What's caught our eye in the non-fiction world...
Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green
We think: absorbing account of the race to find a covid vaccine
An enthralling tale of toil, tenacity and triumph. On 1 January 2020, Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, read an article about four people in China with a strange pneumonia. Within two weeks, she and her team had designed a vaccine against a pathogen that no one had ever seen before.
Less than 12 months later, vaccination was rolled out across the world to save millions of lives from Covid-19. In Vaxxers, we hear directly from Professor Gilbert and her colleague Dr Catherine Green as they reveal the inside story of making the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and the cutting-edge science and sheer hard work behind it. This is their story of fighting a pandemic as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
More recommendations from our archives...
Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint
by Sudhir Hazareesingh
We think: wide-ranging and hugely engrossing
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.
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.
Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint
by Sudhir Hazareesingh
We think: wide-ranging and hugely engrossing
The Haitian Revolution began in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue with a slave revolt in August 1791, and culminated a dozen years later in the proclamation of the world's first independent black state.
After the abolition of slavery in 1793, Toussaint Louverture, himself a former slave, became the leader of the colony's black population, the commander of its republican army and eventually its governor.
During the course of his extraordinary life he confronted some of the dominant forces of his age - slavery, settler colonialism, imperialism and racial hierarchy.
Louverture became a figure of legend, a beacon for slaves across the Atlantic and for generations of European republicans and progressive figures in the Americas.
Listen to Sudhir Hazareesingh reading a short extract here:
The Boundless Sea
by David Abulafia
We think: set sail on an armchair voyage of discovery
Following merchants, explorers, pirates, cartographers and travellers in their quests for spices, gold, ivory, slaves, lands for settlement and knowledge of what lay beyond, Abulafia has created an extraordinary narrative of humanity and the oceans.
From the earliest forays of peoples in hand-hewn canoes through uncharted waters to the routes now taken daily by supertankers in their thousands, The Boundless Sea shows how maritime networks came to form a continuum of interaction and interconnection across the globe: 90 per cent of global trade is still conducted by sea.
This is history of the grandest scale, and from a bracingly different perspective.
by William Dalrymple
We think: fascinating insight into the world's first global corporate power
William Dalrymple tells the remarkable story of the East India Company and its transformation from an international trading corporation into something much more unusual: an aggressive colonial power in the guise of a multinational business. Deeply researched and told with verve and imagination, Dalrymple's book will appeal to first timers and those seeking a deeper understanding of this tumultuous period of history.
by Jane Chappell
We think: a really useful bridge between home and primary school
Local teacher and mum of three, Jane Chappell, shares a wealth of experience in this indispensable guide to your child's primary education. From Early Years and playground spats to homework and the curriculum, this handy and user-friendly book covers it all. Loaded with tips on how to encourage your child to be a confident, independent and resilient learner, this book will help you navigate your child's education and make learning what it should be: child's play.
Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Outdoors
by Ray Mears
We think: exciting and inspirational outdoor cooking - beyond BBQs
The first cookbook from outdoors and East Sussex based legend Ray Mears, Wilderness Chef, shows you how to cook delicious, flavoursome food in the open air for a summer where it is more important than ever. Ray Mears has spent his life travelling the world, living with and learning from trackers, adventurers and indigenous peoples in the desert, the rainforests and the Arctic north. In this book he shares a delicious array of his most popular recipes, tried-and-tested for all levels of skill and in all conditions whether in the garden or the wild, from quick and tasty meals to opulent gourmet feasts.
