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Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.
Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this is an engaging and absolutely riveting read following the memories of two sisters during the Second World War. Pat and Jean Owtram were still teenagers when the war began and signed up as soon as they were old enough, with Pat intercepting German radio and Jean becoming a Code and Cipher Officer. Each sister tells her own story in sequence, with letters to each other and family members adding a real insight into their lives and the times. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, they were unable to divulge their roles even to each other, but nonetheless the actual letters reveal their courage, resilience, and spirit. It is fascinating to discover that both women owed their wartime duties to their fluency in German, a skill that was honed after their family had taken in two Austrian Jewish refugees. I am intrigued by the world of intelligence, so found this a compelling read. It is the little things, such as Jean nearly not passing on a seemingly irrelevant yet vital piece of information that makes this so fascinating. Their wartime work shaped the women they became and I want to hand on heart, salute them both. Codebreaking Sisters is a worthwhile, truly lovely and enthralling read I can highly recommend.
In The Museum Makers Rachel Morris, director of museum company Metaphor, plots an enthralling personal and professional journey from finding a box of family belongings beneath her bed, to the beating heart of Bloomsbury’s bohemian circles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This journey is underpinned by the very essence of what museums are and do: “Museum-making is about sorting often quite ordinary objects to make meaningful patterns out of the muddle and confusion of the universe; thoughtful, beautiful patterns that have something to say. Museums are where we go to make sense of the world and the pasts that have gone. And what we do in museums we also do with our own histories.” Which is exactly what Morris does when she digs into the contents of the box and is led to discover secrets about her father, Gran, and great-grandmother Nona, which she curates into her Museum of Me. Illuminated by the power of objects to stir memories, and to make sense of oneself, the journey also delves into women’s involvement with, and relationship to, museums: “Museums have a special appeal for women whether as places to work in or as places to visit.” While men may have curated early museums (as an extension of their curation of the world), women were key collectors, donors and fundraisers from those nascent days. At once an absorbing history of museums, and a profoundly personal memoir of detection and discovery, this has all the delightful universal appeal of a cabinet of curiosity.
“Forty-six days, thirteen states, 3000 miles”. Documenting the author’s solo coast-to-coast road-trip across America, David Reynolds’s Slow Road to San Francisco is an absolute joy. An entertaining blend of observation and commentary delivered with a luminous lightness of touch. Buckle up for read that’s radiant with the author’s wit, charm and keen eye for people and place - everything you’d want from an on-the-road companion. Beginning on the Atlantic Coast and winding up on San Francisco’s Pacific Coast - “because Europeans landed on the east coast of the landmass that they named America, and moved slowly west until they reached the other side” - the author’s journey across Route 50 documents edifying encounters that reveal as much about America and the world as they do about the individuals themselves. Though Route 50 is known as the loneliest road in America (and it’s one of the few remaining two-lane highways in the country), Reynolds is never short of people to talk to. Through conversations with bartenders, gas station attendants and motel staff, and the assorted personalities he meets in bars, cafés and museums along the route (among them war veterans, judges and friendly bikers), it truly feels like you’re on the road with him. Peeling back layers of Native American history, slave history and contemporary politics (everyone the author meets has something to say about Trump, and often Brexit too), usually with a glass of IPA to hand, this is life-affirming, enlightening stuff. Perhaps what stands out above all else is a generosity of spirit, both on the part of the people who freely share their time, opinions and tables with Reynolds, and on the part of the author himself. Like all the best road-trips, I didn’t want this ride to end.
