What we are reading in May

New in non-fiction

How to Give Up Plastic

Will McCallum

'We have a responsibility, every one of us' David Attenborough

Around 12.7 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean every year, killing over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals.

By 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.

Plastic pollution is the environmental scourge of our age, but how can YOU make a difference?

This accessible guide, written by the campaigner at the forefront of the anti-plastic movement, will help you make the small changes that make a big difference, from buying a reusable coffee cup to running a clean-up at your local park or beach. Tips on giving up plastic include:

· Washing your clothes within a wash bag to catch plastic microfibers (the cause of 30% of plastic pollution in the ocean)
· Replacing your regular shampoo with bar shampoo
· How to lobby your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging
· How to throw a plastic-free birthday party
· How to convince others to join you in giving up plastic

Plastic is not going away without a fight. We need a movement made up of billions of individual acts, bringing people together from all backgrounds and all cultures, the ripples of which will be felt from the smallest village to the tallest skyscrapers. This is a call to arms - to join forces across the world and to end our dependence on plastic.

#BreakFreeFromPlastic

Plastic is not going away without a fight. We need a movement made up of billions of individual acts, bringing people together from all backgrounds and all cultures, the ripples of which will be felt from the smallest village to the tallest skyscrapers.

'Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world' Theresa May

Queer City

Peter Ackroyd

*** A Sunday Times Bestseller ***


In Roman Londinium the city was dotted with lupanaria (‘wolf dens’ or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels) and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops, monks and missionaries. And so began an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure.

Ackroyd takes us right into the hidden history of the city; from the notorious Normans to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early nineteenth century. He journeys through the coffee bars of sixties Soho to Gay Liberation, disco music and the horror of AIDS.

Today, we live in an era of openness and tolerance and Queer London has become part of the new norm. Ackroyd tells us the hidden story of how it got there, celebrating its diversity, thrills and energy on the one hand; but reminding us of its very real terrors, dangers and risks on the other.

Higher Calling

Max Leonard

Why do road cyclists go to the mountains?

After all, cycling up a mountain is hard – so hard that, to many non-cyclists, it can seem absurd. But, for some, climbing a mountain gracefully (and beating your competitors up the slope) represents the pinnacle of cycling achievement. The mountains are where legends are forged and cycling’s greats make their names.

Many books tell you where the mountains are, or how long and how high. None of them ask ‘Why?’

Why are Europe’s mountain ranges professional cycling’s Wembley Stadium or its Colosseum? Why do amateurs also make a pilgrimage to these high, remote roads and what do we see and feel when we do?
Why are the roads there in the first place?

Higher Calling explores the central place of mountains in the folklore of road cycling. Blending adventure and travel writing with the rich narrative of pro racing, Max Leonard takes the reader from the battles that created the Alpine roads to the shepherds tending their flocks on the peaks, and to a Grand Tour climax on the ‘highest road in Europe’. And he tells stories of courage and sacrifice, war and love, obsession and elephants along the way.

Purposeful

Jennifer Dulski


Managers accept the world as it is; movement starters push the boundaries to make it more just, compassionate and even joyful. We all need to decide: Are we managers or movement starters?

Jennifer Dulski, the head of Groups & Community at Facebook, and former president of Change.org, explains how you can turn your mission into a movement that creates change – whether you’re at a startup or a political campaign, a Fortune 500 company or a local community group, as an intern or a CEO. Anyone can spark change if they believe in the power of taking action, no matter where, or how small, they start.

Dulski explains how to create a clear vision, inspire supporters, persuade decision-makers, navigate criticism and more. She pairs her own experience as a startup founder, tech executive and social change leader with powerful stories of movement leaders from both business and activism.

Our world needs movement starters more than ever. Packed with practical advice and the inspiring true stories of movement starters from all walks of life, Purposeful will empower you to start your own movement, and make your mark on the world.

