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Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.
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”.
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.
Written and illustrated by award-winning artist and current affairs specialist George Butler, Drawn Across Borders is a unique empathy-inspiring portrayal of the affecting personal experiences of twelve migrants, covering countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Syria and Palestine. It’s an honest, awe-inspiring tribute to the featured individuals, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a timely reminder that real people lie behind every news story on migrants. Real people with real (and varied) reasons for leaving places they once called home. Butler frames the book with brilliant clarity: “People move around the world for many reasons. Some migration is voluntary; most is not.” The written portraits are deeply personal, framed by the author’s experiences on the frontlines of - for example - refugee camps, and based on his conversations with migrants. When combined with the accompanying painterly illustrations, they create a book that draws the heart and eye to a clutch of stories that should be known.
There are times when reading Do Not Disturb that you have to pinch yourself to remind you that, although a thriller, it is not made up: It is all real. All true. The murders are of real people. The fear and paranoia of friends and families is real. They are living in the presence of real danger. Criticism of President Kagame of Rwanda, once the darling of the West, will do that. It will force you to go into hiding. It will make you a subject of oppressive surveillance. In the case of Paul Rusesabagina, humanitarian hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, it will get you tricked onto a plane, drugged, renditioned, tortured and imprisoned. It can, and often will, get you killed. When the ubiquitous hotel door sign of the title is used to conceal the killing of a former member of Rwanda’s inner circle, the trails of evidence, methodically and minutely tracked by Wrong over many years and countless interviews, lead straight to Kagame. As Wrong strips away the glossy window dressing from the so-called “Singapore of Africa,” she reveals a nation run by brutal thugs; a supposed economic miracle, dependant on western support, which suppresses the true scale of the hunger, poor health and fear of an uncountable number of its inhabitants. Long admired for her fearless reportage, Wrong has written a crisp, insightful - and importantly - honest, account of institutionalised, no… weaponised national lying. In doing so she has exposed an appalling truth: that Rwanda’s elite have manipulated global shame and compassion to run an entire country with mafia-like grip and murderous avarice, immorality and illegality. By laying bare the bones of a brutal, merciless dictator, driven by Imperial grade fear, greed and the insecurity of shallow ego, Wrong has documented despotism in all its appalling hideousness. We should care very deeply, as Rwanda is a member nation of the Commonwealth.
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.
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.
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.
What are people's favourite buildings of the last 100 years? Created by The Twentieth Century Society this beautifully produced, cloth bound book has chosen a building for each year from 1914 to 2014. The buildings were nominated by their supporters and, along with information on the building, each entry gives the very personal reasons why they have been chosen. Fascinating, if only to find out which has been chosen in your birth year. The book was edited by Susannah Charlton with Elain Harwood.
February 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066... It's a light-hearted but impeccably researched account of all our great fallings-out. With Clarke's trademark humour and lightness of touch that will be remembered with fondness from A Year in the Merde and Talk to the Snail, among others this is a brilliant take on the history of our near neighbour.
1492- the year pinpointed by the author as the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the modern world – our world. We are taken on a global journey finding out what was taking place in this year; expeditions, collapsing civilisations new empires beginning, Diasporas and discoveries. Using contemporary sources this inventive and highly original history gives us a unique picture of the times.Like for Like ReadingGod’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science, James Hannam1491: The Americas before Columbus, Charles C Mann
This work presents an intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year that changed not only his fortunes, but the course of literature. How did Shakespeare go from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year, we follow what he reads and writes, what he saw, and who he worked with as he invests in the new Globe theatre and creates four of his most famous plays - Henry V , Julius Caesar , As You Like It , and, most remarkably, Hamlet.
The Battle of Dybbol, 1864. Prussian troops lay siege to an outpost in the far south of Denmark. The conflict is over control of the Duchy of Schleswig, recently annexed by Denmark to the alarm of its largely German-speaking inhabitants. Danish troops make a valiant attempt to hold out but are overrun by the might of the Prussian onslaught. Of little strategic importance, the struggle for Schleswig foreshadowed the same forces that, fifty years later, would tear Europe apart. Prussia's victory would not only rejuvenate its nascent militarism, but help it claim leadership of the new German Empire. Told in rich detail through first-hand accounts, Tom Buk-Swienty's magisterial account of the Schleswig conflict tells the story of this pivotal war. 1864 shows how a minor regional conflict foreshadowed the course of diplomacy that led to the First World War and brutally presaged the industrialised future of warfare. But most of all, in its human detail, from touching letters between husbands and wives to heartbreaking individual stories of loss, 1864 is a gripping, epic human drama that shows the effect all wars have on the soldiers, on families and on the individual men and women who must live its realities.
Forever in the shadow of the war which followed, 1913 is usually seen as little more than the antechamber to apocalypse. Our perspectives narrowed by hindsight, the world of that year is reduced to its most frivolous features - last summers in grand aristocratic residences, a flurry of extravagant social engagements - or its most destructive ones: the unresolved rivalries of the great European powers, the anxieties of a period of accelerated change, the social fear of revolution, the violence in the Balkans. Our images of the times are too often dominated by the faded pastels of upper-class indulgence or by the unmitigated blackness of a world rushing headlong into the abyss of an inevitable war. 1913: The World before the Great War proposes a strikingly different portrait, returning the world in that year to its contemporary freshness, its future still undecided, its outlook still open. Told through the stories of twenty-three cities - Europe's capitals at the height of their global reach, the emerging metropolises of America, the imperial cities of Asia and Africa, the boomtowns of Australia and the Americas - Charles Emmerson presents a panoramic view of a world crackling with possibilities, from St Petersburg to Shanghai and from Los Angeles to Jerusalem. What emerges is a rich and complex world, more familiar than we expect, connected as never before, on the threshold of events which would change the course of global history.
