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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.
December 2017 Book of the Month Sean Smith has written an engrossing book that takes you behind the public persona of George Michael and introduces you to Georgios Panayiotou, the man behind the pop star. It was with some surprise and sorrow that I learnt of the death of George Michael in 2016, it was especially poignant that it happened on Christmas day. Since I was young 'Last Christmas' had been as much a part of Christmas for me as turkey and brussel sprouts, it was always part of the playlist. I grew up listening to Wham songs and then George Michael the solo artist. Yet I didn't really know much about the man behind the music. George by Sean Smith begins by introducing us to a kind hearted, gentle boy who loved nothing more than exploring nature and hunting for bugs in the great outdoors. That is until a fall down the stairs resulting in a bang to the head changed everything and an obsession with music began. His parent's humble beginnings and their passion to create a better life for themselves and their three children gave George the determination and mindset he needed to seek his own success. He worked hard to become the superstar he undoubtingly was. From early influences such as David Cassidy and Elton John, George discovered a desire to be 'put on a pedestal and adored...' Sean Smith is a thorough and detailed biographer and the writing never feels laboured but a read that flows easily and leaves you feeling a little closer to knowing the man rather than the public persona. Passionate, intelligent and driven both personally and professionally, George Michael worked hard for his success but his compassion and desire to help people also drove him to use that success to help others and make a difference. Much has been reported of his kindness since his death but wrapped up in this package by Sean Smith it gives us a greater understanding of just what the world lost when George Michael died. George Michael was a true pop star but also a human being and George has given me a fascinating and at times incredibly moving insight into a man who is without doubt part of the soundtrack to my childhood. ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here.
The ideal stocking filler for anyone looking for some good, clean, grisly fun this Christmas. Wryly amusing and gruesomely fascinating, this smart science-based stocking filler provides technical answers to many of the questions curious kids like to issue at adults, and many an adult wonders about. Positing “What would happen if…” as its driving pivot, the book explores all manner of unusual ways to meet one’s demise in deadpan detail. Many of the questions tap into commonly-held fears: what would happen if your plane window popped out? If you were buried alive? If you were struck by lightning? Others are ingeniously absurd: what would happen if buzzards raised you? If you ate as many cookies as the cookie monster? If you toured the Pringles factory and fell off the catwalk? If you actually lost your head? Encompassing the disciplines of anatomy, physics, geology and astronomy, the authors’ answers are funnily thorough, and funny full-stop. Joanne Owen
Hmm (bug)… does the world really need another Christmas-themed stocking filler book? Surely the genre is as dead as Old Marley, doornail and all, with nothing new to say, no fresh, funny takes to be made. Well, actually, this stylishly illustrated tome does have more to say. In fact, it offers a veritable forest of sharply spruced-up observations on everything from disappointing gifts (“14-year-olds do not want two-foot wide peg looms for Christmas”), to the entirely unsuitable sleeping arrangements Britons typically endure after driving home for Christmas (the out-dated spare rooms stuffed with “several hundredweight of car-boot sale fodder”, and nights spent on “rapidly deflating airbeds, barely the width of the average human body”). The first-person anecdotes are an absolute joy; often cringe-inducingly hilarious, and sometimes moving. Indeed, alongside the excellent observational humour, astute points are made about the likes of rampant consumerism and seasonal depression: Christmas “acts as a kind of emotional multiplier. If things are good, they feel glorious; if things are bad, they feel dreadful”. This cracker of a book (not sorry) will have recipients ho-ho-ho-ing around the Christmas tree, and keep them entertained long after the last pesky pine needles have been vacuumed up. ~ Joanne Owen
Are you a genius? Put your knowledge to the test - and learn to think and talk like a genius.
The ultimate survival guide from the world's leading survival expert. Nobody knows survival like Bear Grylls. There is a barely a terrain he hasn't conquered or an extreme environment he hasn't experienced. Over the years - from his time in 21 SAS, through to his extraordinary expeditions climbing (and paragliding over) Everest, travelling through the Arctic's treacherous Northwest Passage, crossing the world's oceans and taking part in adventures to the toughest corners of each of the seven continents - Bear has accumulated an astonishing wealth of survival knowledge. Now, for the first time, he is putting all his expertise into one book. How To Stay Alive will teach you: - How to survive a bear attack - How to fly a plane in an emergency - How to make fire from virtually nothing - How to drive off-road - How to navigate using the stars - How to administer first-aid - How to escape a burning building - How to survive the most extreme conditions And dozens of other essential skills to survive the modern world.
