History Books

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

The Soul of a Woman

The Soul of a Woman

Author: Isabel Allende Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/03/2021

Honest of heart and exhilarating in spirit, Isabel Allende’s The Soul of a Woman is an inspirational account of the writer’s lifelong feminism. Interweaving autobiography with astute commentary, it presents a stunning tapestry of a life lived fighting inequality in all its forms as it seeks to light the way for a better world. “When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” Allende begins this stirring memoir, referring to seeing her father leave her mother “with two toddlers in diapers and a newborn baby” when she was three, compelling them to move to live with her grandparents. It was here that Allende’s “anger against machismo started” as a result of realising that her mother and the housemaids were subordinates without voice or resources. The contrast made between the stoniness of patriarchy (an aggressively imposed system that “grants dominion and privileges to the male gender” and “punishes those who defy it”) and feminism’s ocean-fluid nature is sublime. Feminism “moves in waves, currents, tides, and sometimes in storms. Like the ocean, feminism, never stays quiet.” An ocean metaphor might also be applied to this book - it undulates beautifully as Allende recounts her life through feminist lens. The tone is invigorating, and charmingly familiar too, with interjected “by the way” digressions, as if in the company of a wise and passionate friend. And, like the kind of friend who brings joy to any gathering, Allende ends this book with a bright beam of optimism. While aware that inequalities have never been deeper (“we can’t continue in a civilisation based on unbridled greed and violence”), she believes that this is a time for reflection, a time to ponder what kind of world we want to live in following the brutality of a global pandemic. For Allende, that’s a world in which “peace, empathy, decency, truth, and compassion prevail.”

Star Books
Shakey's Madness: Does a Mental Disorder Reveal the

Shakey's Madness: Does a Mental Disorder Reveal the

Author: Robert Boog Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/02/2021

‘Shakey’s Madness’ is a well-researched and well rounded argument around the “real” author of ‘The First Folio’. Using academic resources including The Folger Shakespeare Library, The author sets out his hypothesis that the real author of the work currently attributed to William Shakespeare may have experienced bipolar, and this information may help us to uncover the true author of these Elizabethan plays and sonnets.  I can’t say I’ve ever particularly doubted that Shakespeare’s work was written by William Shakespeare; that is I was familiar with the theory that they were written by someone else, it had just never interested me enough to look into it. I was curious about ‘Shakey’s Madness’ as a neutral observer, and I found that the author formed his arguments in a way that was entertaining and interesting. It reminded me of a university essay, with references to academics and further sources but I found it easy to follow along with. I feel this would be an interesting read regardless of which side of this particular argument you fall.  Perhaps slightly conspiratorial in nature, and in the end left for the reader to decide if we agree with the argument put in front of us. I think that this book is an interesting one to ponder for those looking to learn more about the Oxfordian arguments as well as those looking for more evidence to support that theory. You might also learn something about the nuanced disorder of bipolar along the way. 

The New Age of Empire

The New Age of Empire

Author: Kehinde Andrews Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Kehinde Andrews’ The New Age of Empire is an urgent, incisive analysis of the origins of Western Imperialism that lays bare its continued racist legacy. Pointing out that “we urgently need to destroy the myth that the West was founded on the three great revolutions of science, industry and politics”, the author makes a powerful argument for the need to “trace how genocide, slavery and colonialism are the key foundation stones upon which West was built.” Indeed, Andrews discusses how the West concocted scientific theories designed to “prove” its superiority, and shows how the Enlightenment provided “the intellectual basis for Western imperialism.” The chapter covering Kant’s “racial logic” is especially mind-blowing on this.  While we might live in a different age, centuries-old ideologies run deep in what the author terms today’s “new age of Empire”, with their legacies persisting in the form of racial capitalism, colonial nostalgia (as exemplified by Trump’s “make America great again” slogan and Brexit’s promise to “take back control”), racial patriarchy, and the fallacy of post-racialism - “the delusion that we have moved beyond racism, that we are in a post-racial society.” This is a major, vital point - how can we truly obliterate racism if we pretend it’s been overcome? Answer: we cannot. In the author’s words, “As long as we delude ourselves with rebranding and tinkering at the margins we will never be able to address the issue of racism.” Framing some arguments in the context of COVID-19 (“the delusions of all being in it together, or that viruses do not discriminate, quickly fell apart as the evidence began to show that Covid-19 simply laid bare existing social inequalities”), and drawing on historic, scientific, philosophical, political and economic discourse, this debunks myths, challenges misplaced self-congratulation and is, quite simply, a must-read, wake-up call.