'No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening', wrote Churchill. 'The measured, silent drawing together of gigantic forces, the uncertainty of their movements and positions, the number of unknown and unknowable facts made the first collision a drama never surpassed.in fact the War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted in battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of fate.' On of Britain's foremost military historians and defence experts tackles the origins - and the opening first few weeks of fighting - of what would become known as 'the war to end all wars'. Intensely researched and convincingly argued, Allan Mallinson explores and explains the grand strategic shift that occurred in the century before the war, the British Army's regeneration after its drubbings in its fight against the Boer in South Africa, its almost calamitous experience of the first twenty days' fighting in Flanders to the point at which the British Expeditionary Force - the 'Old Contemptibles' - took up the spade in the middle of September 1914: for it was then that the war changed from one of rapid and brutal movement into the more familiar vision of trench warfare on Western Front. In this vivid, compelling new history, Malliinson brings his experience as a professional soldier to bear on the circumstances, events, actions and individuals and speculates - tantalizingly - on what might have been...
Born in Kiev 1900, Mikhail was shattered to be told in 1910 that the couple he believed were his parents, were only guardians on behalf of his real father – Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov. Born out of wedlock from the Grand Duke’s liaison with his sister’s Lady-in-Waiting, who was subsequently banished from Russia as their marriage was forbidden, Mikhail had been placed with the guardians for secrecy. Mikhail’s life changed from then on when he was enrolled into Military Academy and later in the Corps de Pages. His father then married a divorcee, which caused him to be banished from Russia too, but on the outbreak of WW1, his brother the Emperor allowed him to return to fight for his country. With the coming of the 1917 Revolution, Mikhail was placed as a Guard of the Imperial Family during their house arrest. When the Romanovs were moved to Ipatiev House, Mikhail in the guise of a Red Guard was involved with others in a plan to rescue them in 1918. Sadly during the escape, they were intercepted and taken into the woods, where Mikhail was ordered to shoot the Emperor but refused, then before fleeing the scene, he witnessed the most horrific massacre.Although he was given a new identity in England, it was obvious somebody traced him and made attempts to eliminate him for the rest of his life, and despite continually moving, he still suffered sabotage by fires to his homes and businesses, but tragically family members died as a result, even his 20 month old child who was deliberately set alight whilst sleeping.
This book concentrates on the year when Hitler’s true plans began to unfold. The year of Kristallnacht and the Anschluss. A dark period in history told in great detail, the author having had access to new sources. Just when you think everything has been told about this period more facts come to light. A brilliant account of events.
There is Britain before 1965 and Britain after 1965 - and they are not the same thing. 1965 was the year Britain democratised education, it was the year pop culture began to be taken as seriously as high art, the time when comedians and television shows imported the methods of modernism into their work. It was when communications across the Atlantic became instantaneous, the year when, for the first time in a century, British artists took American gallery-goers by storm. In 1965 the Beatles proved that rock and roll could be art, it was when we went car crazy, and craziness was held to be the only sane reaction to an insane society. It was the year feminism went mainstream, the year, did she but know it, that the Thatcher revolution began, the year taboos were talked up - and trashed. It was when racial discrimination was outlawed and the death penalty abolished; it marked the appointment of Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary, who became chief architect in legislating homosexuality, divorce, abortion and censorship. It was the moment that our culture, reeling from what are still the most shocking killings of the century, realised it was a less innocent, less spiritual place than it had been kidding itself. It was the year of consumerist relativism that gave us the country we live in today and the year the idea of a home full of cultural artefacts - books, records, magazines - was born. It was the year when everything changed - and the year that everyone knew it.
A third spellbinding book from Yuval Noah Harari that looks at the most important issues we face today. Featured in Episode 5 of the LoveReading Podcast
'One of the lancers rode by, and stabbed me in the back with his lance. I then turned, and lay with my face upward, and a foot soldier stabbed me with his sword as he walked by. Immediately after, another, with his firelock and bayonet, gave me a terrible plunge, and while doing it with all his might, exclaimed, Sacre nom de Dieu! ' 'Charge! Charge the guns!' shouted Colonel Hamilton, who was last seen galloping through the Grand Battery 'going at full speed, with the bridle-reins between his teeth', according to one witness, 'after he had lost his hands'. 'There was nothing to be heard but the clashing of swords and bayonets, and the cries of the dying and wounded.' The battle of Waterloo had all the drama and brutality of a nineteenth-century bare-knuckle prize fight. It was a vicious fight to the finish between two evenly matched opponents. In 24 Hours at Waterloo, using a plethora of previously unpublished eyewitness accounts, letters and diaries, Robert Kershaw reveals the soldier's view of this iconic battle: how they felt, what they saw, what they smelt and what they heard enduring this epic confrontation on Sunday 18 June 1815. Visceral and raw, this is Waterloo as you've never experienced it before.
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.