The Escape Artists
A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of WWI
Known as the ‘Black Hole’, Holzminden was the most infamous of the First World War prison camps that housed airmen of the Royal Flying Corps. Bascomb uses unpublished memoirs to tell the gripping story of the courageous prisoners who tunnelled their way out of Holzminden and dashed 150 miles to Holland before sending a telegram to taunt the sadistic Camp Commandant and returning to Blighty for a private audience at Windsor Castle.
Dear Mr Murray
Letters to a Gentleman Publisher
Founded in 1768 the publishing house John Murray remained a family business for seven generations, and its authors included many great names of English literature. This selection of their letters to the firm include Jane Austen complaining about delays in printing Emma, Byron protesting at the censorship of Don Juan, Darwin sketching out his plan for On the Origin of Species, and Freya Stark’s kindly warning about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s habitual procrastination.
The Soldiers' Story
Giles Milton narrates the momentous events of 6 June 1944 through the voices of individual survivors on all sides. As well as describing the experiences of the young soldiers who helped to secure the beachheads, he tells the stories of those caught in the front line of Operation Overlord, including the German women transcribing coded messages about ‘something serious’, and the commander whose intimate evening with a local lady was cut short by the Allies.
A User's Guide
Our heads contain the most complex information-processing device in the known universe, but even a biological supercomputer has its bugs and weaknesses, from déjà vu to our propensity to make stupid decisions. This guide to the brain’s workings explains what neuroscience has revealed about our conscious and unconscious minds, our memories, intelligence and creativity. It also contains experiments that you can do yourself to demonstrate glitches in perception, and offers tips on using your 86 billion neurons more effectively.
The Golden Thread
How Fabric Changed History
From the fibres our ancient ancestors wove from plants to the invention of the synthetic material that enabled humans to venture into space, fabric has played many roles throughout history, far beyond offering warmth and protection, demarcating status and providing an outlet for self-expression. This collection of essays considers topics such as the linen used by the ancient Egyptians to wrap their dead, the craft that inspired Vermeer to paint The Lacemaker and recent innovations in sports textiles.
A History: From Gaul to de Gaulle
With characteristic urbanity and wit, lifelong Francophile John Julius Norwich recounts two millennia of French history, from Vercingetorix’s last stand against Caesar, via the folies de grandeur of Louis XIV and Napoleon, to the end of the Second World War. He explores the contradictions of a nation torn between autocracy and egalitarianism with insight and sympathy, while enlivening the narrative with personal anecdotes.
The Invention of Nature
The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science
Napoleon envied his achievements and Darwin called him the ‘greatest scientific traveller who ever lived’, but the writings of Humboldt (1769–1859) are now largely forgotten. This award-winning biography follows the visionary scientist’s travels around the world and highlights the extent to which his ideas shaped our thinking about ecology, climate change and the natural world.
John Betjeman Collected Poems
With his boundless energy and capacity to delight and inspire, John Betjeman (1906–1984) was one of the best-loved poets of the late 20th century and, in the words of Andrew Motion, 'a television celebrity before the term was invented'. The Collected Poems first appeared in 1958 and through several editions has sold over two million copies. This expanded edition, published on the poet's centenary, includes Betjeman's verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells, and a new introduction by Andrew Motion.
Fascinating Footnotes from History
Unearthed from the vast collection of the National Archives by Giles Milton’s ‘metaphorical metal detecting’, here are 100 nuggets of almost – but not quite – forgotten history and an astonishing cast, including dictators, adventurers, criminals and heroes, a war dog and the last Chinese eunuch. Among the footnotes we find the shipwrecked Dutch mariner who ate the last dodo; a kamikaze pilot who survived; and the mystery of the lighthouse men who disappeared from the Flannan Isles.
Empires of the Indus
The Story of a River
The Indus rises in Tibet to flow west across India before turning south through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. For millennia it has been worshipped as a god; for centuries it has been a route of imperial conquest. Following the mighty river upstream, this award-winning travelogue takes the reader on a voyage through 2,000 miles of spectacular landscapes and fiercely contested territory, and back through 5,000 years.
