Navigation

Books, music and film for the festive season

The academic team and Visiting Professors in our department are sending all our students their warmest wishes for a restful and enjoyable festive season and a New Year full of health and happiness, along with their suggestions for readings, films and even music which will help them take their mind off core Law learning activities when recharging their batteries. There is still a lot of Law in this Christmas reading list of course, but it’s the kind of Law that intersects with history, society, and culture. There is so much more than Law too. Do engage with these readings and other activities, and let us know what you think of them too (at @GoldsmithsLaw #GoldLawReads).
Dr Fatima Ahdash recommends Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola. This is a very exciting modern retelling of mythical love stories from around the world. Fatima also recommends Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. This Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie | Waterstonesfascinating novel is a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’ and recounts the story of the children of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee in London and their struggles with the security state, faith, identity and the ‘War on Terror.’
For those interested in History, the Holocaust, and international criminal law, Dr Virginie Barral recommends East West Street by Philippe Sands. This is “not a legal book, yet highly interesting for lawyers, weaving Philippe Sands’ family personal history, as well as those of great lawyers Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, and how they respectively ‘invented’ the notions of Crimes against humanity and Genocide in the run up to the Nuremberg Trials”.

During the break Virginie will be looking forward to reading The Ratline (the sequel to East West Street), which “follows the fate of the Nazi Governor responsible for Sands’, Lauterpacht’s and Lemkin’s families deaths, Otto Wachter, in the years after WWII”.

Judge Donald Cryan

Our Visiting Professor Judge Donald Cryan suggests the quintessential American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, for its drama, professional ethics, integrity, courage, the anti-racist action and much more. Judge Cryan’s second recommendation is The Lion and the Throne by C. Drinker Bowen, explaining that “it is the biography of Sir Edward Coke who was active around 1600 and was one of the great champions of early parliamentary democracy”.

Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson | WaterstonesDr Alex Dymock enjoyed the following this year: Rachel Kushner – The Mars Room (a beautifully written and meticulously researched novel about life in a women’s prison in California); Laura Thompson – Rex v Edith Thompson (creative non-fiction account of the trial of Edith Thompson, one of the last women in England & Wales to face the death penalty); Virginie Despentes – King Kong Theory (a manifesto for a new kind of punk feminism). Over the break, Alex is looking forward to reading Katherine Angel’s new book, Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent (out with Verso in 2021) and dipping into Lucas Richert’s Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture.

On films and TV, Alex recommends: I Love You, Now Die – HBO docuseries on the prosecution of a teenager in the US which asks the question: when should a party be held criminally liable for another’s suicide?; The Sopranos – which she’s just started watching for the first time and “it’s every bit as brilliant as everyone says”; Little Fires Everywhere – “a drama about gender, race and motherhood with superb performances from Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. A rare example of a screen adaptation far better than the novel!”. She’ll “likely spend much of the break watching more Sopranos!”, she adds.

Dr Plamen Dinev would like to make a single recommendation, namely: ‘A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects’, edited by Claudy Op den Kamp & Dan Hunter. It includes contributions by some of the leading IP scholars, yet it is presented in an engaging and accessible way that should be of interest to students of all levels – and regardless of whether they have any prior interest in IP.
Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos recommends a first quick stop at Timothy Garton Ash’s long read, The future of liberalism, recently published in Prospect. Garton Ash suggests a “new liberalism” where the “fear of the human barbarism that can always return will be intertwined with hope for a human civilisation that we partly have”; it’s a useful reminder of what is at stake.
For those interested to learn more about the government’s agenda for constitutional reform (and risks this generates for some of our key democratic institutions and legal processes), Dimitrios points us to Prospect again, their recent report on the rule of law, notably David Lammy’s analysis on Save judicial review, Judge Neuberger’s explanation of how judges change their minds, Harriet Harman’s piece on what she calls the Overseas impunity bill, Alex Dean’s interview with former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, on how our judges are not activist, or the article by the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, who speaks of our “thriving legal services build on a foundation 800 years in the making” (but fails to acknowledge, in Dimitrios’ view, how the government’s constitutional reform agenda risks to undermine these foundations).
In undertaking research for an article that appeared in the August issue of the European Human Rights Law Review, Dimitrios read Dominic Raab’s The Assault on Liberty, which was published in 2009. The book is “mischievously presented as a defence of individual rights, when, in reality, it is the protection of individual rights — under the HRA and the ECHR — that the book is absolutely intent on assaulting”, wrote Dimitrios in the EHRLR article; it’s “an illuminating read for everyone keen to understand the threats European human rights are currently facing in the UK”, he observes. Raab’s book can be read with – and contrasted to – the brilliant On Fantasy Island, by Prof Conor Gearty.
During the festive period, Dimitrios is looking forward to reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (he got his copy from our brilliant independent bookstore at Goldsmiths, The Word, which currently operates an order-and-collect service). Dimitrios points to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in the New York Times, that with this book ‘Obama has already illuminated a pivotal moment in American history, and how America changed while also remaining unchanged’. But “above all, this book needs to be read with the last four years of Trump in mind”, he adds; “failures in Obama’s presidency will surely appear insignificant compared to the destruction that Trump’s populist machine has attempted to bring upon the United States’ key democratic institutions”.
Other books in his reading list include Lauren Lavrysen’s and Natasa Mavronicola’s Coercive Human Rights and Jan Wouter’s and Felipe Gomez Isa’s The Faces of Human Rights. On fiction, he has started to read Diane Cook’s, The New Wilderness; “it’s a new kind of dystopia that the book chillingly describes, a time in the near future when the final human project of environmental destruction is complete”, Dimitrios says.
On film, he strongly recommends The Small Axe series, which Goldsmiths alumnus Steve McQueen directed. Dimitrios has so far watched Mangrove, Lovers’ Rock and Red, White and Blue; “all beautifully shot, with Mangrove and Red, White and Blue depicting, with powerful accuracy, well-known episodes, and less well-known personal moments, of victimhood, but also of brave resistance, individual and cultural, to racist behaviour infecting our criminal justice system”.

