The best books about working class culture

2 authors have picked their favorite books about working class culture and why they recommend each book.

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Poverty Safari

By Darren McGarvey,

Book cover of Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain's Underclass

This is a seamless combination of autobiography, psychology, and politics, with an emphasis on the role of emotion – and especially anger – in expressing our views. McGarvey is politically savvy and refreshingly critical of both the left and the right, but for me, it’s the sustained self-reflection and emotional intelligence that makes this book outstanding. He has witnessed how anger, as a default feeling in his community, entrenches positions and limits people’s willingness and ability to understand themselves and listen to others. McGarvey tells how his own story exemplifies this attitude and his account of his awakening is fascinating and educational.


Who am I?

I am an academic at the University of Glasgow with a background in philosophy and psychology. My approach to critical thinking is broad and informed by several other teaching and research interests: emotional intelligence, the psychology of influence, interpersonal communication, and virtue ethics. Motivating much of what I do is the question: How are we to live well? With respect to critical thinking I don’t just deal with the nature and structure of arguments, but also with the role they play in constructive dialogues, and how poor reasoning is linked to psychological biases and the absence of certain virtues. The books I have chosen here are representative of these concerns.


I wrote...

Critical Thinking: The Basics

By Stuart Hanscomb,

Book cover of Critical Thinking: The Basics

What is my book about?

Critical Thinking: The Basics is an accessible and engaging introduction to the field of critical thinking, drawing on philosophy, communication, and psychology. Emphasising its relevance to decision making (in personal, professional, and civic life), academic literacy, and personal development, this book supports the reader in understanding and developing the knowledge and skills needed to identify poor reasoning, construct strong arguments, and engage critically in dialogues.

With discussion questions/exercises and suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter, this book is an essential read for students approaching the field of critical thinking for the first time, and for the general reader wanting to improve their thinking skills and decision-making abilities.

Me and Ma Gal

By Des Dillon,

Book cover of Me and Ma Gal

A day in the life of two inseparable friends in an impoverished Scottish town where everything seems challenging. They learn what friendship truly means in the face of certain dangers. Dillon’s award-winning debut depicts the vitality and intensity of boyhood friendship, as well as painting a vivid picture of contemporary working-class Scotland.


Who am I?

Brian Conaghan has written seven Young Adult novels. When Mr. Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. The Bombs That Brought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart - a collaboration with Sarah Crossan - won the United Kingdom Literary Award. His novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 An Post YA Irish Book of the Year. The M Word was shortlisted for the An Post YA and Teen Book of the Year. Cardboard Cowboys, to date, has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Brian lives and works in the Scottish town of Coatbridge.


I wrote...

When Mr. Dog Bites

By Brian Conaghan,

Book cover of When Mr. Dog Bites

What is my book about?

Dylan Mint has Tourette's. Being sixteen is hard enough, but Dylan's life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in - the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed... But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March. So he grants himself three parting wishes or 'Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It'.

It's not a long list, but it's ambitious, and he doesn't have much time. Sometimes you've just got to go for it – no holding back – and see what happens...

Lowborn

By Kerry Hudson,

Book cover of Lowborn

Hudson revisits the towns and cities that formed the backdrop of her, somewhat chaotic, childhood. She excavates the effects of poverty on the UK’s working and underclasses from this peripatetic experience. Lowborn is a vibrant, witty, and often poignant social commentary. Like all aforementioned books, it unwittingly challenges the notion of white privilege. 


Who am I?

Brian Conaghan has written seven Young Adult novels. When Mr. Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. The Bombs That Brought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart - a collaboration with Sarah Crossan - won the United Kingdom Literary Award. His novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 An Post YA Irish Book of the Year. The M Word was shortlisted for the An Post YA and Teen Book of the Year. Cardboard Cowboys, to date, has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Brian lives and works in the Scottish town of Coatbridge.


I wrote...

