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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.
Victor Chandler: In The Blood, the authorised biography by Jamie Reid Victor Chandler, the most recognisable face in bookmaking, tells his story. Gambling was in his blood from birth. Discover how his grandfather dealt with Darby Sabini’s Italian Mob, Alfie Solomons and the real Peaky Blinders. How his father, Victor senior, built up the firm only for illness to force ‘Young Victor’ into the fray at the age of 23 - the start of a high life and fast times. To begin with he found the going tough. He almost accepted an offer to sell up from Playboy Bookmakers. But fortunately he stuck with it just in time to enjoy his first profitable Royal Ascot and from then on there was no going back. Victor was ahead of his time and always adaptable. In the face of the UK recession in the 1990s he went out to the Far East and began duelling audaciously with colossal Asian punters while dodging the attentions of the Triads in Hong Kong and Macau. Then at the end of the decade he sparked a revolution by moving his entire business offshore to Gibraltar; he is often credited with being the first to take gambling online. Victor shares his often hilarious memories of 40 years of a high-octane racing and bookmaking life, populated by a huge cast of colourful characters including the artist Lucian Freud, who painted 'VC' as well as betting with him.
A fascinating and provocative read documenting the author’s experience as a remanded prisoner at the largest female prison in the UK, HMP Bronzefield. It hovers between a memoir of her time within and beyond the prison system, her thoughts and feelings about the failures in the system, and her documenting facts and figures regarding research, education and rehabilitation. Just to note, Sophie has independently published this book, this really is her book, her words, her viewpoint, and therefore is all the more powerful. The author’s note states that some names, identifying details and order of events have been changed to protect privacy, plus: “This is a work of creative non-fiction. The events are portrayed to the best of the author’s memory.” Personally, I would have liked to know a little more about Sophie before we entered the prison. It feels as though she has taken a necessary step outside of herself in her recounting of events within the prison walls. Towards the end when we see what happens after Bronzefield, I feel her voice really fills the pages with passion and feeling. This isn’t a memoir filled with atonement and regret, rather real frustration at a system that she clearly feels needs reform. Most women leave prison homeless and only 8% enter the workforce. There is a lot to take on board, the major thing that I have come away with, is that a one size fits all attempt at rehabilitation just doesn’t work. Demanding, confrontational, and eye-opening, Breakfast at Bronzefield is one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Eye-opening, amusing, and heart-warming, this is the personal as well as professional memoir of a health visitor. Rachael Hearson joined the National Health Service as a student nurse in 1979 and has spent time as a nurse, midwife, health visitor, and community practice teacher. As a health visitor she says she has a: “privileged and unique access to all families with children under five; our office is your living room.” Boy, does the introduction really spell it out, from the strange and dangerous through to the wonderful, she’s truly seen it all. I felt as though I was sat listening to a friend, she has a lovely light, bright, chatty style which helps provide a vivid and vibrant picture of her experiences. She clearly has huge empathy and adores her job (yes there are downsides too). The epilogue at the end titled ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of an NHS worker as we all learn to live with Covid. She makes some striking points about the importance of the NHS, stating: “We must continue to bang the drum for the NHS.” In other words, now is the time to make the right changes to ensure our NHS continues. Handle With Care is a wonderful insight into a world that the majority of us are thankful for, and it has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Books of the Month.
Diving through history and soaring across borders this truly fascinating book about birds was winner of the readers’ vote in Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Nike Award. Author Stanislaw Lubienski first began to observe birds as a child, he explores how people and art (stories, paintings, music, and dance) interact with birds. While he has always lived in and around his home town of Szczesliwice, his love for birds has taken him in person and in his thoughts around the world and back in time. I picked up my love for birds through my father, at home as a child we looked after some blind pheasants he had rescued, once he even nursed a particularly ill-tempered seagull back to health. So, I smiled at the story of James Bond, winced in sympathy as I heard how the photo of the eagle owl was taken, and my heart ached at the Last of the Curlews. A little bit different and a lot lovely, The Birds they Sang has crept into my heart to become a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
A magical, thoughtful, and gloriously wonderful little book. Cat Women would make a perfect gift, either for yourself, or someone else (and it really doesn’t have to be restricted to women who love cats, this is an engaging read full stop). Described as “an exploration of feline friendships and lingering superstitions” Alice Maddicott introduces us to cats and their role with humans through history before presenting second-hand photos and examining the relationship between the women and cats in the pictures. It is fascinating to view the suspicion that women with cats, particularly lone women, have come under over the years, ‘crazy cat lady’ and ‘witch’ are two of the more obvious labels. Alice Maddicott looks at the second-hand (orphan) photos with an almost forensic yet beautifully whimsical eye. She spotted things that my first glance had completely missed, her thoughts take a breezy wander, yet she really sees the woman, and in particular, the cat in each picture. Opening up into the most readable and heartfelt book, Cat Women has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as it is all rather intriguing and absolutely delightful.
