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7 Books Celebrating Creativity.

Beautifully creative books are a tonic for the soul, they warm, energise, and inspire. These eight gorgeous books celebrate the wonders of creativity in different ways. From poster art to rural craftsmanship, from writing tips to fashion in wartime Britain, these are books that can be given as gifts or added to your treasured collection.

Beauty in Letters

Beauty in Letters

Author: John Wilson Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A truly beautiful and stimulating book that can be devoured in one heady go or dipped into and adored. Meet and wonder over illuminated addresses, books, scrolls or certificates in celebration of events. Covering a hundred years, sitting mainly in Victorian times, each is its own masterpiece, the designs so colourful and intricate, they shine from the page. On display are 50 letters with a particular theme, from royalty, to civic duty, to clubs and societies. John P Wilson explains that the recipient could be wealthy or famous, or an ordinary person who had provided special service. He states these letters: “provide an opportunity to obtain an insight into someone’s life and achievements, and allow a brief historical opening into social history”. Each letter sits with an explanation, but the focus here is the beauty of the letter. In our current times, the art of the letter is all but forgotten, and these treasures appear to be almost jewell-like in their wonder and intensity. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it really speaks to me. Beauty in Letters is a wonderful insight into the past, and a stunning display of true creativity and artwork.

Star Books
Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Author: Ami Bouhassane, Robin Muir, Amber Butchart Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/04/2021

Perhaps best known for her seminal WWII photojournalism, or her earlier life as a surrealist model and muse, or her sublimely striking solarised portraits, Lee Miller was also an exceptional fashion photographer, whose work illuminated the pages of British Vogue (Brogue) from 1939 to 1944. Featuring over 130 images, plus an excellent contextualisation essay by Ami Bouhassane, Miller’s granddaughter and Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives, Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain is a breathtakingly beautiful, informative book - clearly a must-have for Lee devotees, and also essential for those interested in forties fashion and style. Since many of the images featured here haven’t been seen since they were shot in the 1940s (they came to light while being archived in 2020), this truly is a treasure chest to delight in. Miller’s editor at Brogue wrote of her in 1941 that “she has borne the whole weight of our studio production through the most difficult period in Brogue’s history” and this book is a glorious record and celebration of Lee’s contribution to the publication, with an essay by Robin Muir, contributing editor to British Vogue, furnishing readers with detail on this. The range of subjects, settings and fashion is a joy to behold, and fashion historian Amber Butchart’s essay offers fascinating insights into the era. There are classic Lee portraits of women wearing tailored suits, striking angled poses in stark light. There are women positioned by rubble, or going about their day-to-day business. There are staged studio shots of women in elegant eveningwear. And there are women (and the occasional man) in utilitarian outfits - “fashion factories”. All of them, of course, bear Miller’s inimitable panache, her way of seeing the world and its people. Simply stunning.

Star Books
John Hassall The Life and Art of the Poster King

John Hassall The Life and Art of the Poster King

Author: Lucinda Gosling Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Lucinda Gosling’s John Hassall: The Life and Art of the Poster King is an exquisite feast of vibrant visuals for anyone interested in art and design history. While exhaustive in its coverage and analysis of John Hassall, whose iconic posters and postcards are instantly - and widely - recognisable, its lively, accessible tone will also enthral interested laypeople. Born in 1868, John Hassall began his long, successful, influential career as an advertising artist after studying in Paris, where he was influenced by Czech design innovator, Alphonse Mucha. Hassall went on to found an art school and work across multiple disciplines, including pottery, toy-making, book illustration, fine art and commercial art, each of them bearing his distinctive bold style and wit. His impactful WWI and travel and transport posters are instantly recognisable, as are his striking ads for big brands like Colman’s Mustard and Nestlé.  Many sketches, letters and diary excerpts are here published for the first time, and the standard of the reproductions do excellent justice to the striking quality of the art itself. Alongside learning about Hassall’s life, and enjoying the high-quality visuals, I was especially wowed by seeing some of his book illustrations for the first time, among them a stunning Art Nouveau Little Red Riding Hood, and his astonishing “Pantomime ABC”.

