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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.
As well as perfecting your stiff upper lip, the thoroughly English person might also want to get a bit out of their comfort zone in achieving their 102 English Things to Do. How about (after having a nice tea) a spot of rioting or, braving the weather, (cue the Shipping Forecast) try bottle-kicking or cheese-rolling. There are, I hasten to add, some far gentler things to try, apologising and saying please and thankyou a lot doesn’t take much effort and we can all fail to learn another language and eat fish and chips very easily. However, punting or climbing Scafell Pike are, at my age, a bit unlikely so I shall content myself with savouring an English apple but I absolutely refusing to do the very last challenge, boiling vegetables for as long as it takes to lose flavour, texture and colour – I mean to say - that’s just going too far. Like for Like Reading Watching the English: The Hidden Roles of English Behaviour, Kate Fox How to be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and Advanced Pupils, George Mikes
Delve into the world of Pointless, the huge ratings-winning hit BBC One quiz show, with this brilliant bumper book of over 120 new quiz questions, facts, banter and musings. Written with Alexander and Richard's trademark intelligent wit and beautifully illustrated with exclusive drawings by Moose Allain, this exciting new Pointless book is the perfect festive treat for the whole family!
From the top BBC comedy show Pointless here are the 100 absolutely most pointless arguments to rot your brain. Quickly brushing aside the Why are we here question and that old favourite, Does God exist - yes or no -they get to the hardcore stuff and the debate over ballet or darts which is the more pointless and what element of a cooked breakfast could you leave out. Like for Like Reading What’s It All About: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, Julian Baggini Winnie-the-Pooh’s Little Book of Wisdom, A.A. Milne
From the top BBC comedy show Pointless here are the 100 absolutely most pointless arguments to rot your brain. Quickly brushing aside the Why are we here question and that old favourite, Does God exist - yes or no -they get to the hardcore stuff and the debate over ballet or darts which is the more pointless and what element of a cooked breakfast could you leave out. Pointless to continue, pointless to point out that this is ideal Christmas gift potential too! Like for Like Reading What’s It All About: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life, Julian Baggini Winnie-the-Pooh’s Little Book of Wisdom, A.A. Milne
May 2016 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A detective story, investigating the life of the person whose diaries – 148 of them at least – turned up in a skip in 2001. Who was this person, this I who had written every day for nearly 50 years? Alexander Masters determines to search out this “Life Discarded” making for a lively, poignant and most unusual biography of a person we don't immediately know the name of, don't know their sex or age even if they're dead or alive. Our vision of the diarist changes as Alexander Masters truffles out more facts, the perspective constantly shifting turning me into a compulsive reader longing to know the writer's identity. Never fear, all is revealed and I won't spoil it here except to say I doubt if there will be another biography quite like this one along for a long time, an extraordinary story of one of the most compulsive diarists of recent times. Like for Like Reading. The Boy in the Book: One Man's Adventure in Search of a Lost Childhood by Nathan Penlington. The Diaries of Nella Last: Writings in War and Peace Edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson
A 2011 World Book Night selection. Read the endorsements on the cover and believe them, this is truly a tragic and unique biography. I love the style, right from the start you are caught up in this strange story and then I love the story itself. Although love is perhaps not the most appropriate word, for this is a tale of violence, crime, prison and alcohol as Alexander transcribes Stuart’s life – backwards. Funny, immensely sad and at times startling, it reads like fiction. Winner of the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award (won by Hilary Spurling’s brilliant Matisse), I urge you to try it. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... This extraordinary book – winner of the Guardian First Book Award and adapted into a BBC film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy – is a glimpse of the underbelly of English society, a world largely hidden from our lives. It is the story of a remarkable friendship between a reclusive writer and illustrator (‘a middle class scum ponce, if you want to be honest about it, Alexander’) and a chaotic, knife-wielding beggar. Told backwards, it shows how Stuart changed from a happy-go-lucky little boy into a thief, addict, alcoholic and sociopath street raconteur. Funny, despairing, uplifting, brilliantly-written, it is one of the most original biographies of recent years. Our Editorial Guru, Sarah Broadhurst, has suggested others book and authors that would be perfect for you to read next or to pass on the recommendation - so your gift will keep on giving enjoyment. Her selection for this title is: Lorna Sage(Bad Blood).
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award 2010. A rich and interesting look at the Romantic Revolution of the 1930’s and 40’s in England covering artists, writers, architects, gardeners, designers – a whole host of artistic talent.
