History Books

Intensively researched, lovingly compiled, more accessible than ever, whatever your subject of interest - this is where you’ll find it.

Three Days In June

Three Days In June

Author: James O'Connell, Lieutenant General Sir Hew Pike Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

James (Scouse) O’Connell was a 22-year old Private in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when, along with his fellow soldiers, he was deployed to the Falklands to engage the Argentinian invaders. Three days in June describes the last few days of the war when 3 Para fought the battle of Mount Longdon. By the time the battle was over, 23 of their number were dead and 48, wounded. Sergeant Ian McKay was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. James O’Connell was left with life-changing injuries, the result of a bullet that entered his face through his nose and removed his cheek-bone and right eye. Candid, gritty and, at times, gruesome, this is a warts ‘n’ all account by the young men who were there, and told in their words. This makes the book all the more readable as it’s the perceptions, the humour, the fears, the honesty and the sheer heroism of these men that shines through.  From the moment I opened the first page of the hardback, I suspected I was going to be in for a treat. The book looks and feels of very high quality and the content certainly delivered.  A book for anyone with even the remotest interest in military history, this is a book to savour, enjoy and then have pride of place on any bookshelf. 

Star Books
The Greatest Beer Run Ever

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Author: John Donohue Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

At once personal, politically-charged, moving and witty, John Chick Donohue’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever is an engaging account of a Vietnam vet’s tracking down of his former comrades-in-arms to bring them a beer from home. Living up to its title, it really does read like the greatest beer run ever, and will have readers interested in the human side of history laughing, crying and thinking in equal measure. Like so many of life’s momentous ideas, a night in a bar prompts ex-Marine and merchant seaman Chick Donohue to hatch his plan to return to Vietnam. But unlike most bar-based ideas, Chick actually goes through with his. Armed with a list of names, a rucksack of beer, and hoping for a sprinkling of Irish luck, he sets off, though he admits that “I still had my doubts that I could pull it off.” This fascinating, enthralling account sees the author having to use his gift of the gab to press on past check-points before tackling multiple dangers and coming face to face with unexpected realities when he reaches Vietnam - realities that bring him to a big realisation: “I began to see that the protesters, however disrespectfully, were at least trying to stop this madness…If there is one thing that I learned as a result of my Vietnam experience it’s that government - all governments for that matter - are not to be trusted. Many politicians lie when it serves their interests.” This is tasty food for thought with universal resonance.

eBooks of the Month
An Extra Pair of Hands

An Extra Pair of Hands

Author: Kate Mosse Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

An Extra Pair of Hands is an emotional journey, following Kate Mosse as she became a carer for her father, mother and then mother-in-law in a short space of time. This is a book about what it’s like to be a carer, not as a paid employee but to be there for your family at times of illness, crisis and increasing fragility – because you want to be, not because it’s just part of a job. I felt like I was there in her memories, not only during her practical day-to-day activities and dealing with their essential needs, but also the impact on her own mental health. Carers silently, stoically and heroically do what they do out of love and for little or no reward. It can be hard, both physically and emotionally – always thinking of, and dealing with, loved ones’ needs other than their own. In her book, Kate Mosse also touches on the impact of pandemic and lockdowns and the shielding of older & vulnerable people. An Extra Pair of Hands is a celebration of family and love and an exploration of grief and ageing – it’s raw, witty, heartbreaking and honest.

The Aristocracy of Talent

The Aristocracy of Talent

Author: Adam Wooldridge Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

Longlisted for the 2021 Financial Times and McKinsey & Company Business Book of the Year Award Meritocracy: the idea that people should be advanced according to their talents rather than their status at birth. For much of history this was a revolutionary thought, but by the end of the twentieth century it had become the world's ruling ideology. How did this happen, and why is meritocracy now under attack from both right and left? Adrian Wooldridge traces the history of meritocracy forged by the politicians and officials who introduced the revolutionary principle of open competition, the psychologists who devised methods for measuring natural mental abilities and the educationalists who built ladders of educational opportunity. He looks outside western cultures and shows what transformative effects it has had everywhere it has been adopted, especially once women were brought into the meritocractic system. Wooldridge also shows how meritocracy has now become corrupted and argues that the recent stalling of social mobility is the result of failure to complete the meritocratic revolution. Rather than abandoning meritocracy, he says, we should call for its renewal.

