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.
Always compulsive, often jaw-dropping, and written in crisply readable style, Andrew Lownie’s Traitor King begins where most Edward and Wallis Simpson biographies end, for it explores the couple’s controversial lives from the Duke’s Abdication in December 1936. The author has no truck with any notion of the couple’s relationship being a “great love story”. Rather, with clarity and much evidence, the book reveals their controversies and flaws - extra-marital affairs, talk of illegitimate children, foolhardy tours of Germany, meetings with Hitler, manipulation of a murder investigation in the Bahamas. The list goes on. They’re both evidently, incorrigibly obnoxious and self-centred, with the Duke revealed as an arrogant, perilously bumbling figure who never grows up. Crucially, the author convincingly argues that in their relations with Germany, “the Windsors were not foolish and naïve, but actively engaged with the German intrigue”. Throughout readers are presented with astounding details about the couple’s decadent, self-absorbed daily lives - the arrogance of never paying bills, never tipping, and never thanking staff. Their lavish food and decor, the bespoke livery of their servants, their staged social gatherings - “with little else to occupy them, the devil was in the detail.” While the couple desired a permanent return to Britain, the Duke is horrified at the thought of ever having to pay tax, and interferes in politics, making an astonishingly ill-timed broadcast to America, and exchanging telegrams with Hitler as the world teeters on the brink of war. Though given a war-time liaison role, the Duke was considered a “serious security leak”, with Churchill believing his free movement on the continent to be a “real danger”. As a result, the Duke was offered as job as Governor of the Bahamas, which was “regarded as a hardship posting” and “so low in the pecking order that the appointment did not even carry a knighthood”. Their arrogance persists on arrival, as does their interference in the war. They insist renovations be made to the newly-renovated Government House in Nassau. They fly in hairdressers, send clothes to be dry-cleaned in New York. Wallis does, however, engage in public life as President of the Red Cross, and roll up her sleeves to serve bacon and eggs in a canteen for airmen. Such details abound in every paragraph. Controversy continues to engulf the couple throughout their lives, as this relentlessly gripping biography reveals with incisive gusto. Traitor King is an un-put-down-able must-read for anyone interested in the British monarchy and social history.
A stunningly provocative and thought-provoking book viewing England from a different perspective, one where: “magic and rebellion and destruction are the horses to which the country is hitched. On these fabled shores we are all castaways, whether our family has lived here for four thousand years or four”. Stephen Ellcock’s books are particular favourites of mine, I regularly dip into All Good Things, and The Book of Change. Here he has joined forces with Mat Osman, whose short texts sit as an introduction to each chapter where the images chosen are allowed to sing. I love Mat’s introduction! He perfectly describes Stephen’s talent for choosing images and picking up on the thoughts and feelings of the moment. He also brings England to life: “Like a teenager sulking in their room, England is in one of its periodic spasms of insularity - but no matter, we’ve been here before”. Look deeper, explore roots that are bound to the ancient and to wilderness, join protests and anti-fascist marches, adore our absurdity while remaining aware of our capacity for division and discord. While our dark times are explored, hope springs in the form of a new breed of artists, the images chosen here matter, they speak of and to our deepest emotions. This book has helped me to feel connected again with the country in which I live, my eyes opened in a new awareness. A LoveReading Star book, England on Fire is truly beautiful, it’s astute, inclusive, and absolutely magical.
Freshly updated from its original 2002 edition, Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald Strober’s Queen Elizabeth II: An Oral History presents uniquely fascinating insights into a unique figure across a lifetime of experiences. Being a compendium of intimate, eyewitness accounts told by those who were there, the book has a compelling personal quality, with a smoothly readable style coming courtesy of it being an oral history. With a global outlook and broad range of perspectives (the book gives voice to staff, family, friends and famous public figures), we enter the House of Windsor at the point of the sudden death of Princess Elizabeth’s father. Newly married, we read detailed accounts of the new Queen’s coronation and her consort, with “was the Duke of Edinburgh frustrated in his new role?” among the questions asked and answered by a range of sources. Later chapters cover broader personal and social questions – who is the Queen? What does the monarchy mean? The Queen and the institution of the Monarchy – with sections also devoted to the Queen’s relationships with Prime Ministers, her role as Defender of the Faith, life at court, the Commonwealth, and the lives and marriages of her children. Unquestionably a must-read for those who follow the royal family, Queen Elizabeth II: An Oral History is also a fascinating read for anyone interested in British social history.
