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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.
If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, a comedy club or a radio over the last 30 years you will know of David Baddiel, comedian, columnist, novelist and – lest we forget – co-writer of the “Three Lions on a Shirt” football anthem. He is a man with hinterland, who says what he thinks and really thinks about what he says. Never was this truer than with his powerful and important “Jews Don’t Count”, by which Baddiel means “as a real minority” and he brings an abundance of examples and observations to his argument. In this short and searingly heartfelt polemic, Baddiel unpicks the original racism - anti-Semitism - and analyses why, and how, Jews are still cast in the dual roles as thieving and deceitful and at the same time powerful, rich and ultimately privileged. Seasoned with humour and leavened with Baddiel’s very personal perspective and style, his argument is made all the more persuasive with straightforward prose that makes this as eminently readable as it is hugely important. At heart he asks the question “Do you think of Jews as part of the BAME community?” By the time you’ve finished reading this, Baddiel will have convinced you that you should. The LoveReading LitFest invited David Baddiel to the festival to talk about Jews Don't Count. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see David in conversation with Julia Wheeler and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
An interesting and thought-provoking step into a world most of us won’t have an understanding of. Michael Emmett grew up with a career criminal for a father and joined the family business of organised crime. With links to the Kray Twins, drugs, sex, and violence he lived the high life before being sentenced to 12 years in prison after a huge drugs smuggling conviction. In prison he joined an Alpha Prayer Group, and after leaving began to turn his life around, he is now committed to helping prisoners and ex-offenders. Together with journalist Harriet Compston, he has written the story of his life of crime and consequently finding Christian faith. I think that it is important to try to reach for an understanding of the difficulties faced by children and young adults when immersed in crime from the moment they are born. This is a story that is simply told with verve and colour, though the violence and criminality sits uneasily alongside the glitz and glamour. The author uses the word ‘naughty’ to describe his criminality on several occasions, as though he is talking to the child that was. Sins of Fathers is a fascinating, eye-opening and convincing memoir from a man who is still dealing with his past.
Click to read our Q&A with Mark Adlington A book to fall totally and irretrievably in love with, Lion is full of the most gorgeous paintings, drawings, and sketches, and is absolutely stunning. The lion, an apex predator, is surely one of the most beautiful sights you can see. When I was 19 I found myself in Kenya, eyes wide, mouth open as I watched a lioness and three cubs at a water hole. It is something that is as clear to me now as it was then, so, when I saw this book was going to be published, I was first in the LoveReading queue. Here we journey together with Mark Adlington as he studies lions in East and Southern Africa. The foreword by the winner of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa and Co-Founder and Director of Operations at the Big Life Foundation, Richard Bonham, is effusive in its praise of Mark Adlington. It comes with a warning, that lions do not make good neighbours, and “where humans and wildlife compete, wildlife will surely lose”. However all is not: “doom and gloom… in the Amboseli ecosystem, by 2003 there were only 25 lions left… today, things have changed and the population has clawed itself back to over 200”. Mark has painted the progeny of the lions this programme has saved, and they appear in this dazzlingly impressive book. Mark describes meeting Richard and his wife Tara as a miracle: “I found myself invited to stay ‘in the most beautiful part of Kenya’ by a total stranger on the strength of a little sketch of a lion cub posted on instagram”. Mark also allows us access to his sketchbook musings (oh, the tortoise!), and finishes by saying that a world without the lion is unimaginable. What then follows is page after page of the most beautiful artwork, and this is where my mouth dropped open. Each piece is so full of character and movement, so vibrantly alive, that it brought tears to my eyes. The art is allowed to shine, no page numbers or captions to distract, you can simply sink into the beauty of the lion. So, Lion is a book to take pride of place on your bookshelves, a book to return to and open with wonder, to sit with eyes wide and heart open, to adore. Undoubtedly one of my personal books of the year, Lion just had to join our LoveReading Star Books and is of course one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Take one articulate, impassioned environmental journalist with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, add honesty, humour, and some fascinating travels stories and you have an inspirational book in your hands. Jeremy Hance is an award-winning journalist with a job that means he has to travel to some of the most remote countries in the world. Each time he begins a journey he is joined by OCD (Jeremy has named Steve), and depression (Malachi) which makes for an interesting trip. We first join Jeremy in 2017 en route to Jakarta as he struggles to cope with the journey, we then travel back to 2006 when his love for travel and the environment really began. His honesty is refreshing and uplifting, I smiled, laughed, and winced on occasion as I travelled to some truly wonderful places. And then he invited me to feel his sorrow at the loss of nature across this world that we are a part of: “There are things in the world we’ve take advantage of for our ten thousands years of civilisation: a stable climate, a rich biodiverse white of wildlife, healthy oceans, and a deep connection to other forms of life. We’re risking all of these now.” He also sees the good, the possibilities: “… in reality, we’re all just human. And every day we can choose kindness or cruelty. We can choose to be brave or ambivalent”. And then he introduces hope: “Leave nature alone and it will flourish. Help it along a little, and it will come back all the faster and richer. Life is tenacious. Life will find a way, but we first have to leave it a path.” And so I travelled the world with Jeremy as he faced his fear every single day, and I found it inspiring, and fascinating in equal measure. Baggage: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Hypochondriac is a wonderfully readable, engaging, and rewarding read, that I have chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month.
