Social and cultural history

The Ruin of All Witches

The Ruin of All Witches

Author: Malcolm Gaskill Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/11/2021

Oh my, The Ruin of All Witches is absolutely fascinating! Detailing the witch-hunting that took place in a frontier town in Massachusetts during 1651, this is a darkly enthralling read. The author describes it as a historical reconstruction rather than a novel. Written using historical documentation including court records, sermons, letters, diaries, deeds, and wills, this dual sense of story and history ensures a deeper awareness. It begins almost as a fairytale would, the style of writing placed me in time and location. I was able to look around and soak up the atmosphere. I felt a connection to the place and people, could reach a level of appreciation for thoughts and feelings. Examining small details, looking behind fears, beyond survival, makes this an accessible and thought-provoking read. The maps help plant the location, the Sources and Methods detailed at the back confirm the thought process behind this book. Malcolm Gaskill is a leading expert in the history of witchcraft and his knowledge and research shows. The Ruin of All Witches is a vivid, captivating and intriguing walk into the past and I’ve chosen it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.

Star Books
Rise

Rise

Author: Maliha Abidi Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/10/2021

Relating the remarkable stories of 100 extraordinary women of colour, Maliha Abidi’s Rise is an inspirational, informative showstopper of an anthology. Global in scope and engagingly lively in style, it’s a powerful and beautifully curated testament to trailblazing women of colour from all walks of life, from all fields of endeavour (literature, science, engineering, business, banking, mathematics, politics, law, medicine, human rights activism, sport, art, music, dance), from all corners of the world. What a glorious gift this is to treasure - and draw inspiration from - for a lifetime. Featuring women from over 40 countries, these are pioneers who’ve risen above multiple challenges to have huge impact on the world, whether in the public eye, or behind the scenes. While the book includes seminal icons who are household names (among them Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks and Serena Williams), Rise also highlights lesser-known names whose work has had huge impact on our world. Like the women themselves, Maliha Abidi’s writing style is engaging and keenly focussed, and her striking portraits of each innovator are an exuberant, life-filled joy.

Star Books
Blood Legacy

Blood Legacy

Author: Alex Renton Format: Hardback Release Date: 20/09/2021

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE Through the story of his own family's history as slave and plantation owners, Alex Renton looks at how we owe it to the present to understand the legacy of the past. When British Caribbean slavery was abolished across most of the British Empire in 1833, it was not the newly liberated who received compensation, but the tens of thousands of enslavers who were paid millions of pounds in government money. The descendants of some of those slave owners are among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Britain today. A group of Caribbean countries is calling on ten European nations to discuss the payment of trillions of dollars for the damage done by transatlantic slavery and its continuing legacy. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter and other activist groups are causing increasing numbers of white people to reflect on how this history of abuse and exploitation has benefited them. Blood Legacy explores what inheritance - political, economic, moral and spiritual - has been passed to the descendants of the slave owners and the descendants of the enslaved. He also asks, crucially, how the former - himself among them - can begin to make reparations for the past.

Park Life Around the World in 50 Parks

Park Life Around the World in 50 Parks

Author: Tom Chesshyre Format: Ebook Release Date: 09/09/2021

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that people love parks As horizons shrank, we took stock. At first, a sense of panic set in: nowhere to go, nothing to do... Then we all went to the park, and we realized something: we need greenery - we crave it. Whether we're in Colombia or Korea, America or Australia, urban parks are places where we can find calm amid the chaos. They can also (more often than we may realize) conceal intriguing hidden histories, and can tell us something about modern life in our frenzied world, too. With fondness and humour, travel writer Tom Chesshyre recalls 50 of his favourite urban parks from across the world, in a love letter to the green escapes that bring us joy in our cities.

eBooks of the Month
Himalaya

Himalaya

Author: Ed Douglas Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/07/2021

The mountains of the Himalaya, prised up by tectonic plates, emerged from the ocean ahead of any other land mass on our planet and are therefore not only the highest, but also the oldest in the world. No wonder then that the human stories to subsequently be written upon this landscape should be so unique, so extraordinary and so often full of remarkable bravery and endeavour. Ed Douglas, the author of Himalaya: A Human History has entwined these stories together in what will surely come to be regarded as the definitive account of this region. It is certainly difficult to see how it might be improved. The book is dense, detailed and written with wit, wisdom and deep knowledge undoubtedly acquired to large extent through the author’s years editing the Alpine Journal. A mountaineer as well as an exceptional journalist, Douglas brings together tales of cultures, trading, adventures, myths, arts, religions.. but also sciences such as geology, genetics and botany, which all feature in the tapestry of the Himalaya. This writer has mastered the art of opening a chapter with a modern day scenario or incident - often outside Asia - only to skilfully escort you back through time in order to find its roots in the region. His eye for connectivity, for threading history, is what allows the reader to relate to such a distant and perhaps alien place that has nevertheless across the centuries embedded itself in all our minds on the strength of its majesty and mystery. At the centre of the Himalaya is of course Nepal, and above it the Tibetan plateau, which together separate China from India. This fragile geo-political position, combined with the challenges provided by altitude, are what makes the future of the area such a concern and the consequences of climate change will fall heavily here, and indeed already are. Himalaya: A Human History is an impressive work and an epic love letter to an unequalled place which deserves to feel the embrace of the whole world.

Black Teacher

Black Teacher

Author: Beryl Gilroy Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/07/2021

What a voice, what a story, what experiences, and what a vital record of the Windrush Generation experience, as told by a skilled teacher who came to Britain to be confronted with racist colour bars in place of the anticipated welcoming arms of the colonial Motherland. Black Teacher is an important, engaging and eye-opening piece of social history, and its author, Beryl Gilroy, has outstanding literary flair - her dialogue and evocation of character is first-class. Born in British Guyana in 1924, Beryl Gilroy arrived in Britain as an experienced, respected teacher and yet, “Here I was, over twenty years later, feeling and acting like a novice. I was afraid to go to school.” So Beryl said to her husband ahead of beginning her second term as the Headmistress of a North London infants school (in 1969, she was Camden’s first black headteacher). And the reason for her trepidation? The school was “full of tense, fighting people,” its pupils disruptive due to boredom and a lack of purpose, with parents who mutter that there’s “nothing but blacks everywhere.” And all this followed years of battling to secure a teaching position - Beryl moved to Britain in 1958 to study Child Development, but found herself continually overlooked for teaching positions. As a result, she took work as in an office, then as a lady’s maid, while never giving up on her vocation. Throughout the author is an inspiration - a loveable, valiant pioneer whose story, resilience and dedication had me enthralled from start to finish.

The Blind Light

The Blind Light

Author: Stuart Evers Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

As the 1950s draw to a close, and the Cold War escalates, the shape of Drummond Moore's life is changed beyond measure when he strikes up an unlikely friendship with James Carter, a rich and well-connected fellow national serviceman. Carter leads him to Doom Town - an army base that seeks to recreate the effects of a nuclear war - where he meets Gwen, a barmaid with whom he shares an instant connection. Set over sixty years of British history, The Blind Light by Stuart Evers is the compelling story of one family as they deal with the personal and political fallout of their times.

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.

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.

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
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.