What we’re studying: writers and readers on the books they loved in September

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In this collection we ask authors, Guardian writers and readers to share what they’ve been studying not too long ago. This month, suggestions embrace historic reads, from a superb nonfiction e-book concerning the Soviet Union to a trilogy of novels a couple of fictionalised postwar Britain. Inform us within the feedback what you could have been studying.


JR McNeill, historian and writer

Mikhail Gorbachev, the central determine within the demise of the USSR, died on the finish of August. By likelihood, I used to be studying Vladislav Zubok’s Collapse, which particulars Gorbachev’s doomed efforts to reform his sclerotic nation. These days, I’ve been studying armloads of fantastic historical past books in reference to my function as chair of the jury for the Cundill history prize, and Zubok’s is among the many finest.

In Vladimir Putin’s evaluation, the top of the USSR was “the best geopolitical disaster of the [20th] century”. In Washington, Putin’s disaster is commonly seen self-servingly as an American triumph. Nevertheless that could be, the collapse was a defining improvement in modern historical past and one which resonates at the moment given Putin’s struggle in Ukraine.

Zubok, born and raised in Moscow however now a historian on the London College of Economics, supplies a deeply researched account starting as Gorbachev was ascending the best rungs of energy. Zubok interviewed dozens of contributors, mined memoirs, and scoured archives to construct his story from the bottom up with major sources. The narrative sometimes exams the endurance of hurried readers: “At 2.30 within the afternoon on 21 August, Marshal Yazov kissed his spouse Emma goodbye …” However for these looking forward to an authoritatively detailed rendering of dramatic occasions, Zubok delivers.

JR McNeill is chair of the jury for the Cundill historical past prize, for which Collapse is shortlisted.


Rebecca, Guardian reader

Right here Once more Now is superbly, gently, sympathetically written by Okechukwo Nzelu. By no means earlier than have I underlined and copied so many quotes. It’s a transferring, astounding and affirming novel.

Nzelu writes with pathos; it’s a really calm learn. I’m a quick reader, however I learn this very slowly, to savour each little bit of its poetic, rhythmic phrase.


Samson Kambalu, artist and writer

I’m studying George Mwase’s eccentric however insightful rendition of the Chilembwe Rising Strike a Blow and Die. I feel it’s one of the best tackle the rebellion I’ve learn up to now whereas ushering my sculpture, Antelope, to Trafalgar Sq.’s fourth plinth. The sculpture restages a 1914 {photograph} of the Baptist preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe and the European missionary John Chorley, taken on the opening of Chilembwe’s new church in Nyasaland, now Malawi. In my depiction, Chilembwe is twice the scale of Chorley. He wears a hat, defying the colonial rule that forbade Africans from sporting hats in entrance of white individuals. A yr later, Chilembwe led an rebellion in opposition to colonial rule during which he was killed, and his church, which had taken years to construct, was destroyed by the colonial police.

The Jive Talker: Or, The right way to Get a British Passport by Samson Kambalu (September Books £12.99) is accessible in paperback now. To help the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Supply prices could apply.


Brenda, Guardian reader

I’ve simply learn the Small Change trilogy, by Jo Walton. The three volumes are Farthing, Ha’penny and Half a Crown. Walton has created a chillingly convincing set of novels a couple of fascist Britain, eerily related as of late. And the trilogy has one of many neatest deus ex machinas ever, on the finish.

What we’re studying: writers and readers on the books they loved in September

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