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The Englishman's England

Ian Ousby (Author)

'If my journals should remain legible, or be perused at the end of 200 years, there will, even then, be little curious in them relative to travel, or the people; because our island is now so explored; our roads, in general, are so fine; and our speed has reach'd the summit.' Or so one late eighteenth-century traveller thought, reminding us that the English tourist industry is not the modern creation we often suppose. In this fascinating and original study Ian Ousby investigates the landmarks chosen by the English for their leisure travel over the centuries. He looks in particular at four types of attraction still prominent on the tourist map of England: literary shrines, country houses, picturesque ruins and the natural landscape. All these first became objects of fashionable attention during the eighteenth century, when improvements in transport combined with a spirit of practical inquiry to breed the first generation of travellers who called themselves 'tourists'. Drawing on a wide range of sources - journals, travel books and guidebooks, novels and poems, as well as many engravings - Ian Ousby traces the canons of taste which led the early tourists to seek out places like Stratford-upon-Avon, Chatsworth, Tintern Abbey and the Lake District, and records the stages by which these places acquired the trappings of the tourist attraction. Above all, he shows the development not just of an industry but of a state of mind marked, from its earliest phase, by the underlying fear that tourism is fated to spoil or even destroy the very thing it most admires.

The Girl Who Beat ISIS

Farida Khalaf (Author) , Andrea C. Hoffmann (Author) , Lara Sawalha (Read by)

In August 2014, Farida, like any ordinary teenage girl, was enjoying the summer holidays before her last year at school. But Farida lived in the mountains of northern Iraq — and what happened next was unimaginable. Her village was an ISIS target.

ISIS jihadists murdered the men and boys, including her father and brother, before taking Farida and the other women prisoner. This is the story of what happened to Farida after she was captured: the beatings, the rapes, the markets where ISIS sold women like cattle, and Farida's realisation that the more resistant she became, the harder it was for her captors to continue their atrocities against her. So she struggled, she bit, she kicked, she accused her captors of going against their religion, until, one day, the door to her room was left unlocked. She took her chance and, with five younger girls in her charge, fled into the Syrian desert.

Farida showed incredible courage in the face of the unthinkable, and now with The Girl Who Beat ISIS she bravely relives her story to bear witness. Searing and immediate, this is the first memoir by a young woman that shows first-hand what life is like for innocents caught up in the maelstrom of day-to-day life with ISIS.

Freemasonry

Alexander Piatigorsky (Author)

This study considers the institution of Freemasonry from the point of view of both masons and their critics, as well as from the author's own. In the first section, it gives an outline of masonic history, from the foundation of the Grand Lodge in Covent Garden in 1717 through its major role in Enlightenment Europe and the American War of Independence, its many tribulations and schisms in the 19th century to the present day. The book looks at one of the main sources of masonic history, Anderson's "Constitutions", which documents masonic practice and the masons' mythical history back to Hiram Abiff, the first Master Mason in the reign of King Solomon.

Fire with Fire

Naomi Wolf (Author)

In her bestselling book The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf sought to change the way in which women see themselves in relation to their bodies. Now she focuses on how they see themselves in relation to power.

She argues that the feminist movement has to change if it is to speak to a new generation of women, and that, even as women are gaining more ground than ever before, a wariness of feminist orthodoxies keeps them away from the only movement capable of putting political clout behind their personal success. The book represents a call to women to throw off centuries of conditioning about the relationship between power and femininity.

Konin

Theo Richmond (Author)

The extraordinary story of a small Jewish ghetto in a small town in Poland - and of one man's obsessive quest to discover its fate and its survivors. Since his early childhood in London, Theo Richmond had heard his relatives mention a place called Konin, the Polish Shetetl from which both his parents came. He felt an irresistible urge to find out more about this small town and its Jewish community, to place on record something of what the Nazis had destroyed and thus to remember. He searched for its few survivors, scattered in many lands. Starting with an old man in London, he traced others, not only in Britain, but in Brooklyn, Florida, Texas, on a kibbutz in Israel, Jerusalem and elsewhere.