The Forager's Calendar
by John Wright
We think: will give beginners the confidence to get foraging
From dandelions in spring to sloe berries in autumn, via wild garlic, samphire, chanterelles and even grasshoppers, our countryside is full of edible delights in any season. John Wright is the country's foremost expert in foraging and brings decades of experience, including as forager at the River Cottage, to this seasonal guide. Month by month, he shows us what species can be found and where, how to identify them, and how to store, use and cook them.
by Jo Woolf
We think: perfect guide for Spring walks
This lovely book will enable the reader to identify Britain’s trees and enjoy reading the rich folklore and traditions connected with them. From hawthorn to holly, from beech to blackthorn, each of Britain’s 40 or so native trees are illustrated and a text weaves together the fascinating natural history, folklore, traditions, and remedies connected with them. The stories of some of Britain’s oldest and most beloved trees, some dating back thousands of years, are included too. As well as a fascinating book to dip into, the illustrations mean it also functions as a handy identification guide.
by John Kay and Mervyn King
We think: interesting and supremely relevant - and very readable!
We do not know what the future will hold. But we must make decisions anyway. So we crave certainties which cannot exist and invent knowledge we cannot have. Before President Obama made the decision to send in the Navy SEALs, his advisers offered him wildly divergent estimates of the odds that Osama bin Laden would be in the Abbottabad compound. In 2000, no one - not least Steve Jobs - knew what a smartphone was; how could anyone have predicted how many would be sold in 2020?
Humans are successful because they have adapted to an environment that they understand only imperfectly. We have developed a variety of ways of coping with the uncertainty that defines our lives.
Drawing on biography, history, mathematics, economics and philosophy, Kay and King highlight the most successful - and short-sighted - methods of dealing with an unknowable future.
by Jack Fairweather
We think: well-researched and deeply moving
Former war reporter Jack Fairweather tells the true story of Polish underground operative, Witold Pilecki, who accepted a mission in 1940 to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interned in Auschwitz.
Over the next two and a half years, Witold smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of the camp, displaying unimaginable courage in the face of unspeakable horror and suffering. This meticulously researched account draws on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he fought for the truth to come out.
The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism that deserves to be widely known.
by Callum Roberts
We think: lyrical memoir of love and concern for the ocean
Reef Life is the story of how Callum Roberts, one of the world's pre-eminent marine scientists, fell in love with coral reefs. His stories are astonishing, lyrical and laced with humour. They allow us privileged access to, and understanding of, the science of our oceans and reefs. Even if you don't fancy entering the underwater world yourself, you will be inspired by the author's belief in our power to transform our behaviour and save the magical world that is the coral reef.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse
by Charlie Mackesy
We think: a beautiful book to keep close or to give as a gift
Enter the world of Charlie's four unlikely friends and remind yourself of the important things in life.
The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie's first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too...a modern fable for all ages to treasure.
by Peter Fiennes
We think: a great combination of places and people
Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of twelve inspirational writers, bringing modern Britain into focus by peering through the lens of the past.
From the wilds of Skye and Snowdon, to a big night out in Birmingham with J.B. Priestley and Beryl Bainbridge, Footnotes is a series of evocative biographies, a lyrical foray into the past, and a quest to understand Britain through the books, journals and diaries of some of our greatest writers.
The New Silk Roads
by Peter Frankopan
We think: timely and intriguing look at where the global balance of power now lies
In this era of massively increasing globalisation, and with China ever more at the forefront of the news, does the global balance of power still lie in the West? In his critically acclaimed new book, Peter Frankopan (author of best-selling 'The Silk Roads') argues that the global power balance has shifted east. Looking at all aspects of China's relationship with the world, this accessible and thought-provoking book seeks to argue that China, not the West, calls the shots in today's world.
No one is too small to make a difference
by Greta Thunberg
We think: uncomfortable yet vital reading
'Everything needs to change. And it has to start today'.
Read young activist Greta Thunberg's powerful speeches which have inspired a global movement against climate change and earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and their Year of Marvels
by Adam Nicolson
We think: wonderful combination of poetry and landscape
Award-winning writer Adam Nicolson tells the story, almost day by day, of the year in the late 1790s that Coleridge and Wordsworth produced some of their most celebrated works, including The Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan and Lyrical Ballads.
Laced with dynamic prints by artist Tom Hammick, this is a fantastic exploration of creativity and a book to gift or treasure for yourself.
