Loki to Angela Davis: Scottish readers 10 most rebellious books of the 21st century

By Sean Bell, originally writing for Commonspace on 22nd November 2018

THE SCOTTISH BOOK TRUST has announced its reader-voted list of the top ten “most rebellious reads of the 21st century”, with Orwell Prize-winning Glasgow writer and performer Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari emerging as the front-runner.

The list also includes the 2017 feminist anthology Nasty Women, published to great acclaim by the award-winning Scottish independent publisher 404 Ink.

The new ranking comes as part of Book Week Scotland (which ran from 19 – 23rd November), now in its seventh year and overseen by the national literature and literacy charity the Scottish Book Trust. As part of Book Week Scotland’s 2018 theme ‘Rebel,’ readers were asked to select their most rebellious read from a shortlist of 21 non-fiction books, with a record 3,500 participating in the poll.

Commenting on the results, Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said: “I’m delighted to see record numbers participate in this year’s online vote. We always find that this is a great way to start new conversations about why different books matter to different people.

“This year, the spotlight is on books that challenge our perceptions and encourage us to ask questions about the way society works. Clearly, the top-ten is exceptionally strong and it’s great to see that Poverty Safari, a home-grown success story by a new Scottish writer, has topped the list.”

Creative Scotland literature officer Erin McElhinney added: “Books can change the world – whether it’s a writer challenging the status quo, or a reader being introduced to new ideas. The books on this contemporary top ten list, and the strong public response to them, is a testament to the rebellious potential of the written word.”

As voted for by Scotland’s readers, the 21st century’s most rebellious reads are as follows:

Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey

A mixture of memoir and polemic, McGarvey addresses the nature of deprivation in modern Britain, its consequences and how we should approach the anger it inspires in those who suffer under it.

A Streetcat Named Bob by James Bowen

A heartwarming story which never allows sentimentality to obscure the reality of poverty, A Streetcat Named Bob recounts how Bowen – living in supported housing on a methadone program, after 10 years of homelessness and drug addiction – had his life changed by the discovery of an injured ginger cat.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

Shukla’s challenging collection brings together 20 emerging British Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists to confront the difficulties of living in a country that “wants you, doesn’t want you, doesn’t accept you, needs you for its equality monitoring forms and would prefer you if you won a major reality show competition.”

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

A dissection of the realities of the current discourse around race, Eddo-Lodge confronts the hypocrisy of those who call for conversations about racism, yet ignore or vilify the people of colour who do speak out, and show more outrage at accusations of racism than at the institutionalised presence of racism itself.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y Davis

Demonstrating that her considerable powers have not dimmed over half a century of radical action, legendary revolutionary Angela Davis – feminist, anti-racist, communist and formerly one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted – analyses oppression and possible liberation in the age of Black Lives Matter.

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

A meditation on morality that never veers into the abstract, Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir recounts a lifetime of near-death experiences, ranging from a childhood illness she was not expected to survive, to a poorly-handled labour in an understaffed hospital.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, may now be a figure of international renown, but her memoir recounts how she risked death for her right to an education in Taliban-controlled Pakistan before the world knew her name.

Nasty Women by 404 Ink

In a world where women are side-lined and silenced, the sharing of their narratives in their own words is never less than crucial. In a spirit of “people, politics, pressure, punk”, Nasty Women collects essays, interviews and insights into the contemporary female experience.

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by the Secret Barrister

Everyone has an opinion on the law – who it should benefit, where it should apply, and how effective it is. Providing the unvarnished perspective of a legal practitioner, The Secret Barrister exposes the flaws, hypocrisies and tragedies of the UK criminal justice system.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

Klein’s explosive follow-up to the anti-globalisation bible No Logo, The Shock Doctrine argues that the neoliberalism which has imposed itself upon the world in recent decades has taken ruthless advantage of national crises to enforce immiserating economic policies upon populations too exhausted by disaster to resist.

Picture courtesy of Hernán Piñera