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Looking to find out something more about the world we live in, instead of gallivanting off into the realm of fiction? Have a look at our hand-picked non-fiction choices.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical - and sometimes devastating - breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future. 'Here is a simple reason why Sapiens has risen explosively to the ranks of an international bestseller. It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!' - Jared Diamond
The name Kamal Ahmed wasn’t familiar to me when I was first introduced to this book. It should have been. In my defence, I would argue that, as I watch little television, I may be forgiven. The case against me, however, would certainly point out that since one of my favourite programmes is BBC News – where Kamal has, since 2016, regularly appeared in his role as Economics Editor – I really ought to have recognised him. Hopefully, I will be forgiven. Kamal Ahmed is a first generation descendent of a Sudanese immigrant father. I am third generation, through my grandmother’s family who come from South Africa – they were Xhosa and, I learned many years ago, from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela. And so, it was with an ever-increasing sense of déjà vu that I became absorbed by this book. Through a series of personal anecdotes, political comment and astute observations, The Life and Times of a Very British Man makes a compelling case for a new debate about what is it to be British, what makes us who we are and how we view those we consider to be ‘others’. I don’t use the word ‘absorbed’ lightly. Kamal is a talented writer, something apparent from the very first pages. He uses language skilfully, not so much to impress, but to present his arguments logically and passionately. He is perceptive, reasoning and persuasive. And he is absolutely right as he asks the reader to consider what it is that makes us British? Kamal Ahmed. Not a terribly British name is it? That antithesis is, perhaps, something that makes the title of this work so germane. What is it to be British? To quote the author, he likes National Trust Houses, the Specials, Victoria sponge cake and double-cooked chips. What is it that makes us feel British? At times disturbing, at times amusing, The Life and Times of a Very British Man asks searching questions about us, our country and our attitude to change. One day I hope to meet Kamal Ahmed and explain to him how, as I reached the end of this book, I realised a complete stranger had become a friend. I hope it does the same for you. I recommend it.
More Dashing is the follow-up to Dashing for the Post: Selected Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor published by Bloomsbury in 2016. With The Spectator portraying the first book (in what many hoped would be a series) as a veritable treasure trove, and Countrylife describing it as a distilled treat drawn from so much rich material, it should please Fermor fans no end to discover that Adam Sisman has again taken the time to patiently select, edit, analyse and – where necessary – explain more from the vast array on entertaining and fascinating letters penned by Fermor to such a wide range of recipients. Author and former soldier, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Fermor was regarded during his lifetime as, arguably, Britain’s greatest travel writer. Writer Adam Sisman – rather a hero of mine having penned John le Carré’s autobiography – is an award winning author himself and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Fermor’s letters are full of wit and sparkle. They vary in length and content a great deal but, without exception, they offer an insight into a society and a way of life not many of us will be familiar with. Fermor exchanges include with such varied figures as Sir Anthony Eden, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Oswald Mosley and Peter Mandelson. We also learn a little more about his wartime exploits – heroic yet understated – as a member of the Special Operations Executive working in Crete against the occupying German forces. A treat for Fermor’s fans – they won’t be disappointed.
With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump's White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president's first years in office.
Blending the tactics he learned from America's elite force with lessons from the Spartans, samurai, Apache scouts, and other great warrior traditions, Mark Divine has distilled the fundamentals of success into eight powerful principles that will transform you into the leader you always knew you could be. Learn to think like a SEAL and take charge of your destiny at work, at home, and at life. Want to be tough? Cool under fire? Able to sense danger before it's too late? In The Way of the SEAL, Updated and Expanded Edition, retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine reveals exercises, meditations, and focusing techniques to train your mind for mental toughness, emotional resilience, and uncanny intuition. Along the way, you'll reaffirm your ultimate purpose, define your most important goals, and take concrete steps to make them happen. In this updated and expanded edition, timely new chapters apply the principles to leading in an ever-accelerating world and leading in teams. Plus, new key takeaways distill the principles in the book into easier-to-use chunks.
