Thursday, December 07, 2017

Christmas Ideas: History Books


1517 : Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation, Peter Marshall - £16.99
Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517 is one of the most famous events of Western history. It inaugurated the Protestant Reformation, and has for centuries been a powerful and enduring symbol of religious freedom of conscience, and of righteous protest against the abuse of power. But did it actually really happen? 

In this engagingly-written, wide-ranging and insightful work of cultural history, leading Reformation historian Peter Marshall reviews the available evidence, and concludes that, very probably, it did not.

The theses-posting is a myth. And yet, Marshall argues, this fact makes the incident all the more historically significant. In tracing how - and why - a 'non-event' ended up becoming a defining episode of the modern historical imagination.

Marshall compellingly explores the multiple ways in which the figure of Martin Luther, and the nature of the Reformation itself, have been remembered and used for their own purposes by subsequent generations of Protestants and others - in Germany, Britain, the United States and elsewhere. As people in Europe, and across the world, prepare to remember, and celebrate, the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of the theses, this book offers a timely contribution and corrective. The intention is not to 'debunk', or to belittle Luther's achievement, but rather to invite renewed reflection on how the past speaks to the present - and on how, all too often, the present creates the past in its own image and likeness.


A History of Britain in 21 Women, Jenni Murray - £9.99
They were famous queens, unrecognised visionaries, great artists and trailblazing politicians. They all pushed back boundaries and revolutionised our world. Jenni Murray presents the history of Britain as you've never seen it before, through the lives of twenty-one women who refused to succumb to the established laws of society, whose lives embodied hope and change, and who still have the power to inspire us today.


Six Minutes in May, Nicholas Shakespeare - £20
London, early May 1940: Britain is on the brink of war and Neville Chamberlain's government is about to fall. It is hard for us to imagine the Second World War without Winston Churchill taking over at the helm, but in Six Minutes in May Nicholas Shakespeare shows how easily events could have gone in a different direction. The first land battle of the war was fought in the far north, in Norway.

It went disastrously for the Allies and many blamed Churchill. Yet weeks later he would rise to the most powerful post in the country, overtaking Chamberlain and the favourite to succeed him, Lord Halifax. It took just six minutes for MPs to cast the votes that brought down Chamberlain.

Shakespeare shows us both the dramatic action on the battlefield in Norway and the machinations and personal relationships in Westminster that led up to this crucial point. Uncovering fascinating new research and delving deep into the backgrounds of the key players, he has given us a new perspective on this critical moment in our history.

The Crown, Robert Lacey - £20
The official book to the Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winning Netflix drama, The Crown, with extensive research, additional material and beautifully reproduced photographs.  Elizabeth Mountbatten never expected her father to die so suddenly, so young, leaving her with a throne to fill and a global institution to govern. Crowned at 25, she was already a wife and mother.

Follow the journey of a woman learning to become a queen.  As Britain lifted itself out of the shadow of war, the new monarch faced her own challenges. Her mother doubted her marriage; her uncle-in-exile derided her abilities; her husband resented the sacrifice of his career and family name; while her rebellious sister embarked on a love affair that threatened the centuries-old links between the Church and the Crown. This is the story of how Elizabeth II drew on every ounce of resolve to ensure that the Crown always came out on top.Netflix's original series The Crown dramatised Peter Morgan's powerful portrayal of Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

Written by royal biographer Robert Lacey, The Crown: The Inside History adds expert and in-depth detail to the events of the series, painting an intimate portrait of life inside Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. Here is Elizabeth II as we've never seen her before.

Chaucer's People : Everyday Lives in Medieval England, Liza Picard - £25
The Middle Ages were turbulent times. In the fourteenth century alone, England was ravaged by war, plague, revolt and the overthrow of a king. Among the surviving records, the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer is the most vivid.

