clutch of authors has sought to identify fundamental flaws in the western economic model. It has become a cliché to note the dangers of an excessive focus on maximising GDP, but The Little Big Number by Dirk Philipsen proposes some interesting new alternatives, as did Dieter Helm (another visitor to IPPR) in Natural Capital. Two friends of IPPR North, Anthony Payne and Colin Hay, provided a stimulating critique of the ‘Anglo-liberal’ growth model, in Civic Capitalism. And we were also fascinated by Adair Turner’s meticulous and powerful argument in favour of constraining the creation of private debt.

Two excellent ethnographies helped us to understand the real lives behind headline policy debates. In Illegality, Inc., Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist and journalist, paints a detailed and colourful picture of the huge industry that exists to transport people from Africa to Europe. It will leave you in no doubt that the pressures on Europe’s borders are not going away. Closer to home, Lisa Mckenzie’s Getting By describes the subtleties and complexities of people’s lives on the council estate where she lived for two decades, mixing familiar tabloid tales of gangs and drugs with less familiar stories of ambition and good humour. The Westminster village is always in danger of seeing low-income people in a simplistic or stereotypical way; this book is an excellent corrective.

Next year will bring us another round of centenary commemorations, including for the Somme and the Easter Rising. To get ahead of the game, we’re looking forward to reading Keith Jeffery’s 1916: A Global History over the holidays. For a primer on the Easter Rising in particular, we recommend Diarmaid Ferriter’s A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-1923.

You haven’t come to IPPR for recommendations on fiction. But I will share that Elena Ferrante has gone viral across our offices in recent months. The final book in her Neapolitan series came out in English this autumn. Apart from being a brilliant piece of literature, it provides as great an insight into the evolution of post-war Europe as we’ve found anywhere.