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Booky people love giving other booky people beautiful books! Looking for the perfect birthday gift? The right book for Mother’s day, or a stocking filler for Christmas? Look no further as we have a stunning selection for you.
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”.
Written by Rebecca Bevan (Gardens Researcher for the National Trust, RHS Horticultural Adviser, and BBC Gardeners' World Researcher) in a spirit of wise accessibility, The National Trust School of Gardening strikes a brilliant balance between being a beautiful book to take inspiration from, and an unintimidating practical guide to designing and maintaining your own garden, with hundreds of colour photographs and clear step-by-step, how-to diagrams. Though the book showcases some of the grandest National Trust estates, among them Sissinghurst Castle and Packward House, the advice shared can be applied to more modest private gardens. Indeed, Bevan also refers to some of the Trust’s smaller cottage gardens as she unearths guidance on everything from borders, roses, lawns and meadows, to shrubs and trees, topiary and hedges, fruit and veg. The breadth of tips is impressively exhaustive, including, for example, how to choose the best lawnmower and greenhouse to suit your needs, how to create low-maintenance small-scale displays, and an excellent chapter devoted to sustainable gardening practices. As its charming cover states, The National Trust School of Gardening is indeed a treasure chest of gardening advice and inspiration - a book to give as a gift to green-fingered friends (or yourself).
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.
In 1938, as Europe prepared for war. Roland Penrose and Lee Miller made a journey together through the Balkans. Penrose was a painter, author and curator, Miller, previously a model, had had succesful photographic studios in Paris and New York, and was a brilliant photographer. As they travelled Penrose created pictures and took notes. On their return Penrose produced a charming handmade photobook for Miller, a surrealist love poem, drawn from his own memories and records. A limited edition of the book was soon printed and Penrose embellished a small number with a series of Imaginative tipped in colour motifs. The first of which he personalised for Lee Miller.
In 1938, as Europe prepared for war. Roland Penrose and Lee Miller made a journey together through the Balkans. Penrose was a painter, author and curator, Miller, previously a model, had had succesful photographic studios in Paris and New York, and was a brilliant photographer. As they travelled Penrose created pictures and took notes. On their return Penrose produced a charming handmade photobook for Miller, a surrealist love poem, drawn from his own memories and records. A limited edition of the book was soon printed. The first of which he personalised for Lee Miller.
Featuring 75 images (fifty of them full page), and an engrossing extended essay by Ami Bouhassane, Miller’s granddaughter and Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives, Grim Glory: Lee Miller’s Britain at War is the perfect primer to Lee Miller’s inimitable coverage of Blitz-time Britain. For context, a book called Grim Glory: Pictures of Britain Under Fire was published in 1941, the British edition of a book originally intended for an American audience. Miller was the largest contributor to this, and the only credited photographer. Skipping back a few years, 1939 saw Miller move from Egypt to Britain, with a summer sojourn in France to catch up with surrealist friends. She and Roland Penrose arrived in Britain on the very day war was declared. Being American, she wasn’t allowed to undertake paid work, or to do any official war work, so she offered her services as a volunteer to British Vogue (Brogue). Her outstanding fashion shoots are showcased in the highly recommended Lee Miller – Fashion in Wartime Britain, while this book features images of Britain and Britons during the Blitz – bombed-out buildings, eerily empty fashionable London streets, shattered statues captured at disarmingly jaunty angles, female fire service and textile factory workers, with some wartime fashion, and much more besides. With notes on fifty-two images providing fascinating detail, variously on the likes of their subjects, historical references and composition, and a compact size that lends itself marvellously to extended, detailed appreciation of each image, this will surely inspire readers to delve deeper into Miller’s life and work (perhaps pair this with Surrealist Lee Miller).
