History Books

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

Beauty in Letters

Beauty in Letters

Author: John Wilson Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A truly beautiful and stimulating book that can be devoured in one heady go or dipped into and adored. Meet and wonder over illuminated addresses, books, scrolls or certificates in celebration of events. Covering a hundred years, sitting mainly in Victorian times, each is its own masterpiece, the designs so colourful and intricate, they shine from the page. On display are 50 letters with a particular theme, from royalty, to civic duty, to clubs and societies. John P Wilson explains that the recipient could be wealthy or famous, or an ordinary person who had provided special service. He states these letters: “provide an opportunity to obtain an insight into someone’s life and achievements, and allow a brief historical opening into social history”. Each letter sits with an explanation, but the focus here is the beauty of the letter. In our current times, the art of the letter is all but forgotten, and these treasures appear to be almost jewell-like in their wonder and intensity. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it really speaks to me. Beauty in Letters is a wonderful insight into the past, and a stunning display of true creativity and artwork.

Star Books
White Blood

White Blood

Author: Lawrence Trevelyan Weaver Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/04/2021

White Blood explores the history and benefits of human milk, a natural food source that most people take for granted. Human milk nourishes babies from the moment they are born, providing them with all the nutrients they need for growth and development in their early months. Yet the debate on ‘breast versus bottle’ continues, especially in countries where breastfeeding rates continue to decline. Written by a paediatrician, nutritional scientist and gastroenterologist with an interest in history, White Blood is far more than just a reference book looking at how milk is made in the human body. Using research and quotes from leading physicians, historians and social historians, this fascinating book shows how human milk has been crucial to infant health, growth and survival over the centuries. It’s beautifully illustrated with pictures – colour artifacts, paintings and photographs – from ancient civilisations to the present day. This book explores the vital question of ‘why breastfeeding matters?’ and taught me a lot!

The Bomber Mafia

The Bomber Mafia

Author: Malcolm Gladwell Format: Audiobook Release Date: 27/04/2021

In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers and host of the podcast Revisionist History, uses original interviews, archival footage and his trademark insight to weave together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard. As listeners hear these stories unfurl, Gladwell examines one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history. Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists had a different view. This “Bomber Mafia” asked: What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points—industrial or transportation hubs—cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal? In Revisionist History, Gladwell re-examines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he employs all the production techniques that make Revisionist History so engaging, stepping back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asking, “Was it worth it?” The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives but may have spared more by averting a planned US invasion. Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Hansell’s theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather and human error. When he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Power of Geography

The Power of Geography

Author: Tim Marshall Format: Audiobook Release Date: 22/04/2021

Tim Marshall's global bestseller Prisoners of Geography showed how every nation’s choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Since then, the geography hasn’t changed. But the world has.** In this revelatory new book, Marshall explores ten regions that are set to shape global politics in a new age of great-power rivalry: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and Space. Find out why Europe’s next refugee crisis is closer than it thinks as trouble brews in the Sahel; why the Middle East must look beyond oil and sand to secure its future; why the eastern Mediterranean is one of the most volatile flashpoints of the twenty-first century; and why the Earth’s atmosphere is set to become the world’s next battleground. Delivered with Marshall’s trademark wit and insight, this is a lucid and gripping exploration of the power of geography to shape humanity’s past, present – and future. ‘Another outstanding guide to the modern world. Marshall is a master at explaining what you need to know and why.’ Peter Frankopan AS READ BY THE AUTHOR Includes pdf with maps.

Audiobooks of the Month
John Hassall The Life and Art of the Poster King

John Hassall The Life and Art of the Poster King

Author: Lucinda Gosling Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Lucinda Gosling’s John Hassall: The Life and Art of the Poster King is an exquisite feast of vibrant visuals for anyone interested in art and design history. While exhaustive in its coverage and analysis of John Hassall, whose iconic posters and postcards are instantly - and widely - recognisable, its lively, accessible tone will also enthral interested laypeople. Born in 1868, John Hassall began his long, successful, influential career as an advertising artist after studying in Paris, where he was influenced by Czech design innovator, Alphonse Mucha. Hassall went on to found an art school and work across multiple disciplines, including pottery, toy-making, book illustration, fine art and commercial art, each of them bearing his distinctive bold style and wit. His impactful WWI and travel and transport posters are instantly recognisable, as are his striking ads for big brands like Colman’s Mustard and Nestlé.  Many sketches, letters and diary excerpts are here published for the first time, and the standard of the reproductions do excellent justice to the striking quality of the art itself. Alongside learning about Hassall’s life, and enjoying the high-quality visuals, I was especially wowed by seeing some of his book illustrations for the first time, among them a stunning Art Nouveau Little Red Riding Hood, and his astonishing “Pantomime ABC”.

Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Author: Ami Bouhassane, Robin Muir, Amber Butchart Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/04/2021

Perhaps best known for her seminal WWII photojournalism, or her earlier life as a surrealist model and muse, or her sublimely striking solarised portraits, Lee Miller was also an exceptional fashion photographer, whose work illuminated the pages of British Vogue (Brogue) from 1939 to 1944. Featuring over 130 images, plus an excellent contextualisation essay by Ami Bouhassane, Miller’s granddaughter and Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives, Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain is a breathtakingly beautiful, informative book - clearly a must-have for Lee devotees, and also essential for those interested in forties fashion and style. Since many of the images featured here haven’t been seen since they were shot in the 1940s (they came to light while being archived in 2020), this truly is a treasure chest to delight in. Miller’s editor at Brogue wrote of her in 1941 that “she has borne the whole weight of our studio production through the most difficult period in Brogue’s history” and this book is a glorious record and celebration of Lee’s contribution to the publication, with an essay by Robin Muir, contributing editor to British Vogue, furnishing readers with detail on this. The range of subjects, settings and fashion is a joy to behold, and fashion historian Amber Butchart’s essay offers fascinating insights into the era. There are classic Lee portraits of women wearing tailored suits, striking angled poses in stark light. There are women positioned by rubble, or going about their day-to-day business. There are staged studio shots of women in elegant eveningwear. And there are women (and the occasional man) in utilitarian outfits - “fashion factories”. All of them, of course, bear Miller’s inimitable panache, her way of seeing the world and its people. Simply stunning.

Star Books
Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration

Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration

Author: George Butler Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Written and illustrated by award-winning artist and current affairs specialist George Butler, Drawn Across Borders is a unique empathy-inspiring portrayal of the affecting personal experiences of twelve migrants, covering countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Syria and Palestine. It’s an honest, awe-inspiring tribute to the featured individuals, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a timely reminder that real people lie behind every news story on migrants. Real people with real (and varied) reasons for leaving places they once called home.   Butler frames the book with brilliant clarity: “People move around the world for many reasons. Some migration is voluntary; most is not.” The written portraits are deeply personal, framed by the author’s experiences on the frontlines of - for example - refugee camps, and based on his conversations with migrants. When combined with the accompanying painterly illustrations, they create a book that draws the heart and eye to a clutch of stories that should be known. The LoveReading LitFest invited George to the festival to talk about Drawn Across Borders. 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. 

Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb

Author: Michela Wrong Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

There are times when reading Do Not Disturb that you have to pinch yourself to remind you that, although a thriller, it is not made up: It is all real. All true.  The murders are of real people. The fear and paranoia of friends and families is real. They are living in the presence of real danger. Criticism of President Kagame of Rwanda, once the darling of the West, will do that. It will force you to go into hiding. It will make you a subject of oppressive surveillance.  In the case of Paul Rusesabagina, humanitarian hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, it will get you tricked onto a plane, drugged, renditioned, tortured and imprisoned. It can, and often will, get you killed. When the ubiquitous hotel door sign of the title is used to conceal the killing of a former member of Rwanda’s inner circle, the trails of evidence, methodically and minutely tracked by Wrong over many years and countless interviews, lead straight to Kagame.  As Wrong strips away the glossy window dressing from the so-called “Singapore of Africa,” she reveals a nation run by brutal thugs; a supposed economic miracle, dependant on western support, which suppresses the true scale of the hunger, poor health and fear of an uncountable number of its inhabitants. Long admired for her fearless reportage, Wrong has written a crisp, insightful - and importantly - honest, account of institutionalised, no… weaponised national lying. In doing so she has exposed an appalling truth: that Rwanda’s elite have manipulated global shame and compassion to run an entire country with mafia-like grip and murderous avarice, immorality and illegality. By laying bare the bones of a brutal, merciless dictator, driven by Imperial grade fear, greed and the insecurity of shallow ego, Wrong has documented despotism in all its appalling hideousness. We should care very deeply, as Rwanda is a member nation of the Commonwealth. The LoveReading LitFest invited Michela to the festival to talk about Do Not Disturb. 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. 

Star Books
The Road is Wider Than Long

The Road is Wider Than Long

Author: Roland Penrose Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/03/2021