Beautifully presented, Eleanor Ford's The Nutmeg Trail blends delicious recipes with fascinating spice-trading history and travel writing flair to concoct a book that’s informative, inspirational and bursting with wonderful ways to spice-up your menu. “Using recipes as our maps, we are embarking on a culinary journey that weaves through history and halfway around the world, following the ancient maritime trade known as the spice routes”. The journey begins with an introductory A-Z spice library that’s invaluable, as are the flavour profiles detailing which spices are sweet and warming (like nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and allspice), and which are hot, earthy, medicinal, fragrant and floral, and sour. And so the scene is set for a glorious gastronomic trip. Each spread is a colourful delight, from the map displaying the origins of spices, to the elegant food photography. The chapters and recipes are organised by spice as the book follows the ancient spice route to present recipes from Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, and the Emirates. Ginger, for example, with its “rasping heat and woody notes” is represented by the likes of tangy Burmese ginger salad, salted chicken, and aphrodisiac greens, while black pepper (once known as “black gold”) features in recipes for Balinese green bean wraps, hot and tingly hand-pulled noodles, and sticky-sweet pepper pork. Meanwhile, chili adds fire to explosive gunpowder okra, Malaysian devil’s curry, and Kashmiri vindaloo. And, when you’re in the mood for something earthier (think cumin and turmeric), take your pick from curried udon noodles, or Indonesian spiced beef martabak. With eighty recipes, all of them easy to follow and eminently achievable, and tonnes of tips on how to layer flavours, The Nutmeg Trail is a spicy slam-dunk of a book.
I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Valarie Kaur before reading her memoir, See No Stranger. She’s led a fascinating life: from a childhood in California and university education at Stamford, to becoming a legal observer at Guantanamo Bay and documentary-maker on gun violence and racial injustice. Kaur is now a renowned activist championing compassion. Her rallying cry in See No Stranger is for us to embrace ‘revolutionary love’ – a philosophy to show love to everyone, even our enemies. Kaur’s own troubling experiences make her pledge to end animosity all the more applaudable, and she provides steps on how we can reach that stage. Readers who enjoy memoir mixed with self-help and spirituality will find Kaur’s kind words a balm for these divisive times.
What a fascinating, thought-provoking, and fabulous book this is! I am a bit of a comic fan, have been since I was a child, and yet I’d never, not once, considered just how many of the characters found in comics and graphic novels were orphaned or abandoned children. Just think about some of the iconic superheroes, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Wolverine, and there are many more who are also orphaned, adopted, and fostered. The Foundling Museum and Unicorn Publishing explore the last 125 years of comics and graphic novels, travelling to nine different countries and three continents in order to encourage: "a new way to experience comics”. In her foreword, Caro Howell the Foundling Museum Director mentions Lemn Sissay’s poem, Superman was a Foundling, which sits as a mural in the museum, and says it: “presents an implicit challenge to the viewer: Why, when looked-after children have such a powerful presence in culture, are they so marginalised in real life?” she hopes to: “raise awareness of the immense resilience needed to overcome separation, loss, stigma and society’s indifference, and to build a sense of self and self-worth”. Brilliant, vividly vibrant artwork appears, along with the thoughts and perspectives from different contributors who have been in care. I found my thoughts exploring new paths, and I want to stand up and applaud this book. Superheroes, Orphans and Origins is an eye-opening exploration that I can highly recommend, and it’s been chosen to sit as a LoveReading Star Book.
Out of Isolation: A Charity Anthology is a collection of poems, essays, diaries and personal reflections from well-known writers, all written during the Covid-19 pandemic. This book provided me with much-needed distraction over a weekend, away from the rest of the world, as I dipped in and out of its written treasures. It took me on a literary journey across time and space. All of the entries were thought-provoking and beautifully written. The most poignant contributions for me included the anonymous contribution by a junior doctor, the diary of a complicated pregnancy, and an amusing poem about being stuck inside during lockdown, when you're naturally an outdoors person (with an outdoors dog) - these are real people leading seemingly ordinary lives struggling to cope with the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic and its impact, particularly on mental health. The anthology is raising money for the charity Shout 8528, which offers free 24/7 mental health text support in the UK.
Goodbye, beige; hello, colour! How refreshing to find a family cookbook that refuses to shy away from bold flavours, fresh twists or a generous helping of food theatre. A collaboration between Nicole Pisani, Head Chef and co-founder of Chefs in Schools, and cookery writer and columnist, Joanna Weinberg, this is a little gem for any family looking to break free from their cooking rut, without breaking the bank in the process. This beautifully curated book is bursting with culturally diverse recipes interspersed with the stories of the school chefs responsible for bringing them to dining halls across the country. For those just starting out on their food journey, classics like fish fingers and bolognese have been given a fragrant face-lift (and an added nutritious punch). For more adventurous children, wholesome dishes like SouSou’s Moroccan Chicken, Samia’s Samosas or a seafood Keralan Curry will all add a little joy to those midweek menus. There’s a fabulous selection of street food perfect for streetwise teenagers and look out for special contributions too from kitchen heroes including Thomasina Miers and Yotam Ottolenghi. The target audience for these delectable recipes may be school-aged children, but that’s no reason to stick to safe, time-tested favourites. Feed Your Family is about celebrating the excitement and drama that food can bring and laying down the foundations for positive relationships between children and the food they eat. It’s an absolute delight.