When Mr. Dog Bites

By Brian Conaghan,

Book cover of When Mr. Dog Bites

What is my book about?

Dylan Mint has Tourette's. Being sixteen is hard enough, but Dylan's life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in - the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed... But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March. So he grants himself three parting wishes or 'Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It'.

It's not a long list, but it's ambitious, and he doesn't have much time. Sometimes you've just got to go for it – no holding back – and see what happens...

Trainspotting

By Irvine Welsh,

Book cover of Trainspotting

Self-abandonment. Haud oan a second. Ah wanted tae see Jean-Claude smash up this arrogant fucker.

You don't understand a word? Don't worry; you'll get the hang of it. Scotland is far from the rest of the world, as you can tell by the language. But in a way, this book is about what's happening in the world. It's about how to get lost and not find yourself again in the world. Just like Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo a decade earlier. It is a series of short stories that show the lives of people who follow no career path, who have no specific plot in mind for themselves, and end up with only random snippets of life, decay, and death—glimpses into the sad lives of people who get a fix when everything no longer makes sense. The stories are sometimes hard to take, but Welsh's writing style makes them worthwhile. 


Who am I?

I'm a child of the 80s. Growing up in West Berlin, when Allied soldiers patrolled the streets, had a huge impact on my view of the world. There was this underlying feeling of uneasiness. I was well aware that Russian soldiers with tanks and nuclear weapons were waiting on the other side of the wall. Fascinating, terrifying times indeed. To convey this atmosphere to my readers is my foremost drive to write stories set within the framework of the cold war. Cheers and nastrovje!


I wrote...

Iron Curtain 1987

By Raf Beuy, Christophe Bugetti (illustrator),

Book cover of Iron Curtain 1987

What is my book about?

What interested me most about this topic is the underlying continuity of the old Prussian attitude of mind within the framework of East German socialism. A gruesome mixture indeed. But see for yourself. 

The American citizen Adam Hedman followed his ideals and went to the land of his ancestors, which is behind the Iron Curtain in the German East. As all his hope is lost and he only wants to see justice for his family, a coworker vanishes, and he gets blackmailed into looking for her. Unwillingly he starts a hunt for the man who took her. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the socialist secret services unfolds, where it is impossible to emerge as a victor. Or is it?

Mechanic Accents

By Michael Denning,

Book cover of Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America

Denning is a master. He mixes literary analysis, historical sleuthing, and some smart ideological excavation to see how dime novels—treated like trash by most scholars—were used by working men and women in 19th century America. They were creating a culture and their reading did all the things that culture does: helped them make sense of the world, gave them a place to pay with ideas, and invent myths and narratives for orientation. All while middle-class scolds told them they were reading “wrong.”

If you’ve ever loved a book that wasn’t good for you, or wanted to seriously think about something that wasn’t “serious,” this book is for you.


Who am I?

I'm a journalist and a historian who writes about how American evangelicals are complicated. I was trying to explain Left Behind in graduate school and I talked and talked about the theology in the book—all about the doctrines of the rapture, the antichrist, and the millennium. Then my professor said, “But it’s fiction, right? Why is it fiction? What are people doing when they read a novel instead, of say, a theological treatise?” I had no idea. But it seemed like a good question. That was the spark of Reading Evangelicals. But first, I had to read everything I could find about how readers read and what happens when they do.


I wrote...

Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

By Daniel Silliman,

Book cover of Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

What is my book about?

The history of American evangelicalism told through five mega-bestselling novels, the people who sold them, and the readers who had mixed feelings. There is so much Christian fiction and it is read by so many people—millions and millions. What my book proposes is…maybe that’s important? In the history of bestselling evangelical fiction, we can see the hopes, fears, and imagination of American evangelicals. We can see the core question that evangelicals ask themselves and the conversation that grows out of the diverse and sometimes contradictory answers. And then, by paying attention to how and where those books are sold, we can understand how the “imagined community” is held together.

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