Written and selected by Antony Penrose, Miller’s son and co-founder of the Lee Miller Archives, Surrealist Lee Miller is a stunning presentation of 100 of her most remarkable surrealism-suffused images. Presented in an elegant compact format and contextualised by an engaging extended essay, this really is the perfect gift for dedicated devotees of surrealism, and for photography lovers more broadly - Miller’s unique eye and style never fails to provoke thought and arouse new ways of seeing the world. In an essay that gives an excellent overview of Miller’s life and work, Penrose observes that “she unknowingly had been a surrealist at home in America before the movement had a name. Right from the beginning she chose to live her life to her own standards.” After experiencing a number of tragedies in childhood and young womanhood, Miller went to Paris in 1925. “Baby - I’m HOME!” she rejoiced on arrival, and here immersed herself in student life, with a chance encounter after almost being run over leading to her modelling for Vogue. Through Vogue’s chief photographer Miller met Man Ray and become his model, muse and student. Together they invented the inimitable solarisation technique. In Paris Miller attracted many admirers besides Ray, among them the artists Max Ernst and Paul Éluard, and writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Later Picasso became enamoured with her, too. Miller’s portraits of many of these individuals appear in this book - we see a smitten Picasso gazing at Lee in his Paris studio; Paul Delvaux and René Magritte captured, dynamically, in Belgium; the artist Dora Maar (Picasso's Weeping Woman) pictured in sharply defiant profile. One of my favourite Miller photos is here too - a playful perspective portrait of Max Ernst as a jolly, paternal giant with a tiny thigh-high Dorothea Tanning waggling her fist aloft that serves as a perfect representation of surrealist mischievousness. There are iconic self-portraits too, including Miller pictured in Hitler’s bathtub, along with some of her most affecting shots of war atrocities. See also Grim Glory: Lee Miller’s Britain at War - taken together, these two books present a fine overview of Miller’s extraordinary body of work.
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.
White Blood is a history of human milk and tells the story of how babies have been fed from antiquity to modern times and why it matters. 'Breast is Best' is the popular mantra, but there is a perennial debate about the pros and cons of 'breast and bottle'. White Blood explores this vital question, which has implications for the health and wellbeing of mothers, their young, families, communities and even countries. Starting in Ancient Greece and Rome, where human milk was thought to be blood diverted from the womb to the breast and there whitened and vivified, it lets the voices of those concerned with the care of newborn infants, and those who followed them, speak across the centuries of how they were, and should best be, nourished.
21 Breaths by Oliver James is a gorgeous little yellow hardback book. It’s excellent quality, inside and out. The first section of the book focuses on the benefits of breathing techniques. Oliver James relates the story of when he discovered breathing techniques could change his life, followed by simple explanations of how these can affect different parts of your body, and how they may help to change how you feel too. Then there’s a chapter with four simple tests to check how to assess whether you’re breathing correctly – it really did make me think about ‘how I breathe’ and how my breathing could be improved. In the main section of his book, Olive James describes breathing techniques to suit various physical and mental needs, including pain, constipation, sleep, confidence, anxiety, posture and stress. Each breathing technique is explained clearly, with simple tips to follow. The book contains beautiful black-and-white drawings of the author demonstrating each breathing exercise, and these really helped me to get my posture and positioning right. A fascinating book that’s easy to dip into or read all the way through – and it looks great too!
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.
Shot-through with the author’s personal experiences as a coach, player and all-round football obsessive, Dominic Stevenson’s Get Your Head in the Game is a timely must-read for fans, players, coaches - the whole kit and caboodle of anyone involved with football. Sharing the experiences of internationally renowned players, figures from top clubs, trailblazers of the women’s game (and many more besides), and offering legions of insights into how sport and the mind could be reconnected, this might just make the beautiful game yet more beautiful - and transformative. Stevenson’s context will strike a powerful chord with fans: “Football is the universal leveller. It speaks in a way that no language does. It is poetry without the pontification, a novel without the concentration, and it changes the world in minutes.” What’s more, football’s “community spirit, the sense of comradeship and the provision of a social lifeline for those who may otherwise be alone are enormous, and they have great potential to be positively exploited for the greater good of society.” Despite these huge positives, mental health “is still an issue that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves, in spite of well-meaning link-ups between football clubs and mental health charities”, and the testimonies from players under pressure feeling they’ve failed even after playing for top clubs, and those blighted by injury and abuse, cut to the core. Then there’s the lack of support from clubs, and heart-breaking accounts of suicide attempts. The book also covers football’s efforts to become truly inclusive, acknowledging that while steps have been made, the game still has a long way to go before racism, homophobia, sexism and transphobia have been totally kicked out. Concluding with a range of tips for improving mental health in the context of football, and confident that “the glory days of football are still ahead of us”, this book is a game-changer.
