Expert’s view

Paul Mason: my five best books

The award-winning journalist and film-maker chooses his five favourite reads

Paul Mason’s latest book, How To Stop Fascism: History, Ideology, Resistance (The Week Bookshop £15.99), is published this week.

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon (1990)

A haunting and surreal story of betrayal, both in love and politics, set amid the ruins of the 1960s counterculture, the war on drugs and the rise of the US surveillance state. Vintage £10.99; The Week Bookshop £8.99

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (1980)

Grossman was a journalist who saw both the Second World War and the Holocaust from the frontline. This masterpiece of 20th century literature was banned for explicitly comparing Nazi and Soviet dictatorships, and had to be smuggled out of the USSR on microfilm. Its author died believing that every copy of his book had been lost. Vintage £10.99; The Week Bookshop £8.99

The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel (1886)

A schoolteacher turned barricade fighter in the Paris Commune, Michel was exiled to the Pacific island of New Caledonia, where she began to document the folklore of the indigenous peoples, and to support their revolt against French colonialism. My 2017 play, Divine Chaos of Starry Things, was a tribute to her indomitable spirit. University of Alabama Press £32.50

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (1939)

Of all the coal-mining novels, this is the one that captures best the intense solidarity of communities like the one my grandparents lived in, and how much they loved life despite its hardships. Today the Welsh valleys are, once again, green – but at massive social cost. Penguin £10.99; The Week Bookshop £8.99

Istanbul, Istanbul by Burhan Sönmez (2016)

I covered the Gezi Park uprising in Istanbul in 2013. Sönmez’s novel tells the city’s story through the eyes of four victims of torture, who tell each other fables as they share a prison cell. In a world where torture is becoming the routine tool of political strongmen, Sönmez shows how ordinary people find the courage to resist. Telegram Books £8.99; The Week Bookshop £6.99

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