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Blair picks Trotsky biog among Desert Island Reads
24.06.11 | Graeme Neill
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has demonstrated an affinity with political outsiders, fantasy worlds and religious prophets as he revealed his choice of favourite books for a new magazine.
Amongst nine books, he plumped for a biography of the controversial figure of Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky as one of his "Desert Island Books", as well as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, plus biographies of Jesus and Muhammed. One book, on a little-known shoemaker, he recommends with the phrase: "I know something of motivation, determination and ambition bordering on obsession."
Writing exclusively for We Love This Book, the new sister magazine of The Bookseller that aims to alert readers to the most exciting books, Blair said he also found himself drawn to the characters of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. "Long John Silver is not a plain simple baddie, but a man capable certainly of badness but also of a certain code of honour."
Similarly Blair finds himself intrigued by the difficult choices facing characters in Lord of the Rings. "It has its share of wizards who become collaborators, good people who fall from grace, and those who are in some sense redeemed."
The former Labour leader admitted his selection of Isaac Deutscher's Trotsky biography The Prophet might seem an "odd choice" for the architect of New Labour, but said it was the first political book he read and the one that got him interested in politics. "It described Trotsky as a true revolutionary who stood out against the cruelty and oppression with which communism came to be associated...For all his faults and inconsistencies, the range of his thinking and the energy of his creativity were remarkable."
Blair's work as a Middle East peace envoy explains his other selections include Arnold G Fruchtenbaum's Jesus was a Jew and Amin Maalouf and Jon Rothschild's The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.
Blair was writing exclusively for the first issue of We Love This Book, which launched today with a circulation of 100,000 copies through independent bookshops and libraries across the UK. The free quarterly magazine also features an interview with Alan Hollinghurst ahead of his latest novel, David Mitchell writing a new short story and a look at forensic crime fiction. The magazine's website, www.welovethisbook.com, has now launched and features blogs, features, reviews, reading events and a "find a bookshop" guide.
Tony Blair's Desert Island Books
1. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
The children's classic; Blair has recently been reading this to son Leo
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkein
The archetypal fantasy novel, a whole immersive world for readers to escape to
3. Germinal - Emile Zola
Epic struggle of 19th century French coal miners - "out of the struggle,a better world will come" says Blair
4. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
Classic love story centering on a love triangle of Ivanhoe, Saxon Princess Rowena and beautiful Rebecca. "Read it and see with me if, like me, you are sure he should have defied convention and eloped with Rebecca," says Blair
5. The Prophet: Trotsky - Isaac Deutscher
Three-volume biography of the Russian revolutionary. Assassinated in Mexico City with an ice pick in 1940.
6. Jesus was a Jew - Arond G Fruchtenbaum
Study of Christ in which the implications of his status as a Rabbi and a Jew are explored
7. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes - Amin Maalouf and Jon Rothschild
The Arab view of the Crusades, which emphasises how ahead the Arabs were of medieval Europeans
8. Shoemaker of Dreams - Salvatore Ferragamo
The autobiography of a man fixated on creating the perfect shoe. "I know something of motivation, determination and ambition bordering on obsession."
9. Muhammed - Martin Lings
Scholarly biography of the Prophet. "He was disowned by his home city, fought constant battles against the interests and ideas aligned against him but finally triumphed by the simple, direct but profound force of ideas."