Things I Learned on the 6.28
A Guide to Daily Reading
In this diary, which he kept throughout 2019, Stig Abell introduces and reflects on the books that he read during his 50-minute commute to work as editor of the Times Literary Supplement. To broaden his horizons, he selected a different genre each month and worked through an eclectic reading list, ranging from Euripides and Rumi to JK Rowling and the graphic novel Watchmen.
Blood and Oil
Mohammed Bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power
Mohammed bin Salman's sudden ascent to the role of Crown Prince in 2017 surprised the world, and his plans to liberalize Saudi society – particularly the position of women – were welcomed by many; then the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 revealed a darker side to his ambitions. This investigation probes the internecine struggles within the House of Saud and exposes the Prince’s far-reaching business interests and ruthless suppression of dissent.
This is Planet Earth
Your Ultimate Guide to the World We Call Home
This chronological account of the Earth begins with its formation from a swirling cloud of dust before explaining its structure, the changes brought about by plate tectonics, and the various layers of gases that have made it inhabitable. It explores the impact that humans have had on its geology, atmosphere and ecosystems, using black and white diagrams and the clear language that makes the New Scientist Instant Expert series accessible.
The Ultimate Christmas Cracker
For 50 Christmases, the historian John Julius Norwich compiled scrapbooks of amusing clippings for family and friends. This selection features Groucho Marx, Shirley Temple, Margaret Thatcher and a warning to Women’s Institute members not to bring firearms into the BBC.
How to Be Human
The Ultimate Guide to Your Amazing Existence
The New Scientist team ask how homo sapiens became who we are, what sets us apart from other animals, and why we can be so similar yet different to one another. With numerous illustrations and diagrams, it also explores conundrums like the fact that half of our DNA isn’t human, and why we really blush, yawn, laugh or cry.
A True Story of Blood, Betrayal and Deceit
Covering the years between the early 1930s and the end of the Second World War, Josh Ireland tells the stories of four men who threw in their lot with the Nazis, betrayed their country and suffered the consequences of their treachery: John Amery, Harold Cole, William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) and Eric Pleasants were traitors who ‘led untidy existences that were fat with accident and mess, but that were shaped by the epoch they inhabited’.
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 reveal how 29 prisoners 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.
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.
John Betjeman Collected Poems
The best-loved British poet of the late 20th century, John Betjeman (1906–1984) was, in the words of Andrew Motion, 'a television celebrity before the term was invented'. This expanded edition of the Collected Works includes Betjeman's verse autobiography, Summoned by Bells, and a new Introduction by Andrew Motion.
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. Off-mint.
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. Slightly 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 of a kind, intelligent young woman trapped by sexual abuse, family ambition, religious conflict and political intrigue.
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.