The Moth and the Mountain

The Moth and the Mountain

Author: Ed Caesar Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

Exciting, cinematic and, astonishingly, true, The Moth and the Mountain, makes a great gift for anyone who loves a story of an underdog beating the odds! In the 1930s, as official government expeditions set their sights on conquering Everest, a little-known World War I veteran named Maurice Wilson conceived his own crazy, beautiful plan: he would fly a Gipsy Moth aeroplane from England to Everest, crash land on its lower slopes, then become the first person to reach its summit - all utterly alone. Wilson didn't know how to climb. He barely knew how to fly. But he had pluck, daring and a vision - he wanted to be the first man to stand on top of the world. Maurice Wilson is a man written out of the history books - dismissed as an eccentric and a charlatan by many, but held in the highest regard by world class mountaineers such as Reinhold Messner. The Moth and the Mountain restores him to his rightful place in the annals of Everest and in doing so attempts to answer that perennial question - why do we climb mountains?

Burning Man

Burning Man

Author: Frances Wilson Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

D H Lawrence is no longer censored, but he is still on trial - and we are still unsure what the verdict should be, or even how to describe him. History has remembered him, and not always flatteringly, as a nostalgic modernist, a sexually liberator, a misogynist, a critic of genius, and a sceptic who told us not to look in his novels for 'the old stable ego', yet pioneered the genre we now celebrate as auto-fiction. But where is the real Lawrence in all of this, and how - one hundred years after the publication of Women in Love - can we hear his voice above the noise? Delving into the memoirs of those who both loved and hated him most, Burning Man follows Lawrence from the peninsular underworld of Cornwall in 1915 to post-war Italy to the mountains of New Mexico, and traces the author's footsteps through the pages of his lesser known work. Wilson's triptych of biographical tales present a complex, courageous and often comic fugitive, careering around a world in the grip of apocalypse, in search of utopia; and, in bringing the true Lawrence into sharp focus, shows how he speaks to us now more than ever.

Ancestors

Ancestors

Author: Alice Roberts Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER An extraordinary exploration of the ancestry of Britain through seven burial sites. By using new advances in genetics and taking us through important archaeological discoveries, Professor Alice Roberts helps us better understand life today. 'This is a terrific, timely and transporting book - taking us heart, body and mind beyond history, to the fascinating truth of the prehistoric past and the present' Bettany Hughes We often think of Britain springing from nowhere with the arrival of the Romans. But in Ancestors, anthropologist, broadcaster and academic Professor Alice Roberts explores what we can learn about the very earliest Britons, from burial sites and by using new technology to analyse ancient DNA. Told through seven fascinating burial sites, this groundbreaking prehistory of Britain teaches us more about ourselves and our history: how people came and went and how we came to be on this island. It explores forgotten journeys and memories of migrations long ago, written into genes and preserved in the ground for thousands of years. This is a book about belonging: about walking in ancient places, in the footsteps of the ancestors. It explores our interconnected global ancestry, and the human experience that binds us all together. It's about reaching back in time, to find ourselves, and our place in the world.

Smoke Hole

Smoke Hole

Author: Martin Shaw Format: Hardback Release Date: 20/05/2021

A small thought-provoking book that holds huge impact, I recommend opening your heart and mind and letting the stories in. Martin Shaw, author, mythologist, and wilderness guide, describes himself as a teacher of old stories and a guide into deep places, which resonates profoundly with the contents of this book. He invites us to step into three stories and register, in fact, properly absorb their meaning. If you have an interest in stories, if you currently look around you and feel that there is something missing in your world, then allow yourself to fall through the layers of the story and explore. He mentions that he’s always written for those at a crossroads, and that now he finds we’re all at one, Smoke Hole is his attempt to meet one infection with another: beauty. I found myself nodding in agreement, his words make sense as does the way he sees the world. I enjoyed the way he brought meaning to the stories, he encourages you burrow and hunt and search before then letting the stories sit in their own glory and be truly themselves. Smoke Hole is a wonder of a book, beautiful in itself, and in what it encourages you to find, to be. I absolutely adored it. 

