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Try a tax page-turner for a bit of relief

With book shelves buckling under the ever-burgeoning bulk of countless volumes of tax handbooks and annuals, it's easy to dismiss taxation as a dry subject best left as a professional pursuit.

There are, however, plenty of books that bring tax to life, showing how it affects us all and even shapes the world around us. Intrigue and corruption dog its footsteps, yet it's deeply ingrained in our history. Sometimes these books go so far as exposing tax's funny side – who would've guessed it?

Nicholas Shaxson's Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World is a serious, aggressive piece of journalism, but it's no less compelling for that. It's difficult not to be caught up in the author's indignation as he denounces tax havens as a tool used by the wealthy to propagate old power structures: countries serving as such secrecy jurisdictions remain impoverished despite the disproportionate inflow of capital funnelled their way, while taxpayers in developed countries foot the bill for their elite's questionable ethics. And so, he argues, colonialism takes on a new form and grows more insidious.

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It all sounds remarkably topical given the current climate of outrage levelled at big business. This, Shaxson expands, is an issue that has stirred the general population throughout the twentieth-century from the Vestey meat-packing empire onwards. Whether you agree with the author's position or not, his account of how recent historical events brought us to where we are now is lucid and engaging. He presents us with larger-than-life personalities, like the righteous crusading lawyer Jack Blum and eccentric libertarian banker George Bolton, characters consumed by their world-views. It's also a tale of big events: the Elf scandal, raids on Swiss bank offices on the Champs-Élysées and banks' collusion with Nazis.

Shaxson's book is just one of a number of diverting reads on taxation that the Library & Information Service holds. Other essential titles include Taxes through the Ages: a Pictorial History, with art and cartoons illustrating just how pervasive tax was even in our ancestors' lives. Meanwhile, HMRC – Her Majesty's Roller Coaster: Hints on How to Survive a Tax Investigation, looks at the lighter side of scrapes with HMRC. If you didn't laugh then you'd surely cry.

So why not ask what the Library & Information Service can offer you for that thrilling tax read? You might be surprised at what you find.