Books of the Month
Angela Thirkell A Writer's Life

Angela Thirkell A Writer's Life

Author: Anne Hall Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/03/2021

Exhaustively researched, and stunningly presented with photographs, paintings and portraits, Anne Hall’s Angela Thirkell: A Writer’s Life is unquestionably essential reading for Thirkell enthusiasts, and also comes recommended for aficionados of literary history. After being immersed by this lively biography, I look forward to discovering Thirkell’s novels. As the granddaughter of Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer Edward Burne-Jones, goddaughter of J.M. Barrie, cousin to Rudyard Kipling, and having a grandmother who counted George Eliot among her friends, it’s perhaps little wonder that Angela Thirkell forged a creative life for herself. Born in Kensington in 1890, her childhood was cosmopolitan, with a family friend jokingly suggesting that he preface her memoir stating that she was “between the ages of four and nine the most terrifying female I have ever met.” In her youth, Thirkell was described as having formidable wit and breath-taking beauty, attending fancy dress balls in extravagant, enchanting costumes, and never suffering male fools gladly. While divorce brought scandal, it also - ultimately - brought Thirkell to writing, for it wasn’t until she married her second husband and moved with him to Australia that she began to write, initially for financial reasons. Some eleven years later, in 1929, Thirkell suddenly left her second husband and returned to England, where she went on to write more than thirty books, beginning with her Three Houses memoir and closely followed by her mischievously comic, bestselling Barsetshire novels, now published by Virago. Forensically detailed, with broader bigger-picture appeal, this is a fine biography.

Ten Things About Writing

Ten Things About Writing

Author: Joanne Harris Format: Ebook Release Date: 09/05/2020

“Take what you need from these pages; and most of all, enjoy what you do. Joy is such a vital part of creative writing – because if you don’t enjoy what you write, how can you expect anyone else to?” So begins Joanne Harris’s invaluably inspirational - and practical - Ten Things About Writing. Reading this book is rather like having a wise writer as a best friend, on hand to offer pragmatic and energising advice, with many unhelpful myths about writing crumbled, and an emphasis on the fact that writing is to be worked at, not something a wand can be waved at: “The ability to spin words into gold is a skill that comes from hard work, patience and lots of practice. Some people may have an aptitude; others will struggle to gain momentum.” I particularly loved the author’s unravelling of the myth of inspiration: “The idea that we must wait for the Muse to inspire us was invented by effete young Victorians who wanted an excuse to sit around doing nothing all day. Most of us don’t have that luxury, which means forgetting about the Muse and doing some actual footwork instead.” And this gem: “Don’t write because you want to be a writer. Write because you want to write.” In bracing style, Harris covers everything from doing proper research, finding your voice and effectual use of description (“If a passage doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s just pointless decoration. Kill it”), to drafting (“all first drafts are terrible... Just get on with it”), re-writing, and what to expect if you’re lucky enough to be published. And she doesn’t stop there, in the way that writing doesn’t either. She also covers dealing with fear, failure, rejection and writer’s block, with every stone turned and looked at from fresh angles, ending with an uplifting reminder that no matter how your writing journey turns out, “just writing is an act of bravery”.  I’ll leave you with this typically droll nugget from the section on writing about women: “Top tip: real women very rarely think about their breasts at all – and certainly never in the way in which some male writers think they do.” I know this is a book I’ll keep coming back to, along with checking-in on the author’s #TenThings tweets.

Books of the Month
All Good Things

All Good Things

Author: Stephen Ellcock Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/10/2019

I must confess that I exclaimed with delight when I saw All Good Things for the first time. It is fabulously described as “a treasury of images to uplift the spirits and reawaken wonder”. The size is perfect, the cover divinely enticing, and it just beckoned me in. I simply sank into the pages of the most beautiful images of art from around the world and through time. You may already have heard of, or indeed follow Stephen Ellcock on social media. Over the last ten years he has shared his images with the world. And we have taken them to our heart. Here he “explores our world and the human response to it one realm at a time”, and so we visit various realms from ‘The Face of the Water’, through to ‘The Human Realm’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’. The images and their explanations sit patiently, just waiting for you to turn the page. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it is gorgeous. September Publishing has created a little masterpiece, and it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and one of my picks of the month. All Good Things is a treasure of a treasury and would make the most perfect gift (but make sure you keep a copy for yourself!). Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Star Books
Barn Club

Barn Club

Author: Robert Somerville Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/03/2021

Our March 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is such a welcoming and warming read with community spirit, traditional craft, and the environment at its heart. Author Robert J Somerville was commissioned to build an elm barn by hand in Hertfordshire. Over the course of a year volunteers gathered together to help build the barn, and this is the story. There are so many positive elements to this read. A community of volunteers come together to: “teach, practice and celebrate skilled rural craftsmanship”. And while Dutch elm disease has decimated our Elm population, there is hope for the trees survival. As Robert Somerville says: “Elm is a species that suffered a major pandemic, but its incredible determination to survive prevails. Elm is proving itself to be a tree with an enduring life force, and, to my mind, is an appropriate icon for getting closer to nature, the resurgence in making things by hand and for bringing old skills back to life”. The book contains a myriad of interesting illustrations and photos as well as the story from concept to raising of the barn. At a time when community really matters, when our environment needs love and nurturing, Barn Club echoes with all that is good. It is a wonderful read that lightened my spirits and made me smile.   

Star Books

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