With years of helping clients strip back learned behaviours and remove blockers to success, Hussey has a brilliant track record in building high performance teams and supporting individuals – and he brings this to the masses in Awaken Your Power. With meditations, exercises and prompts for journaling, this is a usable guide to keep you on track and you’ll find yourself scribbling away as you read to make sure you capture the wise words within and manifest the. This book documents Hussey’s journey from a shy boy with little self-confidence to the man he is today full of belief with a wealth of experience. He shares this journey so that we too can learn from his experiences and to empower us to grow and embark upon our own development journey. It will challenge you. You will resist some of it. Change is not always easy. But immerse yourself in these and be open to possibilities. You won’t regret it, we promise! The LoveReading LitFest invited Greg Hussey to the festival to talk about Awaken Your Power Within. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.
Reading Dark Queens by Shelley Puhak, I found myself astounded that the two women at the centre of the book – Brunhild and Fredegund – are not known far and wide. This isn’t the kind of feminist retelling of well-known stories we rightly lap up today. It’s simply a telling; proof of their existence at all – and I soaked up every detail. Puhak takes us to Merovingian France during the 6th Century. In this most bloody of bloody Middle Ages, the Romans have left a power vacuum, and the Franks are fighting among themselves for the spoils. This is not a world we would assume is for women, who are normally depicted sewing and sitting dutifully beside their husbands. Brunhild and Fredegund are out to stake their claim to power, with brutal consequences. It’s fascinating how these female characters seem as though they were fashioned in our modern-day image – women who wielded real power and shaped the people and land they presided over for decades. It’s thanks to Puhak’s wonderfully detailed storytelling that we are so engaged. I loved the countless other characters, too, whose lives could fill a dozen sequels. Required reading, for lovers of medieval fiction and non-fiction alike.
Many people have an obsession with true crime books and TV shows and it's easy to see why - a natural curiosity about human nature and what could prompt someone to commit heinous crimes, especially murder. I'm the Yorkshire Ripper explores the mindset of Peter Sutcliffe who died in 2020. He murdered 13 women and attempted to murder seven others (maybe more). As with all crime books, this one is filled with plot twists, red herrings, missed clues and cliffhangers, and it's easy to forget that this is fact not fiction and that these are real events, real places and real people. Using Sutcliffe's own words and the words of people around him (including family, friends and police), along with indepth background material, this is an exploration of his life and the murders he committed. For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of the book is how Sutcliffe had no emotional concept of his victims' tragic deaths at his own hands. Fortunately, this book gives his victims a 'voice' (along wth photographs) to ensure they won't be forgotten. A fascinating, compelling read.
Silvia grew up in Peru, suffered sexual abuse between the ages of 6 and 10 by a family friend. This is such a vivid and honest story which must have taken such strength and courage to write. We join Silvia on her journey to the warrior and absolute "badass" she is today, healing her trauma through nature. Climbing over the Hillary Bridge for the first time to Everest in 2005 Silvia felt at home, that she could breathe more easily, and that for the first time in her life, the shadow of the mountain overpowered her shadow of trauma and she realised your trauma isn’t the same as your identity. Silvia set up her non profit Courageous Girls and tells of the incredible experience hiking to Everest base camp with other survivors of sexual violence. It's a physically tough and emotional journey where the team form an incredible bond and you appreciate fully that sisterhood is not just a phrase. She went on to become one of the first women in the world to climb the Seven Summits. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Selena Gomez who calls Silvia "a warrior", you can't help but love everything she has achieved thus far. And you cant wait to see what comes next. I want to press this book into the hands of everyone I know." The LoveReading LitFest invited Silvia to the festival to talk about In The Shadow of the Mountain. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.
A charming, thoughtful, quirky yet stunning little book awaits anyone with a yen for beauty, and in particular those with a love for lego, beach combing, the environment and the impact of humans on our oceans. Beachcomber Tracey Williams has been finding lego washed up on beaches for years, ever since a container of nearly 5 million pieces of lego fell off a cargo ship in 1997. Here she examines the journeys the lego pieces have taken, the history of beach combing, and the environment consequences of plastic in our oceans. Even though I’m well aware of the fabulous books Unicorn publishes, I have to say that I wasn’t quite expecting this treasure to fall into my hands. It is full of colourful images including photos, paintings, and sketches. Personal memories, newspapers cuttings, poems, notes, and interviews populate the pages. While there is much to delight, the consequences of our littering of the oceans is made abundantly clear. The irony of much of the lego pieces belonging to a set about the sea, is not lost. Oceanographer Dr Curtis Ebbesmeyer began following the lego spillage back in 1997, and his section really hits home. He talks about one spillage in the Pacific where items floated around the world and he says of the plastic: “I like to tell people how one green frog washed up in the Gulf of Mexico, having been in the sea for twenty-six years”. He succinctly finishes: “It looks like James Bond had it wrong. It’s not diamonds that are forever. It’s actually plastic”. The story of the lego is a fascinating one, from the beach combing art of the finds, through to highlighting the environmental impact. This book would make a perfect gift for all ages, younger children will be fascinated by the colour as an older reader guides them, lego enthusiasts will be thrilled, anyone with an interest in the ocean and our environment I am sure will be captivated. Adrift really is special, it contains 183 pages of engaging information and images, and we declare it a LoveReading Star Book.
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!