A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making-from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency-a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil. Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation's highest office. Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune's Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden. A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective-the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of 'hope and change,' and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible. This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama's conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
A nature diary by award-winning novelist, nature writer and hit podcaster Melissa Harrison, following her journey from urban south London to the rural Suffolk countryside.
Detailed, interesting, and offering a personal insight into The Five Eyes intelligence community from the only man to have worked for both US and UK intelligence organisations while a citizen of each country. The Five Eyes alliance, comprising of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, formed after the Second World War. Anthony R Wells believes that the intelligence institutions covered in this book have saved the free world. He says: “This book does not profess at all to be all-seeing and all-knowing”, he hopes that readers can: “make their own observations, draw their own conclusions, and come away with informed, educated, and non-biased and most certainly non-politicised views on intelligence in the modern era”. We read about the author’s experiences in chronological order over 50 years, covering a variety of threats, new opportunities, and technological advancements. It is quite clear that there is still much that we, the public, don’t know and shouldn’t know. Having said that, Between Five Eyes is an absolutely fascinating read for anyone interested in the intelligence community and wider world.
An interesting, perhaps surprising look into the world of counselling. When Therapy Goes Wrong uses the author’s own experience of therapy, the good and the bad, as a foundation to educate and warn others “ to be aware of the potential consequences of therapeutic negligence and the dangers of abusing a position of power, especially when you work with vulnerable people.” It is acknowledged that this warning is not needed for the majority of those who work within therapy as a profession, but the author goes on to illustrate the lack of regulation within this sector and the potential for vulnerability when looking for a counsellor or therapist and trying to validate their reputation, accreditations or qualifications. This is a very interesting insight into the world on counselling. Written from the perspective of a client and a training counsellor, the author is frank about the problems she’s seen with the system and the regulation bodies that do exist, as well as taking a look at the response to women within healthcare. Throughout the book there are black and white illustrations from the author, created as an additional form of expression which I liked, and there are references at the end for articles mentioned in the book.
A wonderful game for all the family, this really would make the most beautiful gift to celebrate the wonder of nature. Based on the best-selling book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris this is a game for two to four players from the age of 8 and up. The Lost Words was one of our Books of the Year in 2017, and the more recent The Lost Spells is another LoveReading Star Book, these are books to celebrate and treasure. The card game has been created in conjunction with the authors, and is firmly embedded within the ideology found in the books. The cards are large (tarot size), feel luxurious to touch, and the pack contains the beautiful artwork of Jackie Morris (Nature Cards), spells of Robert Macfarlane (Spell Cards), and Special Cards which instruct an action, such as fishing for a Spell Card or sealing and protecting a completed pair. The aim of the game is to be the first player to place a matching Spell Card, on to all of your displayed Nature Cards. I would suggest you thoroughly read the instructions before starting, and perhaps form a few rules of your own, such as when you match a Spell and Nature Card, you read or chant or sing the spell! The game takes roughly 30 minutes, I was thoroughly beaten when playing for the first time. I would say there is a small amount of skill involved, but it is mostly down to the luck of the draw, which means all of the family can play together. The Lost Words Card Game would make the perfect stocking filler for Christmas, and comes with a celebratory thumbs up from me.
Moving, honest and inspiring – this is a nurse’s story of life in a busy A&E department during the Covid-19 crisis. Working in A&E is a challenging job but nurse Louise Curtis loves it. She was newly qualified as an advanced clinical practitioner, responsible for life or death decisions about the patients she saw, when the unthinkable happened and the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The stress on the NHS was huge and for the first time in her life, the job was going to take a toll on Louise herself. In A Nurse’s Story she describes what happened next, as the trickle of Covid patients became a flood. And just as tragically, staff in A&E were faced with the effects of lockdown on society. They worried about their regulars, now missing, and saw an increase in domestic abuse victims and suicide attempts as loneliness hit people hard. By turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, this book shines a light on the compassion and dedication of hospital staff during such dark times.
See the world. Then make it better. I am 93. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world - but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day - the loss of our planet's wild places, its biodiversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet contains my witness statement, and my vision for the future - the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have the opportunity to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited.
This memoir from a forensic scientist and cold case reviewer makes for absolutely fascinating, and rather chilling reading. Jim Fraser has had a 40 year career which has included the cases of Rachel Nickell and Damilola Taylor. Here he looks at the murder investigations which have been difficult to solve, and cases that remain controversial or unsolved. Bringing his knowledge and personal experience into play helps build a framework of awareness of the challenges faced by investigators. I could tell in the author’s note before I started reading that it is really important to the author that this memoir is not seen as gratuitous (though it is graphic). He is clear that the book “melds recollection with reflection… supplemented with research”. As someone who worked as a member of police staff for twenty years, I found parts made for uncomfortable reading. Jim Fraser is at times damning, highlighting the downfalls of the system. It is quite obvious that with financial restraints, different systems, and human foibles, mistakes will be made, and when a life is at stake it is hard to swallow. Murder Under the Microscope offers a compelling window into a world that most know little about.
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!