Freya Stark

Jane Fletcher Geniesse (Author)

Fluent in at least seven languages and a writer of ravishing prose accounts of her journeys, Freya Stark was one of the great travel writers of the twentieth century. In 1934 her first book, Valley of the Assassins, was hailed as a classic and T. E. Lawrence pronounced Stark 'a gallant creature, a remarkable person'.

It marked the start of a dazzling career as a writer; explorer and official diplomat which led Stark to explore ancient trading routes in the Yemeni desert, Crusaders' castles in Syria, uncharted regions of Arabia and Alexander the Great's path through Turkey, often travelling alone through dangerous and uncomfortable territories -once having to be airlifted to safety by the RAF.

During the Second World War she worked for the Foreign Office in Baghdad and Cairo and made an ill-fated tour of America for the Ministry of Information. She married late -and unwisely -but continued to travel and write well into old age, going to the Himalayas aged 89, and lived to be 100, leaving a legacy of over thirty volumes of travel writings, autobiography and letters.

Her life reads like an adventure story, imbued with the captivating spirit of the East. Jane Geniesse's ebullient yet touching account of Stark's life uncovers the complexity and charm surrounding someone who was both hugely feted and yet repeatedly disappointed in her private life -a romantic, a complete original and an inspiration to those who followed.

Monster Of God

David Quammen (Author)

For millennia, nature's biggest and fiercest predators have tormented mankind. The knowledge and fear of the existence of these ferocious man-eaters is forever in the back of our minds, looming in our worst nightmares. Millions of humans have suffered attacks by predators on land and at sea. Yet animals have always shared the landscape with humans. Since the dawn of time our ecosystems have been linked and humans have co-existed with flesh-eating beasts as members of the same food chain. Now, of course, as humans spread and despoil the planet, these fearsome predators may only survive on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the nature of our own existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above - so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem.

David Quammen's enthralling new book covers the four corners of the globe as he explores the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, saltwater crocodiles in Northern Australia, brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and Siberian tigers. Tracking these great and terrible beasts through the toughest terrain in the world, Quammen is equally intrigued by the traditional relationship between the great predators and the people who live among them, and weaves into his story the fears and myths that have haunted humankind for 3000 years.

Octavia, Daughter of God

Jane Shaw (Author)

In 1919, in the wake of the upheaval of World War I, a remarkable group of English women came up with their own solution to the world's grief:a new religion. At the heart of the Panacea Society was a charismatic and autocratic leader, a vicar's widow named Mabel Barltrop. Her followers called her Octavia, and believed that she was the daughter of God, sent to build the New Jerusalem in Bedford.

Proclaiming the female aspects of God, Octavia attracted former suffragettes, middle-class Christian women and passionate spiritual seekers to Bedford, where they followed her in rigorous religious practices. She appointed twelve women as her apostles, and put the rest to work to spread her Word: that human beings, through Panacea, could achieve immortal life on earth.

Acclaimed historian Jane Shaw found the last living members of the Panacea Society, who revealed to her their immense, painstakingly-preserved archives. She discovered a utopian community that once had seventy residents, thousands of followers, and an international healing ministry that reached 130,000 people around the globe.

Octavia, Daughter of God is a fascinating group biography and a revelatory work of cultural and narrative history. Vividly told, by turns funny and tragic, it reveals in intimate detail the complex, out-sized personality of Octavia; the faith of her devoted followers, who believed they would never die; and the intricacies and intrigues of her close-knit community.

But Octavia, Daughter of God is also about a moment at the advent of modernity, when a generation of newly empowered women tried to re-make Christianity in their own image. Startlingly modern in their resolve and curiously reactionary in their social views and politics, their story is a portrait of an age. It offers a window into the anxieties and hopes of the interwar years through the lives of ordinary people who believed extraordinary things about God, this world and the next.

Kicking The Pricks

Derek Jarman (Author)

A fascinating journal written after the creation of Derek Jarman’s The Last of England, covering the making of the film itself and the origins of its deeply autobiographical content.