Shortlisted for the The Bookseller Book of the Year 2015. Bake a cake in a mug; take part in a people-watching challenge; create a time capsule; diarise a week of your life and learn to make origami. Fully illustrated and packed with a host of games, activities and pranks, Alfie invites you to join his online following as he challenges you to complete your journal of pointlessness and do virtually nothing with pride.
What's the best way to sort your laundry? Why is Facebook so good at predicting what you like? How do you find new music? Readers around the world have embraced Ali Almossawi's whimsical illustrations and his funny, clarifying explanations of complex subjects. In Bad Choices Almossawi demystifies a new topic of increasing relevance to our lives: algorithms. This is a book for anyone who's looked at a given task and wondered if there was a better, faster way to get it done. What's the best way to organize a grocery list? What's the secret to being more productive at work? How can we better express ourselves in 140-characters? Presenting us with alternative methods for tackling each scenario, Almossawi guides us to better choices that borrow from same systems that underline a computer word processor, a Google search engine, or a Facebook ad. Once you recognise what makes a method faster and more efficient, you'll become a more nimble, creative problem-solver, ready to face new challenges.
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.
If you’ve ever kept a few chickens then you’ll know where Alice Walker is coming from. How different they all are - from the bubbling extrovert happy to sit on your shoulder to the lowering introvert, the bully, the hapless drudge - but whatever their personality, they present you with eggs, manure for the garden and as well as eating your favourite plants they do at least hoover up the insect pests. In short, chickens are a blessing, a joy to know and through their lives we can meditate on our human existence, their basic needs for food and shelter offsetting human complications and watching them brings relaxation, balm for the soul. They also bring back memories and it was the memories of a happy childhood in which chickens were a large part that spurred Alice Walker to keep them once again later in life. Her memories are mixed with reflections, enjoying the contentment that happy chickens can bring, how caring for them appeals to our nurturing natures and how grateful we must be for the gifts they bring. Like for Like Reading:Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance, Martin GurdonChicken and Egg: How I Came to Love My Backyard Chickens – with 120 recipes, Janice Cole
September 2015 Book of the Month. A wonderfully eloquent, heartfelt and touching recollection of the author’s relationship with her brother, after he has been told he has inoperable cancer and a short time left to live. Alison Clink not only details the last months of her brother’s life, she also remembers their history together, it’s as though she has opened up a time capsule of memories to share and pay tribute to him. Thoughts and feelings are described so clearly, you feel you are witnessing them first hand; how the brain can exist in a foggy cloud of disbelief, fear and inadequacy at the onset of a terminal illness of a loved one. The honesty is striking, both in terms of emotions revealed and the empathy or lack of, from the people in the caring and medical profession. This book isn't just about heartache and suffering, it is very much a book about friendship and love and deserves to be highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson A message from the Author... I am a writer, so after family and friends, writing is the most important thing in my life. In the summer of 2007 I realised I was in an extraordinary place in my life when my brother rang to tell me he’d been diagnosed with cancer. I decided to document what was happening to me – and to him – and began writing a diary when I was on the train coming back from London to the West Country after first visiting him in St.Georges Hospital in Tooting. My son had given me a leather bound notebook for my birthday and I happened to have it in my handbag. So I just started writing down what I’d done that day and my thoughts surrounding the events connected to my brother’s illness. Adrian was dying and I was his next of kin. As the weeks passed, I did everything I could to help him. He was an inspiring person and I loved him. But his life had gone downhill and he needed me. Despite the differences in our lifestyles – me a country wife with four children and a pet dog, - Adrian a confirmed bachelor and city dweller with no dependants – we came together for the last weeks of his life. I didn’t always make good decisions when trying to help him, but I did my best. At times he wasn’t the easiest person to deal with but I could understand why. Writing about something traumatic in one’s life is a good way to deal with what’s going on. Not only did I write my way through those sometimes dark and difficult days but I also managed to make sense of what had happened when I looked back on my journals in the years that followed. They say writing is cathartic, which is a cliché but true, but what I did also gave me a sense of detail that I’d never have retained had I not kept my notebook – which actually turned into five notebooks as I scribbled my way through that strange summer of 2007. Later I added sections about our early lives together as children. I enjoyed revisiting memories of growing up together in south London in the fifties and sixties and lots of those memories defined the relationship Adrian and I as siblings had always enjoyed. ~ Alison Click
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!