Vietnam: An Epic History of a Tragic War
by Max Hastings
We think: absorbing history witnessed first-hand by Hastings as a young reporter
'Hastings himself says that “the literature of the Vietnam war is immense”. Why, then, add to it? It is a good question, but one to which his book provides a resounding answer. This is a work of considerable quality, marked by a possibly unique combination of military expertise, historical grasp and journalistic skill in unearthing hitherto undiscovered human stories of the war, as well as judiciously selecting from among others already known.' (The Guardian)
The Immeasurable World: A Desert Journey
by William Atkins
We think: beautifully observed classic travel writing
'A travel book of the first order. Atkins reminds a world shrunken by Google Earth that true discovery remains not only possible, but exhilarating - History, Geography, Art, Politics, all get a look in'. (Financial Times)
The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
We think: enchanting piece of natural history writing
A book that will make you want to go outside on the next sunny day, find a bee on a flower and settle down to watch...
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight transl by Simon Armitage
We think: accessible re-telling steeped in mystery, violence and romance
A mysterious green knight gatecrashes King Arthur's court, laying down a challenge involving beheading and revenge...
Written around 1400, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the finest examples of medieval poetry, expertly retold by recently named Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage (May 2019).
Our Planet - Netflix documentary tie-in
We think: compelling text and stunning photography
'The future of all life on this planet depends on our willingness to take action now'. Sir David Attenborough
This official companion to the groundbreaking documentary combines facts and photography in a powerful call to arms to save our beautiful world.
War Doctor by David Nott
We think: unputdownable memoir of renowned trauma surgeon
Trauma surgeon David Nott describes his experiences at the sharp end of surgery in war and disaster zones. At times harrowing, but always compelling, a memoir of astonishing bravery and humanity in the most desperate of situations.
A Spy named Orphan by Roland Philipps
We think: exposes breathtaking naivety of a former age
Based on previously classified material, Roland Philipps reveals the character and devastating impact of perhaps the most dangerous soviet agent of the twentieth century. From his conversion to Communism at a young age through his stellar diplomatic career and eventual daring escape to Moscow.
Liz's War by Dick Eberlie
We think: extraordinary and colourful wartime experiences of local heroine
Last few copies remaining of the fascinating story of Liz Eberlie, fondly remembered by many as headmistress of local Bricklehurst Manor school, previously decorated for a formidable career as successful code-breaker and senior intelligence officer in France and the Far East during WWII.
In Byron's Wake by Miranda Seymour
We think: behind every great man, there's a great woman (or two)
A meticulously researched and highly readable double biography of Byron's wife, Annabella Milbanke, and the daughter he never saw grow up, Ada Lovelace, who became a pioneer of computing and a feminist heroine.
A Sunday Times Book of the Year!
The Cut out girl by Bart van Es
We think: a worthy winner of the Costa Awards
A family biography of Lien de Jong, who was "given away" by her parents to save her from the Holocaust. Bart van Es, grandson of the couple who took Lien in, explores his fascinating family story.
Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy
We think: the truth behind Mary is every bit as dramatic as the film!
Leading Tudor historian, John Guy, offers radical interpretations of Mary Stuart's dramatic life. Previously published as "My Heart is my Own" and winner of the Whitbread Biography Award 2004 - "... now a major motion picture" as they say
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
We think: A beautifully written snapshot of a different life and time
Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, describes his Cold War-era postings to India and China in the company of a translation of Herodotus' Histories, only permitted to be published after Stalin's death, which becomes a constant companion, comfort and guide.
The Luckiest Guy Alive by John Cooper Clarke
We think: a rare book from this punk performance poet - full of wit and whimsy
Full of gems that make you think and may make you laugh out loud. From Haiku No 1 ("To freeze the moment / in seventeen syllables / is very diffic") to Bipolar Inmate Diary or The Man Who Didn't Love Elvis, Cooper Clarke moves from wit to social commentary and back to the simply whimsical.