My Life, Our Times

Gordon Brown

Former Prime Minister and the country’s longest-serving Chancellor, Gordon Brown has been a guiding force for Britain and the world over three decades. This is his candid, poignant and deeply relevant story.

In describing his upbringing in Scotland as the son of a minister, the near loss of his eyesight as a student and the death of his daughter within days of her birth, he shares the passionately-held principles that have shaped and driven him, reminding us that politics can and should be a calling to serve. Reflecting on the personal and ideological tensions within Labour and its successes and failures in power, he describes how to meet the challenge of pursuing a radical agenda within a credible party of government.

He explains how as Chancellor he equipped Britain for a globalised economy while swimming against the neoliberal tide and shows what more must be done to halt rising inequality. In his behind-the-scenes account of the financial crisis and his leading role in saving the world economy from collapse, he addresses the question of who was to blame for the crash and why its causes and consequences still beset us.

From the invasion of Iraq to the tragedy of Afghanistan, from the coalition negotiations of 2010 to the referendums on Scottish independence and Europe, Gordon Brown draws on his unique experiences to explain Britain’s current fractured condition. And by showing us what progressive politics has achieved in recent decades, he inspires us with a vision of what it might yet achieve today.

Riveting, expert and highly personal, this historic memoir is an invaluable insight into our times.

The Ethical Capitalist: How to Make Business Work Better for Society

Julian Richer

*A Financial Times Book of the Month*

‘The founder of Richer Sounds is one of the finest entrepreneurs we have.’ Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer

Capitalism has lost its way. Every week brings fresh news stories about businesses exploiting their staff, avoiding their taxes, and ripping off their customers. Every week, public anger at the system grows. Now, one of Britain’s foremost entrepreneurs intervenes to make the case for putting business back firmly in the service of society, and setting out on a new path to a kinder, fairer form of capitalism.

Drawing on four decades of hands-on management experience, the founder of Richer Sounds argues that ethically run businesses are invariably more efficient, more motivated and more innovative than those that care only about the bottom line. He uncovers the simple tools that the best leaders use to make their businesses fair, revealing how others can follow suit. And he also delves into the big questions that modern capitalism has to answer if it is to survive and to thrive. When should – and shouldn’t – the state intervene in the workings of commercial enterprises? What does business as a whole owe back to the wider community? Is the relationship between leaders of big corporations and politicians too cosy, and, if so, what is to be done about it?

At heart, The Ethical Capitalist is a plea for a new sense of moral purpose in business. If that takes hold, Julian Richer believes, we might just save capitalism from itself.

A Moment of Grace

Patrick Dillon


How do you learn to live in the wake of death?

Patrick Dillon and Nicola Thorold were together for twenty-eight years. Patrick was an award-winning architect and writer and Nicola a leading figure in theatre, awarded an OBE for her contribution to the arts at London’s Roundhouse. Their two children were almost grown-up. Life was good.

And then, in May 2015, Nicola was diagnosed with leukaemia. After several rounds of treatment, a bone marrow transplant and many waves of recovery and decline, she died thirteen months after her diagnosis. Six months later, at Christmas, Patrick started to write.

A Moment of Grace is the searing, tender account of Patrick’s life with Nicola and her illness, and his life after her loss. But it is more than a story of illness and unbearable grief: it is a book of memory, of home, of family. It is a tale of the transfiguring power of love. Heartbreaking, life-affirming and truly unforgettable, A Moment of Grace is one man’s journey to find life after his wife’s death.

Billy Bragg

Andrew Collins

'Love me or hate me. It's a great read’ - Billy Bragg

He was a punk. He was a soldier. He was a flag-waver for the Labour Party and the miners. He is Billy Bragg, passionate protest folk singer and tireless promoter of political and humanitarian causes around the world.