In 1957, five members of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club set out to reach the peak of Haramosh, a previously unclimbed mountain in the Karkoram range that extends from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. Karkoram is the second highest mountain range in the world, exceeded only by the nearby Himalaya. It’s highest peak, K2, is well known to mountaineers, perhaps less so to those of us not so well versed in that world. The Last Blue Mountain is the story of this ascent, and of the tragedy that unfolded. It is a tale not of success or failure, but of human spirit and the determination to survive. Originally published in 1959, this re-publication now contains an enlightening foreword by writer Ed Douglas, former editor of the Alpine Journal. Two of the four OUMC climbers died on Haramosh. A third was killed descending the Weisshorn in 1963. Tony Streather, the final member of the team, died in 2018 at the age of ninety-two. The opportunity to speak with these men is gone but, thanks to the excellent writing and research of Ralph Barker, the chance to learn from them and to live their story is not. As I reached the end of The Last Blue Mountain and closed the final page I confess I said a silent thanks. It was not just to the late Ralph Barker for writing this excellent book, but to Tony Streather and his fellow climbers, who are the kind of men who inspire us and whose tales of bravery and resilience will continue to enthral for generations to come.
Imagine a world where... Your phone is too big for your hand Your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body In a car accident you are 47% more likely to be injured. If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you're a woman. From government policy and medical research to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all. Discover the shocking gender bias that affects our everyday lives.
Published in partnership with Girl Up, the UN women’s foundation, Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies) is an exhilaratingly empowering anthology of essays by 52 women written in response to the question: what does the F word mean to you? The contributors’ answers are as varied and individual as womankind itself, with the book innovatively divided into sections covering Epiphany, Anger, Joy, Poetry Break, Action and Education, followed by helpful Further Reading recommendations and rousing Last Words essays. Often amusing, and always honest, edifying and powerfully personal, contributors from the world of screen and stage include Keira Knightly, Emma Watson, Lolly Adefope, Kat Dennings and Amy Trigg, while activist authors include anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali, Amika George, creator of the #FreePeriods campaign, and Alice Wroe, founder of Herstory. Readers beginning their feminist journey will find Claire Horn’s ‘A Short History of Feminist Theory’ especially useful, summarising as it does the movement’s origins, multi-stranded history and contemporary incarnations. Diverse, empowering, and united by a spirit of sisterly solidarity, these essays are a motivational, supportive rallying call to young women.
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.
Documenting horrific experiences of child abuse, violent misogyny and racism, the unflinching truths of this memoir might make for harrowing reading, but it’s delivered in engaging prose and underpinned by a spirit of resistance propelled by the author’s desire to educate herself. Eliska was born in Slovakia to a thirteen-year-old Romani prostitute and a twenty-three-year-old German whose friends paid for her mother as a birthday present. For Eliska home was never where the heart was. Rather, it was “where I was shaken awake by my drunk Ma’s dirty foot getting tangled in my matted hair”, and worse. Though a racist brute, her father – who’s described as being “as dirty-dicked as my conception implies” - insists she attends school, with her visits to him in Germany opening a life-changing window on the world. As a result, she’s thrilled when her mother sends her to England. Filled with dreams of becoming literate, the reality is that thirteen-year-old Eliska was trafficked. Though life in England initially sees her become a “beaten shadow of myself”, even longing “for the decay of my home”, Eliska somehow survives and takes herself through university, despite the most brutal of attacks, and against the most awful odds. In her poignant, timely epilogue, the author raises the issue of rising anti-immigrant attitudes in contemporary Britain and reiterates the central tenet of her affecting memoir: she was saved by an irrepressible desire to educate herself, and “nothing will break me”.
Daisy Upton has two little kids. She loves them - but they drive her mad. So, to try and keep her sanity she started to come up with quick, easy games using stuff from around the house. And @FiveMinuteMum was born. In her first book, she has collected 150+ games that take 5 minutes to set up & 5 minutes to tidy up. From pasta posting to alphabet knock down, it's a recipe book for guilt free parenting! And as Daisy was a teaching assistant, your little ones will be learning while they play! What could be better? GIVE ME FIVE is the perfect companion for anyone who wants five minutes peace.
The rise of veganism is impossible to ignore - for full time practitioners and those wanting to experiment with a more planet-friendly lifestyle. In Yes-Vegan! Selene breaks down the burning questions surrounding veganism from choice, ethics, ecology to fitness, health & beauty as well as providing informed opinions on just how to rebuff the haters. "With regards to veganism, as long as you arm yourself with some key facts and remain calm, there really is nothing to worry about - even if you're someone who hates conflict. After this book, not only will you be able to answer each and every question posed to you, but you can then follow up with a few insightful questions of your own that will get the other person thinking." - Selene Nelson
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!