Since being elected a Member of Parliament for Islington North in the early 80s, Jeremy Corbyn has been a staunch champion of social justice and progressive principles. A lifelong member of the Labour Party, his leadership from 2015 to 2020 saw a surge in grassroots activism, driven by a commitment to socialist ideals, environmental sustainability, and public ownership of key industries.

Born in Chippenham, England in 1949, Corbyn entered politics as a local councillor in London before becoming MP – a position he’s been reelected to nine times and held for nearly four decades. Throughout his career, he’s lent a vital voice to a variety of global humanitarian causes, including Anti-Fascist Action, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Irish reunification and Palestinian statehood.

Corbyn discussed some of the literature that shaped his life and political ideals in a 2019 interview with The Guardian. Speaking on his longtime love of Ulysses, he underlined why it’s important that politicians always pay attention to the common people:

“Joyce references and richly describes what’s happening in the street. So somebody is holding forth about a big political issue and then the refuse cart goes by. Whenever there is a big political issue on, I walk around the streets in my area. We might be totally obsessed with Brexit or some other issue but many people are not. Their daily lives are more important. Politicians should never forget that people have lives to lead and they often have dreams they don’t talk about.”

From James Joyce’s modernist epic of everyday life to Chinua Achebe’s portrait of Nigerian tribal communities pre- and post-colonialism, explore 5 of Jeremy Corbyn’s favorite books below. Complement with the recommended reading lists of other preeminent politicians and activists.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Reading List

Ulysses by James Joyce (also rec’d by Bret Easton EllisGabriel García MárquezIrvine WelshJennifer ConnellyJim Morrison & Martin Amis)

The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith

Strumpet City by James Plunkett

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (also rec’d by Chrissie HyndeHilary MantelMargaret AtwoodYaa Gyasi & Yann Martel)

The Famished Road by Ben Okri (also rec’d by Miranda July)

(via The Guardian; photo by Rob Stothard)

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