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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.
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.
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.
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.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it!
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.
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
This lucid, rigorous, readable analysis of the employment experiences of 175 individuals who work in prestigious professions (such as TV, architecture and acting) reveals beyond doubt that Britain is far from a meritocracy. Rather, it still pays to be born privileged, and the working class still face multiple barriers that make it more difficult to get into such professions, and make it more difficult to get on if you’re in the minority who are appointed (the 16% pay gap revealed here is shocking and unacceptable). The research demonstrates that the reproduction of privilege remains a powerful factor: “about half the people in top jobs had parents who did similarly high-status work, while less than 20% come from working-class backgrounds”. One of the resounding themes emerging from the authors’ findings is the sense of entitlement felt by those born into privilege, and with that comes unflappable confidence and connections that see them progress much faster and further than their working class peers. The doors are already open. The Bank of Mum and Dad means they can take unpaid internships or, for example, live comfortably as an out-of-work-actor while their living expenses are covered. And then there are the introductions that lead to ways-in that are simply not accessible to the working class, and the unspoken codes about how to dress and how to speak that leave many working class employees out in the cold, still viewed as not one of “us”, not quite the part, unpolished, even. Many of the interviews make for deeply uncomfortable reading. Despite mentioning their paid-for flats, subsidised living expenses and vital introductions that lead to coveted jobs, the privileged interviewees don’t even see themselves as having any advantage. These are assumed to be the norm, which reveals the deep-rooted persistence of a class chasm in contemporary Britain, and an alarming ignorance that exacerbates divisions. With one exception, the interviewees believe their success is entirely down to merit, whereas in reality the old boys’ network is as strong as it ever was. With those in power still largely from privileged backgrounds, and the status quo very much not working, the authors’ ten suggestions for smashing this ceiling should be heeded by politicians and policy-makers, from publishing social mobility data, to banning unpaid, unadvertised internships that give the already privileged further advantage, while the less well-off don’t get a look in. Exposing the fallacy of meritocracy, this enlightening and powerfully engaging study should be essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of Britain in these turbulent times.
A waste-free lifestyle is actually achievable--for everyone, every budget and every schedule. Not ready to dive straight into composting, or to go totally plastic-free yet? Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step, day-by-day guide to simple, progressive lifestyle changes that will have a big effect on what you throw out, and on the health of our planet. With tips, tricks, recipes, motivation and inspiration, Erin Rhoads, well-known author of Waste Not and passionate waste advocate, takes you on a gentle journey towards zero waste, day by day. Split into four easy-to-follow parts, Waste Not Everyday features 365 achievable daily changes that will lead to a genuine shift in thinking and action, motivational reminders to help you keep sight of the bigger picture, as well as daily, weekly and monthly mini-challenges to help you progress.
This book is an invitation to come home to your authentic self in a world that is frequently mesmerized by spin, narcissism, fantasy, and exhibitionism. Psychology and classic wisdom literature have, in various ways, long recognized the value for simply becoming who you are (i.e., ordinariness). However, this call is becoming increasingly drowned out by the many other voices that emphasize publicity and image-making over authenticity and humility. Renowned therapist and author Robert Wicks has written The Tao of Ordinariness as a way of beginning to address these tendencies in contemporary society. In this new countercultural work, the strength and joy of exploring who you are - and proceeding to share yourself with others in a way that they too can reclaim themselves - is revisited from a range of vantage points. The author specifically reexamines themes of humility, simplicity, letting go, self-awareness, alonetime, resilience, and mentoring. In an era when people increasingly measure self-worth by external measures, such as the number of likes and views and followers on social media feeds (which have many individuals chasing impossible fantasies and living with a constant fear of missing out ), Wicks offers a return to your authentic self.
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!