This book is in a word: brilliant. In many more words, Lost Connections is an insightful look into the causes of anxiety and depression. However, the book is not written by a preacher or self-help guru, but someone with the first-hand experience of anxiety and depression who is trying to work out his own place in and amongst all of the research. Lost Connections is partly a tale of Johann’s own journey of understanding about his mental health. It is also partly a summary of research that connects to depression and anxiety from experts in a wide range of fields. And finally, it is partly an attempt to offer effective solutions to those in despair. I was left astounded at a number of points in this book - mainly at the dates of the studies mentioned, and why I (and no doubt so many others) hadn’t heard that one of the most talked about “causes” of depression may not really be a cause at all. As someone who feels like they constantly have to manage anxious thoughts I found this book a breakthrough and I was enthralled from the first chapter, never wanting to put it down once I started reading. Johann Hari’s easy, almost colloquial writing would appeal to anyone with a professional or personal interest in psychology. It is a spectacular and groundbreaking look at two of today’s most significant mental health issues.
Born from Elaine Halligan’s experiences of raising her son Sam, each chapter in My Child is Different deals with a specific stage of childhood and development. The format is simple and easy to follow when reading the book from cover to cover, or locating a specific age or time frame. Elaine’s story in its own right is insightful and honest, allowing the reader to find out about Sam’s development and some of the obstacles that were faced by the entire family. The additional content from Melissa Hood deals specifically with the events in each chapter, any specific underlying causes as well as broader behaviour examples before efficiently providing a range of possible solutions or parenting changes that could help to provide a marked improvement. This book has something for everyone. The recollection of Elaine and Sam’s hard work and endurance is compelling; Melissa's helpful advice, explanations and techniques are perfect not only as parenting techniques but also as points for reflection for interacting with people in the world around you. In the Epilogue, Elaine states the ways that using positive parenting skills has made her more accepting and can help to get the best out of everyone. I would definitely recommend.
Where Has Mummy Gone? is a captivating insight into the life of a foster carer. Eight-year-old Melody is angry and confused when she comes to live with Cathy Glass and her family, claiming that her drug-dependent mother Amanda can’t manage without her. Over time, it transpires that this vulnerable child isn’t the only one who needs help. Cathy works tirelessly to juggle Melody’s needs alongside the bureaucracy of fostering and bringing up her own children. It’s a difficult and demanding role, especially because, in this particular situation, Amanda needs specific care as well. This is my first Cathy Glass book and certainly won’t be my last. It’s written in a clear and easy-to-read style, with vivid descriptions bringing people, places and events to life. At times I forgot that this is a true story, with several revelations that could have come straight out of fiction. Where Has Mummy Gone? is filled with compassion and love, mixed with heartbreak and tragedy – a reminder that foster care can help to make a big difference to people’s lives. Its bittersweet ending brought tears to my eyes, touched me deeply and left me thinking.
Letters from Alice is an enchanting mix of mystery, social history and family dynamics. It focuses on the work of almoners (usually women), who were the forerunners to modern social workers, responsible for the welfare of hospital patients and their families. Petrina Banfield brings to life the sounds, sights and aromas of 1920s London in a cleverly crafted drama that reads like fiction but is steeped in fact. I was mesmerised by almoner Alice Hudson’s story, which is based on original archive material – reports, newspaper articles, letters, receipts and even weather reports. Letters from Alice was hard to put down, with its realistic colourful characters, a mystery to solve and vivid descriptions of the grit and grime of the poorest parts of London. This is a thought-provoking read and also incredibly moving, highlighting the hardships experienced by many families at that time. Yet despite the sadness of the story, I also found myself full of hope, knowing that these hardworking almoners were fighting for patients’ rights and welfare. If you have an interest in social history (whether non-fiction or fiction), this is a perfect choice for you - a delightful story, a learning experience and a joy to read. Perfect for fans of Call the Midwife and other British dramas.
Cartoonist, Robert Crumb said; “When I come up against the Real World, I just vacillate”. Well, he can happily vacillate here for a while. This section features a whole host of books covering subjects as diverse as Mankind’s place in the Universe (Human Universe by Brian Cox), the history of the human journey to work (Rush Hour by Iain Gateley) and the real business of reading books (Bookworms, Dogears and Squashy Big Armchairs by Heather Reyes). This is the ‘Human’ section in our book lovers’ journey.
If you love reading, then you’ll find something here to fascinate you. There are new and interest-piquing passages here from science, philosophy, politics, history, religion, and all of the things that occupy the lives of humans. And we mean ALL of them. The fight against Cancer, the fight for freedom, feminism, fatality, frailty and fame. It’s too big to list. Have a browse through the titles by using our monthly recommendations past and present. We guarantee you’ll be hooked in minutes!