The NS recommends

The Defence of the Realm
Christopher Andrew
Allen Lane, 1,088pp, £30
Christopher Andrew has written the first authorised history of MI5 and was given "virtually" unrestricted access to the archives of the Security Service. He reveals, among many disclosures, the extent of MI5's file on Harold Wilson, and tells how Adolf Hitler once dismissed Neville Chamberlain as an "arsehole".

The Wire Primers: a Guide to Modern Music
Edited by Rob Young
Verso, 198pp, £12.99
Since 1996, Wire magazine has been publishing "primers" on experimental and underground music. Collected here are introductions to "avant rock", hip-hop, jazz and "modern composition". Highlights include Stewart Lee on the Fall, Barry Witherden on Stockhausen and Derek Walmsley on dubstep.

A Very British Revolution Martin Bell
Icon Books, 256pp, £11.99
Having made it into the House of Commons on an "anti-sleaze" ticket at the 1997 general election, Martin Bell is well placed to anatomise the scandal of MPs' expenses. "There was never a golden age of parliamentary democracy," he writes. "But some times have certainly been worse than others, and this is one of those times." As a remedy for the rottenness of our institutions, Bell offers a "democratic blueprint" for constitutional change.

The Freedoms of Suburbia Paul Barker
Francis Lincoln, 240pp, £25
According to Paul Barker, the "established wisdom" about the suburbs is "just wrong". Barker sees the "vigour and variousness" of the suburbs as an antidote to the modernist orthodoxies of urban planning. "The freedoms of suburbia," he declares, "are a fine, humane creation, to be cherished."

This article first appeared in the 19 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Strange Death of Labour England