But what does it tell us about the everyday lives of medieval men and women? What did people eat, wear, read and think?Through the assorted cast of pilgrims Chaucer selected for The Canterbury Tales, Liza Picard brings medieval social history to life. These are lives led beyond the court circles frequented by most of Chaucer's well-heeled audience - lives spent at the pedal of a loom or in uncharted waters on the high seas.Chaucer would sometimes raise a thought-provoking query in an apparently simple portrait. 

The Prioress was a sweet, pretty, well-mannered young nun; what was she doing on the road to Canterbury with a mixed band of men, instead of staying in her convent to pray? The Knight was 'a very perfect gentle knight'; but why had his military service landed him in such distant places as Lithuania and Spain? By providing these characters with a three-dimensional framework - the times in which they lived - Picard opens up the fourteenth-century world to us.

Drawing on contemporary experiences of a vast range of subjects including trade, religion, toe-curling remedies and hair-raising recipes, Chaucer's People recreates the medieval world in all its glorious detail.

Queens of the Conquest : England's Medieval Queens, Alison Weir - £20
The story of England's medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England's queens in the century after the Norman Conquest.

Beginning with Matilda of Flanders, who supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066, and culminating in the turbulent life of the Empress Maud, who claimed to be queen of England in her own right and fought a bitter war to that end, the five Norman queens emerge as hugely influential figures and fascinating characters. Much more than a series of individual biographies, Queens of the Conquest is a seamless tale of interconnected lives and a rich portrait of English history in a time of flux. In Alison Weir's hands these five extraordinary women reclaim their rightful roles at the centre of English history.


The Templars, Dan Jones - £25
The Knights Templar were the wealthiest, most powerful - and most secretive - of the military orders that flourished in the crusading era. Their story - encompassing as it does the greatest international conflict of the Middle Ages, a network of international finance, a swift rise in wealth and influence followed by a bloody and humiliating fall - has left a comet's tail of mystery that continues to fascinate and inspire historians, novelists and conspiracy theorists.


Christmas Ideas: Science and Nature

The Inner Life of Animals, Peter Wohlleben - £16.99
Mother deer that grieve? Horses that feel shame? Squirrels that adopt their grandchildren? We humans tend to assume that we are the only living things able to experience feelings intensely and consciously. But have you ever wondered what's going on in an animal's head? 

From the leafy forest floor to the inside of a bee hive, The Inner Life of Animals takes us microscopic levels of observation to the big philosophical, ethical and scientific questions. We hear the stories of a grateful humpback whale, of a hedgehog who has nightmares, and of a magpie who commits adultery; we meet bees that plan for the future, pigs who learn their own names and crows that go tobogganing for fun.

And at last we find out why wasps exist. As more and more researchers are discovering, animals experience a rich emotional life that is ready to be explored. The Inner Life of Animals will show you these living things in a new light and will open up the animal kingdom like never before.

The Secret Life of Cows, Rosamund Young - £9.99
Cows are as varied as people. They can be highly intelligent or slow to understand, vain, considerate, proud, shy or inventive. Although much of a cow's day is spent eating, they always find time for extra-curricular activities such as babysitting, playing hide and seek, blackberry-picking or fighting a tree.  This is an affectionate record of a hitherto secret world.

Woods : A Celebration, Robert Penn - £20
A tribute to the natural history of some of our most iconic British woods. The National Trust manages hundreds of woods, covering over 60,000 acres of England and Wales. They include many of the oldest woodlands in the land and some of the oldest living things of any kind - trees that are thousands of years old.

From Dean to Epping, from Hatfield to Sherwood, this book covers the natural history of our forests and how they have changed the face of our landscape. Covering the different species of trees that give our woods their unique characters, the plants and animals that inhabit them and the way their appearance changes throughout the seasons, Woods is a fascinating and beautifully illustrated celebration of Britain's trees and the ancient stories that surround them.

What's Next? Jim Al-Khalili - £8.99
Thought the science of the future was all hoverboards and space travel? Think again. Every day, scientists come up with the ingenious solutions and surprising discoveries that will define our future.  So here, Jim Al-Khalili and his crack team of experts bin the crystal ball and use cutting-edge science to get a glimpse of what's in store.

