The best books that reveal the truth about the origins, issues and passions that were aroused by Brexit

Jonathan Charteris-Black Author Of Metaphors of Brexit: No Cherries on the Cake?
By Jonathan Charteris-Black

Who am I?

If there was ever one word that seems to have changed the foundations of modern Britain it is the word 'Brexit': something that had seemed so antediluvian shifted from being impossible to becoming reality. I could not believe this was happening and I wanted to explore the influence of language in creating this reality. I decided to apply the approach I had originally authored known as Critical Metaphor Analysis to unravel the metaphors through which the arguments of Leavers and Remainers were articulated. In doing so I tried to tell the story of Brexit through its metaphors because the role of language itself is often overlooked in accounts of persuasion.

I wrote...

Metaphors of Brexit: No Cherries on the Cake?

By Jonathan Charteris-Black,

Book cover of Metaphors of Brexit: No Cherries on the Cake?

What is my book about?

What were the phrases and metaphors of the 2016 Brexit referendum? How far did the Remain and Leave campaigns rely on metaphor to engage with supporters in communicating their political positions? These questions can be answered only through analysis of the language used by the different parties involved. By analysing the cognitive 'frames' through which individuals attempt to understand the world, this book provides a comprehensive account of the metaphors of Brexit. It considers the rhetorical language behind one of the major political events of the era and is of interest to students of linguistics and political science, as well as anyone with a special interest in metaphor, rhetoric, Brexit, or political communication more broadly.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Short History of Brexit: From Brentry to Backstop

Why did I love this book?

This book provides the clearest and most accessible overview of the background of Brexit. I found it a highly reliable source of information on the historical context and it helped me understand the complexity of the various economic and political aspects of Britain’s membership in the EU from an unbiased and objective standpoint.

By Kevin O'Rourke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Short History of Brexit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Crisp, clear and quietly devastating' Guardian
'Excellent, authoritative, highly readable' Irish Times

A succinct, expert guide to how we got to Brexit

After all the debates, manoeuvrings, recriminations and exaltations, Brexit is upon us. But, as Kevin O'Rourke writes, Brexit did not emerge out of nowhere: it is the culmination of events that have been under way for decades and have historical roots stretching back well beyond that. Brexit has a history.

O'Rourke, one of the leading economic historians of his generation, explains not only how British attitudes to Europe have evolved, but also how the EU's history explains why…

Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union

By Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin, Paul Whiteley

Book cover of Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union

Why did I love this book?

I enjoyed reading this comprehensive and convincing account of how people voted in the Brexit referendum. It has an approach rooted in political science and makes effective use of surveys and election results to provide an understanding of the identity of people living in what later became referred to as the ‘Red Wall’ seats – former Labour areas that switched to Conservative often over Brexit. It gave insights into the attitudes and beliefs of those who really had felt left behind.

By Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin, Paul Whiteley

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brexit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In June 2016, the United Kingdom shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union. As this book reveals, the historic vote for Brexit marked the culmination of trends in domestic politics and in the UK's relationship with the EU that have been building over many years. Drawing on a wealth of survey evidence collected over more than ten years, this book explains why most people decided to ignore much of the national and international community and vote for Brexit. Drawing on past research on voting in major referendums in Europe and elsewhere, a team of leading academic experts…

Book cover of Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

Why did I love this book?

Written from a standpoint outside of Britain yet offering such great insight, this book offers a highly convincing account of the stupidity of Brexit. The author pours his wrath onto Brexit and Brexiteers and is a brilliant polemicist. It’s well-written and entertaining.

What I like about this book is that, unlike a lot of academic writing, it doesn't pull any punches and the author is rhetorically committed to a single perspective that he adheres to with great consistency.

By Fintan O'Toole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heroic Failure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'There will not be much political writing in this or any other year that is carried off with such style' The Times.


'A quite brilliant dissection of the cultural roots of the Brexit narrative' David Miliband.
'Hugely entertaining and engrossing' Roddy Doyle.
'Best book about the English that I've read for ages' Billy Bragg.
'A wildly entertaining but uncomfortable read... Pitilessly brilliant' Jonathan Coe.

In exploring the answers to the question: 'why did Britain vote leave?', Fintan O'Toole finds himself discovering how trivial journalistic lies became far from trivial national obsessions; how the pose…

Crowds and Power

By Elias Canetti,

Book cover of Crowds and Power

Why did I love this book?

I am attracted to books that take a broad theme and examine this across space and time –without being confined to a single academic discipline. Another requirement is that they are written in an elegant and accessible style that commands the reader’s attention. This book originally published in Germany in 1960 satisfies both criteria. It defies ready classification but includes social psychology, social anthropology, and ideas related to myth, ritual, and religion. His concept of ‘the pack’ builds on the abstract notion of ‘the crowd’ and leads to ideas such as ‘transformation.’ As the Brexit vote was a form of crowd behaviour, reading this book helped me understand more about it.

By Elias Canetti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crowds and Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Crowds and Power is a revolutionary work in which Elias Canetti finds a new way of looking at human history and psychology.

Breathtaking in its range and erudition, it explores Shiite festivals and the English Civil war, the finger exercises of monkeys and the effects of inflation in Weimar Germany. In this study of the interplay of crowds, Canetti offers one of the most profound and startling portraits of the human condition.

The Wake

By Paul Kingsnorth,

Book cover of The Wake

Why did I love this book?

This is a book written in its own language: one that is derived from Old English. It is written from the viewpoint of a Saxon native, a freeman, whose liberty is threatened by the outside world, invaders who respect no moral laws. Through this method, we enter the minds of the protagonist – Buccmaster of Hollandand a worldview is constructed in which the local is in a shifting balance with external sources of power. The book demonstrates how our thoughts and worldviews are realised by, and dependent upon, the language through which they are articulated. Without explicitly intending to do so, it also provides insight into much of the psychology behind Brexit.

By Paul Kingsnorth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Gordon Burn Prize 2014 and The Bookseller Industry Book of the Year Award 2015. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.

A post-apocalyptic novel set a thousand years ago, The Wake tells the story of Buccmaster of Holland, a free farmer of Lincolnshire, owner of three oxgangs, a man clinging to the Old Gods as the world changes drastically around him. After losing his sons at the Battle of Hastings and his wife and home to the invading Normans, Buccmaster begins to gather together…

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