Click to read our Q&A with Mark Adlington A book to fall totally and irretrievably in love with, Lion is full of the most gorgeous paintings, drawings, and sketches, and is absolutely stunning. The lion, an apex predator, is surely one of the most beautiful sights you can see. When I was 19 I found myself in Kenya, eyes wide, mouth open as I watched a lioness and three cubs at a water hole. It is something that is as clear to me now as it was then, so, when I saw this book was going to be published, I was first in the LoveReading queue. Here we journey together with Mark Adlington as he studies lions in East and Southern Africa. The foreword by the winner of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa and Co-Founder and Director of Operations at the Big Life Foundation, Richard Bonham, is effusive in its praise of Mark Adlington. It comes with a warning, that lions do not make good neighbours, and “where humans and wildlife compete, wildlife will surely lose”. However all is not: “doom and gloom… in the Amboseli ecosystem, by 2003 there were only 25 lions left… today, things have changed and the population has clawed itself back to over 200”. Mark has painted the progeny of the lions this programme has saved, and they appear in this dazzlingly impressive book. Mark describes meeting Richard and his wife Tara as a miracle: “I found myself invited to stay ‘in the most beautiful part of Kenya’ by a total stranger on the strength of a little sketch of a lion cub posted on instagram”. Mark also allows us access to his sketchbook musings (oh, the tortoise!), and finishes by saying that a world without the lion is unimaginable. What then follows is page after page of the most beautiful artwork, and this is where my mouth dropped open. Each piece is so full of character and movement, so vibrantly alive, that it brought tears to my eyes. The art is allowed to shine, no page numbers or captions to distract, you can simply sink into the beauty of the lion. So, Lion is a book to take pride of place on your bookshelves, a book to return to and open with wonder, to sit with eyes wide and heart open, to adore. Undoubtedly one of my personal books of the year, Lion just had to join our LoveReading Star Books and is of course one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
This spellbinding little book contains a mix of 25 traditional and new Icelandic Folk Tales. Picture Iceland, and a mesmerising image is released, it’s the land of ice and snow, mountains, volcanoes, northern lights, tradition, sagas, and the perfect place for trolls, elves, and ghosts to reside. Hjorleifur Helgi Stefansson lives on the family farm, and grew up with his grandparents close by, saying: “They were born in the old time, in the old country, and they gave me, in my upbringing, a glimpse of another way of thinking and living. Their focus was on people and tradition”. He spends time in Scotland on the storytelling circuit and states that: “I proudly hold the title ‘Pet Viking’. These are tales that are told in the most simple yet vivid way, it was almost as though I could close my eyes and hear them being told. Folk tales often hold warnings, encourage integrity and morality, and of course contain delightfully scary supernatural elements. These tales have the traditional elements stitched into each page and are accompanied by illustrations by Sandstrom Fahlstrom. I’ve included Icelandic Folk Tales as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make a fabulous stocking filler for anyone who loves the art of storytelling.
Written by the world’s most famous and most investigated paranormalist, Learn to Dowse with Uri Geller provides an accessible overview of dowsing with a sense of practical play. In the words of the man himself, “every page is full of fun”. To set the context, Geller explains that “dowsing is a method of searching by intuition. Instead of relying on the five senses, a dowser uses the power of the mind”, and can be used to find objects and “unlock the submerged thoughts, knowledge and intuitions in your own mind”. He then elaborates on the main methods and tools for dowsing - crystal pendulums, metal divining rods, forked twigs, map dowsing - and concludes with a technique for dowsing without any instrument at all. When it comes to dowsing to find lost objects, the good news is, according to Geller, that “Everything that’s lost wants to be found.” I won’t reveal it here, but he provides a technique that promises to reunite people with pesky lost phones. Throughout, Geller peppers practical instruction with personal anecdotes from his career, such as when he located an offshore oil field for the Mexican national oil company. The history of dowsing is covered too, and celebrity practitioners, with Geller reporting that “Nobel-prize-winning scientists, world leaders and bestselling novelists have all been noted dowsers”, among them Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton and Stephen King. If you’re a Geller fan and fancy trying your hand at dowsing for fun, success, health and well-being, this is the book for you.