Dent's Modern Tribes
The Secret Languages of Britain
Hobbies and professions all have their unique and colourful jargon, which is often completely baffling to outsiders. But now Countdown’s resident word expert has decoded these mysterious idioms by interviewing hundreds of members of Britain’s ‘tribes’, from twitchers to spies. Here she presents the idiosyncratic vocabulary that she has learned, so that you too can discover why bin collectors love a ‘Tiffany’, what a publisher means by ‘deckle’ and how ticket inspectors discreetly request back-up.
A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy
By the spring of 1645, civil war had exacted a terrible toll on England. Disease, hunger, anxiety and lawlessness were rife, and belief in the supernatural was commonplace. In Essex, two gentlemen began interrogating women suspected of witchcraft. This study charts the grisly careers of ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, and reveals how religious bigotry and the superstitious fears of ordinary people unleashed the most brutal witch-hunt in English history.
Elizabeth Jane Howard
A Dangerous Innocence
Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923–2014) wrote novels, including the popular Cazalet Chronicles, about what love can do to people, but the romantic happiness she sought always eluded her. Based on interviews with Howard, her family and friends, this sympathetic biography reveals the ‘dangerous innocence’ that led her into a troubled marriage to Kingsley Amis, charts her attempts to make sense of her life through writing, and illuminates the literary world in which she lived.
The Quantum World
The Disturbing Theory at the Heart of Reality
The laws of quantum physics result in strange paradoxes: not only can a particle exist in two places at once, but it will change its behaviour while being observed. This accessible guide introduces the puzzling world of quantum theory, the scientists who uncovered its mysteries, and its influence on computing, biology, cosmology and human ethics. The book also assesses what the science means for reality, and our ability to define, measure and live in it. Off-mint.
Intermediate Conversation Course
Designed for all intermediate learners, as well as those following the Michel Thomas method, this conversational course focuses on colloquial language and the conversation strategies used by native Spanish speakers. The ten lessons cover a range of topics and aim to advance overall fluency, expand vocabulary and improve listening, comprehension and grammar. The boxed set comprises a text book, one MP3 CD-ROM and one interactive CD-ROM.
The Tragic Story of Henry VIII's Fifth Queen
Katherine Howard was little more than a child when she married Henry VIII, and just 18 when she was beheaded in the Tower of London. This sympathetic biography sheds new light on the life and death of a kind, intelligent young woman trapped in a web of sexual abuse, family ambition, religious conflict and political intrigue by those in positions of power.
The Lost Imperialist
Lord Dufferin, Memory and Mythmaking in an Age of Celebrity
'My whole life,' wrote Lord Dufferin in 1894, 'has been a series of surprises.' The Irish landowner became a bestselling travel writer on the publication of his Letters from High Latitudes in 1856, and went on to hold the two most powerful offices in the British Empire, Viceroy of India and Governor-General of Canada. Yet, as this biography – written with access to the family archive – recounts, his lavish lifestyle would lead to his downfall in a notorious financial scandal.
How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette,the Stolen Diamonds
and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne
In September 1785 a trial began in Paris that would divide the country, captivate Europe and set the French monarchy on course for revolution and the tumbrils. The aristocratic Cardinal Louis de Rohan stood accused, not only of stealing a 2,800-carat diamond necklace, but claiming he was acting for the queen in purchasing the jewellery. Beckman reopens the case and examines how this murky, convoluted tale of greed and deceit fits into the narrative of French history.
Abducting a General
The Kreipe Operation and SOE in Crete
One of the most celebrated travel writers of the 20th century, Patrick Leigh Fermor maintained a lifelong silence about his most famous exploit. In 1944, he and his fellow SOE officer Billy Moss, aided by local partisans, kidnapped the German commander of Crete, General Heinrich Kreipe, and spirited him away to captivity in Egypt. This gripping first-hand account, published after his death, includes Fermor's own intelligence reports, sent from caves deep within the island.
Powers of Two
Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs
Lennon and McCartney, the Wright brothers, Marie and Pierre Curie – despite the persistent romantic myth of the lone genius, some of the greatest creative work has resulted from collaboration between two people. Shenk analyses how the most innovative pairings have worked, and identifies the common journey taken by scientific and artistic minds as they exchange and refine ideas, before arguing that the fluidity and flexibility of the pair makes it the primary creative unit.