His life encapsulates so much about his generation: born in the late ’50s, passions forged by punk, politics shaped by Thatcherism, career inspired by engagement, hope provided by the end of the Cold War and ideology galvanised by what he sees as a ‘post-ideological’ twenty-first century. He adapts to survive: serious about compassion and accountability, he likes a laugh too, and has never forgotten where he comes from.

Still Suitable for Miners is the official Billy Bragg story, tracing his life, family and career at close range from Barking to the present day. This 20th anniversary edition has been updated to include the rise of Corbyn, the unfolding of Brexit, Billy’s reclamation of skiffle and his overtures into Americana.

Tyrant

Stephen Greenblatt

'Brilliant' - Sunday Times

How does a truly disastrous leader – a sociopath, a demagogue, a tyrant – come to power?
How, and why, does a tyrant hold on to power?
And what goes on in the hidden recesses of the tyrant's soul?

For help in understanding our most urgent contemporary dilemmas, William Shakespeare has no peer.

As an ageing, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social and psychological roots and the twisted consequences of tyranny. What he discovered in his characters remains remarkably relevant today. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues and imagined how they might be stopped.

In Tyrant, Stephen Greenblatt examines the themes of power and tyranny in some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays -- from the dominating figures of Richard III, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Coriolanus to the subtle tyranny found in Measure for Measure and The Winter's Tale.

Tyrant is a highly relevant exploration of Shakespeare’s work that sheds new light on the workings of power.

Origin Story

David Christian

'I have long been a fan of David Christian. In Origin Story, he elegantly weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines into a single, accessible historical narrative' Bill Gates

This is the epic story of the universe and our place in it, from 13.8 billion years ago to the remote future

How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction?

Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest possible scale. He traces how, during eight key thresholds, the right conditions have allowed new forms of complexity to arise, from stars to galaxies, Earth to homo sapiens, agriculture to fossil fuels. This last mega-innovation gave us an energy bonanza that brought huge benefits to mankind, yet also threatens to shake apart everything we have created.

This global origin story is one that we could only begin to tell recently, thanks to the underlying unity of modern knowledge. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly told, Origin Story reveals what we learn about human existence when we consider it from a universal scale.

How to Kill Your Husband

Kathy Lette

You could…

… shove him off a cliff?
… hit him with a mallet?
… put arsenic in his tea?
Who would judge you? Lord knows every woman has thought about it… right?

For Cassie, Jasmine and Hannah their private jokes about dispatching their significant others have suddenly taken on a sinister reality. Particularly for Jasmine, because somewhere between her husband’s philandering and their marriage saving grace trip to Australia he’s gone and got himself killed… What’s a girl to do? Life should begin at 40 but now she’s facing 40 to life!

Of course she didn’t do it… but are they sure?

She did make an awful lot of jokes… she often said ‘where there’s a will there’s a way in’ and, you know, maybe he deserved it?

Despite all this, Cassie and Hannah are sure of their friend’s innocence and set out to clear her name. But they’re not prepared for what they find… betrayal, adultery, toy boys and suspicions that just won’t go away. Can their friendship survive these increasingly dark revelations?

With a wit and wisdom all her own, Kathy Lette has crafted another hilarious and poignant novel about marriage.

Married at First Sight

Kathy Lette

If love is blind then marriage is sure to open your eyes…

When she decides to go on a reality show, Shelly isn’t sure what she’s in for. The premise is simple, that she marry a stranger who science has decided is her perfect match. The catch being that the first time they meet is on their wedding day. It’s not all bad, he is a good looking fellow… consummating the thing definitely won’t be a problem!

Despite their –ahem— compatability, this path to wedded bliss is far from smooth and Kit isn’t quite the man of her dreams. Brash, shallow and American he’s not exactly what she imagined when she was dreaming of happily ever after…

To make matters worse, their honeymoon in paradise soon turns out to be anything else. Stuck in a foreign land, Shelley is quickly trying to save her fledgling marriage amongst civil war, natural disaster and something worse than both combined… a television crew.

You can never have enough books…

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