From whether teleportation is really possible (spoiler: it is), to what we'll do if artificial intelligence takes over, What's Next? takes on the big questions.  And along the way, it'll answer questions like: Will we find a cure to all diseases? An answer to climate change? Will bionics make us into superheroes?  Touching on everything from genetics to transport, and nanotechnology to teleportation, What's Next? is a fascinating, fun and informative look at what's in store for the human race.

Furry Logic, Matin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher  - £9.99
The animal world is full of mysteries. Why do dogs slurp from their drinking bowls while cats lap up water with a delicate flick of the tongue? How does a tiny turtle hatchling from Florida circle the entire northern Atlantic before returning to the very beach where it hatched? And how can a Komodo dragon kill a water buffalo with a bite only as strong as a domestic cat's?  

These puzzles - and many more besides - are all explained by physics. From heat and light to electricity and magnetism, Furry Logic unveils the ways that more than 30 animals exploit physics to eat, drink, mate and dodge death in their daily battle for survival.

Along the way, science journalists Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher introduce the great physicists whose discoveries helped us understand the animal world, as well as the animal experts of today who are scouring the planet to find and study the animals that seem to push the laws of physics to the limit. Presenting mind-bending physics principles in a simple and engaging way, Furry Logic will appeal both to animal lovers and to those curious to see how physics crops up in the natural world. It's more of a `howdunit' than a whodunit, though you're unlikely to guess some of the answers.


The Infinite Monkey Cage - How to Build a Universe, Brian Cox & Robin Ince £20
The Infinite Monkey Cage, the legendary BBC Radio 4 programme, brings you this irreverent celebration of scientific marvels. Join us on a hectic leap through the grand and bizarre ideas conjured up by human imagination, from dark matter to consciousness via neutrinos and earthworms. Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince muse on multifaceted subjects involved in building a universe, with pearls of wisdom from leading scientists and comedians peppered throughout.

Covering billions of concepts and conundrums, they tackle everything from the Big Bang to parallel universes, fierce creatures to extraterrestrial life, brain science to artificial intelligence. How to Build a Universe is an illuminating and inspirational celebration of science - sometimes silly, sometimes astounding and very occasionally facetious.

Science is Beautiful, Colin Salter - £20
Our understanding of disease and the powers of medicine today are unparalleled, and their documentation has increased signficantly. Science is Beautiful collects the most fascinating microscopic photographs of our diseases along with the medicines we use to treat them. These photographs are profoundly fascinating - and also beautiful.

Featured are some of the most illuminating microscopic images of bacteria, viruses and cancers ever captured, now made possible by electron micrograph technology. It also uncovers some diseases specific to animals. 

But there are also dazzling images of the crystals, powders and potions that we take to cure ourselves, including magnified versions of aspirin, insulin, morphine and caffeine. This collection of images, as beautiful as any artwork, can be enjoyed purely as a visual voyage but also as a way to understand more of the science behind the image, whether it's the work of a meningitis virus, our chromosomes in a cancer cell or the breakdown of painkillers.

The Zoomable Universe, Caleb Scharf - £20
Embark on a breath-taking, cutting-edge voyage through the enormity of our reality - travelling one "power of ten" or order of magnitude at a time.  Echoing the classic film by Charles and Ray Eames, acclaimed astrobiologist Caleb Scharf and artist Ron Miller guide us from the very edge of the observable universe - about 91 billion light-years away - to the subatomic realm, where the fabric of space-time itself behaves in a way that confounds all the rules of physics we currently know. 

Gorgeously designed and visually inspiring, The Zoomable Universe takes a truly unique approach toward explaining our place in the universe, charting an unforgettable course through galaxies, black holes, solar systems, stars and planets, oceans, plants and animals, microorganisms, atoms, quantum fields, and much more.

Illustrated with stunning colour artwork and infographics, this is an unforgettable journey that will thrill readers who want to discover more about the incredible reality we inhabit.