Jess Phillips on her Favourite Books
As Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips has become one of the most recognisable politicians in the land. Her refreshing honesty and refusal to be cowed by those who would seek to undermine her has led her to amass the kind of popularity unusual for an elected representative. In her combative book Truth to Power, Jess offers a blistering manifesto for the wider public on how to call out those who try to bully, cheat and lie their way through life at the the expense of others.
To celebrate the publication of Truth to Power, we asked Jess to name her favourite books. From comic masterpieces to landmark biography, these are her choices.
I read this book when I was 19 years old, sleeping in a tent while working in France. I think it may be the first non-fiction book I ever read (except at school) and I devoured it. The representation of the role and the lives of women during the wars in China and the cultural revolution was something I knew nothing about. The generations of women and how their society, history and politics had felt for them was like nothing I had read before or, frankly, since.
I have read this book, every year for the past 20 years, it sits on my bedside table and when I cannot sleep I turn to the eyerolling dialogue of Pauline Mole, Adrian’s mother. It is so funny, so accurate, so brilliantly mundane. Pitch perfect on every page. It allows working class people with messy lives to still be clever, funny, politically engaged. They are not monstered, each and every character is perfect.
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
My parents read this to me as a child and I read it to my children, I can recite it from memory. I knew I was pregnant with my second son, when reading Peepo to my first born I started to sob at the part where his dad leaves the house in his soldier's uniform. I had read it a million times and knew that my emotions must have been for something else. It is so brilliant that the words and pictures work to tell a story of a time that, while set in a certain time, is totally timeless.
This book is written about a group of kids from Birmingham who went to the school I went to, it is steeped in Birmingham history and the sights and sounds of my home town. I read it on a coach in Australia and missed home.