Over to you: feedback from some of our 2018 giveaway winners

In 2018, we gave away books in each of Commonweal’s core areas to a number of lucky winners.

Here’s a reminder of those core areas:

  • methods of nonviolent action
  • personal change
  • equalities
  • regenerative living
  • peace and peace-keeping
  • political and economic alternatives

Six areas of focus - Commonweal

And you can find the full list of books here.

In this post, we hear what some of our winners got out of the books they received.

Unite Community Cornwall

A set of all 18 titles went to Unite Community Cornwall, after its chair, Zoe Fox, won the competition.

Zoe Fox plus Commonweal books Unite Community Cornwall

Zoe Fox with the prize books at Unite Community Cornwall

Unite Community Cornwall is a branch of the union Unite. Here’s an extract from the mission statement on its Facebook page:

Unite’s mission is to organise people to strive for a society that places equality, dignity and respect above all else. But our union recognises that we can only achieve this if we bring people together from all walks of life … It is with this in mind that Unite has founded its community membership scheme … Those not in employment are welcomed into the union family, adding another dimension to our strength in thousands of workplaces across the UK.

When she entered the competition, Zoe explained that the group runs a weekly drop-in at All Saints Community Centre in Camborne, ‘a very deprived ex-industrial area’. On hearing she’d won, Zoe said the prize would be a ‘fantastic’ boost to the centre’s resources.

Unite Community Cornwall drop-in

An email about the books promptly went out Cornwall-wide to the Unite membership, and Zoe estimates that around 200–300 people have had access to them since they arrived in April 2018. She plans to continue to publicise the resources locally so that they will get ongoing regular use.

After the books had been in Cornwall for a few months, I asked Zoe about how they’d been received…

What was the most rewarding thing about winning these books?

It was being able to share them with others at our centre.

Did you have a favourite?

I haven’t personally read all 18, but I was incredibly pleased at the variety and wide-ranging appeal. They were more diverse than I expected.

My personal favourites were Peace Journalism Principles and Practices: Responsibly Reporting Conflicts, Reconciliation, and Solutions by Steven Youngblood and Understanding Restorative Justice – How Empathy Can Close the Gap Created by Crime by Pete Wallis, because they are useful in my areas of interest.

I enjoyed leafing through many of the others, and of course Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis by George Monbiot, because he just writes so well.

Did you feel the books complemented one another?

I thought the books were a really well-considered cross-section, and also accessible, with a lot of topics of interest to different types of people. As they are presented as a collection (at our drop-in), people can be drawn to try other books they might not have considered.

Has reading the books prompted you to take any action or change any habits?

I remain active and the books have supported and encouraged this.

Because they promote a wide range of actions and activities to foster change, from gardening to political journalism, there is really something for everyone. There has been real interest in the books and I’m sure they have been educational and encouraged change.

Zoe Fox campaigning for Unite

Zoe out campaigning

Commonweal focuses on six core areas of nonviolence. What does the word ‘nonviolence’ mean to you?

Ecological balance – freedom from oppression – challenging oneself against prejudice daily. Being gentle with people (because people are fragile) and MENTAL HEALTH.

How have these books influenced you in any other way?

I look forward to reading more of them and I think they are challenging, but for me they have been grounding and affirmative.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you so much, once again, for really delightful books – I hope you can continue in your good works, for which I am profoundly grateful.

Zoe Fox plus members of Unite Community Cornwall

Zoe and members of Unite Community Cornwall

Lisa Conn

Lisa won three books covering various aspects of equalities.

She has a particular interest in society and gender and prefers reading fiction, and she said that, of the books she received, Homegoing was her favourite.

It tells the story of two half-sisters from 18th-century Ghana: one is sold into slavery and the other married to a British slaver.

I thought Homegoing was a really interesting book. I didn’t realise it would chart so many generations. It was interesting to see how power changed hands and how, even when considered ‘free’, people were still bound by class and money to their position in life.

Lisa usually passes on books that she’s finished with to her book club.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Jennifer Hallam

Jennifer won three books on regenerative living:

Life Without Plastic is the one that I got the most from personally. I learned a lot and it made me make a few changes.

Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution was an amazing story of what just can happen from the smallest of beginnings. Let’s hope so many more places take this idea up.

And The Zero Carbon House would be perfect reading if you’re building your own house, or if you’re an architecture student, wanting to build the greenest of houses in your career.

Life Without Plastic - Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon

Life Without Plastic by Jay Sinha and Chantal Plamondon

The books gave me that many ideas, I thought they covered everything. They really lead you down the path of a greener life. The most rewarding thing is how I can make small changes, but if we all do them, they’re big changes.

I’ve got a metal water bottle and bamboo toothbrush, and am much more ‘plastic aware’ than before. And I’ve even started to think, even if something can be recycled (like a jar that had pasta sauce in it, for example), can I make the product myself instead?

Jennifer said some of the books would go to a charity shop when she’d finished with them so that others could benefit too.

Finally, on the subject of nonviolence in its various forms, Jennifer said

Nonviolence makes me think of Gandhi –  ‘the essence of nonviolent technique is that it seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists’.

Thanks very much to our winners for their reflections!


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