An English Christmas
By John Julius Norwich
'If I could work my will,' said Scrooge indignantly, 'Every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.'This year go carol-singing in the Cotswolds with Laurie Lee or attend church with a grumpy Samuel Pepys. Make plum puddings for bemused French villagers with Elizabeth David; go present shopping with Virginia Woolf or eat far too much with Agatha Christie. Celebrate Christmas at Chatsworth, in the workhouse or marooned in the ice with Shackleton ... For the last forty-five years, the arrival of John Julius Norwich's latest Christmas Cracker has become as essential a part of the Christmas experience as holly and mistletoe. In An English Christmas the legendary popular historian has finally gathered all the best writing about this strangest and most memorable time of year into one book and his brilliant eye for a story is evident on every page.Vividly evoking all the good things about the festive season, this unexpected anthology is just as entertaining about its darker aspects. Eight-year-old Princess Margaret's thank-you list jostles with moving letters home from the trenches. Sherlock Holmes solves his trickiest case. George Orwell writes about indigestion; Jane Austen about reluctant socialising and Thomas Hardy about the old folk belief that all animals kneel at midnight on 24 December. There are ghost stories, games and bizarre recipes. Diary-entries, recipes and letters sit alongside poems and short stories. An English Christmas could convert any Scrooge into an instant enthusiast.
Britain by the Book
By Oliver Tearle
What caused Dickens to leap out of bed one night and walk 30 miles from London to Kent?How did a small town on the Welsh borders become the second-hand bookshop capital of the world?Why did a jellyfish persuade Evelyn Waugh to abandon his suicide attempt in North Wales? A multitude of curious questions are answered in Britain by the Book, a fascinating travelogue with a literary theme, taking in unusual writers' haunts and the surprising places that inspired some of our favourite fictional locations. We'll learn why Thomas Hardy was buried twice, how a librarian in Manchester invented the thesaurus as a means of coping with depression, and why Agatha Christie was investigated by MI5 during the Second World War. The map of Britain that emerges is one dotted with interesting literary stories and bookish curiosities.
By Andrew Michael Hurley
BOOK OF THE YEAR IN THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, FT AND MAIL ON SUNDAY'The new master of menace' Sunday TimesIn the wink of an eye, as quick as a flea,The Devil he jumped from me to thee.And only when the Devil had gone,Did I know that he and I'd been one . . .Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather - the Gaffer - has died and John's new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time.Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper, but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil. But as the farmers of the Endlands bury the Gaffer, and prepare to gather the sheep, they begin to wonder whether they've let the Devil in after all . . .
Ghosts of Christmas Past
By Neil Gaiman, M. R. James, Jenn Ashworth, E. Nesbit, Louis de Bernières, Muriel Spark, Frank Cowper, E. F. Benson, Bernard Capes, L. P. Hartley, Robert Aickman, Jerome K. Jerome, Kelly Link
A present contains a monstrous secret.An uninvited guest haunts a Christmas party.A shadow slips across the floor by firelight.A festive entertainment ends in darkness and screams.Who knows what haunts the night at the dark point of the year? This collection of seasonal chillers looks beneath Christmas cheer to a world of ghosts and horrors, mixing terrifying modern fiction with classic stories by masters of the macabre. From Neil Gaiman and M. R. James to Muriel Spark and E. Nesbit, there are stories here to make the hardiest soul quail - so find a comfy chair, lock the door, ignore the cold breath on your neck and get ready to welcome in the real spirits of Christmas.
Your Guide to Hell
By Frankie Boyle
Brexit ... Trump ... Syria ... The Chilcot Enquiry ... and now a vicious General Election: it's not been a good year for the world. Luckily Frankie Boyle is here with his own biting brand of satire, to guide us through this political wasteland we all call home.Whether talking about Nigel Farage as 'a sort of end of level boss for Freudian psychoanalysis', spending billions on Trident as 'like convincing a tramp to buy a bazooka', or America as a country that has gone 'from The West Wing to a sitcom where the incidental music involves a tuba', Your Guide to Hell cuts through the bullshit to give a savage, hilarious, and at heart, utterly humane political commentary about the world we live in.
By Randall Munroe
From the No. 1 bestselling author of What If? - the man who created xkcd and explained the laws of science with cartoons - comes a series of brilliantly simple diagrams ('blueprints' if you want to be complicated about it) that show how important things work: from the nuclear bomb to the biro. It's good to know what the parts of a thing are called, but it's much more interesting to know what they do. Richard Feynman once said that if you can't explain something to a first-year student, you don't really get it. In Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe takes a quantum leap past this: he explains things using only drawings and a vocabulary of just our 1,000 (or the ten hundred) most common words.Many of the things we use every day - like our food-heating radio boxes ('microwaves'), our very tall roads ('bridges'), and our computer rooms ('datacentres') - are strange to us. So are the other worlds around our sun (the solar system), the big flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), and even the stuff inside us (cells). Where do these things come from? How do they work? What do they look like if you open them up? And what would happen if we heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button?In Thing Explainer, Munroe gives us the answers to these questions and many, many more. Funny, interesting, and always understandable, this book is for anyone -- age 5 to 105 -- who has ever wondered how things work, and why.