In 1986 Derek Jarman started filming The Last of England, one of his most original and innovative films. It is also his most personal work, with the strongest autobiographical content. Shortly after filming began Derek Jarman started work on this book, which contains diary entries, interviews and notes from the script. Jarman writes of his extraordinary childhood and his kleptomaniac father; the process by which he came to terms with his sexuality; his early work as painter and designer; and finally his debut as a film director. Throughout, however, the reader will follow Jarman at his most fervent, as he writes of the corruption of the cinema industry, of the moral and personal consequences of the AIDS virus, and of the evils of Thatcher's Britain.

Belonging

Simon Schama (Author)

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE

Selected as a Book of the Year 2017 by the Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and Observer

'A glittering gemstone of a book' The Times

The Jewish story is a history that is about, and for, all of us. And in our own time of anxious arrivals and enforced departures, the Jews’ search for a home is more startlingly resonant than ever.

Belonging is a magnificent cultural history abundantly alive with energy, character and colour. It spans centuries and continents, from the Jews’ expulsion from Spain in 1492 it navigates miracles and massacres, wandering, discrimination, harmony and tolerance; to the brink of the twentieth century and, it seems, a point of profound hope.

It tells the stories not just of rabbis and philosophers but of a poetess in the ghetto of Venice; a boxer in Georgian England; a general in Ming China; an opera composer in nineteenth-century Germany. The story unfolds in Kerala and Mantua, the starlit hills of Galilee, the rivers of Colombia, the kitchens of Istanbul, the taverns of Ukraine and the mining camps of California. It sails in caravels, rides the stage coaches and the railways; trudges the dawn streets of London, hobbles along with the remnant of Napoleon’s ruined army.

Through Schama’s passionate telling of this second chronicle in an epic tale, a history emerges of the Jewish people that feels it is the story of everyone, of humanity.

Beautiful For Ever

Helen Rappaport (Author)

Madame Rachel had everything: a Mayfair address, the title of 'purveyor to Her Majesty the Queen', a shop full of exotic, expensive creams and potions. Her clientele were aristocratic, rich - and gullible.

This is the true story of Madame Rachel who began life as a poor fish fryer in a disease-ridden, grubby corner of Victorian London. She ended up with a shop in New Bond Street, where her wealthy clients came in their droves, lured by the promise of eternal beauty. What they found there was a con-woman and fraudster who made a career out of lies, treachery and the desperate hopes of women wanting to be 'beautiful for ever'.

Beautiful For Ever is a thrilling tale of love affairs, scandal, blackmail, high-profile court cases, suicide and fraud, with the extraordinary Madame Rachel right at the centre of it all.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

Peter Matthiessen (Author)

On a hot June morning in 1975, a shoot-out between FBI agents and American Indians erupted on a reservation near Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Two FBI agents and one Indian died. Eventually four Indians, all members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were indicted on murder charges, Twenty-two years late, one of them, Leonard Peltier, is still serving two consecutive life sentences.

The story of what really happened and why Matthiessen is convinced of Peltier’s innocence, forms the central narrative in this classic work of investigative reporting. But Mathiessen also reveals the larger issues behind the Pine Ridge shoot-out: systematic discrimination by the white authorities; corporate determination to exploit the uranium deposits in the Black Hills; the breaking of treaties; and FBI hostility towards the AIM, which was set up to bring just such issues to light.

When this book was first published it was immediately the subject of two $25 million-dollar legal actions that attempted to suppress it permanently. After eight years of court battles, ending with a Supreme Court judgement, Mathiessen won the right to tell Peltier’s and his people’s story.

Three Letter Plague

Jonny Steinberg (Author)

At the end of a steep gravel road in one of the remotest corners of South Africa's Eastern Cape lies the village of Ithanga. Home to a few hundred villagers, the majority of them unemployed, it is inconceivably poor. It is to here that award-winning author Jonny Steinberg travels to explore the lives of a community caught up in a battle to survive the ravages of the greatest plague of our times, the African AIDS epidemic.

He befriends Sizwe, a young local man who refuses to be tested for AIDS despite the existence of a well-run testing and anti-retroviral programme. It is Sizwe's deep ambivalence, rooted in his deep sense of the cultural divide, that becomes the key to understanding the dynamics that thread their way through a terrified community.

As Steinberg grapples to get closer to finding answers that remain just out of reach, he realizes that he must look within himself to unlock the paradoxes at the heart of his country.