Auntie's War is a love letter to radio. While these were the years when her sometimes bossy tones earned the BBC the nickname `Auntie', they were also a period of truly remarkable voices: Churchill's fighting speeches, de Gaulle's broadcasts from exile, J. B. Priestley, Ed Murrow, George Orwell, Richard Dimbleby and Vera Lynn. Radio offered an incomparable tool for propaganda; it was how coded messages, both political and personal, were sent across Europe, and it was a means of sending less than truthful information to the enemy. At the same time, eyewitness testimonies gave a voice to everyone, securing the BBC's reputation as reliable purveyor of the truth. Edward Stourton is a sharp-eyed, wry and affectionate companion on the BBC's wartime journey, investigating archives, diaries, letters and memoirs to examine what the BBC was and what it stood for. Full of astonishing, little-known incidents, battles with Whitehall warriors and Churchill himself, and with a cast of brilliant characters, Auntie's War is much more than a portrait of a beloved institution at a critical time. It is also a unique portrayal of the British in wartime and an incomparable insight into why we have the broadcast culture we do today.
My mother is not a foodie. But for as long as I can remember, once a year, she becomes possessed of a profound and desperate need to serve up a perfect roast turkey. Faced with a walk into the village though, she might think 'oh, f*** it' and decide to get a frozen one from Bejams on the 23rd and leave it to defrost in the downstairs toilet for not quite 48 hours.
Both a how to do it and a go-to guide for the mathematically challenged. Knowing maths can save you money and avert disaster. It may be forms or mortgages and insurance, measurements or conversions, weights and tax – all can cause confusion at best or panic at worst, see how Hywel Carver’s guide can make the sums add up. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading How Not to be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Lives by Jordan Ellenberg Everyday Maths for Grownups: Getting to Grips with the Basics by Kjartan Poskitt
Can’t wait for it to get to that level of cold when this book will act as a comfort blanket all of its own. Another in Nigel Slater’s exceptional Diary formats it is a paen of praise to winter and its high festivals of Christmas and New Year, a cookery book yes but so much more, there is the garden, family stories, legends and the comfort of home. I love Autumn best and with my love for winter running out in late January this will be a valuable aid in extracting every last drop of winter loveliness there is to keep us going till those gorgeous first days of Spring. Heavens, you can almost smell the Christmas cake cooking as you read. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like Reading: A Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons by Melissa Harrison
November 2017 Non-Fiction Book of the Month A powerful – and empowering – manifesto for transforming the world through integration. The central premise of this thought-provoking, forward-thinking work is that “by operating in a more inclusive way towards everyone, we will be able to recognise the talents and potential of everyone.” Drawing on case studies and new research from Oxford University, broadcaster Sarpong analyses six marginalised groups and sets out to show the “social, moral and economic benefits of diversity” to all. The poignant words of murdered MP Jo Cox are quoted, and provide a powerful echo throughout - “We have far more in common than that which divides us” – and Sarpong duly demonstrates how division and lack of inclusivity is detrimental to our entire society. The hard facts are just that (for example, only 2.5% of young people from poor backgrounds make it to a Russell Group University, compared with 8.9% of others. 70% of girls think they’re not “good enough”. Only 46.3% of working-age disabled people are in employment, compared with 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people), but this impassioned call to arms exudes hope and positivity - solutions are suggested. The author’s lucid style, and referencing of both academic research and personal experience is thoroughly engaging, and the suggested action points and discussion ideas provide food for thought for all ages. Indeed, this fresh and timely call-to-action comes heartily recommended for young adults and their teachers, as well as a general readership. ~ Joanne Owen
Phil Vickery has written some seriously good gluten-free cookbooks and now turns to another restricted diet – for diabetics. Given his recipes – you wouldn’t really notice it was a diet – there are cakes and there are desserts so it’s not all hair shirt for the diabetic sufferer. Together with the recipes there are suggested menu plans and full nutritional guidance with advice on weight loss and keeping healthy. There are surprisingly few stand-out cookbooks for diabetics, I think this will become the one to get. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like ReadingThe Everyday Diabetic Cookbook, Stella Bowling £10.99 Paperback 224 pages Grub Street 1st September 1995 9781898697251Diabetic Weight Loss Plan, Antony Worrall Thompson, £14.99 Paperback 144 pages Kyle Cathie 1st January 2008 9781856266444
Exploring black music and social movements from Motown, soul and the civil rights movement, through the Black Panther Movement, Jimi Hendrix and Black Woodstock, this trilogy is a triumphant mix of meticulous research and an author’s palpable passion for his subject. Set against the tinderbox backdrop of the Vietnam War and widespread civil unrest, the trilogy begins in Detroit, 1967, and tells the twelve-month story of a city on the edge, with one of the world’s most famous record labels – Detroit-based Motown – at a pivotal point in its history, while riots in the city prove pivotal to the wider country. Taken as a whole, this smart sequence provides a multi-angled view of the time, and it’s clear how social deprivation and a spirit of resistance led to both political action and revolutions of a musical kind. In-depth, enlightening, entertaining and affecting, these forensically evocative books will make you want to delve deeper into the work of the seminal musicians who wrote the soundtrack to this seminal period of American history.
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!