eBooks of the Month
Empireland

Empireland

Author: Sathnam Sanghera Format: Audiobook Release Date: 04/02/2021

In his brilliantly illuminating new book Sathnam Sanghera demonstrates how so much of what we consider to be modern Britain is actually rooted in our imperial past. In prose that is, at once, both clear-eyed and full of acerbic wit, Sanghera shows how our past is everywhere: from how we live to how we think, from the foundation of the NHS to the nature of our racism, from our distrust of intellectuals in public life to the exceptionalism that imbued the campaign for Brexit and the government's early response to the Covid crisis. And yet empire is a subject, weirdly hidden from view. The British Empire ran for centuries and covered vast swathes of the world. It is, as Sanghera reveals, fundamental to understanding Britain. However, even among those who celebrate the empire there seems to be a desire not to look at it too closely - not to include the subject in our school history books, not to emphasize it too much in our favourite museums. At a time of great division, when we are arguing about what it means to be British, Sanghera's book urges us to address this bewildering contradiction. For, it is only by stepping back and seeing where we really come from, that we can begin to understand who we are, and what unites us.

Audiobooks of the Month
Islands of Abandonment

Islands of Abandonment

Author: Cal Flyn Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

British Academy Book Prize shortlist This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man's lands and fortress islands - and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place. In Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster, only a handful of people returned to their dangerously irradiated homes. On an uninhabited Scottish island, feral cattle live entirely wild. In Detroit, once America's fourth-largest city, entire streets of houses are falling in on themselves, looters slipping through otherwise silent neighbourhoods. This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live - or survive in tiny, precarious numbers - to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind's impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world - and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery. By turns haunted and hopeful, this luminously written world study is pinned together with profound insight and new ecological discoveries that together map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we're gone, and how far can our damage to nature be undone?  

Begin Again

Begin Again

Author: Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/01/2021

British Academy Book Prize shortlist A searing indictment of racial injustice in America - inspired by the life and work of James Baldwin - to help us understand the present moment, and imagine a new future into being The struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the presidency of Donald Trump, a president whose time in the White House represents the latest failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race. For James Baldwin, a similar attempt to force a confrontation with the truth of America's racism came in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, and was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the years from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin - the great creative artist, often referred to as 'the poet of the revolution' - became a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair. America is at a crossroads. Drawing insight and inspiration from Baldwin's writings, Glaude suggests we can find hope and guidance through our own era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Seamlessly combining biography with history, memoir and trenchant analysis of our moment, Begin Again bears witness to the difficult truth of race in America. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a more just future.

Then a Wind Blew

Then a Wind Blew

Author: Kay Powell Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/01/2021

Kay Powell’s Then a Wind Blew is at once atmospheric, lyrical, poignant and enlightening, made all the more engaging by the distinct and captivating voices of the three woman whose lives and experiences it lays bare, during the final months of brutal war in Rhodesia, ahead of it becoming Zimbabwe. Throughout, personal details and circumstances are finely enmeshed with historic and political contexts, with the gripping, smoothly-paced story suffused in the author’s clear love for the country. The three women we meet in these pages could hardly be more different, yet the war entwines their lives, and through them we encounter a rich, rounded range of experiences. White Rhodesian settler Susan has lost a son in the war, while Beth is a missionary nun on an African Reserve. Then there’s Nyanye, a freedom fighter who’s fled to a guerrilla camp in Mozambique in the wake of her village being destroyed. Offering lesser-seen insights into women’s direct experiences of war, this book is both deeply personal and universal, showing - ultimately - how we are linked by common bonds in the most horrific, divisive of circumstances. If you read and enjoy this, you’d do well to check out other works published by Weaver Press, an independent Zimbabwean publisher that works closely with NGOs in the fields of arts, culture, development and human rights.

Thinking Again A Diary

Thinking Again A Diary

Author: Jan Morris Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/01/2021

The irrepressible Jan Morris-author of such classics as Venice and Trieste-is at it again: offering a vibrant set of reminiscences that remind us what a good, wise and witty companion Jan Morris has been for so many readers for so long (Alexander McCall Smith, New York Times Book Review). Like Michel de Montaigne (Danny Heitman, Wall Street Journal), Morris waxes on the ironies of modern life in all their resonant glories and inevitable stupidities-from her daily exercise (a statutory thousand paces of brisk walk ) to the troubles of Brexit; her enduring yet complicated love for America; and honest reflections on the vagaries and ailments of aging. Both intimate and luminously wise, Thinking Again is a testament to the virtues of embracing life, creativity, and, above all, kindness.