Dream Believe Succeed is all about changing your mindset so that you can turn your dreams not just into a reality but also into a success. Camilla Sacre-Dallerup was part of the original Strictly Come Dancing line-up but changed direction in 2010 to become a life coach and hypnotherapist, after consulting a life coach herself. Dream Believe Succeed is her journey … partly memoir and partly an exploration of the lessons she learnt along the way. Her book follows the emotional rollercoaster of her own life – her relationships and her career – with all its highs and lows. It’s written in a friendly tone, weaving advice for readers seamlessly into her personal experiences, and offering practical suggestions on taking action and not giving up. She includes simple (highly enjoyable) exercises and thought processes to help readers work towards their own dreams and discover what success means to them. I really enjoyed reading Dream Believe Succeed. I always find memoir fascinating, learning more about other people’s lives and, in this case, realising that celebrity lives are not as perfect as they seem from the outside. But this book goes far beyond that. It made me pinpoint which of my own childhood, or long-term, dreams are still within my reach. And by the time I finished reading the book, I felt much more confident about taking steps to achieve them. Dream Believe Succeed convinced me that my dreams are worth following, however long it takes to get there and however much effort I need along that journey.
The Private Eye Annual 2020 present the year's best cartoons, jokes, parodies and topical sketches from the UK's bestselling news and current affairs magazine. A perennial Christmas bestseller and the perfect gift for under GBP10.
Dedicated to “readers and writers everywhere” this is a stunning gift of a book for every devoted bibliophile. Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread is a beautiful, beautiful reminder of the power and the joy of books. Libris is used as an inscription on a bookplate to show the name of the book's owner. I’ve never had one, I’ve always wanted one. Life goals right there. Michiko Kakutani is perfectly placed to write this “magical brick-sized object”, as she wonderfully speaks of books. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic and the former chief book critic of The New York Times. And this really is a beautifully packaged, beautifully illustrated magical gift of a book. From her fascinating introduction talking of her love of books burgeoning from a young age, she comments on how books “give us the stories of men and women we will never meet in person, illuminate the discoveries made by great minds, and allow us access to the wisdom of earlier generations.” Don’t they just, and this book is a perfect celebration of that. I too am an avid reader. I always have been. I also was the one in my house who wanted to read all the books and who wore out her library card. As a lover of books, you can’t help but engage, dive in, eat her words up hungrily and pore over the accompanying illustrations of alternative book plates by the talented Dana Tanamachi. This book is an absolute gem. Michiko takes you on a literary journey via these “tiny time machines”. Oh how I adore her expressive way of talking about books. She lists more than 100 books across the decades and from a variety of genres – books that have shaped her life, complemented by illuminating essays about them. The themes include books about work and vocation, democracy and tyranny, the war on terror and housekeeping. Her selections range from Shakespeare to Toni Morrison to Abraham Lincoln and Dr Seuss right through to Educated by Tara Westover and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (all of whom I heartily agree with!) The introduction includes the words of Virginia Woolf who famously said: “the pleasure of reading is so great that the world would be a far different and far inferior place without it”. And boy, are we reminded of this. As Michiko comments, the list is “subjective and decidedly arbitrary” but it doesn’t feel that way. I wholeheartedly bought into her excitement, and her passion for reading. Whatever books mean to you, they connect us all and this is a timely reminder of that; a stunning anthology of over 100 gems we all should read and re-read. And next on my list is...best get back to that bookshop!
Best known for his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is nothing if not warm-hearted, charming and filled with the joys of friendship - themes and characteristics that are at the heart of this delightful poetry anthology. Being a book to treasure and return to through the year (and across years), this will make a wonderful gift for fans of his fiction - even those who don’t usually read poetry. With sections covering the likes of journeys, Scotland through the seasons, animals, love and longing, books and reading, and places - with contextualisation coming courtesy of the author’s personal anecdotes - many of the poems invite readers to slow down, to look, to see, to remember. To take-in “the simple facts of being”. Others take readers on evocative journeys - we stand beside the author as he observes Mumbai from his hotel room, and as he and a friend save an oak tree in Scotland. We sit beside him as his train pulls into Kings Cross, as he drives through Los Angeles, as he explores Kerala, South India, and rural Australia. And all of them inspire reflection, and an empathetic urge to take-in the world through the eyes of others.
Looking for the perfect birthday gift? The right book for Mother’s day, or a stocking filler for christmas? Look no further as we have the perfect selection for you.