The epic, harrowing and world-changing story - in words and colourized images - of global conflict from the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the obliteration of Hiroshima by the dropping of the first atom bomb. The World Aflame will embrace not only the total conflagrations of 1914-18 and 1939-45 and the international tensions, conflicting ideologies and malign economic forces that set them in train, but also the civil wars of the interwar period in Ireland and Spain, wars in Latin America, Britain's imperial travails in such places as Ireland, Somalia and Palestine, and events on the domestic 'fronts' of the belligerent nations. Like The Colour of Time, The World Aflame is a collaboration between the gifted Brazilian artist Marina Amaral, and the leading British historian Dan Jones. Marina has created 200 stunning images, using contemporary photographs as the basis for her full-colour digital renditions. The accompanying narrative anchors each image in its context, weaving them into a vivid account of four decades of conflict that shaped the world we live in today. A fusion of amazing pictures and well-chosen and informative words, The World Aflame offers a moving - and often terrifying - perspective on the bloodiest century in human history.
New York Times bestselling author Sarah Kendzior documents the truth about the calculated rise to power of Donald Trump since the 1980s and how the erosion of our liberties made an American demagogue possible. This program is read by the author. The story of Donald Trump's rise to power is the story of a buried American history - buried because people in power liked it that way. It was visible without being seen, influential without being named, ubiquitous without being overt. Sarah Kendzior's Hiding in Plain Sight pulls back the veil on a history spanning decades, a history of an American autocrat in the making. In doing so, she reveals the inherent fragility of American democracy - how our continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States have been hiding in plain sight for decades. In Kendzior's signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump's meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers. Kendzior also offers a never-before-seen look at her lifelong tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - living in New York through 9/11 and in St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising, and researching media and authoritarianism when Trump emerged using the same tactics as the post-Soviet dictatorships she had long studied. It is a terrible feeling to sense a threat coming, but it is worse when we let apathy, doubt, and fear prevent us from preparing ourselves. Hiding in Plain Sight confronts the injustice we have too long ignored because the truth is the only way forward.
Siberia’s story is traditionally one of exiles, penal colonies and unmarked graves. Yet there is another tale to tell. Dotted throughout this remote land are pianos – grand instruments created during the boom years of the nineteenth century, and humble, Soviet-made uprights that found their way into equally modest homes. They tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood. How these pianos travelled into this snow-bound wilderness in the first place is testament to noble acts of fortitude by governors, adventurers and exiles. That stately instruments might still exist in such a hostile landscape is remarkable. That they are still capable of making music in far-flung villages is nothing less than a miracle. But this is Siberia, where people can endure the worst of the world — and where music reveals a deep humanity in the last place on earth you would expect to find it.
WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019 Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.
Would you sacrifice yourself to save thousands of others? In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interned at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich. His mission was to report on Nazi crimes and raise a secret army to stage an uprising. The name of the detention centre -- Auschwitz. It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi's terrifying plans. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz. His reports from the camp were to shape the Allies response to the Holocaust - yet his story was all but forgotten for decades. This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at the heart of their evil designs. The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man's attempt to change the course of history.
A fascinating story of a smart and truly tireless woman I don’t know if Clara Colby is well-known in the US but, from a UK perspective, I hadn’t heard of her before I encountered this book. Born in England in 1846, she moved to America as a child. After graduating from university (surely a remarkable thing for the time), she began campaigning for women’s votes in the US and later internationally. Her lecture schedule and the travel this required would be exhausting in our times but, with the additional travel difficulties and burdens of her times, it is truly incredible. This is a really fascinating story of a smart and tireless woman, with a chaotic personal life, always campaigning for the greater good. Sarah Webb, A LoveReading Ambassador
Glastonbury 50 is the authorised, behind-the-scenes, inside story of the music festival that has become a true global phenomenon. The story begins in 1970. The day after Jimi Hendrix's death... dairy farmer Michael Eavis invites revellers to his field in Somerset to attend a 'Pop, Folk & Blues' festival. Tickets are GBP1 each, enticing more than a thousand customers with the promise of music, dance, poetry, theatre, lights and spontaneous entertainment - as well as free milk from his own Worthy Farm cows. Fast forward through five tumultuous decades and the Eavis's vision now encompasses a gigantic 'city in the fields', with a total annual population nearing a quarter of a million. Tickets sell out within minutes, the show is beamed live to more than 40 countries around the globe, and over 3 million people are registered to attend. Meanwhile, the bill has expanded to include big name performers, artists and designers from every branch of the creative arts. Glastonbury Festival is now the largest outdoor green fields event in the world. In their own words, Michael and Emily Eavis reveal the stories behind the headlines, and celebrate 50 years of history in the Vale of Avalon. They're joined by a host of big-name contributors from the world of music - among them Adele, JAY-Z, Dolly Parton, Chris Martin, Noel Gallagher, Lars Ulrich and Guy Garvey. They're joined by artists - Stanley Donwood, Kurt Jackson and many more. Writers - Caitlin Moran, Lauren Laverne, Billy Bragg - and by a host of photographers, from Seventies icon Brian Walker to rock and roll legends Jill Furmanovsky and Greg Williams. Together they bring you the magic that makes Glastonbury, Glastonbury.
