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.
Has appeal as a rags to riches story but also will act as an inspiration for anyone dreaming of starting their own business. Showing that you don't need qualifications and good school results to get ahead Jo Malone has a passion for business and for encouraging others to reach their potential. Her own poignant story frames her business life - facing cancer and the loss of her business she came through and is now back with her new fragrance house Jo Loves– you can smell one of her first successes, Pomelo, due to the perfumed page tipped in at the front of the book. ~ Sue Baker
I think all of us at some time in our lives when we reach a certain age worry a little about cancer. I think the thought, “how will I react” crosses our minds occasionally. That this brave lady chooses to make her ordeal so public, she produced video diaries and tweets and now her written diary, has helped thousands. At the end of the book she encloses some messages of thanks, a few from those who didn’t make it. It is tear-jerking but it is also laced with humour. Throughout, whenever possible, she kept working, collecting the kids from school and running her hectic household with the enormous support of her wonderful partner. During the end stages of thirty sessions of chemo, she had to drive forty-odd miles round trip between work and school collection for a ten minute appointment her local hospital couldn’t do. Well she was certainly a fighter, although that is not what she calls herself. She believed talking about it really helped alleviate the fear and despair. She was diagnosed shortly after she started hosting a daily news and current affairs show for BBC2 and takes us through her fascinating work as well as the 301 days of treatment. A brave lady.
April 2018 Book of the Month A searingly honest memoir of the uplifting highs and crushing lows of a life spent policing on the front line. A Sunday Times top-five bestseller 'This is a remarkable book . . . profound and deeply moving . . . It has as much to tell us about mental illness as it does about policing' Alastair Stewart A candid, objective, cooly passionate, and often unsettling account of policing from a police officer. John Sutherland joined the Met in 1992 aged 22, we see snapshots of his life as an officer, as he progresses up the career ladder, as he deals with all the horrors and glory a life in blue has to offer. From the very first page my attention was sucked in whole, I come from a family of blue, married blue, and spent 20 years as a member of police support staff. Even then, I was on the edge of understanding, I didn't ever have to run towards danger, tell someone a loved one had died, sit with death, experience the bitter lows, the jubilant highs of being a police officer, yet John Sutherland takes you there. As we read we step in and out of a series of events that have all added up to create this man, it isn’t a glittery or gory descriptive feast, but it doesn't have to be, he simply and clearly gives you a connection, and an understanding that under that uniform is flesh and blood and feelings. One thing is abundantly clear, this man loves his job, he feels the continued effort is worth it, and yet it very nearly broke him. It is truly captivating, whether you nod, smile wryly, and wish he could have been your boss, or feel the shock and admiration as you learn what our police are exposed to day after day. ‘Blue A Memoir’ is a worthwhile and fascinating read, I really do recommend it with my heart and soul. John has written an epilogue to his story, which has been included in the paperback of ‘Blue A Memoir’. He speaks with his normal good sense, and he has the remarkable ability to put into words the thoughts and feelings so many officers struggle to properly articulate. He speaks from the heart, and his words made me cry. I wish him every success in his future, and whatever path he decides to explore, I’m quite sure to the many who know him, follow him on twitter, and read his blog, he will forever remain a true inspiration. Liz visited the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Fesitval where John Sutherland gave a talk. To read more about the festival, head over to her Blog Post.
April 2018 Book of the Month The nostalgic memoir of a young man, eldest of fourteen, growing up in 40s Wednesbury. The heartbreaking true account of his son struggling to come to terms with his father's dementia. A tribute to the unbreakable bond between father and son. 'At once a touching tribute to a beloved music-loving dad with Alzheimer’s and a poignant portrait of the love between a father and son, this written-from-the-heart memoir will warm the soul, and undoubtedly further the author’s magnificent endeavour to raise awareness of this devastating disease. Simon McDermott’s cherished dad, Ted, was born in the Black Country in 1936 and always loved singing. In his early twenties, following National Service, Ted seized an opportunity to air his voice publicly by becoming an announcer for Walsall Football Club, which provided him with plenty of opportunities to entertain the crowd, while coming up with ideas to draw more women to matches. Also enjoying stints as a Butlin’s redcoat and singing in clubs up and down the country, Ted never lost his love of music - not after settling down and working in a factory, and not after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. In fact, as Simon discovered during drives to calm his dad’s angry outbursts, singing has the power to bring back the old Ted. And so Simon posted a clip of his dad, the clip went viral and now, one single and full-length album later, Simon and Ted have raised over £150,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society. Peppered with moving and amusing family anecdotes from all stages of Ted’s life, and suffused in love and light through even the most harrowing moments, this heart-wrenchingly honest memoir is powerfully compelling, and should offer succour to others in similar situations.'