By Anthony DeCurtis
As lead singer and songwriter for the Velvet Underground and a renowned solo artist, Lou Reed invented alternative rock. His music, at once the height of sanctity and perversity, transcended a genre, speaking to millions of listeners, inspiring a new generation of musicians, and forever changing the way we think of that iconic era of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Throughout his five-decade career, Reed embodied artistic self-awareness and captured the beauty, paranoia, and vivacity of his time into an array of hit songs, experimental albums, and a larger-than-life persona. With such masterpieces as 'Sweet Jane' and 'Walk on the Wild Side', Reed exerted an influence on popular music rivaled only by the likes of Bob Dylan and the Beatles and is recognized to this day as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.Now, just a few years after Reed's death, comes the thrilling, provocative story of his complex life. An acclaimed Rolling Stone contributor, Anthony DeCurtis interviewed Reed extensively and knew him well. With unparalleled access to Reed's friends, family, and dozens of other intimate relations, DeCurtis brings Reed's story compellingly alive and deepens our understanding of his indelible music. We travel deep into the underground artist clubs, listen along in the studio as the Velvet Underground record their signature work, and revel in Reed's relationship with legendaries like Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, and David Bowie. Insightful, revelatory, and intimate, Lou Reed is a gripping tribute to a quintessential American icon.
Dent's Modern Tribes
By Susie Dent
Did you know that . . . a soldier's biggest social blunder is called jack brew - making yourself a cuppa without making one for anyone else? That twitchers have an expression for a bird that can't be identified - LBJ (the letters stand for Little Brown Job)? Or that builders call plastering the ceiling doing Lionel Richie's dancefloor? Susie Dent does.Ever wondered why football managers all speak the same way, what a cabbie calls the Houses of Parliament, or how ticket inspectors discreetly request back-up? We are surrounded by hundreds of tribes, each speaking their own distinct slanguage of colourful words, jokes and phrases, honed through years of conversations on the battlefield, in A&E, backstage, or at ten-thousand feet in the air. Susie Dent has spent years interviewing hundreds of professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts, and the result is an idiosyncratic phrasebook like no other. From the Freemason's handshake to the publican's banter, Dent's Modern Tribes takes us on a whirlwind tour of Britain, decoding its secret languages and, in the process, finds out what really makes us all tick.
The Invisible Hand
By Amitav Ghosh
By Matthew Syed
What can Roger Federer teach us about the secret of longevity? What do the All Blacks have in common with improvised jazz musicians? What can cognitive neuroscientists tell us about what happens to the brains of sportspeople when they perform?And why did Johan Cruyff believe that beauty was more important than winning? Matthew Syed, the 'Sports Journalist of the Year 2016', answers these questions and more in a fascinating, wide-ranging and provocative book about the mental game of sport. How do we become the best that we can be, as individuals, teams and as organisations? Sport, with its innate sense of drama, its competitive edge, its psychological pressures, its sense of morality and its illusive quest for perfection, provides the answers.
Born A Crime
By Trevor Noah
WINNER OF THE THURBER PRIZEThe compelling, inspiring, (often comic) coming-of-age story of Trevor Noah, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.One of the comedy world's brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him. Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man's fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother - a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and an unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a personal portrait of an unlikely childhood in a dangerous time, as moving and unforgettable as the very best memoirs and as funny as Noah's own hilarious stand-up. Born a Crime is a must read.
By Peter Snow, Ann MacMillan
'Highly readable . . . an intimate and varied account of fascinating stories of people at war' History of WarWar Stories is a fascinating account of ordinary men and women swept up in the turbulence of war. These are the stories - many untold until now - of thirty-four individuals who have pushed the boundaries of love, bravery, suffering and terror beyond the imaginable. They span three centuries and five continents. There is the courage of Edward Seager who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade; the cunning of Krystyna Skarbek, quick-thinking spy and saboteur during the Second World War; the skullduggery of Benedict Arnold, who switched sides in the American War of Independence and the compassion of Magdalene de Lancey who tenderly nursed her dying husband at Waterloo. Told with vivid narrative flair and full of unexpected insights, War Stories moves effortlessly from tales of spies, escapes and innovation to uplifting acts of humanity, celebrating men and women whose wartime experiences are beyond compare.