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!).
Amusing, inspirational and underpinned by a radiant reverence for its subjects, this collection shares the indomitable acts of fifteen fascist-fighting “loose canons”, toppling the perception that Christians of the cloth are meek and mild. The acts of opposition are framed within the context of Christianity’s ideological history: ”Since the days of St Paul, Christianity has had a lack of internal ethnic distinction as a key tenet of its teaching (if not, regrettably, always of its practice). Paul wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female; all are one in Christ.” Within these dynamic accounts we meet a bedazzling band of brave clerics from across the continent. Take Abbé Pierre, the “miraculous mountaineering monk”, for example. He started out as “an awkward and gangly young would-be monk” and“ended his career the most respected and popular man in France” on account of his pivotal role in the Resistance against the Nazis and Italian Fascists. Enduring the massacre of comrades and incarceration, and having engaged in numerous audacious acts of Resistance, plucky Pierre’s spirit and ethos (“to serve the most needy first”) lives on today in his charity that spans thirty-seven countries. The author duly acknowledges that, “for every tale of bravery related above, there were tales of cowardice and collaboration”. He also points out that many of the men and women of the Resistance exhibited “the frailty of humanity” and goes on to posit the view that “true strength is achieved in embracing our weakness”. Sage words to conclude a book that’s suffused in the vitality of its subjects’ inspirational acts and the author’s affable wit.
For most of human history, the seas have been the main means of long-distance trade and communication between peoples – for the spread of ideas and religion as well as commerce. This tremendous book begins with the earliest seafaring societies – the Polynesians of the Pacific, possessors of intuitive navigational skills long before the invention of the compass – and ends with the giant liners and container ships of today, which still conduct 80% of world trade by sea. In between, David Abulafia follows merchants, explorers, pirates, cartographers and travellers in their quests for spices, gold, ivory, slaves, lands for settlement and knowledge of what lay beyond. Avoiding as far as possible a Eurocentric approach, the book deals with the Atlantic waters before Columbus and shows how lucrative trade routes were created that carried goods and ideas along the ‘Silk Route of the Sea’ well before the Europeans burst into the Indian Ocean around 1500. In an extraordinary narrative of humanity and the oceans, Abulafia shows how maritime networks grew from many separate localities to form a continuum of interconnection across the globe. This is history of the grandest scale, and from a bracingly different perspective.
History is such a broad and universal subject. After all, we’re all living through it and we all have our own. Here’s where you can get new perspectives on past events, discover a subject you’ve never explored or broaden your existing knowledge.
Our resident expert, Sue Baker, has compiled a wide range of great books covering everything from the major wars, or the creation of nations to the life-journeys of world-changing individuals. From social history (Family Britain by David Kynaston) and the World Wars (Swansong 1945 by Walter Kempowski) to the much loved periods of popular fiction authors (The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones; The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changed Britain by Chris Skidmore): From the realities of often romanticised times (The Knight who saved England by Richard Brooks) to the lives of history’s extraordinary people (Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings by Amy Licence). You’ll find a resource here to fascinate on many levels. History without histrionics.