A remarkable narrative set against the dark days of World War Two, from one of the country's foremost social historians. Our Uninvited Guests perfectly captures the spirit of upheaval at the beginning of the Second World War when thousands of houses were requisitioned by the government to provide accommodation for the armed forces, secret services and government offices as well as vulnerable children, the sick and the elderly, all of whom needed to be housed safely beyond the reach of Hitler's Luftwaffe. Julie Summers gives the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in some of Britain's greatest country houses that were occupied by people who would otherwise never have set foot in such opulent surroundings.
Will Ryan’s fable is a clever and humorous work of fiction interweaved with real world stories of outstanding classroom practice in the current challenging educational landscape. His sharp-witted creation of his fictional primary school Headteacher Brian Smith is one that will surely engage and inspire any new, aspiring or established school leader. Although it’s an educational leadership textbook that will serve to help transform schools in this challenging educational climate, this is a work of fiction. It’s about being brave, challenging the status quo and about inspiring teachers to “dare to be different” and supporting them in these endeavours with a road map for successful school leadership with practical solutions. You relate to the fearlessness of the protagonist, you support his questions, you challenge your own beliefs and want to embark upon your own journey of transformational change. This is a must-read for any school leader. I was underlining passages, writing notes and scribbling down the hints and tips as I enjoyed Brian’s inspirational tale. ~ Deborah Dumville
Each of these impressive women, including actress Romola Garai and comedian Francesca Martinez, has a tale to tell and an experience to share. Empowering, engaging and unapologetically impassioned, their incisive observations will make you think, reflect - and kick serious ass. These are life lessons for women, by women.
March 2018 Book of the Month A slightly different offering than usual from Cathy Glass, yet still as emotional and powerful as you’d expect. The story begins in another country, Elaine and Ian have travelled there from the UK and are waiting to adopt their daughter. Cathy fully explains the reasons and thought processes behind the adoption and we get to know little Anna, to see how she spent the first few years of her life. Cathy allows you to connect to Elaine and Ian, to see life from their perspective. This part of the tale is so necessary, as to immediately start with Cathy’s involvement when Anna is older, would leave a gaping black hole in proceedings. As always, Cathy inspires awe, her ability to judge what is needed, yet not judge others, to give a child what they need, and not necessarily want really comes across. The story is so simply yet eloquently told, and Cathy’s years of fostering experience shine a beam of light across the pages. ‘A Long Way From Home’ is a touching, poignant tale, and the bleak beginning just begs for an encouraging and hopeful end.
Ordinary women doing the extraordinary. This book is testament to following your dreams and that you can do anything you put your mind too if you work hard enough. Four middle aged friends who met at a local Saturday morning rowing club decide to take on The Talisker Whiskey Challenge – also known as ‘The World's Toughest Row’ - across 3,000 miles of treacherous ocean. All four are mothers, wives and professional women but athletes? No, not athletes, yet they had a dream to follow and follow it they did. This is a story of determination, of pushing past the overwhelming feeling of failing, letting everyone down and of course of silencing the doubters, the people who say ‘You can’t do this’. This is an incredible story about an amazing experience by four amazing women. There were moments that sent shivers down my spine as I followed their journey from the very beginning when even getting to the start line was a massive undertaking. The story is told by all four women, all four friends and it feels like that too. Their warmth and love for each other shines through as they share ever moment, every fear, every failure and ultimately their success. By the end I felt so proud of the achievement and so emotionally engaged with these four ordinary mums who just happened to row an ocean.
Shortlisted for The People's Book Prize| February 2018 Book of the Month. A perfectly formed absolute treat of a book, containing 300 aphorisms by Robert Eddison, journalist, playwright, public speaker, and aphorist. The foreword by Gyles Brandreth salutes the skill of Eddison. These pithy, witty, thoughtful one-liners at times burst onto my consciousness, while others made me think, ponder, consider. Two favourites of mine are “Deep thoughts take time to surface”, and “Throwaway remarks are not always caught”. This little book would make the perfect gift for anyone with an appreciation for words, written or spoken. It can be picked up and dipped into, become a topic of conversation, revisited and evaluated. Wisdom and Wordplay contains some wonderful one-liners, they tease, fence, pierce, creating a fabulous addition to any bookshelf. ~ Liz Robinson
An essential collection of the astute and powerful non-fiction writing of the great Ursula K. Le Guin.
I wrote this book with a little help from a monk, who explains how the mind works, and also gives some mindfulness exercises, and a neuroscientist who explains what makes us 'us' in the brain. We answer every question you've ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, kids, the future and compassion. How to be Human is extremely funny, true and the only manual you'll need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you've upgraded your iPhone.
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!