For a TV series “guaranteed to send shivers down the spine”, Dimitrios recommends the Chernobyl, which he has recently watched. “I was a kid growing up in Greece when we learnt the devastating news of the nuclear disaster in Ukraine; the series eerily transports you back to that time, and place, and gives you unprecedented access to a culture of secrecy, rigid political hierarchies and unbending Party diktat, unmoved even in the face of unspeakable human tragedy”.
Finally, on music, Dimitrios says: “there cannot be Christmas without the Nutcracker, and though national operas around the world are closed due to the pandemic right now, there are some striking performances on YouTube; these from Staatskapelle Dresden  and the Russian State Ballet and Opera House are notable. Our Royal Opera House was planning a live stream this Christmas, but due to London’s move to Tier 4 status, they had to cancel  and are now inviting audiences, as an alternative, to purchase, for a very small fee, streaming access to a recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
He also suggests checking out NPR’s “aesthetically beautiful and deeply intimate” Tiny Desk performances as well as Goldsmiths Music featuring work by current and former students from the Department of Music in the College.

Our Visiting Professor, Dominic Grieve QC, is recommending the following “riveting, and topical at present, reads”: Enemies of the People by Joshua Rozenberg; The Invention of Tradition.  Essays edited by Eric Hobsbawm; The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas; The Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum; A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
On films: The Leopard by Visconti based on the book by Lampedusa, and A passage to India by David Lean based on the novel by EM Forster.
For our Visiting Professor, Alison Levitt QC, It’s a Wonderful Life is “the best ever Christmas film and a reminder to us all about what matters”.
Our Visiting Professor, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, warns that his suggestions “are bound to be gloomy”, in view of the “the appalling [socio-political] circumstances in which we find ourselves”. His first recommendation is the film Billy Budd, starring Terrence Stamp and Peter Ustinov.  “The film needs to be watched slowly, questioning what may be the sub texts”, Sir Geoffrey advises. “The trial scene at the end – and no point in skipping in order to get there – asks absolutely fundamental questions that lawyers and law makers must consider”. Watch Sir Geoffrey’s second suggestion – the Lives of others – and “ask at the end what was its core subject”. Sir Geoffrey also suggests “Never look away”. It is “long and slow and worth every minute”.

On books, Sir Geoffrey recommends The Anarchy, by William Dalyrimple, which “provides a devastating but gripping account of the operations over a couple centuries of the East India Company”.  It says much about “colonialism, slavery, politics and can be ‘read across’ as relevant to today’s difficulties”.
Sir Geoffrey has a music recommendation too – Winterreise by Schubert – and advises that we can do what he has done recently and learn more about a famous work like this from here. You can also explore lectures by Parloff (and others) on other on music and sink into deep appreciation.
On law, Dr Mai Taha recommends the following: Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land and Racial Regimes of Property (Duke University Press, 2018). She is planning to read soon, Nadine El-Enany’s, Bordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire (Manchester University Press, 2020).
She also recommends the following non-academic books: Hisham Matar, A Month in Siena (Penguin, 2019); Assata Shakur, Assata: an Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1988).
For fiction books, she is suggesting Elena Ferrante’s, The Napolitan Novels, and is also planning to read her new book The Lying Life of Adults (2020); Isabella Hammad, The Parisian (2019); Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979).
Aaron Taylor has a few suggestions of excellent books (broadly) related to fraud which he’s read recently: Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Billion Dollar Whale (The story of Jo Lho and the 1MBD fraud); Bill  Browder, Red Notice (Russian state corruption in the post-Soviet years); John Carreyrou, Bad Blood, (The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos); Sour Grapes (documentary, available on Netflix, about a fascinating huge-scale wine fraud). On his reading list in this area there are Rachel Maddow’s, Blowout (A book abut the oil and gas industry, subtitled “Corruption democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on Earth”).
On other topics, he recommends: Georgina Adam, Dark side of the boom (About the excesses of the high-end market in contemporary art); Sarah Thornton, 7 days in the Art World (A fascinating viewpoint on all aspects of the art world, from artist’s studio to auction room); Bianca Bosker, Cork Dork (A journalist’s hilarious deep-dive into the world of wine); Philippe Sands, East-West Street (An absolute must-read: simultaneously a family history and an investigation into the origins of the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity); Dan Hicks, The Brutish Museums (Subtitled: ‘The Benin Bronzes, colonial violence, and cultural restitution’)
If you’re looking for just one book, Aaron’s suggestion is East-West Street (he agrees with Dr Barral on this), and Bad Blood is the book he found hardest to put down.
Aaron has also recently watched two excellent biopics about US Supreme Court Justices: Marshall (about Thurgood Marshall), and On the basis of sex (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg). The Aaron Sorkin film The Trial of the Chicago 7 is also superb, according to Aaron, as is Sorkin’s previous film Molly’s Game.
Our Visiting Professor, Leslie Thomas QC, recommends Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, a book which has helped him over the years; “a simple small book that helps you overcome procrastination something we can all be guilty of”.
Leslie’s second recommendation is The Clapback by Lawal; “in a year of BLM and becoming Anti-Racist this book debunks racist stereotypes about black people” and is “well worth a read”.