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My life in books

Roddy Pow is a primary school teacher in west London

What I'm reading

Alone in Berlin

By Hans Fallada

An astonishing novel of the Second World War written by a German, this is an everyday story of Nazi folk, told in an almost fairytale style, with the characters' lives played out under the extraordinary conditions of the Hitler regime. It tells the story of a simple and ultimately futile act of resistance by one middle-aged couple which shines a bright light into a dark time. It is harrowing, heroic, grotesque and utterly brilliant.

The book I loved as a child

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

By Robert Tressell

This tract was required reading for just about every leftwing teenager of my generation. It was written in the early years of the 20th century and qualifies more as classic socialism than classic literature. It is a ponderous plod through the arguments against the class system through the rather contrived lives of painters and decorators in Mugsborough (get it?). I have a horrible feeling that it might not have aged that well, even if it did shape my views on the way the world works.

Read this before you die


By George Orwell

This was once on everyone's reading list, but might have fallen by the wayside now. More than anything, this is a book about language and how it can be distorted in the hands of those who want to control our thinking. It is a warning against the all-powerful state and one of the few books that unites people of all political persuasions. The characters are one-dimensional and the plot is clunky, but it is a definitive piece of mid-20th-century political literature, casting a message that still resonates every time you hear some "spin".

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