Recently re-issued in two new editions - this one a facsimile of an edition published for London Gallery Editions in 1939 - Roland Penrose’s The Road is Wider Than Long is a stunningly-packaged reproduction of his surrealist “Image Diary from the Balkans July-August 1938”. Given that this is considered to be one of the earliest examples of a British Surrealist photobook, it really is essential for the shelves of all art and photography aficionados. Moreover, it’s an absolute must-have for anyone interested in Lee Miller’s extraordinary life and work - she inspired its surrealist love poem text, and the book is dedicated to her. In 1938 author, curator and painter Penrose took a trip around the Balkans with his new lover, Lee Miller, the former model turned exceptional photographer. With the world on the brink of war, the couple travelled through Greece, Bulgaria and Romania documenting unique landscapes through the lens of their cameras - and Surrealism. The images provide intimate insights into Roma communities that were about to be disrupted (if not destroyed) by war, with profound power to make you ponder them at length. When their journey drew to an end, Lee returned to Cairo, and Roland to London, where he created The Road is Wider than Long. His original hand-written book (see here for a review of a stunning reproduction of this) was published by London Gallery Editions in June 1939, in a limited edition of 510 copies, ten of them on hand-made paper with an original drawing illuminated and signed by the author. And that’s what this book is - a reproduction of that beautiful first printing, with a cover designed by Hans Bellmer. The layout and typography are perfection, as is this book as a document of a personal trip that had profound resonance - both to Lee and Roland personally, and in its importance to Surrealist history.

The Road Is Wider Than Long

The Road Is Wider Than Long

Author: Roland Penrose Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/03/2021

Recently published in two new editions - this one a facsimile of the author’s original hand-written photo book - Roland Penrose’s The Road is Wider Than Long is a glorious reproduction of his surrealist “Image Diary from the Balkans July-August 1938”. Considered to be one of the earliest examples of a British Surrealist photobook, it’s essential for aficionados of photography and art, for anyone interested in the extraordinary life and work of Lee Miller, who inspired its love poem text, and to whom the book is dedicated. In 1938 author, curator and painter Penrose journeyed around the Balkans with his new lover, Lee Miller, the former model turned exceptional photographer. With the world on the brink of war, the couple documented unique landscapes and their inhabitants through the lens of their cameras - and Surrealism. The images provide intimate insights into communities that were about to be disrupted (if not destroyed) by war, with profound power to make you ponder them at length. Roma feature frequently, with Lee having become close to a particular community who gifted her a hand-embroidered ceremonial sheepskin coat. When their journey drew to an end, Lee returned to Cairo and Roland to London, where he created The Road is Wider Than Long. This edition of the book is a facsimile of his first hand-written copy, with its soulful surrealist love poem to Lee, and his records and memories of their trip. This book is so wonderfully produced, you feel it could be his actual first copy - the scratches and inconsistencies of ink on paper seem so real. It’s a beautiful reproduction of a document so vital to the Surrealist canon. See here for our review of the book’s alternate new edition - a facsimile of the version published for London Gallery Editions in 1939.

Angela Thirkell A Writer's Life

Angela Thirkell A Writer's Life

Author: Anne Hall Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/03/2021

Exhaustively researched, and stunningly presented with photographs, paintings and portraits, Anne Hall’s Angela Thirkell: A Writer’s Life is unquestionably essential reading for Thirkell enthusiasts, and also comes recommended for aficionados of literary history. After being immersed by this lively biography, I look forward to discovering Thirkell’s novels. As the granddaughter of Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer Edward Burne-Jones, goddaughter of J.M. Barrie, cousin to Rudyard Kipling, and having a grandmother who counted George Eliot among her friends, it’s perhaps little wonder that Angela Thirkell forged a creative life for herself. Born in Kensington in 1890, her childhood was cosmopolitan, with a family friend jokingly suggesting that he preface her memoir stating that she was “between the ages of four and nine the most terrifying female I have ever met.” In her youth, Thirkell was described as having formidable wit and breath-taking beauty, attending fancy dress balls in extravagant, enchanting costumes, and never suffering male fools gladly. While divorce brought scandal, it also - ultimately - brought Thirkell to writing, for it wasn’t until she married her second husband and moved with him to Australia that she began to write, initially for financial reasons. Some eleven years later, in 1929, Thirkell suddenly left her second husband and returned to England, where she went on to write more than thirty books, beginning with her Three Houses memoir and closely followed by her mischievously comic, bestselling Barsetshire novels, now published by Virago. Forensically detailed, with broader bigger-picture appeal, this is a fine biography.

After the Wall Came Down

After the Wall Came Down

Author: Andrew Richards Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/03/2021

‘After the Wall Came Down’ is a well-researched account of how the British Army has changed, developed and adapted to the highly variable demands placed on it during the last 30 years. From regular deployment on the peace-keeping role in Northern Ireland to dealing with genocide in the Balkans, from rescue missions such as Sierra Leone through to wholesale war in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Never before has so much been asked of these young men and women. When our civil support services struggle, such as during flood, Fire Brigade strikes or the Foot and Mouth outbreak, it is the military our political leaders turn to in times of crisis. This book explains why we, the public, sleep soundly at night in the knowledge there are people out there who keep us safe. Andrew Richards provides a thoroughly absorbing account made all the more interesting due to the wide ranging contributions of men and women who were there, did the jobs, experienced the changes and often have the scars to prove it. An excellent read.