A Woman's Education

Jill Ker Conway (Author)

Conway opens with her assessment of her life, passions, possibilities and the making of her decision to leave Canada and return to the United States to become Smith's first woman president. Settling into her new environment, she is at once struck by the beauty of the Connecticut Valley and the Olmstead-designed Smith campus - but also by the College's financial problems and a quarrelsome and complaining faculty engaged in disputes and trivial lawsuits. The jolt of energy she gets from being in the presence of several thousand young women enables her to take on the various Smith constituencies: the self-appointed custodians of the great western male tradition of humanistic learning, the puzzled liberals, the younger male feminists, the 'lady scholars doing intellectual petitpoint', and the young committed feminists of all stripes. We see her harnessing the negative energies in more positive directions, redefining and redesigning parts of the institution, strategising, positioning herself and building a political base, introducing feminist scholarship into the curriculum, creating a programme for older students and a funded research centre, adding fields of study and athletic programmes, developing strong career counselling, changing investment strategy, increasing the endowment - and, in general, mobilising the institution to share the urgency she felt for shaping the kind of women's institution that would attract the students of the '90s and beyond. Through it all we see her continuing to cope with her husband John's ill health and learning to protect and sustain her inner self in the quiet solitude of gardening at their country home - a North American variant of the solitude of her native Australian plains. As the end of the Smith decade approaches she reviews what she has learned and decides that she has had her education and that it is time to 'graduate'.

Fiery Heart

Nicholas Roe (Author)

Leigh Hunt is the forgotten giant of English Romanticism. The man Virginia Woolf called the 'spiritual grandfather' of the modern world was descended from black Caribbeans and grew up a child of the American and French revolutions. A poet and radical journalist, he threw off the shackles of the old order and campaigned tirelessly for Irish freedom and the abolition of slavery. Unwilling to see the Prince of Wales as an 'Adonis of Loveliness', Hunt was jailed for 'diabolical libel' that presented the prince as he was: a corpulent fifty-year-old, sodden with drink and drugs.

Hunt was the centre of a charismatic generation. In prison, he drew the homage of Lord Byron, and soon afterwards discovered the Romantic geniuses Keats and Shelley. He was also a man riven by contradicitons, enjoying a controversial public role while battling with private demons. Hunt's own poetry glows with the sexual frankness that characterised all his relationships, male and female.

Written with flair and brilliant imaginative insight, and using a wealth of unpublished manuscript sources, Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt overturns existing accounts and presents a sparkling new portrait of Leigh Hunt and the English Romantics.

1815

Gregor Dallas (Author)

The seventeen months from April 1814 to August 1815 were an extraordinary period in European history; a period which saw two sieges of Paris, a complete revision of Europe's political frontiers, an international Congress set up in Vienna, civil war in Italy and international war in Belgium.Gregor Dallas tells the story of these days through the perspectives of three very different European cities: the great metropolis of London, post-revolutionary Paris and baroque Vienna. The writing is almost cinematic in its power to evoke and bring to life the Europe of Tolstoy: the ebb and flow of power, of armies and of peoples across Europe's northern plains. Working essentially from primary sources, Dallas is as interested in the weather conditions before battle as in the way cartoonists reacted to court intrigues and fashions.It is also Europe seen through the eyes of its central players: Talleyrand, who has served nearly every French regime since the Revolution of 1789; Metternich, who devises new plans for a 'Germany' that does not yet exist and for a 'Europe' that remains devided; Wellington, who reveals himself a diplomat as well as a soldier; Tsar Alexander, an idealist seeking to impose a uniform plan for all Europe; and 'Boney' himself, who has his own ideal of Europe and, though banished to Elba, does not abandon his dream to realise it.

Summer of Unrest: Generation Vexed: What the English Riots Don't Tell Us About Our Nation's Youth

Kieran Yates (Author) , Nikesh Shukla (Author)

Summer of Unrest (Slight Return). For a few days at the start of August, England was gripped by the riots that erupted in its city centres. Although there were various motivations behind the trouble and a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds involved, the front pages were emblazoned with images of hooded youths running amok and stories of the revenge of the feral underclass.