Old Testament Warriors

Old Testament Warriors

Author: Simon Elliott Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2021

Dr. Elliott states in his introduction to this fascinating volume that his ambition is bold; “…to detail conflict from the beginning of warfare itself in the Near East and Middle East from around 9000 BC through to the onset of the Classical period around 500 BC.” Bold indeed, and delivered in such crisp and well ordered chapters that Old Testament Warriors is as much master class in concision as it is admirable in its comprehensiveness. Starting out with clear definitions for how humanity has organised settlements and communities, to what warfare is, “the extreme end of organised aggression… involving a stratified polity”, Elliott treats us to a whistle-stop tour of every major civilisation that grew or protected itself through armed conflict across nigh on nine millennia. With an attention to detail that encompasses styles of armour, the game changing effects of the compound bow and various developments in chariot technology, together with brief analyses of who was responsible for them, - in the case of chariots, the Hyksos, the Hurrians and the Mitanni in the 2nd millennium BC – Elliott also presents fascinating facts about the sizes and structures of various armies and how and by whom power over and control of them was handled. For a non- academic reader interested in the history of organised warfare, this is an eye-opening, absorbing book written by an author who knows and loves his subject and who has the means and skill to communicate his knowledge crisply, clearly and with great verve.   Albert Einstein famously said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it” That Elliot is able to cover such huge tracts of geography and chronology in such a compact volume shows that he is the master of his subject. And what an enthralling subject it is.

No Moon as Witness

No Moon as Witness

Author: James Stejskal Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/05/2021

Working alone or in small cells, sometimes with local resistance groups, SOE and OSS agents bravely undertook missions behind enemy lines involving sabotage, subversion, organising resistance groups and intelligence-gathering.Notable successes included the destruction of a power station in France, the assassination of Himmler’s deputy and ending the Nazi atomic bomb program by destroying the heavy water plant at Vemork, Norway.  The life expectancy of an SOE wireless operator in occupied France was just six weeks.In No Moon as Witness, former Special-Forces soldier turned historian, James Stejskal, examines why these agencies were established, their training regimes and the ingenious inventions developed to enable agents to undertake their missions. There are a lot of books published about the SOE and OSS – many of them very thorough and detailed.  No Moon as Witness  is a more concise, more easily readable but nevertheless thorough account that benefits from the author’s particular knowledge and background as he applies his personal analysis to this important part of our military history. An excellent read.

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time

Author: Craig Brown Format: Audiobook Release Date: 07/05/2021

From the award-winning author of Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret comes a fascinating, hilarious, kaleidoscopic biography of the Fab Four. John Updike compared them to ‘the sun coming out on an Easter morning’. Bob Dylan introduced them to drugs. The Duchess of Windsor adored them. Noel Coward despised them. JRR Tolkien snubbed them. The Rolling Stones copied them. Loenard Bernstein admired them. Muhammad Ali called them ‘little sissies’. Successive Prime Ministers sucked up to them. No one has remained unaffected by the music of The Beatles. As Queen Elizabeth II observed on her golden wedding anniversary, ‘Think what we would have missed if we had never heard The Beatles.’ One Two Three Four traces the chance fusion of the four key elements that made up The Beatles: fire (John), water (Paul), air (George) and earth (Ringo). It also tells the bizarre and often unfortunate tales of the disparate and colourful people within their orbit, among them Fred Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, Aunt Mimi, Helen Shapiro, the con artist Magic Alex, Phil Spector, their psychedelic dentist John Riley and their failed nemesis, Det Sgt Norman Pilcher. From the bestselling author of Ma’am Darling comes a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, etymology, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. One Two Three Four joyfully echoes the frenetic hurly-burly of an era.

Audiobooks of the Month
Things I Have Withheld

Things I Have Withheld

Author: Kei Miller Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE In this astonishing collection of essays, the award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the silence in which so many important things are kept. He examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it: to risk words, to risk truths. And he considers the histories our bodies inherit - the crimes that haunt them, and how meaning can shift as we move throughout the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood. Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, white women's tears, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice. With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why - our actions, defence mechanisms, imaginations and interactions - and those of the world around us.