Neither Settler nor Native

Neither Settler nor Native

Author: Mahmood Mamdani Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/11/2020

British Academy Book Prize shortlist Making the radical argument that the nation-state was born of colonialism, this book calls us to rethink political violence and reimagine political community beyond majorities and minorities. In this genealogy of political modernity, Mahmood Mamdani argues that the nation-state and the colonial state created each other. In case after case around the globe-from the New World to South Africa, Israel to Germany to Sudan-the colonial state and the nation-state have been mutually constructed through the politicization of a religious or ethnic majority at the expense of an equally manufactured minority. The model emerged in North America, where genocide and internment on reservations created both a permanent native underclass and the physical and ideological spaces in which new immigrant identities crystallized as a settler nation. In Europe, this template would be used by the Nazis to address the Jewish Question, and after the fall of the Third Reich, by the Allies to redraw the boundaries of Eastern Europe's nation-states, cleansing them of their minorities. After Nuremberg the template was used to preserve the idea of the Jews as a separate nation. By establishing Israel through the minoritization of Palestinian Arabs, Zionist settlers followed the North American example. The result has been another cycle of violence. Neither Settler nor Native offers a vision for arresting this historical process. Mamdani rejects the criminal solution attempted at Nuremberg, which held individual perpetrators responsible without questioning Nazism as a political project and thus the violence of the nation-state itself. Instead, political violence demands political solutions: not criminal justice for perpetrators but a rethinking of the political community for all survivors-victims, perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries-based on common residence and the commitment to build a common future without the permanent political identities of settler and native. Mamdani points to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as an unfinished project, seeking a state without a nation.

Kiss Myself Goodbye

Kiss Myself Goodbye

Author: Ferdinand Mount Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/10/2020

Kiss Me Goodbye, Ferdinand Mount’s personal memoir of his mysterious millionaire Aunt Munca, dances with evocative detail - of people, place and period - and is an affectionate, fascinating delight.  Elegantly appointed mansions. Upper echelon entertaining. Exuberant outings in a Rolls-Royce - these are among the author’s early memories (from 1945) of his enigmatic, affectionate Aunt Betty, who asks to be called Munca after a Beatrix Potter mouse. But through time, and little by little, big questions begin to gnaw - where did Aunt Munca’s adopted daughter go, and why? Why did she force her daughter to break-off her engagement to David Dimbleby? Why did Munca never mention her first marriage? Having seen “just enough through the half-open door into the next room”, the author cannot resist entering the next room: “I had tugged the thread and I could not resist following it to the end.” And so an exhilarating quest to untangle Munca’s truths begins. It’s a thrilling edge-of-your-seat journey as Mount uncovers documents, photos and articles that reveal the many fabrications of his mysterious Aunt Munca, and other family members. The tangled threads take tenacious Mount from mid-century high society to the back streets of industrial Sheffield, and wind-up with an unexpectedly joyous find.

A Year at the Chateau

A Year at the Chateau

Author: Dick Strawbridge, Angel Strawbridge Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/10/2020

For anyone who is a fan of 'Escape to the Chateau' or 'Escape to the Chateau DIY', this is an excellent gift. With photos and and details not found in the TV Series, A Year at the Chateau allows you to revisit Dick and Angel's story as they restore the crumbling Chateau de la Motte Husson in France. With insights from both Dick and Angel in clearly distinguisable fonts readers learn more about what was needed to transform the crumbling building in to the successful business and home that it is today.  Fans of the series are bound to revel in each additional detail about the Strawbridge family's journey to build a new life in the Pays de la Loire.

Between Five Eyes

Between Five Eyes

Author: Anthony R Wells Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2020

Detailed, interesting, and offering a personal insight into The Five Eyes intelligence community from the only man to have worked for both US and UK intelligence organisations while a citizen of each country. The Five Eyes alliance, comprising of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, formed after the Second World War. Anthony R Wells believes that the intelligence institutions covered in this book have saved the free world. He says: “This book does not profess at all to be all-seeing and all-knowing”, he hopes that readers can: “make their own observations, draw their own conclusions, and come away with informed, educated, and non-biased and most certainly non-politicised views on intelligence in the modern era”. We read about the author’s experiences in chronological order over 50 years, covering a variety of threats, new opportunities, and technological advancements. It is quite clear that there is still much that we, the public, don’t know and shouldn’t know. Having said that, Between Five Eyes is an absolutely fascinating read for anyone interested in the intelligence community and wider world.

eBooks of the Month