In this final part of the Brain Shots: Summer of Unrest series, Nikesh Shukla and Kieran Yates interrogate whether young people are deliberately conforming to a stereotype foisted upon them, and point instead to the creativity and entrepreneurialism that are defining a supposedly 'lost' generation.

An antidote to the broadsheet commentariat, this street-level view of the defining moment of the Summer of Unrest finds much to inspire hope and confidence for our future.

Civilization

Roger Osborne (Author)

Ever since the attacks of 11th September, western leaders have described a world engaged in 'a fight for civilization'. But what do we mean by civilization? We believe in a western tradition of openness and freedom that has produced a good life for many millions of people and a culture of enormous depth and creative power.

But the history of our civilisation is also filled with unspeakable brutality - for every Leonardo there is a Mussolini, for every Beethoven symphony a concentration camp, for every Chrysler building a My Lai massacre. How can we come to the defence of a civilisation whose benefits seem so questionable? In this ambitious and important book Roger Osborne shows that we can only truly understand our civilization by re-examining and confronting our past, with all its glories and catastrophes.

Sweeping in its scope and comprehensive in its coverage, Civilzation tells the story of the western world from its origins to the present. At such a dangerous time in the world's history, this brilliant book is required reading.

Animal Magic

Andrew Barrow (Author)

'Your brother looked healthy, happy, natural. But everything else about him is extremely odd. Not faintly odd. Extremely odd. Except in appearance. He's the opposite of you.' Quentin Crisp

At the age of twenty-two, the youngest of five brothers, Jonathan Barrow, was killed with his fiancée in a car crash. He left behind the manuscript of a novel, The Queue, in which, among other things, he prophesied his own death. The story of a boy and a dachshund, populated by a kaleidoscopic menagerie of people and animals and an array of anthropomorphic in-betweens, The Queue is a vivid and irreverent portrayal of the world in which Jonathan and his awe-struck older brother Andrew were raised.

Jonathan and his book form the framework of a remarkable study of a young man's inner and outer effervescence, his family, England and high and low society in the Swinging Sixties. Filled with fascinating and fantastical anecdotes, Animal Magic documents a heady and peripatetic childhood in Lancashire, the Lake District and Wiltshire, misadventures at home and school, and the early working life of the two brothers, on the lower rungs of show business, backstage at Claridge's, and finally in advertising. This spellbinding elegy negotiates love affairs, family tensions, exhibitions, publishers' rejections and precarious living in a flat in Tite Street, Chelsea.

Punctuated with excerpts from The Queue and Jonathan's other bizarre and brilliant writings, Animal Magic is a book bursting with humour, wit and pathos and featuring an outlandish cast of characters, from an eccentric father, a mischievous family dog and a down-and-out ex-schoolmaster to curious stars of Swinging London like Mick Jagger and Tommy Cooper. It is a memoir unlike any other.

Alfred Russel Wallace

Peter Raby (Author)

In 1858, aged thirty-five, weak with malaria, isolated in the remote Spice Islands, Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin: he had, he said excitedly, worked out a theory of natural selection. Darwin was aghast - his work of decades was about to be scooped. Within a fortnight, his outline and Wallace's paper were presented jointly in London. A year later, with Wallace still at the opposite side of the world, On the Origin of Species was published. Wallace had none of Darwin's advantages or connections. Born in Usk, Gwent, in 1823, he left school at fourteen and in his mid-twenties spent four years in the Amazon collecting for museums and wealthy patrons, only to lose all his finds in a shipboard fire in mid-Atlantic. He vowed never to travel again. Yet two years later he was off to the East Indies, beginning an eight-year trek over thousands of miles; here he discovered countless unknown species and identified for the first time the point of divide between Asian and Australian fauna, 'Wallace's Line'. With vigour and sensitivity, Peter Raby reveals Wallace as a courageous and unconventional explorer. After his return, he plunged into a variety of controversies, staying vital and alert until his death at the age of 90, in 1913. Gentle, self-effacing, and remarkably free from the racism that blighted so many of his contemporaries, Wallace is one of the neglected giants of the history of science and ideas. This stirring biography - the first for many years - puts him at centre stage, where he belongs.

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